Deep Thoughts and Wisdom, Politics

The Middle Class Is Dead

If it seems that I’ve been posting an overabundance of blog posts lately, it’s because I worked myself sick again last week and have been at home resting.  Today is my third day of lying around the house doing nothing, and I’m bored stiff.  But I don’t feel well enough to work, do any gardening, or much of anything else other than sitting down and blogging.  But if there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that at least I am providing some reading material and entertainment for my blog followers.  That’s gotta count for something, right?

There are two reasons why I sometimes overwork myself to the point where I wear my body down.  The first reason is very simple : There are lots of cool things I want to buy for myself and my home, and in order to have the money to buy all of this cool stuff I have to work for it.  Pretty self-explanatory.  And since I’m a rather impatient person who doesn’t like to wait for the things I want, I tend to push myself a little too hard in the process of reaching my goals.  The second reason is I HAVE to work hard in order to live a normal, comfortable life.  I now live in one of the most expensive areas of the country, and I also live in a Blue bubble in a VERY Red state.  And if you know anything at all about politics, then you know that Red states are not very friendly to the average working American.  Florida is one of those dreaded Right-To-Work states where unions are not allowed and employers are free to exploit their workers by paying them next to nothing and abusing/discriminating against them with impunity.  This is why I am self-employed, because there is no way in Hell I would EVER subject myself to the substandard working conditions in this state.

When I lived in the rural Midwest and worked for the government, I lived and worked in a very Blue state where the cost of living was cheap and unions were common.  I myself belonged to a government workers’ union and made a great salary with three raises each year and full benefits including medical insurance, life insurance, retirement pension, paid sick leave, paid vacation leave, and paid personal leave.  All of that combined with a very cheap cost of living made for a very easy, comfortable life….which is what EVERY hard-working American deserves.  That’s why I was so shocked when I began scouting around for new jobs in Florida prior to moving here.  Naturally, I first looked into getting into the same line of government work here that I did in Illinois, since the agency I worked for exists in every state.  I was utterly appalled when I spoke to an employee in the same agency here in Florida and found out what it entailed.  When I worked for IDES in Illinois, I was making around $50,000 a year with full benefits at the time I resigned to move.  That exact same job position in Florida only pays $11 per hour with NO benefits.  WTF?!??  You have got to be kidding me!!!  I promptly said “Fuck that!!” and began looking elsewhere.  I was very shocked and disappointed to find that the vast majority of jobs in Florida…even the ones that required a college degree and years of experience…offered only a paltry wage of $10-$13 an hour with little to no benefits.  Seriously, that is just WRONG.  No one who spent the money, time, and effort to go to college deserves to be paid such meager wages…especially in an area with such a high cost of living as South Florida.

I actually had no jobs lined up at all when I arrived in Florida, which was pretty ballsy of me.  I decided to just throw caution to the wind and wing it, because important things like that have always had a habit of just falling into my lap and sorting themselves out….which they did once again shortly after I moved here.  I did some waitressing and bartending for awhile, and my old beauty pageant sister queen Kelly helped get me into doing television work with her.  Then someone suggested that I should give self-employment a try, and that the insurance business was a good place to start since everyone needs it and is required to have it.  I spent two months working my way through the state Insurance License course and ended up having to take the state exam twice after I missed passing it by a mere two or three points the first time.  (The section on Medicaid was very complicated and kept tripping me up.)  Once I signed on as a representative of an insurance company, the insurance products I sold seemed to practically sell themselves and I couldn’t believe the amount of commission and residual income I began making.

As time went on, I’ve gotten better at what I do and I can generally pull in between $300-$400 in income per day.  Some days I make less or nothing at all, but most days are far better than what most people earn at other jobs in a single day.  On even better days I can make $500-$700 in a day, and I’ve even had a few very lucky days where I made $1,000 in a single day.  Although it was very stressful, I loved my old job back in Illinois and sometimes I miss the convenience of getting a regular, steady paycheck every other week instead of the varied, unpredictable income that self-employment brings.  Since I am not confined to an office from 9-5 for five days a week and don’t have an actual boss breathing down the back of my neck, I had to learn how to become very self-disciplined in order to be as successful as possible and pull in as much income as possible.  When I first started, it was very tempting and easy to blow off working in order to go to the beach or stay at home and fart around.  It took a few years for me to get the hang of it, but my good old Midwestern work ethic eventually kicked in, and now I have many people telling me how much they admire my hard-working style and how it inspires them to want to pick up the slack and do the same.  Improving my organizational and charting skills has also really improved my business by helping me stay focused and keep track of every dollar I earn.  I now set daily, weekly, and monthly income goals for myself, which helps keep me focused and grounded.

