Friday, June 27, 2014

DO NOT Tell Me to "Be Grateful..."

There is an article on Daily Kos today that details the warning of a multi-millionaire to his fellow oligarchs, about the coming revolution should the economy continue down the path it is currently on.  The headline is,“The pitchforks ARE coming!”  The guy makes a good historical presentation about what happens when the disparity between the haves and the have-nots reaches the boiling point.  Like, say, just before the revolution in France.  (Or the Bolshevik revolution, for that matter, though for some reason, he chose not to use that particular example.)  The peasants take over and the heads of the rich roll into the gutter.   

It was a well-formed argument, but I did have one bone to pick.  Daily Kos asked the question:  What happens when real opportunity for everyone below $100k evaporates entirely?   $100k?  Really?  Who pulled that number out of their ass?  Who thinks that $100k gross income constitutes wealth in this country anymore?

I felt compelled to leave a comment calling bullshit on this assumption.  It went something like this:       

The only argument I have with this is the "$100k" cut off. My husband grossed over $101k last year. Between taxes, FICA, health insurance and being obligated to pay into a retirement fund which will probably crash and burn way before we need it, his take-home was about $55k. And the "bonuses" his employer gave out last year--in lieu of pay raises--have dried up in 2014, so we will be sliding backwards again this year. One step forward, three steps back. Yeah, we aren't worrying about keeping a roof over our heads or food on the table, but we have three over-ten-year-old vehicles because we could not possibly afford a $500/month car payment, we have a $20k roof job staring us in the face, and we can't even think about taking a vacation. Believe me, $100k is no magic number.

Why does $100k sound like such a fortune to folks?  Does no one get that we are forced to face expenditures no one had any clue about forty years ago?  For example:

  • ·         Our gasoline bill for a month is typically over $500, closer to $600. 

  • ·         They take almost ten grand pre-tax out of the husband’s paycheck for really crappy health insurance that forty years ago was free for the employee and might have cost $50/month to cover family members. 

  • ·         The husband pours over $6k a year into a 401k plan that may or may not ever make any money…in fact, there’s no guarantee that even the money he has put into it will still be there when we retire, since it is ALL invested into a volatile boom/bust stock market.  Forty years ago, he worked for K-mart.  After 10 years with the company, he was vested in the retirement plan—into which he never had to contribute one dime--and guaranteed a pension upon retirement.

  • ·         A new vehicle typically costs three to four times what it may have in 1984.  We are not grossing three to four times more than we did then, and we sure as hell are not getting to take home  anywhere near four times what we did in the eighties.
  •      The first home we purchased in Oregon cost us $34k.  That’s thirty-four thousand dollars.  Five figures.  The home we live in now came with a $184k price tag.  This is not because the home we have now has been a huge step up from our first.  Homes in the same neighborhood we lived in thirty years ago are going for at least $180k now.

Still, I knew someone would surely get their panties in a wad that I would dare to comp lain about making $100,000 a year.  Sure enough, within half an hour, this reply was posted:   

Are you kidding? My husband and I lost our house to a made-to-fail loan, filed bankruptcy due to medical bills and are living with my mom and still barely make ends meet. No one at my husband's company has had a raise in 8 years despite the company doing really well all those years. I have chronic health issues and am lucky to pick up a few hours worth of work a month.

Be thankful for what you have.

No.  I WILL NOT.  I refuse to be told to shut up and be happy with the crumbs that have been left on my plate by the 1%, just because I may have one or two crumbs more than someone else.  That is exactly what the oligarchs want us to think, want us to do to one another.  And it is not okay. 

So I “penned” this reply:

My point, dear, is that we had a better lifestyle back in the 80's when we were making $40k combined per year. $100k sounds like a lot, but in today's dollars, it doesn't add up to nearly as much as $40k did thirty years ago. The health insurance we pay almost $10k a year for is Kaiser Permanente, which S.U.C.K.S. (they are the ones who sent my husband home with hypodermic needles and heparin when he had blood clots in his legs, and told him he needed to schedule a colonoscopy when he wanted to make an appt to have his knee looked at...)

