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Saving the mythical middle class

In Economy, history, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics on February 1, 2016 at 9:38 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGODuring the post-war euphoria of the 1950s, Americans were convinced of a concept that has carried through into the next century. The “middle class” was a figment of someone’s imagination – probably a politician – and sold to the public as the ideal life. But the idea of a middle class has become as mythological as the Leave It To Beaver universe that created it.

As the presidential election year kicks into high gear, saving the dying middle class will be the subject of countless speeches. But how do you preserve something that no longer exists, if it ever did at all? The truth is, you can’t.

But who is the middle class? As it turns out, there is no consistent definition of this mythical group. Depending on the source, the middle class can be defined in a number of ways, from economical status to age and race demographics. So when you hear a politician spout off the words, “middle class,” the context is vital, otherwise it’s meaningless.

According to CNNMoney.com, one definition by the Pew Research Center is based on income. It lists the middle class as those Americans who earn between $46,900 and $140,900. Another marker has to do with aspirations.

Most people who consider themselves middle class want to own a home, send their kids to college, have proper healthcare and investment savings, a car, vacations, and so on. Obviously, that means that the money has to exist to make any of that a possibility so we’re back to financial definitions once again.

Photo courtesy NBC News

Photo courtesy NBC News

The simple fact of it is the concept of the middle class is a myth; a myth we have all been trapped into believing to the point of mass hysteria. The American dream does exist, but it’s far less detailed than we’ve been taught over the last 70 years or so, and it’s not as tied to the middle class as once thought.

Between the American dream and the middle class, I’d much rather focus on the former; at least I know it’s ambiguous and depends on my own efforts, choices and aspirations. The American dream is different for each person.

Yours might be to own a bookstore while your neighbor’s may simply be to be healthy and happy in his or her own way. But trying to be part of the middle class has done countless families harm over the years, struggling to “keep up with the Joneses,” and fighting the never ending war to amass “stuff” so as to appear successful.

As a political hot button, the idea that the middle class is suffering provides unlimited opportunity to yank at the heartstrings of conservatives. Liberals don’t seem to care as much about it. It all goes back to that subliminal mental tie-in between the middle class and the American dream.

The question remains, how do politicians evoke emotion over a group that doesn’t actually exist? Or, stated more correctly, a group that encompasses so many different kinds of people as to eliminate any particular demographic. Actually, it’s easier than you might think.

If politicians can keep that apple pie imagery flowing and preach doom and gloom over its demise, people will flock to the polls to protect it by voting for them. It’ll have the same effect as the anti-communist films of the 1950s and 60s depicting a family on a nice summer picnic when suddenly the nuclear bombs start dropping. Destroy the middle class and America dies.

But, once again, it’s impossible to destroy what doesn’t exist. The middle class is defined by whoever wants to use it to their benefit, to push their agenda. Oddly, I’d say the middle class is more about a state of mind of the individual than actual numbers.

We all just want to be normal, average Americans in similar status to our neighbors so we can relate to each other. In the end, I think we all just want to be financially stable and happy with our lives.

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Do your homework before voting this election.

In Jobs, National News, Opinion, Politics, State News, Uncategorized on September 29, 2014 at 11:26 am

DIH LOGOHere we are in election season again, when liberals and conservatives alike spend millions of dollars trying to convince voters to either keep them in office or replace the incumbent.  As always, when they’re not kissing your baby, they’re stealing his lollypop. With so many candidates running who are essentially, “the lesser of who cares,” how will you decide at the ballot box?

A common theme of election strategies is the tired old, “let’s bash the other guy,” method, which is exactly as it sounds. In the months and weeks preceding the election, voters are inundated with television commercials, fliers and post cards all declaring the treachery of the opposing candidate, regardless of the validity of the claims. The goal is to “scare” you away from that candidate for fear he or she will bring about the end of democracy as we know it.

Another popular method of political marketing is the “two chickens in every pot” promise. The goal here is to simply convince you that no matter how you are living now, vote for “me” and I’ll make your life better, and the themes follow trends.

In the years following 9/11, for example, candidates promised better homeland security. After the recession hit, they promised banking reform and more jobs. In reality, however, politicians have little to do with any of that.

When you read about a lower unemployment rate, chances are it’s because many jobless simply stopped reporting their status or benefits have run out. Unemployment numbers fluctuate, organically, not because some politician changed the face of the workforce with the swath of a pen. Please try to keep this in mind: government does not, has not, and never will create jobs in the real world. Regardless of how much they hype job-creating policies, no politician can create jobs in private industry.

Probably the most famous photo of Truman. (Photo by W. Eugene Smith//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Probably the most famous photo of Truman. (Photo by W. Eugene Smith//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

In fact, the majority of political interference just impedes business and slows workforce development – unless you have a nice, fat check to send them at election time. Then you get all the help you want until your money runs out.

The rest of the time, business owners must contend with the result of what these self-serving bureaucrats do best. Invasive regulations, ever-increasing taxes and other legislative roadblocks usually just muck up the works and prevent small businesses from growing – or hiring.

Local government interference can make things even worse, because that’s where the real decisions are made. When local politicians have a “pal” in a particular industry and a competitor comes in to try to set up shop, it can be harder to get official processes pushed through, like location approvals, licensing, and so on. It does happen, and far more often than you might think.

What gets even more annoying is the level to which some politicians try to convince people they are “regular folks,” when most of them are millionaires many times over. Great examples are Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Congressman John Boehner, and many of their compatriots, on both sides of the aisle, each of whom are super-wealthy and many up for re-election. None of them have a clue what it would be like to have to survive paycheck to paycheck like so many of their constituents.

Whatever the ploy, a politician is a business selling a product in the same way that any company would try to get you to buy their brand of soap or corn flakes. It’s all marketing, and knowing that people make political decisions emotionally rather than based on any logic or facts, the more frightening the ad campaign the better.

The same goes for choosing to approve or deny the various ballot issues. Just because they send kids to bang on your door with big sad eyes and a long sad tale of how the children will suffer without passing a tax increase (while the kid has no idea what they’re shilling for, because they’re kids), that doesn’t mean you should pull vote “yes.”

Best advice, ignore the advertisements. If every voter did a little homework on the candidates and issues instead of voting a party line or from fear or guilt, there would be a marked improvement in the quality of our leadership.
The Jamestown Comet.com editor / publisher, Gery L. Deer, is an independent columnist and business writer. More at gerydeer.com.