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Thread: Making it

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    Elite Member JamieElizabeth's Avatar
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    Making It

    Opinion Editorial by John Stossel - May 8, 2009 14 ratings from readers
    Even before the current recession, politicians and pundits were constantly wringing their hands about the "demise of the middle class." But is the middle class really struggling?


    I’m sick of hearing that America is no longer a land of opportunity.
    Even before the current recession, politicians and pundits were constantly wringing their hands about the “demise of the middle class.”

    “Middle class families are struggling,” President Barack Obama kept saying on the campaign trail.

    Lou Dobbs hammers away at this night after night: “What’s left of our middle class may be on the verge of collapse.”

    And author Barbara Ehrenreich won fame by claiming that it’s almost impossible for an entry-level worker to make it in America. She wrote Nickel and Dimed, a book that describes her failure to “make it” working in entry-level jobs.

    Her book is now required reading in thousands of high schools and colleges. I spoke to her for my ABC special “Bailouts, Big Spending and Bull.”
    “I worked as a waitress and an aide in a nursing home and a cleaning lady and a Wal-Mart associate. And that didn’t do it.”

    If you do a good job, can’t you move up?

    “That’s not easy. Wal-Mart capped the maximum you can ever make.” But if you do a good job, you could be promoted to assistant manager, store manager.
    “Well, I suppose.”

    I pointed out that the new CEO of Wal-Mart, Mike Duke, started out as an hourly worker.
    “There are always exceptions,” she said. “My father worked his way up and became corporate executive. But that was a one-in-a-million situation.”

    Oh, yeah?
    “I read Nickel and Dimed,” Adam Shepard told me. He was assigned her book in college and decided to test Ehrenreich’s claim.

    He picked a city out of a hat, Charleston, S.C., and showed up there with $25. He didn’t tell anyone about his college degree. He soon got an $8/hour job working for a moving company. He kept at it. Within a year, he told me, “I have got $5,500 and a car. I have got a furnished apartment.”

    Adam writes about his search for the American Dream in Scratch Beginnings. It’s a very different book from Nickel and Dimed.
    “If you want to fail, go for it, “ he said.
    Barbara Ehrenreich wanted to fail?

    “Absolutely, I think she wanted to fail — and write the book about it.”
    I asked him for evidence.

    “She is spending $40 on pants. She is staying in hotels. I made sacrifices so that I could succeed. She didn’t make any sacrifices.”

    I asked Ehrenreich: Why can he do it, when you couldn't? "I know, it's embarrassing."
    Were you trying to fail?

    “I think that is so unfair. The $40 pants, that was a big mistake, and that was one mistake I made early on. The motels, that’s not a rich person option.”
    You could have succeeded if you’d gotten a roommate.
    “In time, yes, I could have gotten roommates.”

    You’re saying you can’t make it in America in these jobs. And you can.
    “I said, here’s what my experience was.”

    Her account of her experience is a very misleading portrait of opportunity in America. American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks points out, “From 1950 to 2007, middle-class family income went up, in real dollars, adjusted for inflation, from $29,000 a year to $75,000.”

    Of course now we’re in the midst of a recession. Millions have lost jobs.
    “We can’t make light of that. But we have to keep this in perspective. We’ve had worse recessions.” Perspective is right.

    “Middle-class people today live like rich people lived in the 1950s.” “We’ve always said, ‘But in the old days things were better,’” Brooks notes. “They said that in the 1920s. They said that in the 1950s, and we say it again today.

    “It’s not that we have less money. It’s that our expectations have risen.” Lately, fear has risen, as the economy has fallen. But economies do recover.

    “We have a society that rewards hard work and merit,” Brooks adds. “Half of the poor actually are not poor 10 years later. Nobody is stuck where they start out.”

    Making It - Ayn Rand Admirers at The Atlasphere

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    This guy is such a dickhead. The mustache alone tells you that. Actually, according to Miss Cali's dad that mustache proves he's gay. And no, people aren't weak suckling babies for not being able to live and get ahead on 8 bucks an hour.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Elite Member WhoAmI's Avatar
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    Obviously the guy who did the experiment didn't have any medical or dental problems during the year he saved $5500. Dental problems will cost you big time.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    He most likely didn't eat, buy clothes, drink anything but water, use any heat...
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    I do agree with the general notion that many Americans are not accustomed to making sacrifices.

    But overall, the article is a crock of shit. And Stossel is a hack with very little journalistic credibility.

