One of My Favorite Quotes: "Anger is the Energy That Evokes Action. Action Is the Energy That Evokes Changes."
I wrote this in response to an email from a friend but I thought I'd share my portion of the conversation:
In 1993, Bonnie and I took another Epic Road Trip that lasted 19 months. We were selling home decor crafts to stores the way we sell jewelry now. Clinton was newly elected and money was flowing. We sold to tourist areas in the mountains and beaches and to regular towns and cities. At that time there were droves of Asians with cameras in every store and store owners were pulling their hair out because they were coming through and buying nothing but photographing everything. Every piece of merchandise in every store. Smart people knew something was up but nobody could really figure out what. The economy wasn't bad - in fact, it was good. Gas was cheap and people could afford to take vacations, retired people could afford to Snow Bird, etc...
At this same time, WalMart (an Arkansas based corporation who heavily funded the Clinton Presidential campaign), was booming. They were opening stores in every little Main Street community and people were excited to "have a big city store" in their small town. Gift boutiques that we had regularly sold to began going to WalMart to buy merchandise to sell in their stores "to their country customers who weren't smart enough to know where they got it from". And they got a way with it for a while because WalMart stores were still fairly sparse by todays comparison, so if they drove 50 or 100 miles and resold the same merchandise for 2 or 3 or 5 times profit, then lucky them! Or so they thought.
Well, also while Clinton was in office he opened up Free Trade with China which made our economy even stronger. We thought. When he did that though, American manufacturers began shutting down - first a trickle....... then in droves. So all of the "Buy American" campaigning that was going on in Walmart stores and everywhere else at that time came to an eventual halt..........although Clinton was out of office before it totally ceased so a lot of people only remembered cheap gas, nice vacations, and money flowing. For the record, I loved the Clinton's at that time too.
During all of this, as Walmart emerged in every Main Street American town, Main Street American folded. People who had been excited and eager to "run to Walmart" with their daily profits or their weekly paycheck, eventually found themselves out of business and out of work because WalMart could beat them on every angle and even if they couldn't, they beat them to the draw on whatever money people had to spend and there was "really no reason to go anywhere else." Shops, stores, businesses of every kind folded and eventually people left those small towns in search of jobs elsewhere, or they would up working for the only store in town (Walmart) at minimum wage, minimum hours, and relying on social services to provide what Walmart was required to in terms of healthcare, or enough pay to feed a family.
Cut to George Junior, and well, he's just a flaky dumb drunk bastard. No, I don't like the Bush's. He did great things for the economy in Texas and it overflowed to New Mexico and maybe a few isolated places where his family has personal financial interests. That wealth came at the expense of people in 49 other states who struggled to maintain jobs, mortgages, etc... under any number of things that fueled the Bush family's personal interests. I do see why people in Texas don't see what everyone else see's about George Bush but I have a feeling they're about to get a big giant dose of it and will probably blame Obama. I don't like Obama either! And for that matter, I don't like Oprah!
I will admit, Bonnie and I lived in California for ten years and we lost perspective on the rest of the country during those years. In 2006 we left and we've pretty much been gypsying our way East to West ever since - three years now on another Epic Road Trip. What's different? What's changed?
Americans, for starters. In 1990 - our first road trip that lasted 12 months and was primarily centered in Texas and New Mexico, people worked. Stores were open 6 days a week from 9-6. Store owners could be found early in the morning and long after closing every single day. The store owners of fancy shops weren't prissing around like primadona's on a throne. They were always the ones in work clothes, doing manual labor, fix store displays, cleaning, helping customers, unpacking freight, etc... 21 years and a generation later and stores are rarely open 30 hours a week. Usually Tue-Fri 10-5 and "maybe" a couple of hours on Saturday. Even with that they rarely show up on time, never leave a minute late, regularly close the entire store for an hour lunch, and often take more than the hour. They also very often close to pick their kids up from school or run household errands. And when we do find them, they CONSTANTLY COMPLAIN that they aren't making ends meet. Well no shit!!! And I say, "You probably ought to extend your hours. People who have jobs and make money can't shop here because you aren't open on their lunch hour, or the weekend, or after 5 o'clock." Answer almost 100% of the time, "Oh I'm sure that's not it. People who are rich don't work." And I think to myself but I don't say it, "How many rich people come in here then?" I don't have to say it. They're out of business before they ever start.
Americans are lazy and rude. It's absolutely utterly true. We go in stores all the time, as a seller and as a customer, when owners and employees are too busy playing whatever computer game has seduced them to say "hello", "may I help you", even just smile. I've had store owners who were complaining about their buisness revenue and writing me hot checks, leave our business meetings to go farm their Farmville farm. I'm not kidding you!
Too many Americans settle for failure! Disability * Unemployment * Food Stamps * or any other hand outs are FAILURE! If you don't have a job and can't get a job, then go do something to market yourself to contribute positively to society, your family, yourself. Good freakin' grief!!! I can think of TOO MANY people that I personally know who are milking the system because probably they're in an intimate relationship with their XBox. If my 73 year old mother can do what she does every single day then I don't know a living soul who shouldn't be utterly ashamed to be living on government hand outs.
