I'm not really sure how I fit in with this.
In political environments where my pro-life commitment is moot (say local offices or ballot measures where there is no impact either way), I tend to evaluate each measure or candidate as well as I can. Some tax measures I have voted for, like our local community college and fire departments, other times I have voted against things that I think will waste tax money.
Does my class directly influence my political choices? Maybe, but at a lower level than "it's the economy, stupid" would imply. It is one facet among many, if you will.
But perhaps I should clearly state my class: indeterminate.
I have been a Consulting Senior Systems Analyst and System Administrator making $60 an hour full time for months at a time. I have also delivered phone books for about $2 an hour after my career died (I left a Senior Programmer/Analyst contract in 2002; at my level within my specialty, every head hunter I could deal with knew I had broken the contract within a week and I've never been able to return to Information Technology).
So I have been at the obscene top and I've lost my home and nearly my marriage at the bottom. I'm a classic example of "how the mighty have fallen". But I was responsible for my own choices and made several bad judgment calls that have us still paying more than a quarter of my income for debts that my own arrogance had allowed us to incur.
My experience is that I dug my own hole. Could I blame the market changes in IT after 9/11? Yup. Could I shrug it off as a bunch of unlucky investments during the dot-com bubble. Sure. Would I be shirking the responsibility for my own lackluster analysis, pathetic choices, and far less than stellar leadership? Ouch, dead on. I don't live in a place where famine is the rule, I don't even live on the street like I did many years ago. There are those who deserve pity because they really have no choice, but I'm not one of them.
Now I spend my days driving trucks, I average about 63 hours a week (up to 70) in a job that does not give overtime (we drive by the mile or the delivery, depending on the load... not hourly). This only earns me about $600 a week, but it has some insurance and it's honest work. My wife doesn't work, we live in a one bedroom apartment in Salem, and we get by.
But am I now somehow a blue collar grunt who has to vote the way smarter richer people think I should? No. I expect to be out of debt in just over a year now, and plan to go back to school. I have goals and objectives to reach them... if I'm given the chance, I'll take it. But I've seen the unexpected slap me up-side the head, and I'm not fool enough to think I'm now immune to it.
Do I resent the "haves"? No, I was one. Do I feel oppressed? Only by my own choices, temporarily enslaved to credit card debts by my inability to show some responsible patience and restraint.
Perhaps my response is best summed up as: The economy doesn't effect my voting; I vote for what I think we need and can (as a society) afford. Unlike my pro-life mindset, economy doesn't motivate me into the political arena in the least. As a matter of fact, I don't really believe that any of the presidential candidates will serve me economically. I would say that a "consumer" mindset coupled with instant gratification has become a cornerstone of our economy. The only chance we have in the long term is for this economic model and our individual mindsets to change... something I do not see any of the big three candidates encouraging, let alone espousing.
A lot of us in the IT field got introduced to downward class mobility in the early part of this decade. Our household went from making about $100K/year in 1999 to making about $5K in 2002 and not much more in 2003. Last year we finally got back to making close to what we made in 1999. It's been a rollercoaster ride.
When you were making $100K, did you nest egg for a rainy day---?
People should learn from business---it's called contingency!!!
I am directly in the middle of the middle class, but I wouldn't say that I identify with any particular class. I don't belong to either party (they both infuriate me in their own unique ways), and would actually be ecstatic if the party system were abolished altogether.
The economy will influence my vote this year in the following specific way: I won't vote for any presidential candidate who doesn't address the main economic issue of our time, which is unfettered consumerism. Unfettered consumerism is the root cause of the sub-prime crisis and the reason why Peak Oil will be the immense crisis that it will soon be. But no candidate is going to address this issue because to do something about it would damage our economy beyond anything we have seen so far and require all American citizens to make huge sacrifices and change their lifestyles dramatically. No one wants to hear that, no one will vote for a candidate who suggests anything of the sort, thus no candidate will address the issue. Therefore I will not vote in the presidential election this year.
My economic outlook? Dismal. It looks like we're entering the most serious recession since the one in the early 80's. Why? Because there was to much speculation in homes in recent years that led to home prices getting way out of line with incomes. It's going to take many years to correct this imbalance and in the meantime up to a $Trillion is being destroyed. There's way too much debt in the system and it's going to take a long time to pay it all back.
