“Middle class” is another one of those terms that has been stolen and redefined by the Left to suit their purposes. It’s the lynchpin of the Obama’s campaign of class warfare this year.
Yet, no one seems to know what it means anymore.
My question has been for years, “If you aren’t a part of the middle class, what are you a part of?”
Case in point: When I moved to Virginia in 2000 I searched for an apartment. I visited a new complex in Richmond’s east end. I walked into the office and told the greeter I’d like to apply for an apartment. She replied that these apartments are Section something-or-another housing and had income ceilings for applicants. She asked me for an approximation of my earnings, and I told her, and she “Oh, no. These apartments are reserved for the middle class. Anyone over $35,000 a year can’t get in.”
I was stunned. “You mean the cut-off for middle class is $35,000 nowadays? So what am I, then?” I asked.
She couldn’t answer…and clearly had never thought about it before.
Since that time, every time I hear the term “middle class” used I try to squeeze in that single question…Well, you talk about them like you aren’t one of them. So, what are you?
I want to ask every politician that question, especially John Kerry (just so I can compare his idea of upper class with the British and French) and Barack Obama, for a whole passel of reasons.
“Does one go to college these days to get into the middle class? Or get out of it, Mr President?”
If Gus is born on a farm, a C-student, decides against college, starts his own business, earns $375,000 a year (this is not uncommon by the way), he is in the same earned income tax bracket as Mitt Romney. But unlike Mitt, Gus watches NFL football on Sunday in his underwear, doesn’t even own a business suit, has never given a single penny to PBS, plays a decent stick of golf but wears camo cut-offs. So what distinguishes these two men?
A lot of things, obviously, but class really isn’t one of them if you define class by tax receipts.
My complaint is simple: If the middle class cuts off, by law, at $35,000, is there a class below it or does it go all the way to zero? And how many classes are above it? What are they called? Surely me and John Kerry and Gus and Mitt aren’t all in the same class. If there are more than one, I want to know what they are.
And who decides this is the way it is?
But wait, Obama has already said that at $250,000 you’re rich. A millionaire, in fact, I think he said. And at $250,000 we also know you are no longer “fair” because that is when the government has to come and force you to give your fair share, and being unfair speaks to a totally different kind of class altogether.
Just as advertisers are required to make a disclosure statement when a spokesman in their ad is an actor, I believe every politician who speaks of the “middle class” must preface his comments by saying, “As one who is not of the middle class but from the (pick one)… political class, government class, educated class, professional class, wealthy class, upper class, above average class, better-than-you class, etc…”
It seems we’re all stuck with the Fibber McGee syndrome when we talk about the middle class. We’ve being conditioned to talk down about it as if we were above it. “Middle” means average, just as “C” mean average, and as Fibber reminded every door-to-door survey-taker for twenty years on radio, he was above-average, and therefore not subject to the survey.
“Mr McGee, I’m taking a survey of average Americans…”
“Now, wait just a minute there, buster. I’m above average.”
I don’t want to argue with these unappointed rule makers. I just want to know what they mean. And I want to know how “middle class” came to be a sign of victim-hood; a hole to be crawled out of, or a hole that requires public assistance to exist in, when, for as long as Americans can remember it was both an economic and cultural condition everyone aspired to do well in.
Some say the middle class is shrinking, getting much smaller, and, on the one hand, since Obama came to power, I believe it since 20% of the private sector has lost their jobs and are on some form of state assistance.
But in another time when a man went from 25,000/yr to $100,000/yr he went from middle class to upper middle class. He stayed in the same class! If you’re in government service think of it as a step increase in pay. You’re still a GS-10, but Step 14 now.
I would bet that the middle class today is no bigger, nor smaller, than it ever was, except that it has been padlocked from below, and about to be from above.
Today, the state has put a padlock on the poorer class from moving up into the middle class, except by a path it chooses. Obama will promise a kid a good education with a student loan, but only if he’ll come work for his massas in some capacity in government. After all, it will take 20 years to pay off the loan anyway, at which time he can retire on 75% pay and lay around a beach in Haiti (which Charlie Rangell’s developing…Club TonTon Macoute I think it’s called).
In terms of getting off the plantation, Barack is the only way, truth and light and except through him you ain’t going nowhere.
Having frozen upward mobility from the bottom, the final task is to destroy, yes, destroy, the independence of the private sector business class from above, bringing them totally under the license-control of the state. (The corporate management middle class is almost there already.)
