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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Shame in being in the 99

There's plenty of discussion about why our wealth distribution is so uneven; whether we should change it; and how we could accomplish that.

I would like to discuss why some people reject the very idea. Why do many want to refuse to admit being in the 99?

Remember The Usual Suspects? "The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn't exist." Not quite that - but something along those lines --- the 1% has convinced the 99% that being in the 99% means you're a lazy no-good do-nothing.

That's not what being the 99% means. It means a lot of things. It means as many things as it means to be an American. Or a Human.

I'm not quite sure how to fix this misunderstanding. I think sharing our stories is a good start. I've really enjoyed the "I am the 99%" letters I've seen out there. The ones that seem to get the most attention are the really dire stories. That's understandable. Unfortunately, I think it plays into the perception that "I can't be part of the 99%! That's not like me!" There are many shades of gray between the saddest stories and the 1%.

For example: there's me ---
I have a good job, with great benefits.
My husband also has a good job.
We have a nice home, reliable vehicles, good health, and money left over to go out sometimes & take occasional trips.
We live within our means, and we're very happy.
I don't have it rough at all. I never did.
I had good luck, AND I worked hard.

Good luck and hard work are not mutually exclusive. Would I have worked hard enough to overcome bad luck? I'm always left without an answer to that question. My fear is - no.

There are also shades of gray between the Occupy movements & class warfare. And EVEN more gray between what the present situation & socialism.

4 comments:

  1. I haven't seen the posts where people are ashamed to be in the 99%. I have seen the posts where people are holding up signs of how much school debt they have and complaining they have no jobs. That generally really irritates me. My family and I immigrated to this country not speaking English. My parents worked hard, did not always have good luck but we were grateful for the opportunities available here. My mother cleaned houses when she needed grocery money early on in our life here (I remember b/c I helped). I know I would do the same for our family if necessary. If my parents can achieve what they have when arriving to the US in their 30's not speaking a lick of English, then I don't want to hear anyone else who had the benefit of growing up in this wonderful country complaining. I am so proud of what my parents have achieved.

    You make a very key point - you live within your means. We do, too. I think many people do not. Heck, I work at a rent-to-own company which shall remain nameless where out customers cannot manage their budget and handle monthly payments and have to go to weekly payment plans! Yet they have a newer and bigger TV than I do. Go figure, maybe that's why they're in the 99%.

    OK I'll get off my soap box now but this is a very touchy subject for me.

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  2. First off, no worries about being on a soapbox. This IS a touchy subject, and that IS what the internet is for (esp blogs)!
    Your irritation with the other posts is a big reason I wanted to write this post. I think it's important to realize that many successful people also fall into the 99%. It's not all sad stories of terrible bad health or having to work below your education level.
    I think it's phenomenal what your parents accomplished. My parents did have the benefit of being born here. They moved from a tiny town where they knew everyone to a "big city" where they knew about 3 people - all so my brother & I could go to better schools. Nowhere near what your parents had to cope with, but it did set me up with considerably more opportunities than they had growing up.
    I think an important point about what our parents' generation in general was able to accomplish is just how much income/wealth distribution has changed in the past 20 or 30 years.
    I don't know whether you'll find this a compelling analogy, but I like it --- If this were Monopoly with 100 players, and 1 started out with 40% of the properties, would the other 99 have any chance of winning?

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  3. My parents saved my financial situation. I left undergrad and grad school without one cent in debt. I am forever grateful for that and hope to be able to do the same for Lily - that's why I'm still working when I wanted to stay home with her after she was born. Choices.

    As for the analogy, the other players wouldn't have a large chance of winning, but they still have a chance if they play it right. Would you suggest that player give some of those properties away? I do not see that as a viable option. What's the motivation for the other players, then? It has been probably 2 decades since I played monopoly, but a lot is due to chance, no? What card you draw and so forth? An individual's personal financial situation is not tied to chance alone. It is tied to their choices.

    I am glad our parents both made the right choices for us! I have to say, I do miss tiny farm life in Poland. Everyone knew each other and that was hard to leave behind.

    I am curious to see what, if anything, will result from all these occupy WallStreet protests are going to go. Maybe they should focus on occupy Congress first :)

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  4. I haven't played Monopoly in over 20 years. I always played with my brother. He was 3 years older, and he always won. At the time, I would probably have taken a handout, but - no, I don't think he should have given me one.
    In Life (real life, not the game), I think some people are at such a disadvantage that even the best choices can't drag them out. Or - maybe they don't have anyone to teach them good choices, like we did.
    I'd say it was awfully good luck for me to be born to my family.
    I don't need to see perfectly equal wealth distribution. I'd just like to see us funding programs that level the playing field a bit - like good public schools in low income areas and affordable health care.

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