I Am The Ninety-Nine Percent

In many way I’m lucky.

My job pays a minimal wage, but it’s enough to cover everything I need plus a few wants. I’m also able to take time of when I need…or even on an occasion when I want to.

I have room and board taken care of (for the most part).

I can also afford insurance at present. I’m also able to add vitamins and supplements to my diet (Glucosamine and Condroiten means I can still walk…)

I have no student loan debt, and my other debt can be taken care of easily, should I choose.

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But I do calculations on what I make and what I would need to spend to live on my own, and I keep running into the fact that I would be stuck in the place, dependent on the job for room, board and other necessities. If I wanted out, I’d have to go into debt, and that for the OPPORTUNITY to seek an escape.

I watch all the prices rise, even as the government trumpets the death of inflation to the nation. Food prices, gas prices, housing costs, insurance prices, medical costs, education costs all rise even as the reports keep saying “low inflation.” I now think the CPI means “The Corporation Price Index,” since I’ve yet to see wages rise.

Did I mention Health Insurance? That just leaped up 20 percent…for something that just means I’ll have to cover the first $5000…and I can’t help but think that Obama set up a trap with his “Health Insurance Reform Bill” that the Republicans will warp to suit their agenda…starting with the right (or is that obligation? THAT wouldn’t surprise me) to refuse treatment to those without insurance…or with just Medicaid).

And food prices…not only are food prices rising, but the quality of the stuff is going down as well. Wood, Ammonia, Perfume, Petrochemicals, Human Hair – the list makes High Fructose Corn Syrup seem wholesome, doesn’t it? Also, the packages are shrinking…and sometimes in inventive ways.

And Education…when I first went to school, you could get fourteen credit hours and a good weekend’s partying from the Pell Grant. When I first graduated it covered ten credit hours, and you had to take twelve credit hours to get that. Nowadays the only place you can get an education for a Pell Grant is in some Louisiana Colleges, and now people have gone out of the way to say that people are faking going to school in order to scam money from the Pell Program. Don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of “publicly funded” colleges close down – but NOT because people decide not to go, but instead because the states need to “save money to insure their rich don’t move out of the state.”

Trust me, there is a class war going on in the USA. The rich have been waging it against the poor for over thirty years (nearly forty if you ask me), and they’ve become so confident in victory that they don’t even hide it anymore; even with a Democratic President at the helm.

I’ve seen it up close.

You see, I live with a one percenter. And from what I’ve seen, they are indeed as venial and petty as you can think of them as.

Sad thing is, they’ve so fallen in love with their $$$ that they won’t even think of giving to charities until they’re dead. Not so much afraid of needing the money later (that’s their excuse) but not wanting to give the money at all. That they’ve made the excuse of “maybe needing the money for care in their last days” shows at the very least a need to justify themselves.

And many of the rest of us (those who are still bought into the “American Dream” concept) have decided to pass this stuff on as “normal.” “Sure, twenty percent raises in health insurance are normal.” “You’re supposed to mourn the fact that your brother can still get a  job – after all, my students can’t find jobs and they do the work.” “Eighty years old, why should I retire? Kids Today don’t deserve jobs.” “Mass Transit is for those who leech off the system.” (all said by people well up in the middle class)

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Revolutions are rough, bloody and may not give what people want, but at the very least it gets the rulers to notice. And when a people are so desperate for change that they’ll confuse anger with action, watch out.

Because sometimes people just want to tear shit up.

Especially when you’ve given them nothing to build up.

99 percenters, take over the nation. Wall Street Can Go To Hell (and stay there).


Borders: Another View On Why It Closed.

On September 18th (of 2011) the remaining Borders’ stores closed down, including the store in Highland, Indiana. I can’t really say I spent a lot of money supporting them directly (between Amazon, the local libraries and plain lack of time to dedicate to reading books), but I’ve always loved the place (and the places which the Borders of 1971-1991 supported).

So enough of pure mourning. The time has come (at least to my mind) for dissection and to see what lessons I can come up with that have been ignored (or just plain overlooked).

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First off, the bookstore didn’t die on September 18th, 2011, or when the Kindle came out, or when Amazon.com first came online, or when Oprah decided to cancel her Book Club. In essence, it dies when K-Mart bought out the Borders Brothers for a cool 150 Million in October of 1992.

Think of it: A company that had eaten up its markets in the seventies, that had just been beaten to submission by Wal-Mart at the markets where the two battled each other (smaller towns where the main city served at the county business center) and was saddled with a corporate culture that had no way to deal with changing times. Plus they had no understanding of the book market from their eight-years of owning Waldenbooks. And they were to take over Borders and take them national.

Fact was, I think that K-Mart knew what they wanted to do – take Borders and have them whip Waldenbooks into profitability. Bring in people who knew what they were doing, and set them on the task of fixing your problems. It makes sense, assuming you’re willing to get out of the way and let stuff happen. And when you consider that both K-Mart and Borders were based in Michigan at the time, you have a case of the Border Brothers knowing what money could do, but not necessarily what Money couldn’t do. (It probably also helped K-Mart that Wal-Mart hadn’t made its way to Michigan in a big way until the mid-nineties).

