Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Nickeled and Dimed

We all feel like we're treading water.  Especially if we compare a lives to our parents' or grandparents'.  It's rough.  They had to worry about rent, utilities, maybe a mortgage.  They bought their car outright, maybe used.  Most people didn't bother with car insurance.  TV and radio were free.  A college degree was a sound investment.  Modern day tinkers repaired broken TVs, radios, toasters, lawnmowers, etc.

A single person's income could pretty much support a family.  Good union jobs spread the money around.  The average CEO's salary was less than twenty five times the lowest paid worker.

Civil construction jobs helped as well.  Great civil projects like dams and tunnels, along with the interstate highway system, helped both the national and local economies.  The upper classes paid a great deal in taxes, but invested in both America and innovation.  Our economy seemed unstoppable.

And then we hit a bobble.  A hiccup.  Suddenly the Keynesian economic philosophy that had given us the most profitable, productive era in our history was revealed to have a flaw.  Rather than attempting to tweak it, which would have been the liberal response to such a discovery, the new administration not only stripped the solar cells from the White House roof, but also hooked American bankers, corporate executives, and Wall Street traders to an insidious new economic drug called "voodoo economics."

The idea that giving the rich perks by way of tax breaks might sound good on the surface.  Maybe they'll reinvest their extra money in their communities.  Except, not so much.  What voodoo economics kindled was a lust for more.  Always more.  A reasonable amount of profit wasn't enough.  It wasn't enough to be successful... now you had to be wildly successful.  We were turned onto the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  Greed was made good.

This isn't really opinion.  This all happened.

Since my parents' day (and for the record I'm on the leading edge of Gen X, as my parents were of the Boomer generation) much has changed.  Rent and mortgages are often half a person's monthly salary, requiring multiple incomes just to keep a residence.  Things that were free--television and radio--are not quite so free.  Cable costs a lot, and much of that cost is transferred to the consumer because our government didn't see fit to subsidize cable as they did in many other countries.  The companies own the lines.  We have very little leverage.  Added to the fact that the cable companies themselves are beholden to the television networks, and the monopolies that own them, we find ourselves paying dearly for what was once mostly free.

Then there's the internet.  That's extra.  Utilities?  Depends on where you live.  But fuel costs are higher, so utilities are higher.  Plus utilities are also an investment.  Some of that money goes to pay stockholders.

Cars are bought piecemeal, with expensive loans from banks.  Gone are the days we could trust a cheap car and a backyard mechanic to keep it running.  Fuel costs are staggering.  Insurance is required.  We have to buy tabs every year, get emissions tests every other year.

We pay sales tax.  Property tax.  Income tax.  Payroll taxes.  Scheduling fees.  Overdraft protection.  Credit card payments.  Student loan payments.  Car payments.  Car insurance.  Health insurance.   Co-pays.  Cable.  Internet.  Cell phones.  In a world in which parents are often busy, they need to feel connected to their children, to know where they are all the time.  Kids need cell phones... not for themselves, necessarily, but for their parents peace of mind.  People do GPS, and e-books.  I-tunes and Amazon Prime.

Apple's development model is planned obsolescence at an obscene rate.  To modify the newest product to be slightly better than the last one, even if the technology exists to make it considerably better.  Every upgrade makes them money because people stand in line to buy the newest one.  Consumerism has overtaken capitalism.  It's no longer about building a product people want to buy, it's about convincing them that the product they already have isn't good enough... even if it is.

We buy cheap Chinese crap at discount stores because they're cheap... even if we know that every item we buy represents a lost American job.  We use self-service checkouts at the supermarket, even though every one of them probably represents a handful of American jobs.  We cheer the dismissal of public employees, even if they add to the line at the unemployment office.

We're convinced that money is speech, and public assembly is terrorism.  We're convinced that it's socialism to ask a billionaire to pay a 20% tax rate, or to ask government to intercede with the insurance companies so people can get health insurance.  That public education is socialism, and evil.

Are we educating our children to be learned men and women, or simply cogs in a corporate machine?  Do we want them to think for themselves, or be simple fodder for those who would buy and sell people like products if given half a chance?  We've gone from a society in which anyone who aspired to learning could get a grant and go to school into a society in which they're required to hock ten years of their lives for the privilege.

What do they plan to do once they drain us dry, these parasites?  These bloody leeches?  Once they have swallowed everything we have, and given us back the least they can, what will they do?  They ask everything of us, our productivity, our loyalty, our respect, and they give us back pennies, and pay politicians to deny us the right to organize or request better pay.

I'm tired of knowing I'm being robbed.  All these avenues exist for the already rich to get richer.  But fewer and fewer avenues exist for the average man or woman to become wealthy.  Or even comfortable.  Because even at that point they know there's a long fall to the ground.  And with certain people intent on picking apart the safety net, that fall could easily prove a fatal one.

The answer from the right is MORE of the supply-side, trickle-down, voodoo economics that has put us in this situation.  More easy money for the already addicted.  I say it's time for an intervention.  The zombie of voodoo economics needs to be put back in the ground... where it belongs.

No comments: