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Is the Middle Class Dead?

August 3, 2013
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SJR's GrandmotherAmericans have, for many decades considered themselves the middle class.  During the dark days of the Great Depression, those who were middle class, barely hung on, by their fingernails.  Frank Capra made some wonderful movies about the differences between the wealthy and the middle class.  In his classic films, the wealthy weren’t the bad guys, neither were the middle class the heroes.  They were just people, good and bad.  That is the difference between today and the Great Depression.  Today, the wealthy are worshiped, not because they are better than everyone else, but because they are wealthy.

Oh, wait, if Charles or David Koch had the middle name of “Soros”, they would be evil.  Never mind that the money George Soros has dumped into the system is chump change compared to their tens of millions, if not more.  Soros never tried to destroy the system or destroy the average American.  That is what the Brother’s Koch, and their associates are doing.  They are shredding the very fabric of our society – so they can get richer.

I don’t begrudge them their billions.  I wish I had their money.  Then again, if I had their money, I would be nearly broke because I’d give it all away to those in need.  I’m working on my third murder mystery.  One of my characters, a drag queen, finally married the love of his life, a Russian billionaire.  As soon as they were married, Kitty was given a billion bucks, for pin money.  Aside from buying himself a sport’s car, he gave every single cent of the money away – to help our needy vets and active service members.  Kitty rants and rails that, for all the money so many people have in the country, none of them give a damn about helping our military.  Instead, they use their billions to hurt them, how ever possible.

“…The mainstream news media will likely not show you a picture of failed white suburban domesticity in the Age of Austerity and the Great Recession. The Fourth Estate are not truth tellers. They support the status quo and the powerful. As such, a meaningful discussion of white poverty in the Age of Austerity is not an approved topic for the public discourse even while “we the people” are suffering everyday…”

That’s the real difference between the ultra wealthy and the middle class.  The ultra wealthy only give to museums, theaters, dance companies (rarely do they donate to opera).  They give tens upon millions to political issues, and occasionally donate to medical causes.  There are two exceptions, Jon Huntsmann, Sr. and Bill & Melinda Gates.  Then again, Gates and Huntsmann made it on their own.  Unlike the Koch Brothers, they didn’t inherit their billions from a parent pandering to Stalin.

There is a fascinating piece in the Atlantic, about the middle class.  What makes Americans believe we are mostly middle class, when we aren’t?  Economically, the middle class, thanks to the dandy outreach of the Koch Brothers and their little GOP whores, is on life support.  In 2009 53% of the country was defined, economically, as middle class.  Today, that number is 49%.

“…The remaining economic component for all of our class designations isn’t income but stuff you can buy. One common synonym for rich and poor is the haves and have-nots. But consumer goods once deemed luxuries, like cellular telephones and televisions, are now common possessions. This means that even as employers held tight to the gains our productivity generated by keeping real wages at 1970s levels, we sent women into the workforce, labored longer hours, and used new debt products to indenture our way to some happiness. Thus, our stand-in to signify class status – purchasing power – papers over the fact that by income, benefits, and lifestyle standards many of us had long left behind a middle-class existence, even as we clung to the moniker.

Peering behind the once iconic picket fence surrounding a house, we see what “middle class” used to mean. The mortgage was close to paid off; the car loan settled. This feat was accomplished on a single income that came with health care plus pension and enough for domestic vacations and college.

Today, we are left with mere symbols, but these turn out to muddle, not mark. Being in the middle class once guaranteed choices and life without fear that the unexpected would prove catastrophic. Now, this is far from the case. Politicians of all stripes will continue to claim allegiance to the middle class, but that’s just because they’re hoping we don’t notice it’s a brand without a product….”

I think it all depends on how you look at things.  Three years ago my parents were considered wealthy, upper class.  Thanks to Alzheimer’s and the recession, if you just process income, they are well within the poverty level – lower class.  Having a net worth of a few million in real estate doesn’t mean much when you can’t sell it.  So, no, there’s no money to buy anything beyond basic survival and about $500 a month in medication (after their supplement).  Thanks to their net worth, they don’t qualify for any sort of a break.  So, the money that needed to go to repair the once beautiful new Caddy had to go into the bank, to pay for basic necessities. My 83 year old mother, who always had a housekeeper, now labors, alone, to take care of my father.  I guess coming from Palm Beach, having a new car just about every year, the mink and the diamonds don’t matter much.

Just don’t call my mother anything other than upper class.  Quite frankly, she looks down her nose at ‘new’ money.  People like the Kochs, who have all the money in the world, in her eyes, and in mine, are nothing but rich trash.  There is nothing upper class about them, or the two bit people who get big pay-days from being a slut celeb de jour.