Middle class, to me, are families making 30,000 to maybe 120,000 dollars a year. Hillary Clinton's comments that the middle calss include families making up to 250,000 just shows me that she's out of touch with reality. I honestly don't know one person, or family, that makes that much. Perhaps it's because Oregon has a lower standard of living that other plpaces in the U.S. but I don't think that's the case.
Anyway, Ms. Clinton's comments just cement my opinion that almost ALL politicians are Elitists and truly have no cluw of the state of the working-class American.
Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.
why are people feeling squeezed? Mostly it's due to home prices which got way out of line with incomes. Traditionally the rule of thumb was that a borrower shouldn't be spending more than 25% of their income on housing. In recent years, however, with the runup in prices lenders loosened those standards and allowed borrowers to spend up to 35 to 50% of their income on housing. People were allowed to borrow more than they would have in the past. Now many recent home buyers can't afford to do things like eat out.
Many Portlanders now realize that this runup in prices has effectively priced a lot of them out of the housing market.
The reason gas prices are going up so much is because the Fed is trying to prop up home prices and they're doing this by devaluing the dollar. All of us are now paying the price for this speculative bubble.
The question was asked "What defines the middle class?", the answer, "earning less then $250,000" was suggested. To me this is a reasonable answer.
That being said, I find it pretty interesting that congress has recently defined the value as "less then $75,000". They did this when they set the cap for the stimulus package to people earning less then $75,000. If you earn much more then that, you don't get a stimulus rebate check.
Since the stimulus package was "not supposed to go to the rich", then everyone not getting a check is "rich", leaving everyone else either poor or middle class.
This all tells me that congress is really out of touch with what people consider the middle class.
People keep forgetting that the poor do not get a rebate either. The poorest of our society, whose earned incomes are lower than $3000/yr, are not getting a stimulus check. It's only the middle class that is being benefited by the stimulus package.
I think $250,000 is much too high a cutoff for "middle class." Like the economist on the show said, only a small percent of Americans actually make more than $250,000 a year. My family makes around $100,000 a year with both my parents working (I'm a college student), and I'd consider us in the upper-middle class. We still worry about mortgage payments and debt, but day-to-day we don't have to worry about whether we will be able to afford getting needed medication or if our health needs will be covered.
The class I fit into is the 'pissed off' class.
When this country is literally ran by the CEO's of Haliburton, Cheveron, etc - its no wonder why we are in a war for oil (to keep the oil in the ground, mind you).
In the only democracy in the world with only two parties, I will be voting third party wherever available.
If not now, then when? If not you, then whom?
I believe it was Churchill who said that 'Democracy is a very bad form of Government' but he went on to say 'however, it's the best one around'
Then there was D'Tocqville a few hundred years ago who said 'People get the governments they deserve'--------makes a lot of sense when you think that the country voted for Bush!!!
I really don't think 'party' has anything to do with it, I think that it requires a President who is intelligent and knows the meaning of common sense.
I don't identify with any class, nor do I wish to. But I often find myself defending the rich even though I am not rich. Particularly in Portland progressives repeatedly discriminate against the rich. For example something as simple as the east versus the west, I have heard so many people say how they love the east-side but hate the west-side, yet I have never heard a single person say they hate the east-side that lives on the west-side. The motivation is they view the west-side as "wealthy." Many progressives have become the people they hate with irrational and subjective thinking. I know this may not seem to relate to politics but it does, its the mindset that pervades the culture in Portland.
Another example, bars - few in Portland like a nice bar, only the dive bar. People are that shortsighted that they actually believe because something is aesthetically pleasing it must be evil. They believe the beat up and decayed are the only things authentic. The motivation for this is also that if something is well-designed people assume it is "by rich people."
If the majority of locals can't even be objective about east/west and bars, I hardly think they have the ability to be objective about politicians and issues. I very much consider myself excessively progressive and liberal however I realize many of us think subjectively and are involved in the same acts we detest in others.
I am in a worse economic situation than my parents. My mother was able to stay at home with us as children, but I am not. Both my husband and I have to work. The main reason: student loans. At age 18, you just don't realize how borrowing so much money will affect your life later. I hope the next president will address the rising cost of secondary education. Student loans are the main reason my friends (in their 20s and 30s) do not have savings accounts.
