Thursday, January 5, 2012

Are the wealthy living above their means?

I can understand why a person who's only earning $30,000 a year, or a 2-income family of four earning just $45,000 a year, would be so concerned about having to pay too much in taxes; especially with stagnant wages, overly demanding bosses, the rising costs of living, the inability to save money for an emergency or for future retirement, and living with the work-related stress due to the lack of job security.

But why would someone earning a million dollars a year be so adamantly opposed to paying a little more in taxes? What terrifies them so much?

Are the wealthy concerned about making ends meet? Do they worry about putting steak and lobster on their plates? Do they fear having to sacrifice their wine collection? Are they worried about sending their kids to Harvard or Yale? Do they fear losing their beach-front mansion to foreclosure? Do they lay awake at night, terrified their yachts will be towed away? Are they afraid they won't have adequate healthcare coverage and feel aches and pains? Are they afraid they won't be able to pay their heating or phone bills? Do they consistently peek out their living windows, worried that the repo-man will drop by to repossess their Rolls Royce?

Are millionaires afraid they'll end up homeless, cold, and hungry?

Or have the wealthy been living above their means?

I hear a lot about how the middle-class and poor have been living above their means, because as the cost of living went up, and two incomes were no longer enough, they borrowed to make up the difference, using home equality loans, credits cards, and payday loans.

But what about someone like myself, who lived alone in an average one-bedroom apartment, used no credit cards, and had a typical auto loan on a 5-year-old mid-size Chrysler? I worked all my life, saved money, and didn't have a shopping addiction, only buying the basic necessities that I actually needed...someone who wasn't living above their means. How do the Republicans explain me?

I'm white, so I wasn't discriminated against for race (although, I may have suffered reverse-discrimination due to "diversity" policies). I'm in my mid-fifties, so I may have been discriminated for age, but everyone knows that that's almost impossible to prove. I may have been discriminated for my sex too (I was applying for casino bartender jobs, but I noticed over the years that a lot more young women were entering the profession, rather than as cocktail servers).

But after busting my ass for 35 years, not breaking the law and staying out of prison, not doing drugs, paying my bills on time, and saving money, I still ended up long-term unemployed and destitute poor in the richest country in the world. Why?

Since I was laid off, over two years I only managed to get one actual interview. During that time my unemployment benefits expired, as did my life's savings while I was trying to maintain the status quo. When you don't have a job, but still have a rental agreement and car loan, you can't just move to a cheaper place to live or drive a cheaper "live within your means".

At first, I could have just skipped out on my lease and abandoned my car, and moved downtown to a weekly-rental in a cheap motel room, and paid cash for an old clunker. But when someone is first laid off, they don't expect to be permanently without a job. And they try to maintain their financial obligations and hard won credit scores.

We don't take a vacation, fly to France, and drink champagne by the hotel pool. We don't "game the system", or attempt to get "government handouts" like Medicaid and food stamps, just because we think it's easier than working at a job. Actually, getting these "freebies" is a real pain in the ass.

I for one, wasn't living above my means, nor was I trying to take advantage of any government social programs. I was just trying to survive. Is someone who's earning a million dollars a year ever terrified of just surviving? Do they worry about living homeless on the street and eating out of garbage dumpsters on a rainy day?

No. What the wealthy most fear is that someone like me might be living out of their wallet, and taking advantage of their hard earned money. They fear not being able to buy that second vacation home in Aspen because a low-life like me might be too lazy to work, and only wants a free hand-out...."to live on the dole".

They irrationally fear that I might be living the high-life on Easy Street. It's almost as though the wealthy among us has this terrible fear about me, a fear that is somehow borne from envy (as in yacht envy). "I have to work, why doesn't he?"

Whereas, I could only wish and hope I had to live with their worries and fears. I think I can put up with the hassle of lazy leeches always trying to game me for a buck. I would sleep comfortable at night, and would not wake up in the middle of the night, screaming from a horrible nightmare after dreaming of a dirty bum digging into my pants pockets, looking for spare change. I wouldn't concern myself too much about people like myself getting food stamps either.

