Don’t tell me there’s not a class divide in America. I learned that lesson when I was ten years old. I had a little business at a cattle auction barn in a small town in central Texas. My Mom made sandwiches—pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken salad, and ham and cheese—every Saturday morning and I would pedal my bike out to the edge of town and sell to ranchers who had come for the auction.
The owner let me use a little room that had once been a snack bar, and I made coffee, kept a small cooler box with soft drinks, bought some candy bars to resell. The snack bar had not been used in years and the ranchers were thrilled to see me get it back up and running.
After I added homemade pies to my menu and started grossing about $100 (a lot of money back then) each Saturday, the owner kicked me out and began operating the snack bar himself. It was a clear cut case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting a kick in the seat of the pants.
Only once in my life have I made it to the fringes of the middle class, and I had to leave the country to do that. When I returned to the States, I found that jobs I was expertly qualified to do only went to a clique of the upper middle class or friends and relatives of the wealthy.
Now even the middle class is dwindling. Because of the greed and unscrupulous behavior of a few, homes are being foreclosed on and jobs are as scarce as hens’ teeth. There are more homeless people in the country than at any time since the (other) Great Depression.
The madness in Washington right now is a farce beyond anything that ever crossed the stage at the Commedia dell’arte. “Don’t renew the Bush tax cuts for the middle and lower classes. Let them eat cake.” “Don’t tax the rich. They create jobs.” Really? Where? Are many of the jobs created (if they are) better than minimum wage?
The idea of “trickle down economics” is the equivalent of Marie Antoinette’s infamous line, “Let them eat cake.” The rich get richer and richer while the rest of society keeps sliding into hopelessness. Nobody needs to live in a $20-million house. Or even a $10-million one, for that matter. Nobody needs or deserves multi-million-dollar salaries for sitting in a million dollar office and taking excursions in the company jet. Nobody deserves “golden parachutes” when they exit a company they ran into the ground.
Nobody deserves billions of dollars unless they give back to the people whose blood, sweat, and tears made them billionaires in the first place. And that giving must be genuine—not just a tax break or a photo op to receive the unmerited praise of others.