Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fight The Fare Increase

I grew up on the song "Charlie on the MTA," of course, because it was local, and my mother was a big Kingston Trio fan. It's one of those things you just roll with in life, paying more attention to where old Scollay Square was than any of the politics involved. Whoever the candidates were, it was old - maybe even ten years old! - and it wasn't likely to have any impact on those of us in the modern 1960's.

So it rather took me aback when I actually listened to the words
Now ye citizens of Boston if you think it's a scandal
How the people have to pay and pay!
Fight the fare increase, vote for George O'Brien
Get poor Charlie off the MTA.
A fare increase means that those who are using the service have to pay a greater share of the cost. As opposed to "someone else" paying. Someone Else, as any Tea Partier can tell you, is only The Government as a sort of middleman. Someone Else means the citizens in general. It means people who aren't using the service will pay for it. So the line "the people" have to pay and pay is the old socialist sleight of hand.

If you follow the link, the candidate the song was written for was a Progressive Party candidate Walter O'Brien, who was indeed rather socialist. It pays to remember that these were still the days when most American socialists were were well-meaning idealists who had some fine ideas, but just couldn't see that the Soviet Union, and communism in general, were not moderately flawed experiments that were on the verge of working with a few more tries, but nightmarish oppressive tyrannies, not by accident, but of necessity. Just a sidebar there, as O'Brien actually did have some decent ideas, one of which was simplifying the fare structure on the MTA. And making sure that the private investors didn't make any more money, too.

This may be part of why city politics have been Democratic politics have been class-warfare politics for a long time. The variance in incomes is greater in cities, and there were lots of wealthy Bostonians who never rode the subways who might be soaked for some coin. Small towns have more equality of income, and fortunes rise and fall together rather more. In a small town, it's a lot easier to see that a public library, or snow removal, or a new park comes out of your pocket and mine. In a city, all that cost is distributed over more people, many of whom are rich, if the newspaper stories are true. The City just has a lot of money to throw around. It comes from somewhere.

Nowadays the various states and especially the federal government have bamboozled us into the same idea. People assume the federal government just has money somehow, so if our town gets some grant to do something we wouldn't have shelled out for ourselves, it's free money somehow.

And here you thought I was going to give you some nice folksinger.



Dubbahdee said...

Your observation about "someone else paying" vs. "the people pay and pay" is incisive. It bears meditation.

It's kind of a 1984 thing but inverted, from the bottom up rather than from the top down. "Peace is War" and all that.

Sam L. said...

According to normal fee for service. Charlie paid the fee that was charged when he got on. That paid his fare for the ride, so he's being held hostage by the MTA.

Some few years later, in the early '70s, a group called The Groobers rewrote the song to be about a Minuteman missile crew at F.E.Warren AFB, WY (AKA Frankie's Rocket Ranch). Their inability to return to base was not due to not having enough money.