I feel very lucky that I have such a flexible job that allows me to make what I call an actual “living wage” instead of slaving away for some asshole employer who grudgingly pays barely above minimum wage and struggling to afford the most basic life necessities.  It boggles my mind that I generally make in one single day what many minimum-wage earning workers gross before tax deductions in an entire week!!  However, there is still something else wrong with this picture: With the kind of income I earn and the amount of time I put in working every week, I should be enjoying a WAY higher standard of living.  I should be living in a luxurious beachfront condo and buying $1,500 designer handbags on the regular.  But I don’t.  Due to the rapid disappearance of the middle class in this nation as well as the unrestrained greed and inflation that has caused the price of housing and everything else to skyrocket, I still have to work very hard to enjoy a normal, moderately comfortable life….even with the amount of money I regularly make.  I live in a very nice but modest condominium in a safe gated community and I drive a really nice car, but just about every dollar I earn has to go towards rent, car payments, student loan payments, utilities, groceries, and all of the normal bills and necessities that everyone has because the cost of everything in this country—and this area in particular—is so damn expensive.  My student loan bills are around $300 per month, and my monthly car payments are even higher than that.  And you don’t even want to know what my rent costs each month.  I do splurge and pamper myself when I can, and I do own several expensive clothing pieces and accessories, but I still have to carefully watch my money.  I can’t just blow through hundreds of dollars whenever I feel like it like the truly wealthy people around here do.  I look around at all of these other people around me fighting to just barely make it in life and be able to have the most basic necessities, and I feel so sorry for them and have to wonder how the Hell they manage to do it.

I pay close attention to everything that goes on around me.  I often read news articles about the current plight of renters and homeowners here in South Florida and the dearth of jobs that pay a living wage that is enough for people to be able to afford clean, safe, decent housing here.  I constantly hear other Floridians lamenting on how it has become impossible for them to afford any place big enough for their families that isn’t in a dangerous ghetto neighborhood.  According to the most recent data reported in a local news article, the current average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a non-ghetto suburban area of Palm Beach County costs between $1,100-$1,400 each month.  And if you’re anywhere near downtown West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale, the price of a one-bedroom apartment shoots up to $1,800-3,000 per month.  And if you live in the city of Miami? Get out the anal lube and prepare yourself for this: The average cost of a safe, modern one-to-two bedroom apartment in downtown Miami is anywhere between $4,000-6,000 per month!!  I have a female friend who pays a whopping $1,400 each month to rent a ROOM in someone’s skyrise apartment in Brickell.  The apartment is leased under someone else’s name, and she pays that much money every month to basically rent a bedroom and a bathroom out of someone else’s apartment.  Unbelievable….

I am actually one of the rare few single adults in South Florida who lives alone in a multi-bedroom home without any roommates, and that is because I bust my ass every week in order to afford it, even though I make quite a bit more money than most people here do.  I could easily choose to downgrade to a smaller one-bedroom apartment with no security, but I made the choice to live in the type of place that I do now because I have a lot of stuff and need lots of extra room and because I feel that safety is a very important issue to consider when choosing a place to live (especially with all of the armed, drugged-up wackos running around here.)  But when you look at the other working people who make up the majority of the populace and are only being paid a measly $10-$13 an hour for their labor, you can clearly see how impossible it is for them to be able to come anywhere close to being able to afford decent housing.  Even working multiple jobs still doesn’t cut it for them.  The vast majority of people in Florida, including married couples and those with children, are forced to live with roommates in order to be able to afford a place to live. And that is just criminal.  There are always new luxury condos being built all the time around here, but the majority of those new units are sitting empty because nobody can afford to rent them.  Real estate developers keep on building luxury housing that only the 1% can afford while ignoring the needs of the middle and lower classes.

As I said earlier, I live a good life here, but I should be enjoying a WAY higher standard of living with the kind of money I earn.  But I’m not, because greed, inflation, and disastrous policy decisions made by our political leaders have made it so that fewer and fewer people can attain the standard of living they work for.  And that is why in order to maintain the standard of living I feel that I need and deserve and have the things I want, I have to work myself to the point where I sometimes wear myself down sick.  And it’s not just here in South Florida that this problem exists, it’s all over the entire country now.  Even people who live in rural areas where the cost of living is much cheaper are still struggling no matter how hard they work.

