Monday, February 15, 2016

Can empty pockets ever make the grade?

Downtowne Coffee
Veggie Burrito

I like to serenade my dishes.  Most often, I start with "Black Coffee" a la Ella, or "God Bless the Child" by Lady Day.  The lyrics are particularly poignant when I'm feeling all disenfranchised.  Billie Holiday was apparently inspired by an argument with her mother about money, but I see a pretty easy metaphor for our modern economy.

Yes, the strong get smart
while the weak ones fade.
Empty pockets don't
ever make the grade.
Mamma may have.
Papa may have.
But God bless the child
that's got his own,
that's got his own...

Last week (or so), when a couple of well-respected Hillary surrogates took heat for the way they scolded Millennial women for their overwhelming lack of support for a fellow woman, it revealed to me, not a hypocritical sexism from feminist trailblazers, but an astounding lack of understanding of the financial state of the younger generation.  In their (Albright and Steinem and Hillary) generation, there was a clear need for feminist reforms, and they had to fight like hell to win liberties younger women now enjoy.  And we younger women know that, and know that we have further to go and much to protect that is under threat.  But to dismiss the views of Millennial women as if they were ignorant, entitled, and over-sexed girls? It blew my mind.

That dismissal says to me that, while liberals might generally understand that there is an unfair, unequal distribution of wealth and that people are struggling, they don't have a tangible sense of the desperate state we are in.  Millennials, male or female, break towards Bernie because they are the economy's polar bears, struggling in open water, frantic to find some of that fast-dwindling ice, and he is the only one who has been giving their plight the sense of urgency it is due.

The fact of the matter is that the further removed you are from the start-up stages of your economic life, the less likely you are to have an accurate sense of today's economy.  The numbers have changed and continue to change at an exponential rate.  Exponential.  There was a time when a summer job could put you through college, and when that was all it took, the outcomes could be very different.  Today, a student will most likely have to work throughout the school year - something that has been shown to bring down grades, proportionally to the number of hours worked - and will have to take out substantial loans, even if they qualify for government assistance or scholarships.  And they better hope they can make all that work because if they don't have some kind of degree when they finally leave school, they will be hobbled in the job market.  Even with a degree, they are having an especially difficult time finding a job that pays enough to pay back those loans, let alone build a life, career, and family.

Even under the best circumstances, debt is a mental burden.  But when the low-wage job you took because it was the best you could get doesn't allow you to pay down your debt and you know that you can never have those student loans expunged, debt can be outright lethal.  Seeing no way out, having no hope that things are going to change - that has devastating consequence.  And this is not a niche concern of a small portion of the populace.  This is a substantial burden on an entire generation, and the rest of the population is not untouched, either.  It seems, however, that the older generations, on the highest metaphorical ground, are having trouble seeing those furthest out at sea.

And to those of any generation living in the thin air atop Mt. Denali, we don't even register as driftwood.

Whether or not Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee, he has succeeded in grabbing hold of the party and hauling its focus to the left.  Too long politics has been under the thrall of laissez faire capitalism.  The right has been far too successful in conflating anarchy-capitalism with Freedom.  I would love to hear the left make the argument for democratic capitalism, to invoke the presence of inelastic goods to explain why some kind of regulations will always be needed in certain markets to ensure our minimal security and, yes, our freedom.

For the record, I can vote for Hillary, and she has, personally, been very diplomatic and humble in reaching out to younger women.  I am certainly leaning towards Bernie, at the moment, but I feel like I need to do a little more reading to be really confident about it.  Should she become president, though, I hope Hillary puts less emphasis on winning the game as it is (which she is more than capable of doing) and more on making the game what it should be.

That'll have to do or I'm going to be late.  No edits.

Peace and love, hippy chics!