But it didn’t happen that way. Chances are the people at Borders told K-Mart what they wanted to do, and K-Mart tried to bargain with them…either that, or Waldenbooks proved unsaveable as it was and K-Mart wouldn’t admit that an investment was an absolute bust. Either way, the Borders leadership bailed; leaving Waldenbooks executives to run the whole thing.

In short, what was meant to be Borders was instead Waldenbooks with the Borders name plastered on the front.

Everyone who’s read up on the Death of Borders knows what happened next: the destruction of everything local-based and great about Borders (well, almost – I remember seeing ten whole shelves of witchcraft books at the South Indianapolis Borders. Makes me wonder what REALLY goes on in Indianapolis…or Washington DC, for that matter). Local control of appearances gets centralized into regions, a wide selection of books gets focused on the selling (and making) of bestsellers, the chain buys whole-hog into music at the time that Music started its slow, painful decline back into a niche market (Don’t think Napster, think CD burners and CDR-Ms for sale by the 50s in the mid-nineties), and the technological changes that shook the “intellectual property” world through the oughts were reacted to late, and piecemeal (think subcontracting to Amazon for web presence, think “fourth place in a three-man race” Kobo).

But there’s one other thing which has been de-emphasized, even by those who actually touch of the issue – Cool.

The thing about Borders was that it was a cool place for the intelligentsia and the cognoscenti. Find the place, and you would find people who loved books and were willing to tell you about that love. It was the sort of place where one could be a misfit, and you would be welcomed with open arms.

In short, it was Cool.

Borders Bookstores As Seen By Everyone...Until It Wasn't.And as Borders struggled through mistake after mistake, the one thing that clung to the bookstore like a cardigan sweater on an amply-stacked twenty-something woman was its Cool. And while Cool could have held Borders through some of the mistakes (and probably acted as a corrective to some of them), there’s only so much that can be done when Coolness becomes the biggest commodity that one has.

In short, Cool can only go so far.

This I’ve had to learn over and over again as it seemed that every place that I liked closed up. Coffeehouses, movie theaters, bookstores, record stores and other sundry stores and places that I liked and thought cool, only to watch them swamped by circumstances, trends and plain lack of support. And while I can’t say that I’ve been blindly supportive of all these places, it’s not just my support that these places needed – it was the support of the marketplace, and over and over again Cool proved unable to make a place survive.

Borders had Cool until the end. And in the end, Cool was the ONLY thing it could claim to have.

And that was nowhere near enough.

Does It Matter Whom The Republicans Put Up?

Well, we’re about to enter into the campaigning “season” (if a year can be considered a season), and it appears that the candidates are either failed retreads (Romney, Ron Paul (even with his believers) and Palin) and outsiders who make the retreads look overqualified (Bachman, Perry). One would hardly believe that there would be ANYONE in this list of candidates who would be able to become president.

Thing is, these aren’t normal times. Not the early twenties (1920’s), not post-WWII, not even during the ’80s.

We got a President who has basically sold everything his party believed in down the river. The health insurance bill he passed will, in the end, push more people out from insurance because of sheer cost of the premiums. His inability to pass tax reform when he had the chance had the incidental effect of making the destruction of Social Security and Medicaid a discussable item (before Obama, there was no decline in taxes for either of these programs). And it seems that the Republicans not only pick their plans and get quick victories, but seemingly could do EVERY battle they wanted and gain more than they hope for with every victory.

One could get the impression that the Republican Leadership wouldn’t mind letting Obama win a second term and waltz into the future corporatist future without having to take any responsibility for the carnage (simply because they weren’t around when it was instituted). But something tells me that one of them will get stuck with the Presidential Office on January 21st, 2013 (the first full day of the term).

It’s like this:

  • The Democratic base is shaky, having watched the president be pushed around by bullies and hyperminorities to the point where those minorities have a good case of calling themselves majorities…and may get to claim themselves as true minorities by 2013.
  • The Republicans are invigorated. When Sarah Palin, the obvious joke candidate of 2008 (and even worse in 2012 if you can believe that) could conceivably defeat Obama, you know something’s wrong.
  • The economic news is slowly turning against the guy. Jobs, long a drag with their sub-par performance, have recently gone to 0 (no net gain on jobs) and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some negative numbers as the campaign gets underway (not that the Republicans would add jobs; they’d just wreck the protections and empty out the shell just to eek out that extra dime of profit).
  • Obama was actually elected by being the first serious Black candidate for President, thereby getting a lot of “We Can Do It” votes. How many of these people will vote in 2012 (and how many will vote for Obama) is not yet known.

Right now it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the Republicans already consider 2012 as theirs and are trying to figure out how far in their pro-corporate/pro-rich/quiverfull-mandatory desires. Perry is the type who’d campaign on the idea that “government is the problem, rising unemployment numbers is the solution” line.

Heck, why not destroy the New Deal. With people on the right itching to attack it and no one anywhere willing to defend it (even though it’s popular, especially amongst those who would love to destroy it), anything can happen – as long as people talk one way and not the other, certain actions will become seen as inevitable.

So no, I don’t think it would seem to matter. Obama will probably be a one-term President, known as the guy who prepared the way for what was to come. Especially when the history books say “people saw what passed as government under his term and voted for ANYTHING but him.”