My mother never considered herself middle class. My father, who came from the traditional Norman Rockwell Minnesota upbringing always did.  His family barely survived the Great Depression, which destroyed everything his parents had.  Yet, don’t ever call them anything but middle class.

I always had a difficult time explaining to him, that, when their genealogy was taken into account, there is absolutely nothing middle class about our family.  The likes of the Roosevelts and the Kennedys were always looked down upon by both sides of the family.  My father’s family came from that Puritan – Pilgrim, long line of a DAR Patriot ancestor on every branch of the tree.  Yes, his family is part of that Presidential line – true American aristocracy, if there is aristocracy in this country.  It is a veritable who’s who of writers, politicians, actors and inventors.  My mother’s southern ancestors hailed from Jamestown.  They too are part of that Presidential line.  Her gggwhatever grandfather’s father’s estate was a little patch of ground called Quantico.  His best friend owned a plantation called Mount Vernon.  The executors of his will included both Madison and Monroe.  Her family, no matter what the financial circumstances, ever considered themselves anything but upper class.

When upper, middle, and lower class is discussed in this country, economists look at one thing.  If you study sociology and history, you look at another.  No matter how violently the middle class will be attacked and stripped of funds and resources, it is still middle class.  No matter how much money lower class trash like the scum suckers we see on television will have, they are still lower class.  In the south, we referred to them as trash.

At one time, middle class was an attitude.  It was Howie Cunningham in Happy Days, or Andy Taylor of Mayberry.  Middle class was Rob and Laura Petrie.  It was Darrin Stephens, disparately trying to get his aristocratic wife, Samantha, to fit into the neighborhood.   The Carringtons of Dynasty tried to be upper class, but they were decidedly lower class, as were the Ewings. We all knew that Bret and Bart Maverick, even if they were gamblers, were upper class.  In the post-Civil War, ‘class’ did not matter as Endicott Peabody shows us, in his Tombstone diary.  The Earps were the first real generation of the new middle class.  So was Bat Masterson.  Doc Holiday was always considered upper class, no matter how disreputable he lived.

Once upon a time, being middle class was about knowing how to say yes ma’am, no ma’am, please, thank you, to dine with your elbows off the table, and no one, even cowboys, wore a hat at the table.  It was about manners, and the gentility that Jane Austen wrote about in her novels.  Yes, she was middle class.  The Bennets were lower middle class, with their lower class mother aspiring to a social situation beyond which she was capable of reaching because of her behavior.  Her daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, did, though achieve that status, by marrying well.

In the 1880s through Teddy Roosevelt, people like the Kochs were considered robber barons, the enemy of the middle class.  They were considered the enemy of those who worked for them, and the enemy of anyone but those who could live in their little gilded world.  Like the Kochs, they were such upstarts that they had to prove how important they were by living more opulently than the crown heads and aristocracy of Europe. That’s how the Kochs and those who ape them behave.  Those who worship them – the Medveds, Limbaughs, Becks, and the like worship them – not because of the quality of their character, but what access to their billions can buy. In the world of the robber barons, even Rupert Murdoch, for all his money, would be considered socially unacceptable for his crass, crude, and malevolent behavior.

To put it into perspective, the Earps, in middle America, were considered upper middle class.  The pathetic little woman who labored long and hard as a cleaning woman in one of the Earp owned stores of Monmouth was considered lower class.  She had two sons to support and a drunk for a husband.  The Earps of Lamar, upper middle class, rented to a family who were lower middle class, a life-stock dealer.  Their son was basically a financial failure until he was elected to Congress.  Today, he is remembered as the 33rd President of the United States.  The son of the cleaning woman was the 40th President.

The beauty of the United States is that being upper, middle or lower class doesn’t mean much when it comes to upward mobility.  The Earps never went beyond middle class.  The later generations, almost to a man, are cops. The grandson of the 35th President of the United States is studying to be the same thing my nephew is – an EMT.

Today, we are dealing with a nation being shredded by a group of men and women who aren’t interested in the fabric of society, but lining their own pockets.  What once was middle class, financially, is dying.  Those who are lower class, financially, are truly suffering.  Their lot in life is only going to get worse, thanks to the Republicans in the House.  The middle class is losing all sense of security.  Today, 80% of Americans will be, at some time in their lives, living at the poverty level.

Chauncey DeVegas wrote:

“…Stereotypes serve as cognitive short cuts which the viewer, and we as a society, use to categorize and evaluate the relative worth of whole groups of people. The way that images of white, “poor”, female, “overweight”, “unattractive”, bodies are processed by the viewer is a reflection of how we as a society think about race, class, and gender. These concepts exist individually while also having meaning in relation to one another.