A Little Bit of History
This all has precedence, as what we are seeing is an attempt to “return” to a state of nature” what exists everywhere in the world except the United States; a structured, immobile, top-down society in which the government sector, not the private sector, sits at the top.
Without sounding too Newt-like, we all need to be reminded that the creation of America in 1787 changed the world’s class structures.
Our middle class was never the “middle class” in Europe, and certainly not in their colonies, where I actually did some teaching in the early 90s (East Africa). It was there I was first alerted to the rules of colonization that the government class is “the middle class” and they will truck no competition from a dynamic private sector middle class.
From Kenya to Peru to Sarawak, the private sector business class is treated much like we do the plantation here. You can exist but you can’t grow or expand. A street vendor, a deli operator, a butcher, baker, candle-stick maker, tinker, tailor, etc. The petty bourgeoisie. These people survive in an economy because they provide the basic needs in commerce to the petty masses. They make their livings one Washington at a time.
America changed all this by giving every person absolute mobility should they choose to pursue it.
Still, in our industrial age, 1890-1940, the American economy did try to create an upper class for its wealthy sector. For a generation the American rich tried to mimic European nobility, wearing dinner clothes (tuxedo) almost every night, sending their wives to be schooled in the manners and mannerisms, including speech patterns, of English ladies.
All this puffery came tumbling down in three phases, 1) The Crash of ’29 2) World War II and 3) the GI Bill.
The last may have been the most important, for the GI Bill put kids who would never have considered anything bigger than a job at the local feed store in situations where they could, and some would, become lions of industry instead. And it put almost all of them into a real house.
The idea of nobility in Europe was built on land ownership, not money, not chattels, or fungible goods. A title came with the land, and with every war someone new moved to take possession of the land, the title, and insert a new coat of arms. The dispossessed nobility? Well, they took jobs as bartenders from Shanghai to New York.
The first question you have to ask about class is this: Does a dispossessed nobleman suddenly walk around with his fly unzipped, or start to eat his peas with a butter knife, or pick his teeth with a pocket knife?
Then why do we, as many do, think that sudden wealth puts a man into a much higher class? OK, there’s King Ralph.
Does he suddenly know how to hold the pinkie so-so when drinking tea? Can he actually hobnob with the French ambassador without squeezing in at least one “How ’bout them Knicks?”
Can anyone of you tell me the Top 50 Things a Member of the Upper Class Just Never Does? Actually it’s much longer, and is branded on the hearts of every member of the nobility, and no, they don’t learn it by attending seminars.
Their kind of nobility, some of it quite graceful, in fact, is drilled into a person through centuries and generations of training, conditioning and reinforcement. They truly are a breed apart and in many ways the world will regret their passing, for they are a reservoir of many special things…
…but one of those things is not the mawkish attempts of the likes of John Kerry who like to pretend to be one of them. Only, maybe, in parts of Italy where they do allow gigolo-consorts some of the trappings of class could he even be seated in the main dining room.
In America, being rich simply means you can buy more stuff, and do more stuff. As some professional athletes prove every week, they even buy the same stuff…only diamond studded baseball caps instead of off-the-rack stuff in the mall. And they still wear it sideways.
This is peculiarly American, and has been long before super star heroes came onto the scene. As Judy Holiday might say, “I ain’t just rich, I got elegance.”
This is what I love about America, by the way, because only here can you be plug ugly (Patrick Ewing) and still be thousands of kids’ hero or buy your mom a mansion (Earl Campbell) before you’re 25.
The Idle Rich and the Nub of Class Warfare
The European ruling class did not work.
They lived off the earnings of their lands (just like Warren Buffet), which had passed down to them since the castle was first built during the Crusades. And the European ruling class passed their title, not just their wealth and land, to their children, so that they too, by birthright, would be ruling class. Merit need not apply.
They lived in a world entirely apart from the rest, and, if Italian, usually got a Lamborghini for their 16th birthday…and a replacement Maserati for their 18th.
They were generally above the law, and could grope the household staff pretty much without fear of ever being hauled in front of dearest mama and papa, much less the local cops
This is important: the upper classes of Europe started ceasing to be the “ruling class” around 1918, when royalty fell completely out of favor with the people, after having sent ten million of their sons to their deaths, 1914-1918, to defend their not-so-noble houses.
