Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Darling Revolutionaries

Children, children, children... 

[warning, this is a little political, though more populist than partisan]

I Feel Your Pain

Seriously. In this economic Debacle, we are hurting, too. We HAVE been hurting since my husband got laid off in 2008. I know we're lucky. We own (some small portion of) our house and nobody is starving, but I also work my butt off and have a master's degree and twenty years experience in my field. It should NOT be this hard. Even now, with hubby at work again, the catching up feels impossible.

We Really DO Need a Revolution

I think at least in the US, this is true. There are people who deserve to be rich, but MOST of the rich have far more than they've ever merited (certainly more than a life of luxury needs). They are the CEOs who got golden parachutes, and the profit skimmers who knew something and got OUT while the rest of us lost our pensions. They are the Sports pros who play games to entertain us and the movie stars. They are lawyers suing needlessly and ambulance chasing to create a society FAR too litigious which costs without creating. They are insurance people dictating that our medical care is paid for based on what will maximize their money.

I hear minimum wage is now $7.25 an hour. When I finished high school it was $3.35—27 years ago. At that time a median new house cost $80,500. This year, it is $235,200. Wage doubles. House price triples. In fact here is some comparing...

Cost of Living 1984 and [now]

Yearly Inflation Rate USA4.3 % [3.6%: a little lower, eh?]
Year End Close Dow Jones Industrial Average 1211 [Dec 31 2010=11,578]--holy CRAP somebody made a killing.
Interest Rates Year End Federal Reserve 10.75% [hovering LOW—2.5% or less, so WAY cheaper to borrow]
Average Cost of new house $86,730.00 [$235,200, 3X higher]
Average Income per year $21,600.00 [around $48,000, this change is comparable to minimum wage change]
Average Monthly Rent $350.00 [almost $1300, SAY WHAT?]
Movie Ticket $2.50 [$8.00]
1 gallon of gas $1.10 [$3.80]
Dodge RAM 50 Truck $8,995.00 [$21.810]

And did you know in 1984 a CEO made 42 times what an average employee of the same company did?  NOW, it is 235 times. Did the VALUE of a CEO go up six times faster?  REALLY?

So some things have changed in range of income, but some (in particular, places we LIVE) have gone up a lot faster than wages. While the Dow has increased 10 TIMES. So people who need to use their income to LIVE are pretty much screwed. People who can INVEST have made a fortune. And yes... some of us have some money invested... my retirement is largely stocks... but my $100K accumulated over 10 years (that is actually probably only 80K after last week) is not on the same scale as someone making that annually... or twice that... or ten times that...

Do you Want to Know How this HAPPENED? Because I know...

We can place this solidly in the lap of Ronald Reagan and deregulation. In the 80s credit became CHEAP and so workers stopped insisting on better wages for the jobs they did. The lower wages made the material 'necessity' culture fly because 1) manufacturers could charge relatively little, and 2) we had credit so we could BUY it even though our wages weren't enough...

For two and a half decades this worked. But then the credit came due.

Our GOAL should be to equalize this 'too low of wage thing'--It will be painful. We won't be able to have the same level of STUFF, but in reality this SHOULD come largely from the people who got so rich in this climate.

What we SHOULD NOT Do...

Is riot and destroy the meager or modest possessions, places of business, homes, and means of people who are NOT the super rich...

And we should not destroy the businesses that provide jobs... in fact ANY destruction of stuff or harming of people is counterproductive. When there is not enough stuff for the POOR, the answer is NOT to destroy STUFF. Do you SEE how this doesn't work?

What is needed is POLICY change and POLICY change is arrived at through elections, peaceful protests, influencing public opinion with our WRITING.

So spread the word... Don't wreck other people's stuff, but get MAD, write LETTERS, VOTE, get ACTIVE. As Aerosmith says, it's time to Eat the Rich (but only figuratively... the literal thing would be gross)


Creepy Query Girl said...

really enlightening post and oh so true! I can't believe what's going on in the UK right now and when I compare the health care system in france to that in the US it makes my skin crawl.

Jessica Bell said...