And if you are reading this and happen to be a Republican, don’t even think about coming at me with that tired old “People are just lazy and don’t want to work to have a better life” bullshit.  I have personally known and talked with way too many working poor people to be brainwashed by that ignorant demagoguery.  The vast majority of people in this country DO work very hard, and yet they still can’t enjoy a basic quality of life thanks to greedy politicians and corporations who have completely obliterated the middle class and the economic and social policies that make it easier for hard-working people to maintain a decent standard of living.  The often repeated sound byte tropes you hear about huge numbers of able-bodied young adults refusing to work while living off of the system are in reality a very small minority of the population.  Trust me when I say that the vast majority of Americans DO work and WANT to work for a living.  They just aren’t being offered the tools and opportunities to do it.  When I worked for the Unemployment Agency years ago during the Great Recession, I serviced many, many, many people who had suddenly lost their jobs after working all of their lives, and sitting at home collecting an unemployment check was the very last thing they wanted to do.  They weren’t lazy bums who “just needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps”, they no longer HAD any bootstraps to pull up.  Calling them lazy and unmotivated was a slap in the face to them.  I get pissed off and annoyed whenever I hear the same naysayers wag their fingers and say stupid shit like “If people can’t afford to support themselves on the wages they are making, then they should go to school and become a doctor, lawyer, or CEO.”  That’s utterly ridiculous.  First of all, I’m quite sure that those people would have gone to college if they COULD.  And many of them even DID attend and have college degrees.  And second, it would make no sense for every single person to become a doctor or a lawyer.  A functional society needs people to work in all sorts of job capacities, and each job is necessary and has value.  Therefore, no one should be condemned to poverty just for doing a job that is neither a doctor nor a lawyer.  EVERYONE who is willing to work a full-time job deserves to be able to afford the basic necessities of life, period.

I also don’t want to hear any flippant nonsense about how those who are struggling at low-wage jobs should “just start their own business.”  I run my own business, and I can tell you myself that it’s not as simple and easy as it sounds.  It takes A LOT of patience and self-discipline, and not everyone is cut out for self-employment.  It takes quite awhile before a new business becomes stable and starts bringing in large amounts of income, and not every business venture is a guaranteed success, either.

As someone who has a degree in History, I know all too well what eventually happens to nations in which the majority of the populace is oppressed and exploited into serfdom by a tiny, wealthy, ruling class: bloody revolution.  History has shown that this is ALWAYS the inevitable result, regardless of how long it takes to get there.  I genuinely fear what will happen when the day comes that the entire US nation is finally pushed to the breaking point and decides that they have suffered enough.  The backlash that will inevitably ensue will be a violent and bloody one.  If you want a better idea of what lies ahead of us, just go on YouTube and watch old video footage of the revolts that happened in the former Communist Eastern Bloc countries when the ordinary citizens finally had enough and decided to take down their oppressors who were starving them and working them to death.  My personal favorite is the live televised footage of the mass takedown and execution of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.  He exploited and oppressed his citizens so badly that when they finally decided enough was enough, thousands of people rushed him during one of his live televised public speeches, and he and his wife Elena were executed by firing squad on live national television the following day.  The footage was played over and over on Romanian television networks for months in order to ensure the Romanian people that the asshole was indeed dead and gone.  I recently read in some article in Forbes Magazine (I can’t recall the title of the article) where a Ph.D. Economist stated that the majority of Americans are now working themselves to death in order to eek out a quality of life that is on the same level as the poor Russian serfs during the days of the former Soviet Union.  Mark my words, the citizen revolts that have happened in other nations are coming here soon.  Even billionaire Nick Hanauer has said this very same thing himself many times.  In his own words, he said “The pitchforks are coming out, and they are coming for us [the 1%].”

For now, I will continue working hard and plunging forward, steadily working my way towards a bigger and better future for myself.  I am very fortunate that I have a college education and the intelligence and physical health necessary in order to make a somewhat successful living for myself.  But I foresee that even those qualities won’t be enough for anyone to successfully make it later on in the future.  In the last year or so, I have actually begun to seriously consider the possibility of moving to an entirely different country like Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, or some other Democratic-Socialist nation where there is still a robust middle class and where it is very easy to live a comfortable, happy life.  Although it is true that the working people pay very high taxes in those countries, they get a high return on the taxes they pay in the form of well-funded, high-quality services that make their lives easier.  It’s not about being handed something for free, it’s about getting a good return investment from the labor in which you work.  The people who live in those countries aren’t just sitting on their asses while being handed lots of free stuff, they WORK for it.  And they are able to live far more comfortable and better lives than the people here in the United States who work harder than medieval peasants while getting little to nothing out of it.  Things have gone terribly wrong in this country and it’s gotta change or else.  And if our leaders won’t make the necessary changes through legislation, then the citizens will do it by violent force just like it has been done in other countries before.  And I sure as Hell don’t want to be anywhere near here when that bloodbath ensues.

In conclusion, I will leave you with one of my favorite songs by Genesis that aptly describes what I’ve discussed in this post.

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