December 30th, 2007
I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s celebrations. One day rolling into the next, despite a single digit change in the date, has never caused me to want to put on a plastic party hat and revel with the masses.This year, though, I feel a pressing need to obliterate not only 2007, but much of the entire decade before it. To crush it, stomp it, and scream it out of existence. I’ll raise my glass in a toast of “never again” and mean it, both in relief and as a rock solid resolution.
Economics and the Average Jane
I don’t need an Ivy-league think tank or a swarm of economic experts to tell me what the financial status of the poor and middle-class is in this country. Having vacillated between a few classes myself, I’ve gained some pretty stunning first-hand knowledge. In 1996, I bought a small but well-kept home in a bucolic suburb of Minneapolis. I paid $69,600. My mortgage payments were $597, including taxes and insurance. That same home today, just twelve years later, would sell for $175,000 – a difference of more than 150%. However, during the same time, my wages rose only by a paltry 13%.
For the poor in this country, the cost of living goes far beyond the basics of food and shelter. The poor are also victims of mindless discriminatory practices, which seek to part them from any chance at financial betterment and disposable income – if, that is, they are lucky enough to find decent employment.
In the 1990’s, both insurance companies and employers took to using credit reports as a weapon, putting the poor in “high risk” or undesirable categories based on nothing more than their personal financial status.
I’ve yet to see a statistic that a thin checkbook causes one to be a reckless driver, but when it comes to nickel-and-diming the lower classes, predatory and often senseless practices are abundant and rarely successfully challenged.
This senselessness has extended to the employment sector, where it is now commonplace for companies to force applicants into signing a release form allowing their potential employers to view, and make employment decisions based upon, personal credit reports.
The argument that credit reports reveal something about an applicant’s skills or character is weak at its best, and broadly discriminatory at its worst. Logically, it is the employment record and accomplishments of an applicant that most speaks to his or her value in the workforce – not whether he or she has been late with their student loan payments. Ethically, the practice of preferential employment treatment for those with good credit scores is exclusionary and elitist – and a type of discrimination that’s very difficult to prove. While there might be some merit to running the personal credit reports of those who will be in charge of a company’s finances, this has not been the extent of its use. Instead, the practice has extended to nearly every sector, from factories to boardrooms.
Politics – and What the Hell Were Americans Thinking?
It appears that the right-wing brainwashing of the American public is winding down its cycle. Even Americans who swallowed the unthinking rhetoric of “with us or against us” seem to be near the point of understanding that asking reasonable questions is not, as they had been led to believe, an unpatriotic act.
It helps that the over-long reign of Bush and his greed-soaked Republican goons will soon end, but future generations will have plenty to remind them of his corrupt administration. From his WMD lies, to 3,901 dead Americans , to a soaring debt that is nearing $9,000,000,000.00, Bush and company have played fast and loose with the future of America and its children, who are now born owing approximately $30,000 as their “share” of the national debt.
Add on the costs of high rising consumer debt, including an increase in defaulted credit card and mortgage payments, and the financial situation of this country is clearly spiraling toward catastrophe.
I encourage people to get mad. Being mad is a reasonable response to being lied to, misled, used, and plundered. Here are some articles that will help you reach the appropriate state of anger if you’re not already there:
Hey Buddy, Can You Spare $1000 Trillion?
Bush Gets What He Wants — At a Cost
Only Suckers Pay Their Bills
As a Democrat, I’m often tagged with the over-used and all too convenient label of liberal. However, like so many other Americans, I don’t swing in either the far-right or far-left field, but somewhere closer to the left of center, where individual liberty, a humanitarian-based ethos, and common sense prevail.
There’s no liberty in being a debt-ridden nation, or a nation whose citizens are steeped in debt. There’s nothing humane in provoking war, especially with weaker countries, and leaving future generations to pay the social and financial costs of that war.
There’s no liberty or humanity in making health care inaccessible to millions of Americans, or in adding to the financial burdens of the poor through unreasonable insurance, lending, and employment practices.
There was a lack of common sense during the Bush administration that seemed to have a green light effect on corporate greed and impracticality. The grab-it-and-go period of banks, corporations, oil companies, and manufacturers has left Americans strapped with high housing costs, the necessity of higher taxes, and for many in the middle and lower classes, a bleak economic future.
I’m not over being mad, and probably won’t be in my lifetime, but I’m hinging my hopes on the 2008 election and trusting that other fed-up Americans from all parties will step up to the plate and vote this country into brighter days.