Gah! Yep, pretty shocking. Got it bad here in Greece too. The minimum wage here is 600 euro a month. Three small can of tuna will set you back 5 euro. I come home with two bags of shopping and I've spent 60 - 80 euro. It's impossible to live here if you are not lucky. I'm lucky. And I'm still struggling. I have NOTHING left at the end of them month. NOTHING. And I earn more than the minimum wage.

Christine Murray said...

This post makes grim reading, but it is unfortunately true. What's truly depressing is that if life is so difficult for us living in developed economies, what hope do people in the developing world have?

I honestly don't know how some people sleep at night.

Tripping Tipsy said...

Totally feel you, the average first home buyer budget here in Melbourne is $420k, its crazy considering the minimum wage here is something like $32k (I think). The rate property has increased in price is great for the baby boomers, not so great for a generation of Y's who are going to be renting for most of their lives/

Old Kitty said...

Ignorance needs to be destroyed!! There was too much ignorance on show these past week and this needs to stop asap!! We all need to be informed intelligently!! We all need to be as NAKED as you!!!! Yay for your super duper blog post!

Take care

Matthew MacNish said...

I was at the WTO riots in Seattle in '99. I marched with the AFL-CIO rally, and there were tens of thousands of us. It didn't make much difference in the long run, but it certainly sent a better message than those Direct Action morons who were smashing the windows at Starbucks and Niketown. I'm all for revolution, and jail for justice, but for god's sake think before you act, people.

Lisa said...

An excellent breakdown of how we got here. Don't forget that Fmr. President Reagan also launched the campaign to kill labor unions. As they have diminished in membership, so has the ability of the middle and working classes to keep up.

I wish peaceful protests drew the same sort of media attention riots do. What's happening in the UK is heartbreaking.

Hart Johnson said...

Katie--yes THAT is a huge comparison--France has the world's best health care... think it was WHO who determined that, where the US is near the bottom of developed countries.

Jessica-Greece sits so close to the 3rd world, so I think you guys get a lot of the crap earlier. I know this economic thing hit you earlier and harder.

Christine-oh, those people have fooled themselves into thinking they've earned it--that is basic psychology. What pisses ME off, is they've fooled so many OTHER people into thinking they've earned it.

Krystal-That is so true. My parents bought their first house when they were 21 and 24. I think that possibility is non-existent now, except among people who inherit. And you are right about the baby boomers, too--they got the lion's share of this boondoggle. I am Gen-X and have the dubious distinction of being the first generation in history that can't expect to do better than my parents.

Jenny-it's so sad. I hope where you are is safe--I know a lot of this spilled over.

Matthew-you were AT the riots? WOW. You are so right though--there is civil disobedience that is well thought out and makes a statement, and there is mass stupidity.

Lisa-absolutely on the union/reduce bargaining thing. Also the 'blatent pandering' to the religious right who doesn't give a crap about the economics, but they wanted to tip the vote so they started saying THOSE things.

L.G.Smith said...

Where do I sign up for Hart's Army?

I've got the torches and pitchforks in my shed. Grab a rope and I'll meet you in Washington. :)

Seriously, there's a policy-driven gap in this country that is only getting wider. It's like watching a man who can't swim stand with one foot on the dock and one on a drifting boat. Pretty soon the man is going to fall in and drown.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

You've written a great post on this, Hart! I agree--when the educated, professional middle class is barely able to make ends meet half the time, something is very, very wrong.

VR Barkowski said...

Yes, yes, YES to your post, Tarty. Knowledge is power. Violence and destruction accomplish nothing. I don't do politics in the blogosphere. First because I'm left of everybody. And second, because I get very angry when faced with what we've allowed (yes, allowed!) to happen in this country. Americans for the most part are political naifs. It's time to break through the complacent ignorance and quit trusting all will be taken care of for us just because we're American. Get involved, people; be aware! Policy change is the only way.

At present, I'm grateful my family is flush, but when's the next layoff? When will I have to give up my home *again*? We've done five major moves over three states in the last six years to follow the bouncing biotech job market. I don't care about pretty shiny things, dammit, I want some security.

Michael Offutt said...

Fantastic post today Hart. I agree with everything that you say here and just want to add that I hate the wage disparity and income gap in America (which is becoming a Master/slave state). Our "masters" enjoy their rich benefits etc of being in the upper class and will do anything they can to continue crushing Americans. I think a lot of those guys at Goldman Sachs deserve to be tarred and feathered.

