As I pen this, Hurricane Ida is busying herself with the process of reclaiming the Mississippi Delta and marshland without much regard for local inhabitants. If the sun rises in the morning, the capsized infrastructure will be drifting, burning, or sizzling for the bewildered to see, again. Stage left, fires and drought claim a growing swath of the American West.
All the while, in a gratefully sedate neighborhood in Idaho, Frederick is amusing himself with his new grill in the backyard, slathering herb butter on a porterhouse steak.
The sun does arrive reliably on time each morning as do our packages from Amazon. This is confounding given the environmental devastation we are witnessing coupled with the fragmentation of our society. Really too much to wrap our arms around; better to retreat into our comforting, calcified belief systems and find someone or something to blame.
My piñata of choice tends towards bloated, cigar-wielding oligopolies, predatory hedge funds and the politician puppets they direct. But then again, they are so plainly visible and their motives too obvious. Beneath the surface, the degree of social fragmentation we are undergoing has a complex root system.
Take, for example, the recent Supreme Court decision in a case brought by a group of property landlords who feel the federal moratorium on rent and associated tenant protections are unconstitutional — they are owed some $13 billion dollars in back rent. The landlords were victorious. In the court’s majority opinion, “our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”
The ink hasn’t dried on all the eviction notices about to go out — more than 6 million of them. Add to that the end of the federal unemployment “enhancement” checks — otherwise known as the stay-at-home-and-smoke-your-bong money — going out to more than 7 million, and we have another “Hurricane Ida” on our hands. Urban centers teeming with more tents.
In the boardroom, this “demographic” represents the bottom-feeders — perhaps as much as 10 percent of Americans. Relatively inconsequential as long as relief agencies are feeding them and they aren’t taking crowbars to Starbucks window fronts.
Let’s contrast this economic morass to a trend at the other end of the pyramid: a third of Harvard graduates pursue careers in the finance or consulting industry. These aren’t business school grads mind you, this is for the college as a whole. The cream of the American crop, so to speak, are joining ranks in increasing numbers with what Steve Blank calls “the money-hungry mob.”
And in a society in which the urban technocrat is the reluctant icon, the result is a middle class that is dying a death of thousand cuts. Once upon a time, weren’t there towns in Ohio where factory workers raised their families side-by-side factory managers? What would the middle-class factory worker have to say about the plight of our modern-day H-E-N-R-Y?
This High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet set are typically in their early 30s and earn more than $100,000, but “struggle,” according the financial advisors who serve them, to find the right balance between spending and savings. With their high rents and lifestyle requirements they end up living paycheck to paycheck. I suppose they too deserve some pity; they’ve been ensnared by the root system that fans out beneath the hierarchy.
The hierarchy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; we each pay homage to it at the filling station. Whether you look back at the great American con job of Enron or the investment bankers at Goldman Sachs who scoffed at the congressional committee investigating the sub-prime mortgage crisis, we find ourselves embedded in a culture that values winning at any cost.
As the trinkets we have “won” are being swept up by the raging floods or made into ash by the wildfires, some may double-down their bets that climate anomalies are phony left-wing propaganda. But what about the widespread injustices, divisions, and suffering? No one else to blame.
After years of globetrotting, Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. His policy briefs can be found at US Renew News: www.usrenewnews.org/