In addition to all of this, in the Bush Years that we were away and also the Clinton years prior to that, a lot of things with regard to employment laws changed. It has become no longer financially viable for businesses to hire full time employees so an average work week for most people has been drastically reduced from 40+ hours per week to somewhere slightly above 20. This was true for us in California too, and the California model was to supplement the hours with unemployment pay and/or whatever government assitance was available. Apparently that has become the model of new generation. For Bonnie and I it just meant we always worked 2 and 3 jobs. Not to mention having multiple at home and online businesses. It's largely an issue of what effort people are willing to go do and what they're willing to settle for. In offices where I had 2 or 3 jobs, at every single one of them I was surrounded by co-workers who thought I had it easy and passed that off on some favoritism. It wasn't favoritism, I had 2 or 3 additional incomes. It even came up at work on a few occasions that I should defer my own pay raises or bonuses "since I had it easier than everyone else." And with that kind of pettiness, you wonder why I would just rather be off doing my own thing.
Additionally, we are no longer a leading agricultural based economy. We're also not a manufacturing based economy. And well, not technology either. During the Bush Years that we were away, all of the technology and service jobs were outsourced to other countries. We've become leaders and adding hormones to our food supply - so much that our exported food in now banned in many countries. I even do my best to avoid eating American food. There's a reason so many of us look like the People of Walmart. Remember back when we all thought Roseanne Barr was the fattest thing we'd ever seen? I look at those re-runs now and think she looks better then than a lot of people do today. It's frightening.
With Free Trade now open with China, we are no longer a manufacturing based economy. We can compete with quality but not the price. And honestly, a large population of Americans don't give a shit as long as they have the biggest tv on the block and most be-spangled ass in the state of Texas, they don't give a rats ass what the quality is or where it came from.
We also don't necessarily own our own wind, water, and mineral rights any longer. I do see wells pumping like crazy from North Dakota to South Texas, and people get giddy and excited at the site of it. I remember the days when wells pumping meant money was flowing but money is no longer flowing in those areas where the wells are pumping at full capacity. Why? The revenue from those mineral rights is not going directly into the communities like they used to which means the land owners no longer own the mineral, wind, and water rights, or the landowners don't live in this country anymore.
And then the myriad of little problems from community to community that collectively paint a broad and frightening picture. From the "California" dairies that have drained the water table and financial resources of communities from New Mexico, Texas though the upper Midwest and are still traveling selling their same medicine show of "good paying jobs, good benefits, financial viability to the community" to the "California" hog farms that are selling the same Medicine Show in Iowa, Oklahoma, and beyond. Same sales pitch - same results. They make big promies and they arrive with foreign workers, contribute nothing financially to the community that is positive and drain all the resources and move on again and again and again and again. The wind farms, which are little more than a new version of the old Walmart story. Our government is spending money to improve highways and roads to accomodate the vehicles it takes to haul in this equipmenet, nobody locally is gaining financially from it (not working people for sure), and guess what?.............when they get this all in place they're going to be selling our wind back to us in the form of electricity at whatever price they set. Or let's just say, gas was 90-cents a gallon when Clinton was in office and $4.00+ a gallon with Obama in office. Water will be no exception if the water table is continually drained from community to community the way we are hearing it is. And the fracking! The freaking fracking!! What will that do to the water table?
The honest to God truth of the matter is, our government has screwed working class people over. And yes, even if you do have a membership to some small town, trailer trash excuse for a Country Club, you're probably in the overall perspective of things, still working class. That is, if you work. If your ski trips are courtesy of "church missions"........that's just another hand-out. You're not really royalty. You're delusional. But the reality of this is, if we do nothing for ourselves, then we've settled for failure. Turn off Candy Crush - read a book. Turn off Honey Boo Boo - read a book. Instead of buying another expensive computer game - buy a new software program and learn how to use it.
I'm one to preach, I know. I have very little materially. I guess I've never been a materially driven person. Our house burned when I was 19 and I realized how quickly one could lose every single thing. It was a pivotal point in life because when you've lost everything, you have everything to gain. I started putting my money and my time into reading, learning, and unintentionally traveling. I have made exceptionally good money at times in my life but I have always re-invested it in books, software, education, and life - theatre, symphony, travel. I may have nothing to show for it but then again, when we all die, we all take nothing with us anyway.
You ask, "We are in trouble. I see it everyday at work....you just say it better than I do! How or when will it be fixed?" I answer, It will be fixed when we fix it and if we don't, it won't.
Just after I published this piece, a friend shared a compelling Facebook post on this same subject matter. Thank you James Gallini.
"There are now 11 states that have more people on government assistance than are working. Last month, the Senate Budget Committee reports that in fiscal year 2012, between food stamps, housing support, child care, Medicaid and other benefits, the average U.S. Household below the poverty line received $168.00 a day in government support. The median household income in America is just over $50,000,which averages out to $137.13 a day. To put it another way, being on welfare now pays the equivalent of $30.00 an hour for a 40-hour week, while the average job pays $20.00 an hour. This is unsustainable...thank you republicrats and multi-national corporations for turning our country into a service industry with few incentives and opportunities for upward mobility. We have a nanny government that feeds, clothes, and cares for us while illegally monitoring our thoughts, actions and speech. Our nanny tells us ghost stories of 'boogie men' under our bed that they must protect us from without proof that they exist. The government nanny is a classic abuser...they slap us and then tell us how much they love us. We must break our chains of slavery..."