I absolutely do not EVER want my name to grace either major political party's roster. I'm a social conservative, and on just about every other issue I would be considered a liberal. I come from a very low income background, which traditionally would make any other person run to the Democratic party. However with their views on social issues I think it's safe to say that I would never join that party. I think globalization is ruining the world, and only the richest are benefiting from it. Sure we get the dollar menu at fast food places to tout as 'our benefit', and maybe cheap shirts at Wal-Mart, but this cannot be sustained and I believe the recession we are currently in is a result of the globalization bubble bursting. I will not vote for any of the three presidential candidates we have, and I believe voting for a third party is about as useful as voting for myself (which isn't worth much!). Until someone can show me how I will benefit from casting my vote for them, monetary or otherwise, I will not vote for any elected official, just local ballot measures and what have you.
I have come to realize that most of us are but a paycheck or two from poverty. With a loss of job comes with it missed mortgage, medical, credit card payments, etc, etc. With that comes a damaged credit report which produces higher interest rates to the point that even insurance rates become determined upon. From there there is no recovery. If we want to preserve anything that remains of the so-called middle class we need to as a society reform credit reporting, because that is where people slip through the cracks.....
Regarding the contribution of Sarah Meyers who notes that she does not get enough support to pay her bills due to the birth of her daughter and feels bad to be a burden on her parents. I feel that she should feel bad for being a burden on the community from an action that she herself is responsible for (unless she was raped).
This is a generational thing I think ... my parents had a child who was profoundly autistic and they would have been SHAMED to accept any government support for his care.
From a political standpoint the only presidential candidate who understands the basics of debt and value of currency is Ron Paul. If I looked at the government like a person I would have to consider it hopelessly economically ruined.
If you want to ask how you move up in the wealth ladder, ask an immigrant. They live below their means, aren't ashamed to live in certain neighborhoods, stay out of consumer debt, and send their kids to college.
How to have downward mobility? Insist in living in an apartment or house you can't afford, be ashamed to drive a car appropriate for your income level, and rack up consumer debt.
This isn't just about whether or not we're doing as well as our parents (in terms of our ability to pay for the things we want), but about how much we have to work to achieve that. For most young middle-class Americans, our parents were able to own a home, car, put us through school, etc. on a single income. Now to support the same quality of life most of need to have dual-incomes. Americans are working more than ever, taking less time off than ever, just to keep our jobs and pay the bills - we're running harder and harder just to stay in place. All this comes at a time when for the last 20 years we've been hearing about how much the economy is growing. It is growing - almost entirely for the richest of the rich. This last economic expansion benefited the wealthiest Americans exculsively. This should worry not just the middle classes, but the rich as well and their political allies (mostly in the Republican party) - if the middle class stops buying into the program, the game's over.
I grew up with parents who came from lower-middle class or poorer families and built themselves up from nothing to comfortable middle class earnings (75k combined, but they're divorced now)... Sporadic members of my family have been able to gain their college degrees, but through grants from the government.
As it may be known by most; unless a student is married, has dependents, or is a veteran, we are considered dependents of our legal guardians until 24yrs old! At 18 we can go to war, but not until 6 years later are we "allowed" to be considered true adults in the financial world. Because of this, myself and MILLIONS of others that come from middle class families who have lived on their own and supported themselves since 18 are stuck when it comes to getting financial aid if we want to go to college. According to the government, our parents make too much money for us to get assistance, but in reality- not enough for our parents (if they're even involved in our lives) to actually pay for our schooling. So instead, we're all stuck with getting high-interest loans that end up nearly doubling when repayments comes to fruition.
As a 22yr old working three jobs who by her own income is considered "lower class", not currently in school after completing 3yrs due to the amount of loans I've racked up and has been independent by the nation's standards, but not the government's, I'd love to see a politician who actually addresses this disgustingly common issue. We don't have anybody to financially save our hides but ourselves, the government refuses to see that as a possibility.
Lest I even begin to touch on the lack of health care for people like me, as it is not offered for part time students and/or part time workers. Universal health care please!
I was raised by upper class parents who had worked very hard to get there, and imparted idealistic values to me that you should not focus on money in life. So I went forward with my life with a good college education but not perusing high-paying jobs. I have a strong work ethic and have typically worked long hours at jobs that gave me more than money.