BTW...I'm passing on an award and a meme onto you just so you know (on today's post) :))

Johanna Garth said...

I absolutely agree. Not only are we headed in the wrong direction, the current direction is unsustainable in so many ways.

What I wonder is how bad will things have to get before policy change is implemented. Will the lawmakers and lobbyists listen to anything that doesn't hit them in their own pockets. It's easy to pretend the economic crisis isn't happening as long as it's not happening to you.

Hart Johnson said...

LG-Usually I tell my minions to just take off their clothes, but I suppose this one is a little more serious, eh? Great analogy with the man poised to drown.

Elizabeth-Yeah, when I was a kid, one person with a bachelor's degree could support a family. Certainly not the case anymore.

VR-I fall pretty far left on most matters, too. And periodically I can't seem to help myself, but I do try to keep the politics out of the writing stuff. I hoped though, on at least this matter, I could stick to a more middle ground... Very rough to have to move for jobs--I'm glad you've been able to keep working through all the turbulence!

Michael-that master/slave thing seems very much the case--we'll have a serf system soon; I'm sure of it. And there are a LOT of big businesses that definitely screwed over the masses. I wish there was a way to ring that back out of those guys.

Johanna-I feel like the MAJORITY needs to wake up. All those single issue voters need to just get the heck out of the way. I wish we could make people take a test before they voted and leave single issue voters out of it. But I think the job of educating the masses falls to people like us--bloggers--if we all reached out, little by little people might understand better.

Jan Morrison said...

oh gaaaah. I'm in such agreement that all the words fell out of my mouth at once and made that gaaaah sound.
We are in slightly better shape up north but not much. Aerosmith's quote was a riff on this:
A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,[1] commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Swift suggests that impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.[2] This satirical hyperbole mocks heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as British policy in Ireland in general.

Talli Roland said...

Very well said. What's happening in London is shocking -- the rampant destruction of shops and random violence defies all logic and morality of a revolution. The sad thing is that youths are stealing things they CAN afford. Now, I can understand if they were smashing up shops to get food. But no, they're smashing up pound stores and looting shoe shops.

A part of me can understand the anger. They want to consume, and they don't have the money to consume all the goods society is telling them they should. But their behaviour is the WRONG way to do it.

Rant over!

Ciara said...

There is issues everywhere right now. Our school board is joke. Yet, I have hope that good change is coming to our society.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Smart post, Hart! Everyone wants to tax the rich higher and more, but we forget those people are often business owners who struggled to build their business and provide jobs for so many others. And most of the time, when they go after businesses, they hurt the small business owner. So wrong!

Helena said...

A heart-felt great post, Hart. And you're absolutely right that the huge gap between the top execs and the workers started under Reagan (early 1980's), while the middle-class standard of living has stagnated. Now almost one in three people in Alabama is on food stamps. The CEO of Verizon took home $64 million last year while this year he's trying to cut his workers' benefits. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the top 1% of Americans now take in a quarter of the nation's wealth, which is ruining our economy and society. If you're interested in his rant, here it is from Vanity Fair:
Good luck to you and your family, Hart. These economic times are scaring me too.

LTM said...

ahh... look at you, Ms. The Revolution is NOW! I think we should try to convince people to get out of debt. Looking at your numbers, you see the truth, which was shared to the 10 people who watched MAXED OUT: Corporations and banks make more money keeping us in DEBT than they do if we pay straight out for stuff. That's why interest rates are lower, but prices are higher and credit cards are easier to get. Like for unemployed college students. Try THAT in 1984... :D

and we should also do all that other stuff you said, too~ ;p <3

JohnnyB Dungeon Master said...

A stagnant populace that is seriously lacking hope will cling to almost any form of behavior that will give them a feeling of empowerment. The incredible pillaging of wealth to an elite upper class will not go unpunished. As things continue and people lose more and more the pressure to fix it will reach vigilante levels. That is when things will get ugly. Any country is a week of no food away from revolution.

Organizing into strong like minded groups and getting in the face of our elected officials seems to have worked for the Tea party groups. It should work for us. We just need to avoid the crazies....