The American Way
DI: Superman just renounced his citizenship, allegedly because he’s tired of being conflated with the “American Way.”
DI: In the comics, obviously; would be a trick to do posthumously. What are your thoughts?
B: Honestly? It’s a stunt. Written by people who don’t understand the man. Just like you, asking me to comment on it, is a stunt. Shameless self-promotion, that’s the real American way.
DI: You speak of Clark in, and people familiar with you would know you don’t glow often, but glowing terms. Did you love him?
B: As a brother. As a friend. As family.
DI: But as a lover? Since you’ve come out, there’s all this metaness to your relationship.
B: He wasn’t my type.
DI: Because he was straight.
B: That certainly didn’t hurt. But we met when I identified more as a straight man. And our friendship was never anything more than platonic. I admired him; he was one of the best people I’ve ever known. Another’s Nelson Mandela, though nobody ever assumes I wanted to have sex with him.
DI: Do you? Or did you ever?
B: No, and no. Though I guess I can at least appreciate your consistency.
DI: There have been rumblings that since Superman was an alien and quasi-illegal anyway, him renouncing his citizenship is no big thing. But if you renounce your citizenship, then we have a problem. So how close are you to renouncing your citizenship?
B: Look, if I didn’t renounce my citizenship when Lex Luthor was President, I can’t imagine what could make me do it now. I’m a man of means. Whatever may happen in this country, I can weather the storm. That’s not true of everyone in the community. There are some older, retired heroes who actually do depend on Social Security and Medicare to get by.
DI: I feel like you’re shifting topics on me.
B: We haven’t talked in a while. I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to comment on the Ryan budget.
DI: The one he’s been booed over by seniors in his own district?
B: The same. It’s a bad budget. The only concrete numbers speak to two things: cutting entitlements and cutting taxes on the wealthy. It’s almost a straight-up exchange, Medicare for tax cuts. And I have to tell you, I don’t need another tax cut. I didn’t need the Bush tax cut. But the members of the Justice Society, they need their benefits.
DI: I remember hearing about them; loosely affiliated with the AARP, and also the League.
B: Yeah. We pay our members a pension. And we offered to pay the Society one, too, but they declined. They served their country, they said, and they trusted their country to take care of them- and if it couldn’t, then they would serve it again, as an example.
DI: So they’ve taken a vow of poverty, of a sort?
B: Kind of. They hope to forestall that, obviously. Elderly poverty is a real and consequential issue; it’s an issue at current rates of Medicare and Social Security. But cutting the programs, especially cutting them so very deeply as Representative Ryan has proposed, would cause more damage. And the reason, and I think quite intelligently, that if the image of the first Flash or Green Lantern, Atom, or even Mr. Terrific, underweight because they can’t afford enough food, would terrify even the most austere politician.
DI: Mr. Terrific? Oh God, the guy who wore the jacket with “Fair Play” stitched on the front in giant letters. Was our country really ever that young?
B: I don’t think anybody but Terrific was ever that naïve.
And I’ve said it before, and I’m happy to repeat myself. Cutting the government now hurts spending, which hurts employment. Low employment hurts the economy not just of the moment, but of tomorrow, and hurts revenues of tomorrow, which increases the debt. Austerity right now is cutting off our nose to spite our face. The long-term budget must be balanced. But slamming on the breaks right now could do as much damage as if government debt hit a brick wall- something which most economists think is still a ways off.
DI: What about Standard and Poors?
B: I’m not sure they’re even relevant. Because look at bond traders, the people who would be directly effected by problems with the government repaying its debt. They didn’t care about the S & P downgrade. The people with the most to lose or gain, with more skin in the game than anyone, did not care.
DI: So you’re saying don’t panic?
B: I’m saying now is the time for us to make smart decisions for the future. At some point in the future, if we don’t act responsibly, the bond market will start to care. And then the decision will be out of our hands.