After a string of layoffs and company closures in the technology sector I find myself burnt out and in a huge financial hole. Like your first guest, I found myself with a newborn and out of work, without health insurance, and my husband having recently lost his job as well. So much for waiting to have kids until our mid-30s so that we were secure in our careers.
I do not believe that the support systems for typical working Americans remain. Most of us are a diagnosis or accident away from financial ruin.
I was shocked how after 15+ years of working hard and contributing to unemployment that I was treated like a criminal by the unemployment department when I collected that benefit.
Employees below the CEO level are treated as disposable and often pay the price of this shrinking economy.
While I still stick to my ideals of focusing more on work I love than making a buck, the repercussions of making those decisions are stark compared to the life my parents were able to enjoy at my age.
Politicians effect on the economy is minimal at best. Generally if a politician is in office and the economy does well they were just in the right place at the right time. Our economists can't even predicate with any reliable certainty what will happen with the economy do we really believe the less informed politicians can?
Most of the effects politicians have on the economy seem to be negative and byproducts of bad PR, such as the negative view the world has about the USA, which is not the result of economic policy, but the result of a wider policy and style. I am not so sure democratic economic policy will fix this when Clinton or Obama are in office, but perhaps it will be the result of a general feeling of good will because the country is going in the right direction.
I work as a graphic designer / web programmer 50 hours per week and am starting a graphic design company. My wife and her sister run a daycare from our townhouse located in a not so great part of town. We have 3 children but so far have been able to avoid welfare. We can certainly keep our jobs through globalization because I can work from anywhere, and my wife's business will always have demand, but we still have no hope of owning a home. We own our car but it is ready to break down and could not afford a car repair or payment. Most of our money goes to purchasing local, natural, and American made products. We feel that this puts us back while others seem to have no problem. I just can't bring myself to purchase a low quality particle board entertainment center that will be part of a landfill in 4 years. I am also tired of getting large refunds from the government. I feel like they should keep the money and use it to get the government in shape!
I'm quite shocked. My partner and I make around $130K combined (we were making about $150+ before moving here from out of state a year ago). I never considered us wealthy, we don't live extravagently (I'm really quite cheap), and I always worry about money, and squrriel away a great deal for retirement. I can't imagine how people can live as a family on $30K! I have no problem with the taxes we pay, or the safegards in place to help those who need assistance...I just wish there was a more effective way to help people get on their feet, and would helop subsidize incomes rather than provide them.
This discussion gave me a new perspective on our position, and I'm very thankful for the financial choices I've made. Oh...and I didn't grow up wealthy. My father was the bread winner, and my parents raised 5 kids (all in private school) on $50-60K/yr. Mom was very good at stretching the family dollar.
I've never heard such nonsense. A corporate tax cut won't help middle income people?????? Uhhhh...last I checked, middle income folks liked jobs. Most jobs come from corporations. Corporations pay salaries, which then get taxed... Anybody making the connection at OPB? The difference in cost between producing a pair of socks in the US and producing it in china and shipping it is less than 1 cent. You think corporate taxes don't have an impact on the cost of producing that sock?
It is regrettable that some people carry identity politics so far as to believe that simply because a candidate comes from a particular class, they have an automatically superior insight with respect to that class, or that because someone comes from a relatively high class, they are automatically insensitive to the needs of those beneath them. We need to consider history. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt both came from privilege, but clearly they felt deeply and spoke eloquently about the plight of the poor during the Depression. They also took action, as did many others who came from privilege. Also, it's quite possible to come from the working class, or even from poverty and still not be insensitive to the needs of that class -- indeed, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin --- here were clear examples of people who were supposedly sensitive to the plight of the less fortunate and we have the bloody history of the results.
Let's declare a moratorium on automatically judging a person's class as NECESSARILY determinative of their sensitivity or insensitivity to a given class. People from privilege are entirely capable of serving the nation's larger needs, and people who've come from the so-called lower classes are quite capable of causing harm. What we need to do is study history and the present to avoid snap judgments either way. No particular politician, because he or she is or was a member of a particular class should be given credit or discredited without a careful study of their words and deeds.
George T. Karnezis
A message to Sara Meyers, PTLD OR.
