JUST A GAME....

JUST A GAME. Shakes on Limbaugh:

Limbaugh is just one of many loathsome characters who have made names for themselves by treating politics as a game, a fun and profitable little pastime that has no real-world consequences -- and the richer he gets, the more real a lack of consequences becomes for him. The luxury of staggering wealth means never having to worry about Social Security, or healthcare, or how much gas costs. It�s a game. Who cares.

And in that game, people like Michael J. Fox aren�t real people. They�re images on a screen, they�re pawns to be played. Stem cell research isn�t a real thing. It�s a political football. Safely nestled away from the real world in a radio studio, Limbaugh doesn�t want or need to think about the people he mocks, the people he uses to score a goal.

That's quite right. But there's another element too: For the wealthy, and even for many in the middle class, it's hard to viscerally understand the importance of the safety net and the relatively small dollar amounts usually involved in important features of it. We're so often talking about a few more bucks an hour here, a $3,000 deductible there -- these are mild sums to plenty of folks. And when the stakes seem so low, it's no wonder partisans can stomach using those who theoretically depend on them as pawns.

I like to say that if a neocon is a liberal who got mugged, a progressive is a conservative who got sick. You see it over and over: Andrew Sullivan is a lefty on gay rights, Nancy Reagan came to appreciate the importance of stem cell research, Bob Dole was for intervention in Bosnia (his doc in WWII was a Slav), and so on. A bit of personal experience goes a long way. But it's hard, when you're rich, to experience being poor. And it's hard, if you got rich, to realize you were lucky as well as good. And that paucity of insight impoverishes the discussion. It's not that folks who've had membership in a group will necessarily come to the right conclusions -- see my friend Ben "Badler" Adler for more on that -- but they'll at least know the stakes.

--Ezra Klein

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