"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

How’d he get so far, to be so wrong?

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

I’ve recently been told by good authority my life’s work has failed. Come up short. Things I’d striven for and achieved for family and loved ones are apparently overvalued in my own mind. Wanting nothing more than to be a bill-paying, flag-loving, family-values, church-going member of America’s highly valued middle class, I’m told now I’m not middle class. In reality, my loved ones and I are below the poverty line and are part of the nation’s growing needy.

Damn, where have I failed? How could I have been so foolish as to believe I’d achieved modest successes that have given me what appear now to have been false senses of accomplishment and worth? How could I have lived so long with the feelings I’d met my responsibilities and even exceeded some when, actually, I’d never risen even to that vaunted American middle class?

I’ve been drenched with the cold water of reality. My eyes should have been opened to all this before. I could have wound up buried on the downside of the flowers in potter’s field and not known. We’re all much better for this new, more accurate view of our real place on the economic food chain..
It came unexpectedly. It came at the hands of George Stephanopoulos – that finder of all things factual – that national distributor of reality in American life – that funny little former Clinton staffer on ABC Television. Him.

He was talking to – yea, grilling in his own Greek way – that paragon of America’s economic success to whom truth, vision and infinite perspective have been given – Mitt Romney. Mitt – the entire Republican Party’s official nominee for the office of President of the United States no less.

They were earnestly discussing a subject close to my heart all these decades. And this was to be the defining moment. The moment when all of life’s work would be substantiated by someone really successful. A voice to validate from his lofty economic perch the hard work of all of us who’ve spent a lifetime in the trenches – to give a realistic sense of middle class accomplishment for those of us who’ve been striving just to have a garage of our own – much less one with an two-car elevator.

Breathlessly, I listened as Mitt said “No one can say my (tax) plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people because principle number one is to keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.”

“HOORAY,” I shouted! “HOORAY for Mitt. He understands America’s middle class. He’ll take the necessary steps to protect us. In his heart, he knows feelings of lifetime accomplishment and wants to protect me. Me!”

But George wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more. He wanted the truth!

“Is $100,000 middle-income?”

There was calm. Absolute calm. Then, with an air of someone who’s been enormously successful and a tone of voice just hinting at the warmth of a banker’s heart, Mitt replied “No, middle-income is $200,000 to $250,000.”

That did it! My heart sank. A sense of misplaced accomplishment drained from my elderly body. I had just found out I was not middle class at all. That, in reality, after a life of striving and sacrifice, I was below the poverty line. Oh, what have I done? Where did I go wrong?

Suddenly, it all came crashing back. Just as Mitt had said. I had NOT asked my parents for college money. I had NOT thought of General Motors and other corporations as “people.” My wife did NOT have “a couple of Cadillac’s” like other wives. We did NOT have four homes. I did NOT put my money in foreign banks. At least I don’t think so.

And now – now – just when I was serenely comfortable in the $50,000 to $100,000 middle class I’d always worked for, it was an illusion. All of it. The home. The two cars in our cement-floored garage. The motor home (only a Class C) in the driveway. Our little trips to the Oregon coast to enjoy the company of friends – all of whom I’d thought were solid middle class. Just like us. Our little church help with the community food drives and other outreach programs. Doing the Lord’s work.
None of us – not one – had really achieved the dream of American middle class. None of it was real!

All these years – all of them – I’d believed our government statistical experts – the ones in the Bureau of the Census – that said the real middle class income was $50,000-$56,000 – or about 76% of our nation’s economic pie. The same “experts” who claimed those making $200,000 to $250,000 were only about four-point-six percent of that same pie. The real middle class.
I had believed a lie. All of it. A lie.

And now – just now – he’s saying the Medicare and the Social Security I paid for all those 50-plus years have made me dependent on big government and I’ve become just another drain on real – rich – Americans. That – in my senior years – I’ve become another blood sucker on the body politic.

If there’s anyone out there qualified to decide our future tax systems – who will pay more and who will pay less – if there’s anyone out there who respects the work ethic and support for all who occasionally need the rest of us to lift them up – I’m certain it’s Mitt.. He cares for the middle class. He cares deeply for the middle class.

He just has no idea what the Hell – or who the Hell – we are!

Share on Facebook