This is important, for the democracies in Europe were created after WWI for reason entirely different from America. The democracies of Europe were largely created as a compact between the upper classes, who wanted to hold onto their status and their privileges, and were willing to give up a hunk of their wealth to keep the masses (the people) from hanging them on a pike, and a buffer state management class (bureaucracy) who was about to get many times larger.
The royals ceded large amounts of power over to what had been, up to 1914 or so, a moderate-sized civil service, who made up the heart and soul of what the Europeans called the “upper middle class”. (Most Marxists, from Lenin to Castro to Osama bin Laden, arose from this class.)
They made the trains run on time, kept the streets clean of horse poop, managed the hospitals and paid the army on time. In the old days, they were efficient.
But by 2000, they regulated everything from the allowable number of Kool Aid flavors in school cafeterias to the maximum prison term for pedophilia (for members of the general population, of course.)
As we see now, both in Europe and the UN, this new government class has begun taking on the airs of the old royalty, including being outside the law, witness Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose only real crime among his European cohorts was to try forcible sex on a hotel staff member in an unreliable venue. Europe’s disappointment in New York City far exceeds its disappointment in DSK.
So far, I’ve said little of the “capitalist” class here for people of real class in Europe generally didn’t like them, just as they didn’t like wealthy Jews in the Middle Ages, who were landless (by law) so worked for their wealth by manufacturing and buying and selling, then turning every profit into gold and silver instead of local currencies, so that the next time there was an outbreak of plague, they could run to the next country with their valuables intact.
Author’s message (just in case you might miss it):
The point whole point of European, and now, US political class consciousness is that the idle rich, and wannabe idle rich, have an instinctive hatred, a class hatred, for people who earn their fortunes through work.
This is a law.
You see, the idea of nobility is based on the whole idea of not having to work. Work (in the trades) is crass, and for over a thousand years it has been engrained in the conscience of almost every member of class that is a lowly pursuit. On the other hand, work in the state bureaucracy is not really work, it is administration, which is considered to be noble, for it is in pursuit of noble things. So, if you are a GS-10 at the Agriculture Department, by definition you know how to hold your pinkie when sipping tea.
To become part of the idle rich is the ruling class’ single mission. (This is what Obama is all about, and quite frankly, so was Bill Clinton.)
The English even made this a precondition to being a “gentleman” and getting to put that little, “Esq” at the end of your name on your business card.
If you recall the story of Beatrix Potter, author of the Peter Rabbit stories, she fell in love with her publisher, who was wealthier than her own family, but who her mother refused to allow her to marry because he was “engaged in the trades.” To be an Esquire, a true gentleman, one had to be third generation idle rich. Second or first wouldn’t do. Since few American families ever make it to third generation, you have an idea what a little merit-based competition in life can do to a class-based system.
America has a very mobile wealthy class, but no upper class. After all the upper class doesn’t shoot hoops or play golf, or let their wives appear in public in some of those get-ups, Barack. Or even wind-surf. (I’m not sure.)
We have rich people who spend more on tattoos than Arabs lose at baccarat at Brookes in London.
America is, almost top to bottom, a middle class society, for culturally we are all almost the same….hoops, golf, microwave, peanut butter and jelly, sneakers, big screen TV and cell phones. Even Warren Buffet appears to be pretty middle class as a person. I’ll bet he watched “Leave it to Beaver”.
The GI Bill generation, which came into its economic prime by the mid-80s, began trickling down its wealth, and by the mid-90s, everyone was in on the game of entrepreneurship. The expansion of small businesses and the creation of new money in those years were greater than all the others combined.
Everyone participated, and everything changed, for when secretaries begin to invest, the Left saw disaster.
America is middle class top to bottom. The attack on us now is by a political class who wants to do what the Europeans have done, by becoming the new idle rich in America, like Warren Buffet, living off the dividends they earn from investments…only the only asset they (think they) own is the working tax payer. Our government look at the taxes we pay the same way the seigneurs of France once did, and Warren Buffet does today, as dividends from holdings.
Sorry, but John Kerry is middle class, as is Barack Obama, Harry Reid, rappers, OccupyWallStreet, and the entire congregation of the Grace Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.
And I aim to see it stays that way.
So, as one from the middle class, when Barack Obama or anyone else wants to speak about the middle class, I want to stand up and shout…
“Just who the hell do you think you are?”