Wealth is a very addicting thing, as is greed. As humans, many of us are tempted by these flaws in our nature. For those who were born into wealth, they know no differently. For them, their life-style and standard of living is "normal", and maybe the rest of us (to them) aren't. To them, maybe we're all heathen. Maybe the masses are slime. Maybe all the poor people are just a horrific burden, and they're all "living above their means".

I can almost hear that CEO now: What do you mean "fair wages"? You should be lucky that you even have a job! Work harder and faster, or I will find someone else who will! Don't complain, people are starving in China! A raise! You must be a socialist! Why should I pay the same tax rate as you, I'm a "job creator"!

Yes. I could only wish and hope I had to live with the worries and fears of the wealthy. I would be living within my means, being a good patriot, always being on top of the game, living in a beach-front mansion with a Rolls Royce parked outside, eating steak and lobster for dinner whenever I like with a bottle of champagne, then nestle comfortably near a warm fire, my kids far away at a prestigious Ivy League school, while I courageously do battle with the beaten-down, the disenfranchised, the sodden, the sick and the abject poor.

"How dare them eat with food stamps that I have to pay for!"

Why are millionaires (like so many Republicans in congress) so afraid of feeding me?

Have you ever watched the TV show American Greed? I have never seen one episode about an unemployed man trying to "game the system" by trading some food stamps for a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of wine. It's usually about those "with means" scamming those without the means.

Who really "games the system" with political donations and insider trading in the stock market? Who ships jobs overseas to further enrich the corporate board of directors? Who cheats on their taxes with foreign bank accounts? Who pays bribes for political and tax related favors? Not me.

I never saw one episode about a man with cancer "gaming the system" with Medicare trying to get medical help...but only the wealthy executives of pharma and medical corporations seeking profits and over-payments from the Medicare system.

And what about billionaires like the Koch brothers, who are old enough to collapse from heart failure at any moment? Instead of enjoying their wealth before they die, they spend so much time, effort, and money trying to deny me my tiny little stipend (Social Security) at the very end of my hard-working and pathetic life, so that I too might survive and enjoy my last few days on Earth. The Koch brothers have nothing to fear, nor do their family members. Are they resentful of me just because I wasn't also blessed and born into wealth and privilege?

What did I ever do to hinder a billionaire's efforts to amass such great fortunes? If anything, I contributed by purchasing their goods and services.

Why are the Republicans so concerned about welfare "reform" when it's such a tiny part of the annual budget? Why is it necessary to cut taxes more for the rich when they already have so much? Why is it necessary to cut unemployment benefits and food stamps for those that have so little? Who is really living above their means?

Am I living above my means when I'm refused a job, yet still seek the basic necessities for life like food and shelter? Isn't that a primeval instinct that all human beings have?

Is trying to survive an evil thing? Will I go to Hell for taking food stamps? Do all poor people go to Hell and all the billionaires go to Heaven? If so, then I'll never see people like the Koch brothers (or any Republican members of congress) when I go to Hell - - - when I'll be "living above my means", living the high-life on Easy Street for all of eternity.


  1. Today in the New York Times: Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs

    "Now the evidence suggests that America is not only less equal, but also less mobile...affluent families transmit their advantages, and poor families stay trapped...and the United States maintains a thinner safety net than other rich countries."

  2. Today in the Wall Street Journal - Apartment-Vacancy Rate Tumbles to 2001 Level

    "Demand has swelled from people being foreclosed out of their houses...landlords of properties intended for lower-income renters found it more difficult to raise prices."

  3. Today in the Huffington Post - Should Christians Ask: Who Would Jesus Vote For?

    "Religious believers who focus on private beliefs are likely to be scammed. Consider the long succession of Republican politicians who have espoused family values -- collecting a lot of votes in the process -- while failing in their personal lives. The smartest among them remake themselves by admitting their sins and proclaiming their turn to God, collecting additional votes in the process."