Moreover, in America, because of the Calvinist-Horatio Alger-Myth of Individualism and Upward Mobility, claims on poverty necessarily involve moral judgments.

The black single mother is a “welfare queen” who is “lazy” and has “bad morals”. The poor white person is a “redneck” or a “hillbilly” with all of the stereotypes and assumptions implicit in such language.

Consequently, poor white people are one of the few groups which can me made fun and mocked in American culture without consequence or public sanction.

White elites and opinion leaders do not want to talk about poor white people because that would expose the defects of capitalism. These same elites also avoid discussing white poverty because it would undermine how they have historically been able to mine white supremacy to mask inter-class conflict and exploitation among whites in the United States.

“Race is how class is lived in America.” Consequently, the leaders in the black and brown community care about poverty as a general issue because it disproportionately impacts people of color….”

Alternet

Alternet

I’ve learned, living at the poverty level, this day and age, has nothing to do with what social class one is. With the exception of the new robber barons and the political and media whores who worship them, we’re all heading in that direction.

ABOUT THE PHOTO:  The woman with the shotgun is my grandmother Ruby Perkins Reidhead.  The woman leaning against the wall is her mother, Alma Dustin Perkins.  In 1863, when Alma was 5 years old, she witnessed the massacre of her family – her mother, father, grandmother and baby brother – by the Sioux, near Wright Lake, Minnesota. Her mother, who survived being scalped, died two weeks later from a sudden outbreak of typhoid. They knew all about the hard-ships of live, living without a safety net, and what it was like for the Widow Perkins to be suddenly left with 9 children, no money, nothing to eat, losing her house, and no money to bury her husband.

This is the world, to which the Kochs want to return.  In the Koch Machine – GOP world there would be no:

  • Social Security
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • SNAP
  • Local cops
  • Local fire fighters
  • EMS
  • Minimum wage
  • EPA
  • Protection for mothers & children
  • Private roads & highways
  • Private bridges
  • Postal service
  • Viable military
  • Worker’s rights
  • Food safety laws
  • Product safety laws
  • Income taxes
  • Pensions
  • Government jobs
  • Government pensions
  • Gun laws
  • Banking laws
  • Protection from corporate crimes
  • Laws governing the financial market
  • Voting rights
  • Protection against racism
  • Rights for women
  • Contraceptives
  • Freedom of religion
  • Gay rights
  • Public Education

In other words, if the Koch Brothers, and their bought and paid for whores in the House and Senate, aided and abetted by two rogue SCOTUS justices;  Thomas and Scalia, had their way, most of us would be living in an Ayn Rand ghetto, never able to do more than wallow in the dirt.  That’s the world they want for us.  That is the world they are creating for us.  It is a world the Republican Party, pretending to worship the Constitution, while destroying it, is creating for us all.

Everything the Koch Machine and their Republican whores are trying to go goes against the Constitution and the tide of history.  In order to brainwash their supporters, they have bought and paid for educators, historians, and professors.  They control most of the media.  They control the message, rewriting the very history of this nation.  Never have we ever been a libertarian nation, not even from the very beginning.  We are dealing with a the antics of two very twisted, sick, perverted, very rich men who have no morals, ethics, or honor.  They are also getting old.  They can’t take it with them.  What they have done to this nation is nothing less than treason.  They should be treated accordingly.  Anyone who has aided or supported them should hang their head in shame.  More than a few need to be doing a perp walk.

 

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  • jose maria

    Money does not make a person upper class, nor does it make them royal, noble or rich. It makes you wonder why anyone would want their money, much less worship them for it. Some of the richest people are the poorest people on earth. They live pristine, sterile, fruitless lives and most of them have no idea what real life is all about. They are so shallow, they sip only the bubbles of the wine of life and never know what it means to drink deeply of the cup, even if it means finding the dregs at the bottom. They are so focused on themselves that they fail to see the whole picture. These people are not the new rich, they are the new poor. Real treasures are in the soul and real royalty is not in blood lines, but in the richness of one’s character. Many so-called lower class people are more royal, nobler and richer than those who have all the cash. This is expressed so beautifully in the Book of Ecclesiastes where it says, “Many a beggar rides on horseback, while many a prince walks in the dust.” If you really want to live a rich life, roll up your sleeves, rub elbows with people of all races, get some dust on your feet. When you do, you can be sure that the Lord will love to come and wash them clean for you. Nothing equals the treasure that Jesus can give us.

  • http://www.thepinkflamingoblog.com SJ Reidhead

    Excellent.

    SJR

  • https://www.diigo.com/profile/lloydewinter MARSHALL

    What are you doing here then, Hockeystick? You protest too much.


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