We took out a second mortgage on our house in 2006 to buy a business because we were afraid the company my husband worked for was going under. That didn't happen…somehow the factory he works for successfully morphed from factory to import business, salvaging at least enough income to keep the doors open.  But we DID have to close the restaurant because, after 5 years, we had not made a dime on it. We are, however, still paying off that loan.

My husband did not receive a raise between 2003 and 2010, and since then, he has received two 2% COLA's. He became one of those "lucky to have a job" members of the middle class who people like YOU (and his bosses, and even himself, at times) accuse of being ungrateful for "what we have." I'm sorry for your problems, dear, but just because you seem to be suffering more than us, doesn't mean our issues are not legitimate. I don't know about you, but "lucky to have a job" was never MY idea of the American Dream. We haven't just sat back and waited for riches to be conferred upon us. We have worked our asses off for the past forty years only to be pushed backwards in this past decade. We are nearing retirement age and the picture we are getting of what our "golden years" will look like, if we are ever ABLE to retire, is not at all attractive. DO NOT tell me to be thankful for that.

I don’t want people to feel sorry for me because my husband “only” makes $100k a year.  I want people to get mad.  Not just the people who can’t make ends meet because the jobs left to most  people are minimum wage with no appreciable benefits.  I want the folks like us—the ones who used to believe that hard work and keeping your nose to the grindstone would at least cover our butts in the end, even if it didn’t finance a lifestyle of the rich and famous—to get mad as hell. 

We are NOT grateful that we are “lucky to have a job.”  We are mad as hell that that concept even exists.

We are NOT grateful that we are “lucky to have health insurance”, when that insurance guarantees us only the bare minimum of acceptable health care, which is all that $10k per year will buy, apparently.

We are NOT grateful that we have to drive a 10-year-old car that we got used off of Craigslist, because we couldn’t possibly even consider making a car payment when our car insurance costs us $150 a month. 

We are NOT grateful that, when it comes time to retire in less than ten years, we have no idea where we will be able to afford to live, or whether we can expect to be able to afford to live at all. 

It makes me insane when someone who is arguably more disadvantaged than I am tells me to shut up and count my blessings.  I AM counting my blessings, hon.  I’m counting mine, and yours, and my sisters’, and the guy who lives next door’s.  And they keep coming up short because they are ending up in the pockets of someone who absorbs more money in a day than all of us put together will make in our lifetimes.

Do not presume to tell me I should be grateful for being cheated.  We are in the same boat, you and me, and we need each other if we are ever going to change this mess.


  1. It's been awhile since I saw this joke. Some one from the Tea Party (take your pick of baddies) is sitting at table with two other people and there are ten cookies in the nmiddle of the table. He grabs nine of the cookies and turns to one of the others. "Look out, he's going to try to steal your cookie." The commenters attitude is one of the reasons we haven't been able to come together and work togther the way we did in the thirties to the fifties to make sure that everyone got a fair shot at the good stuff.

  2. I'll admit right off I'm doing ok. I've been retired for about 15 years, and during that time IBM has taken more and more out of my retirement check for the promised (but not guaranteed) "lifetime free" health care (and then terminated it last fall) and has issued none of the promised COLA raises in retirement. I'm very luck that I didn't have to rely on that. I have solid investments, and I'm living on the gains in that.

    (BTW, you should rebalance your 401K if you can --- mine gained 33% last year. It's mostly in large (31% gain) and small (35% gain) business mutual funds.)

    But I understand what you're saying, and I don't see how people around here are surviving. This is Monmouth County, NJ. The median cost of a house here is $399K, and we're not talking mansions. Rent for a 2-bedroom house or apartment will run $1500 per month. Real estate taxes on my house (on a tiny lot) are $9,000 per year. According to the 2010 census, median HOUSEHOLD income (2012) is $84,746 (which means a lot of people are making do on far less).

    I don't know how my neighbors are doing it, how they're managing. I really don't.

    I guess they're happy to have a job. (That's sarcasm.) I think they also resent people who get handouts. I suspect most of them are conservative radio listeners.