I have been in a very similar situation to yours, only 14 years ago. College educated, had baby, temporarily on welfare. Lots of food stamps but no $ for rent or other groceries like toothpaste. I am living in lake oswego now, still paying the student loans I took out to get through that time. I would love to talk to you, I may have some affordable housing available in lake oswego if you are interested. Also, I'd just love to talk to another mom going through the same thing - these things are temporary for someone like you with a lot going for you. 503-381-8621 ask for Cat.
I really thought I had made it! I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Southeast Portland. We lived modestly, frugally, and my parents managed to prepare three kids for good educations (two at ivy league colleges) on an income of under $13,000 per year.
I was fortunate to have a lucrative career in technology. I put a lot of money away in retirement savings, and was able to retire very early, with enough in the bank to generate a retirement income that would continue to buy an income of over $100K per year. What I felt to be upper middle class for sure.
Then, disaster struck. My son became severely mentally ill, and my daughter is also suffering from milder form of mental illness. Even though my son managed to win a contentious disability claim, I now am facing the possibility of having to pay over $2,500 per month in health insurance premiums, prescription costs, and copays. As a result, even though I have significant assets earmarked for retirement. The safety net for families is severely broken. Government decisions relative to disability assistance, medical care, and the continued protection of profits in the medical and pharmaceutical industries have led to a personal loss of economic security for my family.
The hope for recovery by my children may well be at the cost of my own retirement security and health.
Whenever I hear people say "live within your means", I think to myself, IDIOTS.
Obviously they have not been affected by high medical bills or layoffs, which produced the slide downward. Not everyone out there abuses credit cards and racks up 25k in debt.......to them I say I say may you experience the same as I have, and we will see if your tune does not change.......morons
Give me a break. Certainly a few people will experience these problems. But the vast majority of immigrants to this country who arrive with nothing and become quite succuessful in one generation proves that class mobility is highly dependent on your mindset.
I'm an immigrant who arrived in North America with $40.00 and no job---within 40 years I owned five companies--how was it accomplished?
It was accomplished with two things---the required 'hard work' and a hell of a lot of 'good luck'
The secret I discovered was, that although being in the 'right place at the right time is important'-- what is more important is the smarts to KNOW that you are in the right place at the right time---if that makes any sense!!
It's a very valid point you bring up. Illness in a family is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy (~50%). Where do people who can't afford to pay for medications turn? Their credit card of course! Leading them down a fiancial road that is nearly impossible to turn back from. Therefore forcing them to file for brankruptcy, which, thanks to new laws passed in 2006, still make them responsible to pay for all that debt. (Hmmm, how about each family making over $250K a year, sponsor a family who's been forced into bankruptcy because of illness?) It is true that, as I've been fortunate to experience, you can still work your way from one financial "class" to another, but it's very easy to lose it all without being careless with your money.
I can understand your agitation when people say 'live within your means'----It has been my opinion that advice like that is usually given to people 'before' they experience a financial hardship--meaning 'do not get into debt' by over spending--good advice---but not the kind of advice to be given to someone experiencing hardship not of their own making!!!
I hope things improve for you.
Thank you for hosting such a potent discussion. I enjoyed participating in it. Bad public policy hurts all stratas of the community. As Jefferson said , Governments are instituted among Men, to secure (certain) rights. Where has that ideal been derailed? Government now appears more to pander to lobbyists and industry, rather than address social needs. Healthcare inflates at 6%, and politicians promise a measly tax refunds to cover what? Generic aspirin? Predatory lenders rob the unwary, and as a consequence the stock market crumbles. Who gets bailed out? Bears Stearns? Cheap goods manufactured overseas without the benefit of green engineering mock our own domestic environmental achievements. Why not impose an environmental impact tariff that could fund green industry overseas? Where is the intelligent response from politicians to these difficulties? More want to sling mud at each other//When will politicians begin to work together to build and maintain the government so magnaminously praised to school children and other innocents?
We're the johns who created the market. The problem is not overseas, its right here. It's a slippery slope to regulate others when we can't reign in our own industry or consumers. We already display enough hypocrisy to the world--do we need more? I am not suggesting we throw up our hands, but perhaps in this case we should clean house first.
Think Out Loud listeners have several chances to catch Jared in person:
Monday, April 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Portland State University, Smith Memorial Student Center Ballroom,
1825 SW Broadway, 3rd Floor.
Tuesday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Annie Bloom's Books, 7834 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland
Wednesday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, Portland
Comments are now closed.