“The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use — of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.”
– Robert Kennedy
It’s hard to write about class distinctions on a personal blog without sounding like either a lunatic or an entitled and spoiled twit. Admittedly, I probably skew a little more towards the lunatic side. I’ve never felt entitled to anything, except maybe my last piece of gum. However, I do feel frustrated by the lack of opportunity available to me so maybe I could improve my station. And I suspect I am not alone in that feeling.
To say the American economy is in recovery is to deny the facts. Sure, unemployment is down, but what about UNDERemployment and those who are simply no longer receiving benefits? Why has federal and state welfare spending increased almost 19% over three years? What do we define as recovery?
I did what I was supposed to do. I went to college (actually, I went to A LOT of them) and got my receipt (degree). I even went one step further and got a Master’s receipt (degree). I have the credentials, and debt, to prove it. Neither of my degrees are from an Ivy League nor are they highly specialized. They are both in the Liberal Arts world, which should indicate I am a well rounded cat. Could it be that no one is looking for a well rounded cat in a rat race?
Before I prattle on too far…left, let me say I am uniquely blessed. I have a job, I make a liveable (barely) wage, I have a roof over my head, I don’t go to bed hungry, I have people that love and care about me and I am very lucky. I shudder to think how many in my country, let alone the world, don’t have such things. I am hyper aware of my good fortune and I should just be happy and shut my mouth, right?
Love. I have people that love and care about me so who the hell do I think I am to bitch? I’m a human.
Feast or Famine. I don’t go to bed hungry and neither do my pets. I am blessed.
Four walls and the truth. I live in a great place and I am ridiculously lucky.
Middle Class (harrumph). I make a liveable (barely) wage. By all accounts, my salary places smack dab in the middle class. And if my bank balance is any indication, I still struggle. Part of that is on me, for sure. I live in NYC, by choice. I have credit card debt and student loan debt. I take ownership of those even if I personally believe credit card debt and student loan debt are almost mandated. But let’s just look at a couple of the things hacking away at my middle class status:
- FICA tax jumped from 4.2% in 2012 to 7.65% in 2013 for employees and it remains at 6.2% for employers(?).
- Starting this month, NYC mass transit monthly pass increased 7%.
- The national average price for a gallon of gas is $3.74 (after nine weeks of increases).
- Utility bills are increasing nationally for reasons unclear to me (those bills should simply be in Sanskrit, they’d be easier to translate) mine jumped 50%.
- Food prices continue to go up. Ironically, food that is bad for you (yet, delicious) like pop tarts and all things sugary and fattening remain relatively level. I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy nut, but aren’t a large portion of those companies owned by multinational’s? Hmmm…
Occupy my cube. I have a job. While I may not have a career path readily available to me, in spite of the company size, I do have a job. There are in excess of 100 employees managed by eight people. 88.5% of the staff is managed by the 12.5%, with virtually no management tier. It’s as though it functions as a small family business…until there is a problem or new idea to consider, then the myopic pace of a big company kicks in.
Is this a departmental or corporate mandated structure? My intuition tells me it is simply more of a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Make no mistake, it’s busted, but fixing it involves change and change sucks. But even more than that, change is expensive and even in a billion dollar company, money is tight. I recently had my review and it was seemingly quite favorable and yet my contributions and performance for 2012 were rewarded with a pay increase that is less than the national average for 2013. I shudder to think how lesser valued employees fared. I am also looking forward to seeing how our CEO was remunerated.
I suppose I could have gone on record as dissatisfied, but experience has taught me that resistance is futile. I’m more angry about my own apathy.
Naomi Klein‘s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism cites numerous examples of what happens when a government is overthrown and then placed in the hands of charlatan economic theorists and corporations. In Klein’s cross-hairs is the economic theory designed by University of Chicago Economics guru Milton Friedman and what Klein refers to as “shock & awe”. Sound familiar?
