Why the Middle Class is Mad (And Should Be)

Dore, Dante’s Fourth Circle

There is a wealth gap in America. There always has been and there always will be. There will always be wealthier people and there will always be poorer people. The problem is that the gap is increasing and social mobility upward is decreasing. The result of this is inevitably class warfare, and the top 1% and the top .01% should be afraid, because as wealth gaps increase, so does civil unrest. You thought Occupy was in bad taste and annoying. Wait until you’ve got a whole anthill against the grasshoppers. (Yeah, I kind of watched A Bug’s Life recently and felt really inspired. Kind of like I didn’t realize how much evolution v. religion arguments were in Planet of the Apes until last year. Amazing what happens when your perspectives change.)

When more people are fighting for fewer resources, tensions that already exist only grow. And as anyone knows, when tensions get strong enough, the rubberband snaps.

These are not lazy people. Most of the top 1% get their wealth from investment, not hard work. Which isn’t to say they’re lazy either, but it’s hard to say that you’ve worked hard for your money when a majority of it was done by giving it to accountants and sitting on your asses (most of the wealthy maintain and grow their wealth through investment). You needed to earn the early money, but don’t give us that shit about how if we work hard we’ll get ahead. Tell that to the janitor who works his butt off everyday cleaning after your kids, risking disease every time he cleans out the bathrooms and a vomit puddle, with back pain and early arthritis from hard physical labor. Do not tell me that this janitor, who works the same hours or more as the average CEO, is a lazy bum on the tit of the welfare state. Maybe he gets welfare because he’s inadequately paid for a job very few people actually aspire to have. Maybe because it’s a damn hard job with inadequate compensation.

Don’t tell me that the retail monkey who works three service jobs a week is a lazy bum. They’re the pawns on the front lines of customer service, having to stand on their feet all day and do mind-numbing work with a smile while customers treat them like personal servants – worse, because they’re disposable and unmemorable and someone will complain to the distant corporate machine if they express a single negative human emotion.

Don’t tell me that the desk jockey in a dead-end job and no promotions or raises for the last five years is a lazy bum. They’re the ones untangling the bureaucracy set by corporate, often engaging in mind-numbing activity, dealing with clueless, two-faced managers, and becoming increasingly worn down and mentally exhausted because they’re doing double the work they were doing five years ago for the same amount of pay because of lay-offs. They don’t leave because they can’t afford to. They contemplate the gun in their nightstand because they can’t leave. Their employers treat them as disposable, and so they feel worthless and desperate enough to do anything just to get their next paycheck and keep their health benefits, which are becoming less useful every year.

The people who make it see their success as solely the result of their own ingenuity and effort. And so they view those who don’t, or who don’t get as high as they do, as the cause of their own misfortune. If they just work harder, show more creativity, make that risky investment, think outside of the box, they’d make it. But they’re just afraid to and that’s why they’re struggling. Right?

Let’s just forget all the risky investments that failed and the hedge fund managers in low-security prisons. Let’s just forget the lay-offs and the downsizing and the outsourcing, all driven by the top management who are part of the 1% (convenient). If someone’s out of a job, it’s their fault. They must be lazy. Wrong. People are as productive if not more productive than they were before the recession. The recession and the slow recovery was not the fault of a sudden epidemic of laziness – it was the fault of risky investments and fraudulent activities. And now, corporate profits are higher and Wall Street has bounced back. Where are those trickle-down benefits, guys?

