Friday, September 23, 2011
MIDDLE CLASS WOES
HSW calls this the circle of everything
Upon investigation, the term middle class is a real tough definition. We tend to want to define it in terms of income. That is not complete because a $30 -$50 grand income supports very large variables in standards of living, depending on where you are locating that income. Manhattan and $50 grand income is nothing. In Podunk city a $50 grand income is indeed upper middle class. I think that middle class should be defined as the amount of income left over after a very basic cost of living, and that does not include a 3000 sq ft house in the burbs with a BMW in the driveway. It seems that when distributed across the US, middle class is commonly accepted as incomes anywhere from $50 grand a year to $100 grand a year.
I did a bit of poking around and the difference in definitions of middle class is spectacular. Industrial countries all define it different. But it appears to me that it is mostly dependent on the amount of stuff you can buy over and above basic median living costs of the area you are living in.
So how does middle class life style show up in job demographics? After perusing government stats and several papers on the subject, I have to conclude that for the most part, middle class jobs consist of what we call white collar jobs, that is, jobs that make nothing and mostly consist of paper and computer work and supervisory positions. Parts of the health care areas that are middle class and several other areas are exceptions to that.
It appears that the most meaningful demographics on middleclass indicate that it comprises about 30%-50% of the working part of society.
Now what got me started on this is that for the last several years’ economic commentaries from a variety of authors are bemoaning the decrease in the amount of middle class households. Other than the idea that middle class incomes are the mainstay of government taxes and support of the consumer society, they haven’t much else to say on the subject. Oh the poor middle class, they are disappearing and it’s all the fault of government taxation and confiscation of wealth that class had accumulated. Bull shit!
There have been several periods in this country when the middle class had heavily invested in stocks and commodities through various means and that was where a lot of their wealth was centered. Direct buying into stocks and things like 401K investments. In what appears to me as a valid perspective on that; it was a gamblers position. So when we had the big financial dump in 2008 these people got hurt, they lost all or a large percentage of their wealth holdings. Now do we have sympathy with the folks that go into a casino and lose a bundle? Of course not. We know the casino is loaded against the gambler. Well, investing in the financial services and stocks and municipal bonds and all the other forms of finding a means of making money with no output of effort is a gamble. If the financial situation turns sour, as it has, you lose. All of this investment effort was directed to increasing ones money holding with free money and making no productive effort in doing so, in other words, trying to get something for nothing over and above your original payout.
Same thing applies to other investments. Housing and land are a very good example. Remember during the early 2000’s that the common concept on land and housing is that they would never go down in value, that is, what they could be exchanged for in dollars. Well, the middle class bought hook line and sinker into that and many got burned with the housing crash. All of a sudden, their million dollar home cannot be sold for anywhere near their purchase price. And, in conjunction with that, many had refinanced multiple times so that they owe much more than the property can be sold for. Under water home ownership indeed! I feel their pain!
My lack of sympathy extends to more than the financial aspect too. What economic class bought into the consumer society? It sure wasn’t the poor folks that barely got by, at least originally. I think it is apparent where that has gotten us; Huge degradation of the environment, huge usage of non-renewable resources, and the throw away society. As a class of consumers I reckon that is something to hold up with pride, right?
The middle class has always jumped on the wagon carrying the value system that “I got mine and if you ain’t got yours, your either lazy or god doesn’t approve of you at all” That last part was in very common usage from about the end of the civil war to the last great depression, encouraged by the Christian value systems of the time. Although I have had that attitude expressed to me countless times over the years and a lot of the new age semi religion advocate it in a variety of forms. Did that attitude encourage the “greed is good” value system? I would posit yes it did and then along came Ayn Rand and Bernays, and Karl Rove and Leo Strauss that reinforced it at the government level. You know, “the American way of life is non-negotiable” stuff out there.
During the heydays of the American industrial revolution the blue collar workers could actually have some hope of reaching the middle class position. Many did. WWII helped a lot on that also. The late 40’s and the 50’s were the period of the largest percentage of middle class folks in our society. It’s been down hill since the 60’s for a variety of reasons. Since 1944, inflation has devalued the dollar by over 90% and wages began a very noticeable stagnation since the 60’s, that is, blue collar workers pay didn’t even keep pace with inflation. The incomes of certain types of jobs did increase enormously, from the middle class jobs up to the elites income in the form of investments and the complete financialization of the economy, to where today; those with the top positions have increased their share of the countries incomes and wealth way beyond whatever justification you might offer. Multiple million dollar bonuses are absurd, especially when they are causing so much grief down the ladder of economic class.
I would expect to get some disagreements on this kind of analysis, but for me, the data speaks for itself. I have no sympathy for the downgrade of the middle class. They brought it all upon themselves as far as I can see and with rare exception, their value systems suck.
That said, I return to a brief statement about the last post on SF and Greer.
Several people noted that Greer and some other writers have, in a nutshell, a real ego problem. It shows up in their comments concerning disagreement of perceptions or reasoning and in some cases, of data. I can understand the impulse to defend ones position on some subject; hell I do it too. This subject of defense of ones most cherished beliefs I have covered before. When a person’s beliefs are based on ideology rather than a realistic assessment of what is transpiring around them, that person then becomes immersed in a defensive position, and is a trap easy to fall into. My father years ago had what I considered a piece of wisdom for me; every thoughtful person should take out their most cherished beliefs and examine them very periodically for how they work, consequences and how they match up with the reality around them. If they no longer work, or have undesirably consequences or not match up with the reality around them, then change those beliefs. Unfortunately, this usually involves some mental energy and usually some emotional pain, both of which are generally avoided by most people. You first have to admit that your stance is/was wrong. Not an easy thing for most to do, a contradiction of the ego. I am using “belief” here in a broad sense; A commitment to an idea or pattern of ideas that may or may not have substantial data to support it. An example. A writer that Freeacre and I have followed for years maintains that all questioning and conspiracy theories concerning 9-11 are bullshit, there is ample evidence that none of those theories have weight. I along with some others have suggested to him that he needs to dig a bit deeper into the data, which he adamantly refuses to do and has shut down all discussion on the subject. His sole defense that he has presented to me is an article in Popular Mechanics put out in Feb of 2005. (http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/news/1227842)
It’s as if Popular Mechanic has the last word on the subject. When I take that article and compare it to a lot of the other 9-11 data dug up by supposedly reliable researchers, the PM article becomes a joke, in my opinion of course. Read it if you haven’t before. It is easy to tear it apart using other data from other “experts”. Now, this writer is seemingly unable to delve deeper into this controversy. What are the consequences of a general population doing the same? Does this position actually work with the additional data being presented? Or, is my stance (beliefs) on the corruption of high elites in our government and the reliability of the “science experts” that presented this article in PM not realistic and am I taking a stance that has no basis in reality?
In reality, the best an individual can do is to examine as much of the data available on any subject and come to some kind of conclusion (Belief) concerning it. That mine is very contradictory to the above writer’s conclusions proves nothing. It appears that this problem of “beliefs” on any subject is a black hole that cannot be resolved. If a person is conscientious about such stuff and keeps an open mind to new information that can be considered reliable, we can hope that we are at least somewhat in alignment with the reality of the situation. However, it appears to me that we can never be absolutely sure of that. I honestly try and keep in a mental space where I can change those “beliefs” with sufficient evidence to the contrary. LOL But we all know that 9-11 was an inside job.
As a side note, I find it very interesting that large amounts of the elites are assembling in and around Denver Colorado, where the huge underground city (documented) has been built. Does this have anything to do with space events that have been posited that promise to be detrimental to life on earth? I guess if that huge solar flare heading for earth actually happens and fries most everything on the surface, all we can really do is put up the lawn chairs and enjoy the light show as it comes at us.
This brings up my last comment for this post. One of the common assumptions is that the elites are people who, at its most basic level, are pretty much just like us. You know, the putting their pants on one leg at a time kind of thing. While their value systems we take issue with, they are not necessarily more intelligent than we are but, obviously more clever at making money and exercising power. I’m beginning to question that assumption for these reasons. Outside of the newly rich, the power families of this world are very closed, in some cases inbred and their children are raised having just about every advantage this world has to offer in education and health care. Would this lead to a dynasty in these families of overall superior intelligence and abilities? Notable exceptions do appear, like our last president, either that or he was immensely clever at disguising his superiority and appear as just another dumb Billy Bob. With smart breeding and culling of the less desirable traits, humans can do the same thing as we do with domesticated animals, breed for the desirable traits. Now there obviously is not data on this kind of speculation, but I do wonder about it. If it is true, us other mere mortals are so doomed. In which case I just can hope that when the elites emerge from their underground cities that there is enough of a wasteland left that they all commit suicide from depression. Sigh.
I can't believe these feathered dinosaurs. They actually threatened me with a moratorium on eggs if I didn't hurry up and get the grain out!