Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Middle Class Wears a Scarlet "E"

In "The Scarlet Letter", Hester Prynne is forced by the community to wear the letter "A" emblazoned on her bosom for the act of adultery. This was the community's way of shaming her for violating its laws of decency and conduct.

I'm beginning to think that the entire middle class of the United States should be forced to have the letter "E" emblazoned on its bosom, representing the word "Entitlements", the evil to which the middle class has lately fallen victim.

There was a time in this country when being middle class meant something. It meant that you and your family lived on the income that the family produced, usually in a house in which regular mortgage payments were made. The family payed its taxes, and it received little or nothing from the federal government in the form of either direct or indirect transfer payments. When items were purchased, they were saved for in advance. And if they were financed, regular payments were made every month until the debt was paid. Being "middle class" meant nothing if not belonging to a class of Americans who looked to the federal government to provide little more than national defense, international relations, the regulation of interstate commerce and the funding of the interstate highway system.

But the middle class I've just described does not exist anymore. Being middle class today means expecting the federal government to underwrite a portion of your children's college education. Being middle class today means that you unblinkingly accept---and loudly defend---tax credits paid you simply because of your ability to reproduce. Being middle class today means that a one-hour trip to the doctor should cost you no more than $25 out of pocket, while your employer is looked to in order to offset the largest portion of your medical care. Being middle class today means braying loudly to the cameras that Wall Street was receiving more love from Uncle Sugar than Main Street, because your $650,000 McMansion has lost 40% of its value and your ARM payment has more than doubled. Being middle class today means looking to government to provide skating rinks, skateboard parks, after-school enrichment programs and a full menu of activities for your aging parents at the local Seniors Center. And when those aging parents reach the age where they can no longer care for themselves, being middle class today means looking to the government to provide full time, long-term care for them.

There was a time during the Reagan Administration where the "welfare queen" came into vogue; you know, the caricature of a single mother with several children (usually of different sires), no job, living in public housing, drawing public assistance and feeding herself and children on AFDC. The welfare queen lives on, except she is now more likely to be driving a tricked out SUV and living in a 4500 square foot house. She (and her husband) are raising a couple of kids, putting little money into their 4o1K's while counting on student loans to finance their children's education. After paying all their bills each month, they only go a few hundred dollars deeper into credit card debt. No one told them that when it came time to refinance out of that ridiculous mortgage they signed, their house may actually have lost value resulting in unaffordable payments for a house they could never afford in the first place. They are lucky enough though, to have a golf cart charging in the garage so that they won't have to drive one of their SUV's to the gated community pool--wouldn't want to contribute any more greenhouse gases than they already do! Oh, and there's a sticker on their cars with only one word on it...."Hope".

19 comments:

Smoothfur said...

CHANGE:

Not long ago I read what was, supposedly, a joke ... It said all the politicians running for president are promising change to theAmerican people. We send them billions and billions of tax dollars and they send us the change.

Funny? Not really; there is too much truth in it to be funny.

They ALL promise change.
How about if they run on a promise of restoration rather than change. A restoration that would tak e us back in time to a place where things ran better, smoother and life was more enjoyable.
Change? That, in truth, is what they have been giving us all along.

We USED to have a strong dollar ... Politicians changed that.

Life USED to be sacred ... Politicians changed that.

Marriage USED to be sacred ... Politicians are changing that.

We USED to be respected around the world ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to have a strong manufacturing economy ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to have lower tax structures ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to enjoy more freedoms ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to be a large exporter of American made goods ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to teach patriotism in schools ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to educate children in schools ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to enjoy freedom of speech ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to ENFORCE LEGAL citizenship ... Politicians changed that.

We USED to have affordable food & gas prices ... Politicians changed that, too
. ... and one could go on and on with this list.

What hasn't been changed, politicians are promising to change that as well if you will elect them.

When, oh WHEN, is America going to sit back with open eyes and look at what we once were and where we have come and say, enough is enough?

The trouble is, America 's youthful voters today don't know of the great America that existed forty and fifty years ago. They see the world as if it has always existed, as it is now.