Typically, the first phase, or “shock”, is a revolution (think Chile in 1972 or Iraq, most recently) and is something that shocks the citizens. Then comes the second phase, or “awe”. Economic policies are put into place that benefit, almost exclusively, multinational corporations and the societal top tier. Not surprisingly, built into the economic policy is a long and strong arm of suppression, specifically designed to eliminate dissension. I’m not sure how the “awe” works other then leaving jaw dropping historical proof of its inefficiency, which is certainly awful…horrible pun, I know.
Could it be that the financial crisis of 2007 and its subsequent trillion dollar, and counting, bail out was the American version of “shock & awe”? Of course, the government wasn’t officially overthrown. The bail out seemed to only benefit huge multinationals and the really rich (and continues to do so). Was this crisis designed and this current “recovery” simply the domestic implementation of an economic plan that has proven time and time again to be a horrendous failure for everyone except the few?
I think the fact that we continue to see record corporate profits, record corporate tax refunds, record executive pay, record high productivity numbers, the continued eradication of the middle class, pay increases that don’t cover a cost of living increase, anxiety and depression numbers rising, etc…yea, I kind of think there are some very serious similarities. And I think the 2007 financial crisis gave all corporations the free license to do these things. Legally.
And the fact is that no matter how many people write it, say it, or scream it, it seems as though no one wants to do anything about it. The Occupy Wall Street movement tried and while it was a decent idea it was eventually silenced by the hands of the state and the media.
Let me state this emphatically, I believe in capitalism and democracy which is, presumably, the foundation of our country. Perhaps it’s my own naivete, but I think these two should stand independent of one another. But I will live with that naivete over the cynical acceptance that they are forever linked and we can’t change it.
I don’t believe that corporations should hold our government hostage while the masses suffer. I don’t think corporate leaders should rape and pillage any economy to line their pockets while marginalizing or crushing the population. I am fine with a super rich class, I am not fine with a greedy super rich glass that expands its wealth at the peril of the citizens, the very people expanding their wealth. I am proud to be an American but lately, I am not proud of America.
To ingest the dreck that media companies jam down your throat and present as news is to miss the message. Make no mistake, it is a one-sided conversation controlled by a media oligopoly. “Control the media, control the message” was the famous quote of media theorist and philosopher Marshall McLuhan, so don’t fool yourself, the “news” is presented as information but specifically designed to keep you uninformed.
And please don’t try to make any distinction between mainstream and non mainstream media; it’s ignorant, misleading and wrong…no difference exists. Far left OR far right media is simply extremism and at no point in world history has extremism ever been the answer. The egalitarian nature of the Internet provides a wealth of opportunities to find a more accurate message or, at the very least, different messages for you to form your own opinion. GASP! It won’t always be this way as history teaches us that the Internet will take the shape of the current media landscape.
So, what is my point? It’s OK to say WTF to corporations, to politicians. We should be challenging them, always. Unless we change things, we’re screwed and the following generations are screwed. We all need a collective Howard Beale moment and we need to stand up for what’s right for the people. To let multinational corporations dictate what we will or won’t be or what we will or won’t have and shape our government policies will only continue the income inequality. Without taking action we’ll be complicit in to our own continued marginalization. As a society, as a culture, as a people, we can no longer continue to let corporations do this.
We, as human citizens, have to think bigger and better and force our elected officials to wake the f*ck up. Yes, yes, I realize how naive that sounds but isn’t it better to fight a little then get rolled over again and again? Perhaps collectively we can stop the Facebook and Instagram updating, the tweeting, maybe turn off your television and engage in a conversation, do some research, write a letter, start a book club, do something, anything, to better your environment.
Hell, I’m not writing anything new here. I’m not writing anything most people don’t already know. I’m simply using this as a platform for my Howard Beale moment. This isn’t a question of liberal or conservative, right or left, democrat or republican, it’s about being a citizen and caring for one another. It’s about finding the courage to do what is right for the masses. It’s about questioning the messages. It’s about saying maybe it’s time for something better and then setting the wheels of change in motion.
To think that there is no glass ceiling in our society is to deny the facts. Actually, it’s not so much a glass ceiling because that implies you can break through. What seems more apropos is that it is an invisible force field.
It’s not too late to change things. I promise.
Here is a great video on inequality: http://tinyurl.com/b3jll79.
“A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.”
– Robert Kennedy