    Also, if we are talking about the plight of American families in the middle class, and this guy was single and without children, we are talking about 2 different things. When you have a family, you need to make sure you have decent health insurance, live in an area where there are adequate or good public schools, and a multitude of other considerations. When you are single, there are numerous ways you can cut corners and risks you can take that would be foolish and irresponsible if you had children.

    I think it is somewhat reasonable for that guy to write a book comparing his own experiences to those of Eisenreich's, but not for Stossel to generalize those experiences to the problems of middle-class families.

    Those numbers regarding real income have been quoted here in the past and discussed. You can find 20 other economists of greater stature who can pick apart those numbers and tell you why they do not tell the whole story. My own personal experience tells me those numbers are bullshit.
    Last edited by BBDSP; May 9th, 2009 at 10:23 PM.

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    Elite Member mrs.v's Avatar
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    I've always hated this Stossel douche.
    eat a hot bowl of dicks.

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    Elite Member Penny Lane's Avatar
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    Porn 'stache. Says it all, really.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    as soon as i see the link says 'ayn rand' MEGO
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


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    Elite Member ManxMouse's Avatar
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    As soon as I see that guy's smug face, I know it's gonna be some poorly researched hack job that just exists to be all self-righteous and rile people up.
    Santa is an elitist mother fucker -- giving expensive shit to rich kids and nothing to poor kids.

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    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    I agree about the income figures being questionable. And coming up with figures on families' incomes going up in real dollars is MEANINGLESS if the amazing escalation of their expenses isn't calculated, too.

    Sorry, but where I live, housing prices rose several hundred per-freaking-cent in less than a decade, with no significant rise in incomes. As another person mentioned, medical expenses are through the roof. Gas, groceries, services, higher education ... costs are very, very high. And credit companies and mortgage lenders are allowed to charge usurious rates.

    Also, people who rose in class in the 19th and 20th centuries did so during a time of unprecedented economic expansion. We're currently in a state of contraction.

    An anecdote: My husband works in education. We met working at a private school. (Now he works in a public charter school, same method of education.) The tuition at the school we worked in is more than double what it was ten years ago. The school's families used to be regular middle-class people who chose what they believed to be a better kind of education. Now the incoming families are mostly incredibly wealthy. We've been seeing this occur across the board at private schools. We know an economist who says he himself cannot afford for his kids the same kind of private-school education he had growing up, even though his parents were middle-class and he is middle-class.

    My point is that these schools are increasingly for the elite, and only for the elite. They used to be within reach of many people.

    And that's just one area of huge shifts in our society.
    Posted from my fucking iPhone

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    Agree about the education costs.

    A year of tuition for my daughter at a private university will cost ONE-THIRD of me and my husband's COMBINED income.

    When I went to a tier-1 private university, my tuition was ONE-TWELFTH of my father's income. (My mom was a SAHM, as were most mothers then.)

    Think about it: one-third vs. one-twelfth

    My dad went to law school on the GI bill and he also benefited from GI bill housing loans. Our mortgage on a house in La Jolla was $300/month, FFS.

    You can't just look at incomes without factoring in other things. Even the fact that household incomes NOW typically reflect both parents working--that means paying for childcare, higher food expenses (no one at home cooking), people are more likely to pay for services like laundry and house cleaners, etc. etc.

    Not the same at all. What a douche-baggy article by the kind of douche-baggery himself. Why he still has a job I will never know.

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    Elite Member lurkur's Avatar
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    Wow, if a young, strong, educated, untethered, healthy, white man can make it in South Carolina, obviously anyone can achieve the American dream!

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    ^^Yeah, I was having this discussion with my bigoted asshole dad one time and he was all blowhard "I could get off the bus anywhere in this country and find a job and make something of myself". I was like, yeah, but you're a white man. Try being a woman, or a non-white woman. What are your options? Waffle House? Walmart? Imagine you have no savings, no car. Imagine if you have even one kid. That $8 an hour doesn't cut it at all.

    I saw this TV special for Nickel and Dimed. It showed this woman working at a dry cleaners in Las Vegas. She worked the night shift and she took her toddler son down to an all-night daycare. She would pick him up asleep, sit at the busstop with him lying on her lap asleep, and ride the bus home with him every night. They lived in a motel. My heart broke for her and her son. I wanted to help, so I tracked her down at work and called her. They said she didn't work there anymore and didn't know what happened to her. I hope a kind person saw the special like I did and gave her a better job.

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    I found one of my husband's old check stubs the other day, from 1995. $35.00 for medical AND dental FAMILY coverage.

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