War on the Middle Class: Americans Turning on Themselves
Here's another one of those greedy bastards who's trying to destroy America:
He is worried, he says, about a lot: the future of the bankrupt supermarket chain he works for, the midcareer colleagues who feel trapped and hopeless, and anyone, really, who strives for a middle-class life anymore.
He's been stocking shelves and moving groceries through the checkout line for the same Philadelphia-area chain since the Vietnam War. It's how he put a child through college, bought a $28,000 rowhouse, and pays for the occasional movie when he and his wife go out for a treat.
He is reluctant to have his name published in The Inquirer, even though he belongs to a union. Partly, it seems, because he belongs to a union. And partly because it feels like a scary time to be a worker in this country at all - union or not.
"I'm afraid I'd be retaliated against," he says, in a tone so evenhanded, so unassuming, that during the first, the second, and even the third time we talked, it was hard to resist wanting to hear more from him.
When reader and reporter finally met after two years of occasional phone chats, the blogosphere, and the so-called cable-news pundits were bloviating about assaults by Republican governors against public-sector unions in Wisconsin, New Jersey, and elsewhere. (Time will tell whether this remains an exclusively Republican pursuit.)
Against all the raucous blah-blah-blahs, his middle-of-the-road wisdom was humbling.
Yes it is. But it's the voice of many millions of Americans who are under attack by their fellows who have been brainwashed into believing that the problem in their lives isn't the John Galts who are gobbling up ever more of the nation's wealth but their middle class neighbors who've been able to live a decent middle class life working at a decent middle class job.
These are the people that the well-heeled Andrea Mitchells and Gloria Borgers of the world are saying must be willing to sacrifice for the greater good:
"I don't want to come across as a griper. I have a good life," he says. Paid about $19 an hour and in line for a modest pension if he retires in the next few years, he counts himself among the luckier people in the retail sector, which accounted for more than one in 10 U.S. jobs in February.
And yet, he says of his pension, "we would still starve on that." He is putting off retirement because health benefits for him and his wife will cost $10,000 a year - more than a third of the $27,000 in Social Security and pension payments he expects. "I got a gas bill for $240, you've got the phone, you've got the Internet, you've got Comcast, you've got real estate taxes: $2,400." The math is troubling.
You could say that. But I'm sure our wealthy overlords believe it would be character building for these folks to go without health insurance in their 50s. Or maybe they should give up such luxuries as a phone and the internet. After all, he may have worked his whole life but if he can't do any better than this then maybe he should live with the consequences of his failure to be a big American winner. Like Paris Hilton. Or Charlie Sheen.
The only people who count are those who have big money and rest of us are parasites. But there's a problem:
"When you attack the middle class, which is what I think is happening," he says, it's attacking "what this country is all about."
The American Dream was the life that this guy led. He worked his way up to a decent life where he could own a house and raise his children and retire when he reached old age. Now people like him are being attacked as the enemy. In other words, Americans are turning on themselves. Hopefully they'll figure out that they're being played before it's too late.