When will we wake up?
Tomorrow may be too late.
When will America realize ... Politicians are what is wrong with America ? Or better yet, when will Americans realize that the even greter problem is the American voter who only votes for the candidate that promises them "FREE STUFF".

Goldwater's Ghost said...

WOW, CW unplugged! Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Insightful! Who sir, is your muse?

Bill said...

smoothfur, I couldn't agree with you more! Since I don't like the politics of Obama I am voting for McCain (I like his politics a bit more) BUT I am casting a vote for every non incumbent--it just may make me feel a bit better AS everyone in Congress is part of the crime now. I for one would rather start with an entire freshman class and graduate everyone else out of the school.

Rob said...

Excellent post!

I can't agree with those who place the blame for this on politicians. Politicians may be enablers, but we need to check the mirror as well.

It would be great to have politicians who addressed this issue in a serious way, but the sad fact is they would never make it onto the ballot - much less get elected.

tom de plume said...

"They... have a golf cart charging in the garage so that they won't have to drive one of their SUV's to the gated community pool--wouldn't want to contribute any more greenhouse gases than they already do!"

Just a note of clarification if I may, and I may because I happen to be your boots on the ground on this one.

They don't have a golf cart because of any greenhouse gas issue. They are not that well thought out or consistent. They have a golf cart becasue it's a fun toy to drive around the neighborhood on.

B Bauer said...

Apologies, it was a useless jab and I planned, when I had the time, to make a comment on your blog to back up my thought. However, it wasn't meant as an insult. It is simply a reality. I collected BAH and BAS for a short while as well. You make my point with your reply in that you "sorta always chalked it up as part of your total compensation." In other words, you felt you were entitled for your hard work.

So how far a stretch is it to say that in this 'free market' economy there may be some advantage to those in corporate power, a siphon from the trickle down that is the 'tide that lifts all ships' you could say, and that if the government, and by that I mean the representative of the people, not the caregiver of the people, isn't going to do anything about it, then they owe us something back? Perhaps that is an incentive to do their job better in this laissez faire thing we want to promote around the world. Is it the most efficient way for the middle class to get back the 'wealth transfer' to the powerful who manipulate markets to their advantage? Probably not. -but we don't want the alternative either which is people taking it by force. That would make you a terrorist. We need some balance, you know, some CONSERVATIVE conservative thought. We need some reality. Not pseudo reality like Joe is really a plumber and makes over $250k a year, but real reality in which we recognize that we are a welfare state, and that some people will beat that system, but just like the precious fetus we all try so hard to protect, that we have the need to take care of each other as well because it also is the most efficient way (humanely) possible. I mean, what was the point of all that war fightin' you did? Was it just so that you could grift off the government after retirement? I would guess not.

-or maybe I missed your point, in which case, disregard. Heh heh. Snarky.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

B Bauer...what exactly are you trying to say? I held out hope when I saw your facebook note, but I'm not sure I get your point.

Is it that we pay all these taxes, so we damn sure ought to get something in return? If that's the point, my answer is, we shouldn't be paying all these taxes! While yes, we are to a certain extent a welfare state, my preference would be to extend that welfare to those who need it, like old, sick, poor and very young people. Not healthy, college age people or people who can't be trusted to make complex financial decisions like mortgages. Restrict the welfare state to truly needy people, lower our taxes. I'd say that's "Conservative, Conservative", no?

B Bauer said...

My point is that just as you felt that you were entitled to BAH and BAS because of your responsibility, I feel like I am entitled to paying no more than $25 out of pocket while my employer is looked to in order to offset the largest portion of my medical care, because its part of my total compensation package. Entitlement is relative and certainly subtle.

-and just who is to make the determination of who is entitled to what? You?

Dan said...

Here's a determination where one IS NOT ENTITLED to my tax dollars: the fat, sedentary, smoking, fast-food eating mom and/or dad and/or family members. Doesn't cost a penny to push the plate away of ask for seconds. Doesn't cost a cent to walk a couple of miles a day. Doesn't cost a cent to quick smoking (even cheaper to NOT start smoking in the first place). Doesn't cost a cent to drive past (vice drive-thru) your local McDonalds. Not subtle, not relative. Just right.

b bauer said...

