This just in…
In local news: My home town of Los Angeles has the absolute worst roads in the nation according to TRIP, a nonprofit that studies transportation data and issues. So as not to make those in Northern California feel left out, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose are right behind La-La-Land when it comes to hellish highways. According to a transportation expert cited in the Los Angeles Times, “Without a significant boost in transportation funding at the federal, state and local level, conditions will continue to deteriorate, drivers will continue to pay the price, and our economy will suffer.” In the meantime, the ever-resourceful and cash starved CalTrans is poised to sell kidney belts for $40 to protect drivers’ organs from the jarring impact of falling into sink holes.
In business news: California’s $2 trillion economy makes it the eighth largest economy in the world, according to the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy. That’s right. Only eight countries have a bigger economy than our state. And we don’t even declare marijuana agriculture as a line item… yet.
In national news: As this nation closed for business while Congress played a game of fiscal choke the chicken, I decided to commemorate the moment by going to the grand opening of the new Nordstrom about a mile from my home. Once there, I spied a super cool pair of $24 argyle socks and after spending another 30 minutes looking at the latest in fall footwear, I treated myself to a delicious Chinese Chicken Salad!
So why tell you about my frivolous behavior in the face of our imploding society? Well, you see, I’m a “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” kind of guy. I personally believe we are headed toward a radical shift in how our country operates and before it happens, I’d like to enjoy my last precious moments of false security.
If I had to face the truth of how things really are, I’d never set foot in Nordstrom nor would I spend money eating lunch out. Shit, I might not get out of bed. Even though I have a six figure job, I have no real security to speak of. My living expenses, like most people’s, are so high that any real hope of retirement revolves around the winning the lottery. Savings? What the hell is that? After rent, food, child support, utility bills and gas, there is only enough left for me to numb myself with occasional retail therapy, a few hours in a decent restaurant or a couple of Ketel One martinis. I have no false hope that denying myself of a few good meals now will magically add up to a nest egg that I can use to enjoy the proverbial “golden years.”
That is the great lie.
For a couple of years now, I’ve been hearing about the 1% and the 99% and feeling like a complete outcast. I don’t fit into either. I belong to a miniscule sliver of society more appropriately identified as the 2%. I have no scientific basis for the percentage. It’s merely a guess as to what is left of the middle class – once prosperous and now facing extinction.
We in the 2% pay our bills. We eat in decent restaurants. We go on modest vacations a couple of times a year. We carry shiny iPhones to distract us. And we live just a couple of clicks above “paycheck-to-paycheck.”
I do realize I have it better than 98%. I’m only partially in denial. That said, the divide between my 2% and that 1% is still cavernous. Because of this chasm, I find myself watching events like government shutdowns and eroding highways with morose amusement and anticipation for the day when enough people tire of the imbalance and demand real change from the hypocrisy that is our two party system of interest groups and lobbyists.
What that change will be I have no idea. But I believe with every fiber of my being that it is coming sooner rather than later. Congress is actively crippling the truly needy and creating a caste system within our democracy where there is no chance whatsoever of moving up. By sentencing most of the population to a miserable existence, it can only be a matter of time before those people, who had their food stamps cut off and their ability to get health insurance yanked away, wake up and form a non-regulated, well-armed militia compliments of the NRA. It’s going to happen. You know it. I know it. I think Congress knows it.
It’s as though we are living out the final minutes of “Apocalypse Now” where Colonel Kurtz facilitates the inevitability of his own assassination even though he could avoid it. It’s madness.
My own radical notions would have California seceding from the union first, taking with us our gigantic economy, technology, entertainment, agriculture, ports and liberal thinking to use for our own people. I’m tired of sending money to our federal government while I drive on shitty roads that have no chance of getting fixed because Congress can’t get its shit together. I don’t want to fund ass backwards states that believe in the principals of tea-bagging nutjobs.
I want the hope back. I want to believe my future includes the possibility of retirement instead of the fear that one day I’ll just prefer suicide to poverty.
Bottom line is this: My lifestyle is by no means extravagant. Yes, I make decent money at my primary job. But for the last four years, I’ve had a second job just to ensure that I don’t incur debt, which I would, were it not for the additional income. And for three of those four years, I had three jobs. With that in mind, the current cost of living has provided me no real sense of long-term financial security. Our government officials care less and less about the welfare of the people they are supposed to be serving and more and more about the profitability of the corporate entities they idolize.
So I sit on the border, smack dab between the 1% and what most people call the 99%. I wait for the shoe to drop. I eat my salad. I drink my martinis until the day we reach critical mass and decide enough is enough. When that happens, I’ll exchange my blue argyle socks for the appropriate revolutionary camouflage gear. Count me in.
Like I said, “Smoke ’em if you got ‘em!”
For now, I’m over and out.