Archive for December, 2011

Thought Provoking

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

This has been a tumultuous political year that has seen an effort to further divide the country.  As we close out 2011 today’s Charleston Gazette had a thought provoking piece by Froma Harrop a columnist for the Providence Journal.  

As we face the political world waiting for us in 2012, which in all likelihood will further divide us, we should have a positive conversation about the real issues that have caused the decline of the middle class.

Happy New Year!

By Froma Harrop

Syndicated columnist

This was the Year of the Middle Class — as in, its falling incomes, loss of job security and anger. The global economic forces fueling the decline, such as foreign competition and computers, have been well reported. But what about cultural factors?  Is the middle class going down partly because it stopped acting middle class?

For those who remember the American middle’s golden era of 40 years ago — or see it reconstructed on TV dramas — the cultural losses are pretty shocking. The middle managers in “Mad Men” returned to orderly homes with tidy children, even as their personal lives spun into chaos. While comfortable, their houses were modest by today’s McMansion standards. That’s because they were living within their means.

On “Pan Am,” the passengers in economy class are served hot meals on trays. The flight attendants (stewardesses then) deal with neatly dressed travelers in all classes. And while they have their problem passengers, they do not do daily battle against swinish slobs with money.

Frugality used to be a central middle-class theme. What happened to it? We now read the stories of middle-class families in free fall because they lost a job and had no savings. Back in the mists of time, there was a rule about setting aside six months of salary to cover a possible job loss. Not only did the middle class stop saving, but it famously borrowed to maintain extravagant living beyond what its stagnating salaries could support.

Middle-class Americans used to throw “mortgage burning parties,” when, after 30 years, they finally paid off their home loans. They understood as long as they had a mortgage, they were not full homeowners.

But come the housing bubble of the last decade, middle-class people no longer viewed their rising home prices as mere whipped cream on a prudent savings plan. They saw a higher value as the main course to be quickly devoured by borrowing against it. Now Americans’ equity in their homes (the home’s value minus mortgage) is half what it was in 2006.

Many middle-class parents of the ’50s and ’60s well remembered the privations of the Great Depression. Thus, they raised their children to be survivors in an uncertain world, not as princes and princesses who can do no wrong. They understood the importance of education and manners. They regarded teachers as authorities to be respected. (Observe the strict supervision of the children in “Mad Men.”)

Girls from the middle class — or from what once was — now scamper through the mall baring cleavage, and wearing thick eyeliner and outrageous heels. Their intellectual interests seem nil, and their apparent need to push their sexual availability on boys depresses the feminist soul.

The public square was the meeting ground for all classes. But while the rich could always retreat to private splendor, the middle class needed its Main Streets for civic engagement.

And it was the middle class that abandoned its downtown retailers for the big-box discounter filling the shelves with the cheapest goods from Asia. The factories its members worked in closed. And the neighborhood store that sponsored the local baseball team vanished.

Brands of detergent, scouring powder and other household staples were once a shared experience of all but the poorest classes. The consumer products giant Procter & Gamble is now coming out with a cheaper brand of soap for the middle class, The Wall Street Journal reports. On the high end, P&G is selling a fancy package of Olay-Pro-X skin care basics for about $60.

Can the losses, economic and cultural, be reversed? Perhaps, but that would require a very different political and social conversation. We may have a theme for 2012.

Political Tidbits 12.7.11

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

GOP Presidential contest comes to WV…Gov. Mitt Romney is the first to launch an effort here…75 political & civic leaders make up the Steering Committee …click here to see the list  [in the interest of full disclosure I am involved in the WV effort].

An INSIGHT INTO THE POLITICAL WORLD OF 2012…is offered by Mark Blankenship Enterprises…just completed a statewide surveysignificant findings as incumbents and challengers ponder entering the 2012 election cycle…all political junkies would be well served to read…just click and go direct to MBE’s website.

An Op Ed by John Overington…the longest-serving member of the WV Legislature appeared in the Charleston DM…it is an interesting and honest insight…into redistricting the WV Legislature…it is a must read as we entered the 2012 election season…click to read.

Policy not Politics…that is what former President & Mrs. George W. Bush are doing these days…Laura Bush visited the state last month…to push The Bush Institute and education…a Decision Makers interview with Laura Bush is worth your time.

Several are eyeing a run for State Treasurer…even though incumbent John Perdue has not announced his intention…Delegate Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha) is taking a serious look…and would be an attractive GOP candidate…another Legislator Delegate Doug Reynolds (D-Wayne) may take the plunge…the political rumor mill says Sen. Mike Hall (R-Putnam) and former State USDA Rural Development Director Rick Rice of Buckhannon are looking.

State Republicans are ready for their annual Christmas Ball…this weekend…tickets are still available @304.768.0493…beyond that word is the Party is drafting a 2012 plan…and is looking forward to favorable returns in the new yearTaylor County Republicans are holding a Christmas Party December 11th…and Randolph County Committee has a holiday luncheon planned.

A tent has appeared at the Governor Mansion…it is confirmed Governor Tomblin is not planning a holiday camp out…but will entertain while protecting the Mansion from heavy pedestrian traffic.

Mike Teets is up and running for Commissioner of Agriculture…his website is active and he worked the Farm Bureau annual meeting…they endorsed him over 44 year incumbent Gus Douglass in 2008…Democrats will have a lot of choices to replace Doulgass…pre-candidacy papers have been filed by…Wayne Casto, Joseph A. Messineo, Steve Miller, John B. Oblinger and Bob Tabb.

The Legislature will be saying so-long to June Canfield (whose husband Jack served three Governors)…after 15 years…guess she will spend her time watching politics.