Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Ruling Class and Me

I've been so upset with my president. Come on Barack, don't you know that we don't negotiate with terrorists, or they'll just take hostages again?

And I'm sorry to family and friends who are on the other side of the aisle, but I have lost all compassion and faith for anyone who has ever voted for a Republican, ever. It's been nice knowing you and I wish you well in life, but buzz off. Now.

Here's the thing. I work hard. My husband works hard, get this--for the government--keeping planes safe and flying--he's gone every day for at least 12 hours and he often works at home, too. And yes there is no pay raise for the next two years so if he doesn't look for a job in industry that offers bonuses and actual cost of living increases I might just scream, but anyway.....we make a fine living. We're compensated pretty fairly for what we do. I work for a non-profit which by it's nature is lower paying than a business type job, but still, we are not wealthy but you'd think we'd be solidly middle class. And really, we are.

But here's the other thing: we're members of the screwed generation. Our parents graduated from high school, got jobs, worked. They had families and a nice house in the suburbs. They worked a fair day for fair pay. They had whole weekends off with two days in a row when they didn't have to work. It was rare that they had to go to work in the dark AND come home in the dark. They were able to pay for the medical procedures and services that they needed. They went on nice vacations, they had two cars each and then they retired at age 55. Nice.

And not happening for us. My parents never had high level bosses that made an obscene salary or benefits that were fit for royalty. Of course, we don't either! My boss drives a 15 year old car because she's a dear. But the wage disparity between the ruling class and the rest of us is grossly unfair.

"During the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the United States experienced two unprecedentedly long periods of sustained economic growth—the "seven fat years" and the " long boom." Yet from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1 percent." from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. 

And we feel it, don't we? The buying power of a regular paycheck seems to diminish every year. Groceries feel like a bigger hit, any home improvement projects need to be carefully planned, and furnishings are kept in service past a broken frame and a threadbare cushion. And if you're going to talk tuition to a four year institution, well, it's a huge hit. Huge.

Of course these people, these very wealthy people who give huge sums to politicians are pressuring the people in power. They don't want to have to budget for what they want. They don't want to choose between a crown for a broken tooth and carpeting. They want to continue to live a life of privilege. These are the wealthy who just bullied their way to a tax cut. A tax cut. During a time of war. Where is their patriotism? Where is their 40s style commitment to 70% taxes because it was the right and honorable thing to do--a privilege even--that's the way the wealthy viewed it then. 

I am reminded of "The Good Earth" and "The Grapes of Wrath" and the lessons from the Great Teacher (that's what Unitarian Universalists often call Jesus of Nazereth). The money and gross privilege eventually becomes a target. And people who have nothing for their children eventually rise up. 

I've had Pete Seeger songs running through my head all day. And while I find some gross problems with some of the power and money held by unions, it seems that working class folks banding together and saying "enough" is the only way to end the power and inequity wielded by the wealthy. I love the lyric I found in the original version of "Which Side Are You On" by Florence Reece 

"Their children live in luxury, our children almost wild" 

Still fits. 

1 comment:

Steve Caldwell said...


I don't know if you've seen this article by Washington Post blogger Erza Klein:

"Who graduates, who votes and who's unemployed -- in one graph"

If you're wondering why tax cuts seem to be a bigger deal to voters than unemployment benefits, there appears to be a correlation between unemployment, education, and voter turnout.

One would think that the levels of unemployment experienced by those without HS diplomas and HS graduates would motivate politicians. But they vote at lower levels than college graduates (who have higher income levels and lower unemployment levels).

The local Industrial Areas Foundation affiliate in our town does voter registration drives for groups with historically lower turnout as a way to address the skewed economic priorities in our political leaders.