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The rich and the rest of us

Just a thought

August 17, 2011
I read an article in one of the national newspapers the other day about how so many people in New York were sending their kids to summer camp on private jets. The story went on to say that, at one camp, more than 40 private jets landed at a nearby airport, each one dropping off a kid for camp.

There was also a story about a couple who spent $240,000 on a backyard playhouse for their daughter. And there's a guy in Missouri who is building a home the size of a castle with about 70,000 square feet of living space.

Then, if you read any of the big papers from New York, Chicago or Washington, D.C., and look at the ads, you'll see things like silk sandals from Saks Fifth Avenue that sell for $1,195, or women's calfskin platform shoes for $895. At Tiffany's, you can buy a small gold pendant on sale for $700, or there are numerous ads for men's wristwatches that sell for $2,500 to $10,300.

According to one article, Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat with a $9,010 price tag. Neiman Marcus has sold out of Christian Louboutin "Bianca" platform pumps at $775 a pair. Mercedes-Benz sold more cars last month in the United States than it had in years. Sales of its S-Class sedans, which sell for as high as $200,000, have increased almost 14 percent. Creme de la Mer facial cream used to sell for $1,350 for 16 ounces at Bergdorf Goodman but now costs $1,650. The same store offers a Gucci coat for $11,950.

My question — and I'm sure one of yours — is who can afford to buy these things? Who can afford to send their kid to summer camp in a private jet? Who can afford to pay $20,000 a month for an apartment in Manhattan?

Obviously, most of us don't know — and will probably never know — the people who have that kind of money to spend. But they're out there, in numbers that warrant Saks Fifth Avenue spending huge amounts of money to advertise $1,195 silk sandals. They must expect to sell several pairs of them.

This day and age, when most of us have had to tighten our belts, it's hard to believe that some people have so much. It's hard to believe that people like former Congressman Newt Gingrich has an open account of up to $500,000 at Tiffany's, when so many of us have a hard time just paying for groceries at the JayC store.

You know, I have nothing against the rich, but it's certainly hard to understand why there is such a wide gap between the haves and the have-nots and why the middle class, which my father's generation worked so hard to create, is falling by the wayside and has become the enemy of big business and the Republican party. But what I do understand now is that they are done with us, the American worker. They want the 25-cents-an-hour payrolls they can get in third-world countries. They don't need us anymore, and we are now considered a burden.

We only want decent pay for the time and skill we give them. We want safe working conditions. We want to be able to live a respectful life once we're too old to contribute. And we want our children to have, at least, the same opportunities and hope we had while growing up.

But those are things we were able to demand when they needed us. Our fathers organized and formed unions, developed a voice and demanded a fair wage and good working conditions. And together, the working middle-class and business made this the richest country on the face of the earth.

And, at least, some of those riches were shared. In the 1960s, '70s and '80s, subdivisions sprang up around every major city and town as workers could afford good housing. Stores and mini-malls were built at almost every intersection to accommodate the needs of those communities. Even people without a good education could afford to raise a family on factory jobs. If they were willing to work hard, people could find a job.

But I'm afraid those are things of the past. Schools flourished back then and turned out the current business owners and politicians who are now turning on them, breaking teachers' unions, cutting funding to public schools and diverting money to private (business-owned) charter schools and claiming that the schools that educated them are broken. Unions have become enemy No. 1 for big business and, like in Indiana, the Republicans are working overtime to make sure they are beaten down or rendered ineffective, taking away any voice workers had, with laws which are now being written, not by the state representatives, but by big business-funded, behind-the-scenes groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council. And that's just on a state level. God only knows who's really writing policy on a national level. But one thing is perfectly clear, those policies and laws never favor the middle class, and it has caught up with us.

And what do we do now? Well, it looks to me as if we have turned on each other and the fight for the left-over crumbs is getting more vicious each day. We rant and rave because someone is still getting a nice pension. We resent our fellow workers in Detroit because they make a little more money than someone else, even though they fought automakers tooth and nail for years to get those wages. And, somehow, politicians have convinced us that our lives will be better if those Detroit workers get less. Or, if we kill the teachers' unions and the pensions of public workers, we will all be so happy and everything will be so hunky-dory. What's amazing to me is that so many people are gullible enough to believe it.

So, when you pull into the gas station next time and are forced to buy $20 worth of gas instead of $30 worth because you need the other $10 for your child's lunch money, think about the billions of dollars the oil companies made the last quarter and how they paid little-to-no taxes on that income and how the people we elected to represent us are, instead, representing them.

And don't forget about the people who are buying $10,300 wristwatches, Gucci coats for $11,950, bottles of facial cream for $1,650 and silk sandals for $1,195, for those are the people who the Republicans fight for. Those are the people who continue to benefit tremendously from the Bush tax cuts. Those are the people who, for some reason, we don't resent when they make more than us. And those are the people who live in a totally different world than us, a world where children play in $240,000 playhouses.

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    Excellent Letter!
    August 18, 2011 | 09:24 AM

    What you state is the solid truth and should be repeated, loudly, across the country.

    The United Corporation of America used to be the United States. It seems like corporations run this country and our elected officials are nothing more than puppets whose strings are pulled by lobbyists paid for by corporations and whose pockets are filled with "campaign donations" by those same corporations. What is must be like to live in decadent wealth, never to think about your fellow man. I only make about 20 grand a year and I make sure to give as much as possible to charity. What do these fat cats give? I'd guess next to nothing.

    Johnny Westridge
Schuler Bauer
Barbara Shaw
01 - 17 - 20
Bennett and Bennett Insurance
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