More than that, where’s the loyalty? I get that when people have money, they want to keep as much of it as possible. But let’s get down to brass tacks here. A flat tax is stupid because it doesn’t account for the effects of income disparity and the different kinds of wealth that are taxed. A 15% tax for a low-income family and a 30% tax for a high-income family is closer to fair. In fact, it’s still a raw deal for the low-income family, because 15% of the income of a low-income family means more to them (in basic necessities – do not get me started on the flat-screen TV and expensive purses shit, because that’s a whole other issue dealing with how we’re taught to cope) than 30% of the income of a high-income family (in luxuries, because at this point they’re beyond basic necessities). About the only thing that complicates wealth with everyone is the matter of health care and how even a relatively wealthy family can be wiped out by one or two bad illnesses (which is a whole different kettle of fish, my man, and it’s worse for low-income families because they can barely afford preventative care, much less decent treatment when something actually happens). And I’m pretty sure that the top 1% has the safety net for that, since they can afford specialized service and expensive all-service health insurance.

Back to loyalty. Loyalty to your nation and loyalty to the benefit of all. It benefits everyone, including the top 1%, when businesses support job growth in the United States, when they take risks with the profits to give their employees good benefits and incentives and cut out the middle man. When health care is more affordable, more people use it and can afford to pay for it. Preventative care minimizes larger health care costs later on. Access to time and energy to exercise and affordable health food increases longevity and mental acuity necessary for creativity and innovation. And most important, increased disposable income increases consumption, which leads to higher profits and room for more innovation. Investing in your workforce can be just as beneficial, if not more, than investing in your technology. Then you have a loyal workforce, more innovation, and an increase in your customer base. And if you do things without cutting corners, with considerations as to the environmental and health impact of your industry, sure, it costs a little extra money. In the short-term, you’ll have a little less money in the coffers. But it is also in the top 1%’s best interest not to cut costs that way, long-term. Because while the disease and the destruction takes a little longer to get to you since you can afford to move away from it and buy safer products, it’ll eventually get there, by revolution if necessary. The fewer major health care costs, the less of a strain health care is on you, too.

Where is the loyalty? Because really, you don’t build it alone. Your employees may not have certain skill sets or education levels, but you don’t build it alone. You needed them and you still do. Sure, they may be more disposable in that you can just hire new people desperate for a job, but that doesn’t create loyalty to you. It creates resentment and anger and festering unrest that leads to less productivity and creativity than someone who actually likes their job and feels valued. It leads to strikes and sabotage. It can lead to civil unrest and war. People who care about something are far more effective than people just going through the motions to meet the quota.

Of course, this only works if everyone’s doing it. Which isn’t going to happen, since other companies will take advantage of your good sense and cut you off before the long-term benefits kick in, since they don’t care about their workforce and therefore can scalp the little people’s pay to cover their own and then some. That’s the thing, short-sighted planning is profitable now, and when you hope that when it hurts something or when it’s no longer profitable, you’ll be out of the saddle. Not your problem; you’re retired and drinking mimosas in El Salvador.

In paying too much attention to Capitalism 101, some people seem to have forgotten Humanity 101, and how making an honest effort to trickle-down the wealth isn’t socialism. It’s practical, especially when you choose to do it yourself rather than make an inefficient and increasingly impractical government do it for you. It’s one of the biggest downfalls in capitalism, which is easy to overlook when you’re trying too hard not to be called a socialist, as though if you step one inch from the tiny island of capitalism, you’ll drown in the socialism sea. The biggest problem with capitalism is that it’s inhumane and short-sighted.

And if corporate America wants to avoid further civil unrest, maybe it’s time to look a little further than your pockets for this next fiscal year. Maybe it’s time to spread a little love to the little people who worked fucking hard to line your pockets in the first place. Because seriously, people, you did not do it alone, all by yourself. People worked their asses off for you. And they’d work their asses off harder if they had 1) incentive and 2) passion for the product. I’ve seen what those two things can do, and it’s worth the investment.

——-

Note: When I address the 1%, I’m talking about a specific part of it. There are people in the 1% who didn’t step on people on the way up and who do things the right way for everyone. I’m not talking to those people. I’m pretty sure the faction I’m talking to knows who I’m talking about.

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One Response to Why the Middle Class is Mad (And Should Be)

  1. Nicole Bross says:

    Yes. Exactly this. Thank you. Can I like this a hundred times?

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