Yep. That is certainly not subtle and I agree. -but I would argue it is relative. What happens when someone makes the determination that your vice/industry/special interest no longer deserves whatever legality/subsidy/acceptance you feel it deserves? Pure rational argument that wins over all intelligent, worthy minds? If so, good for you.

I'm not actually taking a stance against the points here. I just don't feel its necessarily as easy as the black and white which gets shouted from the hilltops. I enjoyed the read. Fair winds and all. Way past my bedtime.

Anonymous said...

What a phenomenal post. I'll admit, I've got a mortgage on a place which lost value, 3(!) credit cards, and the "tax-advantaged" investing accounts. This economic slump has hit my TSP and Roth IRA investments. But whom do I have to blame?

No one but myself. My mortgage I have planned to afford with a fixed rate. I only use one of my 3 cards regularly and pay it down every month, and, though my captital gains of the past 3 years have been largely wiped clean, I'm in it for the long haul and am able to buy more shares each month at the cheaper price.

I am completely fine to be what you idolize as "middle class." I want no handouts and have no sympathy for the nouveau bourgeois complainers who rode a gravy train with no thought as to where it has been headed.

Greg "The Hammer" Dail said...

Remember what Mark Ruud said (one of Ayers buddies in the Weather Underground). "Make no mistake about it, this is a war against the middle class".
I have often wondered what those rich kids like Bill Ayers had against the middle class and why they would go to such extremes. I have a hypothesis but I'm not sure it's right. Here goes. When all those kids from very good families went to college, unlike their parents they had to compete against working class kids. Kids that often times were very bright (by virtue of the fact they even got into those schools) but again middle and working class kids. I think those spoiled little brats were repulsed by the notion that they, the sons and daughters of captains of industry, were being degraded in this way. They, in their eyes, lost something that was theirs by right of birth and there was going to be hell to pay.
Just a thought.

Greg "The Hammer" Dail said...

Remember what Mark Ruud said (one of Ayers buddies in the Weather Underground). "Make no mistake about it, this is a war against the middle class".
I have often wondered what those rich kids like Bill Ayers had against the middle class and why they would go to such extremes. I have a hypothesis but I'm not sure it's right. Here goes. When all those kids from very good families went to college, unlike their parents they had to compete against working class kids. Kids that often times were very bright (by virtue of the fact they even got into those schools) but again middle and working class kids. I think those spoiled little brats were repulsed by the notion that they, the sons and daughters of captains of industry, were being degraded in this way. They, in their eyes, lost something that was theirs by right of birth and there was going to be hell to pay.
Just a thought.

Doc Milnamo said...

CW said, "Being middle class today means that a one-hour trip to the doctor should cost you no more than $25 out of pocket, while your employer is looked to in order to offset the largest portion of your medical care."

You're damn right I do. In my adult working life, I have worked for 2 companies - IBM for over 20 years and my current employer. Both employers list/listed what they pay/paid for my medical care as part of my "overall compensation package" in reports which HR sends/sent out each year. Since medical is part of my overall compensation, I expect to be compensated commensurate with my effort/output.

Doc

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Doc...Wonderful. If you prefer to continue to saddle American business with the costs of your health care, then bully for you. A system begun during WWII wage controls has grown out of control. One of Senator McCain's truly smart proposals is his health care plan, one that begins to break the unholy alliance of work and health care. YOU should be paying for your health care, your expenses should incentivize you to live a healthier life, and your employer should pay you what you're worth in the market rather than play the finance shell game by assigning a value to your health care.

I don't want government paying for health care, and I don't want business paying for health care. I want a nation of individiuals pooling their money to fund health care.

Goldwater's Ghost said...

So long as McCain's tax credit is indexed for inflation, it's an interesting start.

One of my concerns would be the current cost differential between group and nongroup policies. Costs to administer and underwrite several million individual policies are, as you might imagine, much more than they are for several thousand employer groups representing thousands if not millions of employees.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

gotta pool the individual plans by risk and benefit.

Doc Milnamo said...

CW said, "...and your employer should pay you what you're worth in the market rather than play the finance shell game by assigning a value to your health care."

Well, that's my point although I didn't make it very well...if at all :-(

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