Imagine I am holding up one of the white pieces of paper with writing on it..a solemn expression on my face. Here is what it would say, except I cannot seem to be concise enough to fit it on one 8 1/2 x 11.
” People think because I support OWS, want decreased corporation influence over our political process, and increased corporate responsibility and think people aren’t getting a fair shake, that I don’t like rich people. Not true. I know rich people, and I like them just fine. Truth be told, I come from a fairly privelaged background myself. I did work hard ( I’ve had a job since I was 15..white castle, country clubs, working in group homes, and then my profession as a speech pathologist.) My parents, both educators, paid for me to go to college. My dad tells me the two degrees I got (B.S. and M.A. from a state university cost just over $50,000 in the early 90s) I had a job offer with full benefits before I even finished grad school; I’ve been in the 28% tax bracket for most of my adult life.
I attend elementary, middle school and high school in one of the top rated school districts in my area. I had mostly good teachers, and most of my friends had parents with solidly middle class incomes, and their parents were college educated. I worried very little about safety in school and in my neighborhood. I have never gone hungry a day in my life. All of my siblings have college educations, and its highly likely all of their children (my nieces and nephews) will as well.
I would say a good part of my parents financial and educational success came from hard work. They did work hard. But they’d also agree that they have had their share of good fortune, support and opportunity.
So, you’d think I would buy the following folklore hook , line and sinker:
“People who have money have money because they worked hard and deserve it, and poor people are poor because they don’t work hard enough or make bad choices”
But, I don’t. Because there is no story that is that easy. While I am certain there are many wealthy people who got to their station in life by hard work, grit and drive, I seriously doubt they did it on that alone. They likely had access to safe and good schools, didn’t succumb to diseases of poverty, and had a social network of people who weren’t living in poverty that helped them along, with advice, connections and support. You see, while my grandparents started off poor, my grandfather and his family benefited greatly from the GI Bill. No one told people in my family that they could not go somewhere, not apply for a job, or attend a school because of the color of their skin, or the sound of their name, or because of the religion they were. That’s in the past, some will say. Move on. HMMM… Yet, how easy is it to pass on opportunity and wealth to your children and grandchildren if you’ve had trouble getting it for yourself?
Certainly, after working in the inner city, I have seen plenty of people make bad choices, embody a sense of the world owing them something, but I also saw plenty of people who bore the scars of substandard education and housing, institutionalized and covert racism and prejudice, and a lack of access to health care ..and if you’ve seen someone with poorly managed diseases, you see that it becomes a cascade effect of more conditions, treaments, and lost productivity that can be almost impossible to bounce back from.
My parents are math teachers, but I didn’t really pick up the “knack for math” myself. So, those who think OWS is about a lack of focus and ambition, their equation looks something like this.
HARD WORK + PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY + MOTIVATION= SUCCESS
POVERTY OR MONEY PROBLEMS = BAD CHOICES + LAZINESS+ SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
but I think that equation uses the math that we learn in elementary school. I would imagine the equation is a little more complicated in most cases. Like middle school or high school level math.
Because of health issues (and , yes, some unwise choices during the housing bubble) my family has had significant financial strain. But we had access to a lot of help. For that, I am grateful. Don’t worry, my husband and I have paid for our unwise choices, don’t worry, we didn’t get off “scot free.” I can tell you with no uncertainty, that if you have a child with health problems you are a whole new kind of financially vulnerable: it can affect your employment, and health care bills are rising, while wages are not.
So, if someone with advantages like me can struggle so much, how is someone without them supposed to lift themselves up from their bootstraps, “grow up” and get a job?
If the middle class has tightened their belts and has less money, who exactly is going to “stimulate” the economy ?
Remember, we’re the 99%…here is that pesky math again. If you want us 99% ( I believe thats a majority) to keep the economy going, then don’t make it so hard for us to get by.
I am Marcia, a suburban mom of 2. I am the 99%.
Unless you are a billionaire, you are , too.