The onslaught of stings and exclusions of the politically elite has me fired up. I'll add surprised: because we seem to be apathetic in that we not only elect -- we re-elect them into office. These are the people who will ultimately shape policy and enact laws. There seems to be an almost complete disconnect here. An utter disregard for humanity as classism is openly bandied about.
Classism: a hurtful and exclusionary "ism" that I'll rank with racism, ageism, a myriad of "isms" that make life infinitely more difficult than they need be. I've come to the conclusion that it's time to enter the homes of more interesting people. Rather than tuning in to the homes of Kim Kardashian (starring North West -- don't ask) or the REAL housewives of New Jersey, Atlanta, etc., bring your cameras into the homes of REAL Americans. That is, Americans working and raising responsible, educated, articulate children into young adults, helping them to leave the nest and begin their families.
One continual flaw in this system of up and out seems to have taken on a whole new meaning today. These young people cannot earn enough money to pay rent and student loans and car insurance. Never mind adding in electric bills and cable or internet access, or gas to go to work, or food to eat, or any other singular item. Because Reality Economics is based on a set of rules that schools do not teach, and high schools don't prepare students for, and colleges don't prepare young adults to practice. Reality Economics takes life experience, great faith in something way bigger than your earning potential, and nerves of steel. It takes the awesome people of this country that I live next to, speak to, write about and grew up with.
Reality Economics would be a hit, I am absolutely certain. We look for similarities in one another to connect as human beings. It would be extremely comforting for some to know the truth; that many are struggling within the confines of their homes are trying to do what any strata of people try to do each day. Let me use an example here. We shall call this person Jane American.
Jane earns a salary of $25,000 (which equals $12.00 an hour). The act of attempting to bring the minimum wage to $10.00 an hour was met with gasps and knee jerk claims that this would mean the end of small business in America, so one can say that $12.00 could be considered a generous wage. Now subject that wage to federal, state and local taxes as well as healthcare premiums and it becomes $19,500 -- a monthly take home salary of $1,625.00. This individual is living with their child, a single parent. They are paying rent, minimally $750 to $800 (not easy in most states: finding an $800 rental).This person owns a used car with plenty of miles, so thankfully there is no car payment. They have basic cable with an internet connection -- absolutely no frills, no "premium" channels. Deduct $125.00. They insure their used car with a minimal amount of liability coverage. Deduct another $100.00. They have to pay their gas and electric bill: goodbye $85 to $115. This person has $485.00 left in what we'll call "discretionary income". They can do whatever they'd like with that money: If they want to eat, it would be almost impossible to spend less than $80 per week on groceries to feed a family of two. With just $80 per week going towards food, there is now a stunning $165.00 per month to use for gas, entertainment, haircuts, clothing, school trips and unexpected expenses. That is less than $7.00 per day. With less than $7.00 per day, you're not smoking, drinking or getting highlights and lowlights at your salon. You do not have the money to take a vacation to get away from this reality. These are "Reality Economic" budget items.
The real shame here, the burning shame that should sting the face of all politicians as they ignore calls for extended unemployment benefits, reduce food stamps for the poor, or ignore the need for massive student loan revision is this: They would have to watch uncomfortably and listen to the reality of life for their constituents.
They may squirm a bit as they realize that these are the folks paying their salaries, paying for their children's law school degree, paying for their vacations with their families. I propose that the episodes could be dotted with public service announcements that would tell people how to contact those who represent them in their state, local, and federal government offices. PSA's could also provide 30 second "did you know" facts that would outline how long particular Senators or Congressmen and Congresswomen have been in office and would pose the question: Why? Have you looked at their voting record? Have you reviewed what propositions they have brought forth in their tenure? President Obama, you would find it incredibly insightful, especially since the multitude of letters pouring in every day never get your attention. It's impossible. But if we had your rapt attention for 30 minutes a week, I know we could share some stories that would change the state of this nation.
They are not stray animals looking to be fed (see Mark Bauer: former Lt. Gov. State of S. Carolina's comments about strays). They are not lazy good for nothings looking to garner every penny they can for free from the U.S. government. They are black, white, Hispanic, male and female. They are representative of the majority of this country. They are on the fringe of poverty every single day, yet they are working hard and raising wonderful citizens. Classism has gotten worse, to that I am witness. It has to change; we are losing vital communication with a group of people that made this country what it is. To this group I ask: Is the scourge of classism something you want for your children?
As for stray animals, I'd do what I did for our stray Jack Russell mix when we rescued him from a local shelter six years ago. I would feed them, I would shelter them. And when they needed health care (my dog's eye had to be removed five weeks after adoption because it was so diseased), I would provide it. Even if it cost $25.00 per month from my "discretionary income" for the next two years, it would be worth the sight of watching certain death turn into vitality. And I would pay a lot more to see vitality and hope return to the eyes of my friends, family and fellow Americans.