I find myself on the one hand, never recalling a personally happier period in my life and, on the other hand, being upset or indignant over the changes in our society and our people.
I believe in capitalism and free markets for what they are generally conceived to be, but the manner in which bigger, better, more, more, more, rush, rush, rush, work, work, work, spend, spend, spend, debt, debt and more debt, has taken over the average person’s life, kind of freaks me out.
The idea that we have billionaires and people living in poverty at the same time and in the same country is mind boggling. How much is enough? How little is acceptable? What about the children in poverty?
I think it is a hard thing to grasp for the middle class and upper classes, but the cycle of poverty is vicious, pernicious and unyielding. It is hard to escape.
What’s more the lifestyle of the middle class and working class is deteriorating rapidly. Future generations, despite their 260 cable TV channels, big screen TV’s and high speed internet, will never believe, that at one time, in America a family of four or more could survive and thrive on one adult’s full time wages and someone, probably the mother, stayed home and actively raised the children.
Today, husbands and wives are working full time jobs to keep their heads above water and real income growth (adjusted for inflation) is flat. Infants and toddlers are spending the equivalent of a full time job’s hours in day and child care. Health care expenses are up and so are out of pockets and deductibles.
Critics claim that we don’t have a wealth disparity problem we have a work ethic or consumption problem. Statistics show that the American worker puts in more hours with less vacation time than most industrialized countries in the world.
Consumption? People are indoctrinated to consume. Advertising is everywhere. The average adult is exposed to over 1700 advertisements, be it on TV, radio, internet, print or signage, every single day. Self worth is implicitly tied into advertising. Spending money or going in debt is the only way to keep up with the cool kids.
Products are throw away and designed to last a specific period of time that has been scientifically researched, so as to be generally acceptable to the public. Cars, well maintained, 10 years. Appliances, 7 years. Smart phones, 3 years. Computers, 4 years. Throw it away. Spend more.
I replaced a washer and dryer a few years ago that were 25 years old. The washer I bought as a replacement lasted barely 3 years. When I replaced it, I bought the cheapest low tech 30 year old designed unit I could find and I am dreaming of getting 12 years out of it.
People dream of home ownership and for years the equity in one’s home was the bulk of most families’ net worth. The mortgage crisis takes place and people who had paid for thirty years on their homes lost most of their equity. They weren’t the unqualified borrowers who took advantage of loose requirements and government guaranteed mortgages. They weren’t the banks making a quick buck churning loans and then bundling the bad ones as risky investments. But they lost.
The thing I find most disturbing is that those among us who have been blessed by being born into good families, those of us blessed with above average intelligence, those of us fortunate to get higher educations and escape without crippling student loan debt, have little or no compassion for those among us who didn’t win the birth lottery. The lucky disdain the unlucky. Oh, you picked your parents? You’re one of a few I bet.
Yes, there are numerous stories of people born into stark circumstances that reached the pinnacle of the American dream. They pulled themselves up by their boot straps, worked hard, made sacrifices and benefitted from good decision making and self discipline. How many people have lived in American history, how many millions? But you can bet the ones that made it have their stories told time and time again. It’s the American myth, you‘ve got to have a few verifiable successes to keep the myth alive.
But let’s be real, as time marches on and system is stacked by the haves against the have not’s, these stories are becoming less and less frequent. Most dot.com millionaires weren’t born into poverty.
You can be intelligent, you can be educated and you can come in on a firm financial foundation but you have to dot your I’s and cross you T’s to keep your head above water. I am not naïve enough to believe that despite what “success” I have had in life, couldn’t be wiped out with a few unfortunate turns of events or poor decisions.
Also let’s not kid ourselves on another point. Our society and especially our business environment rewards people who are pricks. Either you’re a super genius or you are willing to get your hands dirty and do “whatever” it takes to get the job done. Ethics are situational. People hiding behind the corporate veil do things everyday that they would never do if their name were on the building.
I understand our country is young, but the world is old. The human race is old. I think we would have risen above this Darwinist, winner takes all, to the victor goes the spoils, mentality.
I absolutely am not against the rich getting richer. I am not against those who work hard, those who create and innovate being rewarded; that is the way it is supposed to work. I am, however, aghast when looking at statistics for income growth since the 2008 recession that the only ones to have recovered are the ultra wealthy and corporations. Income growth for the middle class and lower are basically flat, and if you don’t make $500k a year you’re middle class. Sorry there Sparky, hate to break that to you.
The economic news we get is bullshit. A rising tide should raise all boats, not just yachts.
Look at the Forbes 500 Wealthy list, aside from a few internet pioneers and innovators most of the newer entries are bankers, investment bankers and hedge fund managers. I think, in the Bible, Jesus referred to these people as the money changers. Remember the guys doing business in the temples?
What cracks me up is so many average Americans buy into the crap they’re being fed and they support economic and domestic policy that in no, remote way, can possibly benefit them in their life times and more disturbingly are passing along the bill for all this excess, waste, corruption and graft to their children and grand children.
Then instead of painting the culprits for who they are, the system paints the lower classes as the source of the problem and that they ALL are a bunch of lazy leeches. Yes, there are some, but not all. However anytime the media latches onto it, they all are the same. It’s classic bait and switch, blame shifting.
Either way, who foots the bill? Not those that created the problem, not those who can afford to help fix the problem, but the middle and working classes.
Why is no one pissed off that Congressmen and Senators see their net worths increase exponentially every year they’re in office? The pay and benefits are very good, but come in a millionaire and end up a multi-millionaire and no one bats an eye.
We can genetically modify crops to make them drought and pest resistant. We can fly remote controlled drones from half way around the world and drop a bomb within ten feet of our intended victim and we can’t get rid of poverty, we can’t cure dread diseases, we can’t make everyone’s lives incrementally better day after day? Only for a select few? Really?
Why is it that if you are getting screwed less than the next guy, that somehow you’re winning?
I expect more than this from our people. I expect more than this from our society, our world. Is this really the best we can do?
I have never been happier and more dismayed.
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