ALL HALEY

Two quick hits for today:

1. I have never donated money to a presidential candidate and I never thought I would, but I am writing a check to Haley Barbour for President post haste. It is not possible to overstate the extent to which the 2012 election needs this guy. Can you imagine how boring it will be to watch Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney run against the "Defending the Mushy Center" version of Barack Obama? Good lord. It will make the 1996 and 2000 races seem like enthralling, white knuckle thrill rides with high turnout. Haley Barbour is like Central Casting's version of a Republican presidential nominee: a fat, sweaty racist from Mississippi with a Boss Hog drawl. Short of exhuming and reanimating George Wallace to run on a ticket with Orval Faubus, Barbour is the best thing that can happen to this election. I need entertainment value to get through an 18 month election cycle; it won't get much better than seeing Obama debate Foghorn Leghorn. Maybe we can even convince him to wear a giant cowboy hat.

2. CNN ran a mildly caustic piece about the rapid income growth enjoyed by the wealthy compared to the stagnant earnings of the middle class since the 1970s. While I firmly believe that class is an integral concept in understanding politics, economics, sociology, and the like, I am always frustrated by the extent to which terms like "middle class" are meaningless in the American context. No one knows what that means – we know only that we're all part of it (in our own minds). When 40% of households with incomes under $20,000 identify as middle class (!!!!) there is a problem. When fully one-third of families with incomes over $150,000 say the same, it becomes clear that the label is applied loosely at best. I'm curious to know if the fact that everyone thinks they're middle class is a result of self-delusion or years of concerted misinformation.

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27 Responses to “ALL HALEY”

  1. Noskilz Says:

    Maybe it's the toys? Someone who has a widescreen TV, a DVR, a PC, a cellphone, and a car can't possibly one of those horrible poor people, even if the person in question is up to his eyesockets in debt, living paycheck to paycheck in a near-minimum wage job with no security or advancement, hoping not to get sick because the insurance coverage is inadequate or non-existant.

  2. queenrandom Says:

    Wow that article got buried quickly; it was a headliner an hour ago, now you can only find it clicking through to CNN money or business sections as nearly the 10th link down. Wonder why.

  3. John Says:

    Definitely the product of concerted misinformation. This way, "waging war on the middle class" can be a generic catch-all that ensnares the majority of voters with a phrase that they *think* means "Out to fuck *you personally*", since so many of them identify themselves as "middle class" without having the foggiest notion what it really means.

    See also: Managers at your local grocery or fast food chain that envision themselves as Galtian 'producers' in their own personal fantasy version of Atlas Shrugged, where Rand is talking about how *they themselves* are victims of a horrible tide of freeloaders out to take their "hard earned" money as they "produce" all this "wealth".

  4. Zebbidie Says:

    Perhaps they mean 'middle class' as a social or cultural grouping, in which income is a fairly loose boundary.

  5. ddt Says:

    Re: #1 — Do you think Mr. Hogg has a chance of making it past the first few primaries? More so than Bachman-Palin Overdrive? That would be enough crazy for some rootin' tootin' entertainment.

  6. Seth Says:

    I'm leery of calling the misinformation "concerted." I might combine the two choices you offer and call it, "years of cultural delusion." Middle-classness is one of our culture's fundamental mythologies. There's too much opportunity for poor people not to have at least middle-class aspirations, if not material markers, and because (we tell ourselves) we founded the nation as a revolt against royalty, most people don't want to identify as upper class either. So middle-class it is.

  7. Seth Says:

    I'm leery of calling the misinformation "concerted." I might combine the two choices you offer and call it, "years of cultural delusion." Middle-classness is one of our culture's fundamental mythologies. There's too much "opportunity" for poor people not to have at least middle-class aspirations (please please please note the irony here), if not material markers, and because (we tell ourselves) we founded the nation as a revolt against royalty, most people don't want to identify as upper class either. So middle-class it is.

  8. ZakAttack Says:

    Eye-opening way to visualize inequality (from http://kottke.org/11/02/picturing-economic-inequality):

    Imagine people's height being proportional to their income, so that someone with an average income is of average height. Now imagine that the entire adult population of America is walking past you in a single hour, in ascending order of income.

    The first passers-by, the owners of loss-making businesses, are invisible: their heads are below ground. Then come the jobless and the working poor, who are midgets. After half an hour the strollers are still only waist-high, since America's median income is only half the mean. It takes nearly 45 minutes before normal-sized people appear. But then, in the final minutes, giants thunder by. With six minutes to go they are 12 feet tall. When the 400 highest earners walk by, right at the end, each is more than two miles tall.

  9. displaced Capitalist Says:

    Didn't an old definition of "middle-class" include home-ownership? If that is still so why do so many people still consider themselves middle-class when they can't afford to stay in their home?

    My household earns 100+ plus in a very large, expensive east coast city. Needless to say even with this income I cannot afford to on a house within 30 miles of the city and still have money left over to send my child to daycare. I suppose I'm middle class because I can afford to help out my extended family as often as possible because I'm the only one right now with a stable job. Maybe that's middle class? Or am I wealthy and just deluding myself (in my small apartment with my one car that's 7 years old and 80k miles on it and no savings…?)

  10. mother earth Says:

    I've always known I was middle class by the amount of taxes I pay and the lack of deductions and write offs that I have!

  11. Hazy Davy Says:

    1) I, too, used to cheer for the entertainment value of an election. Then spake Reagan, who begat W, who shat out Palin. (Yes, I think Reagan's faux "man of the people" opened the door for W, who convinced people they didn't want someone *better* than them, they wanted someone who represented them by being just as lame as they were. And now we have Palin, the celebrity, who is taken seriously.) I don't want a "serious" Haley Barbour campaign, because I don't know what it would enable, next iteration.

    2) I suspect that the self-definition problem is both intentional misinformation, and ignorant misidentification. I, personally, am a low-class American (who probably makes more than what should be called 'middle-class')

  12. Dennis SGMM Says:

    1. Be careful what you wish for. The Republican party has largely slipped the surly bonds of rationality and the Mushy Center re-elected G.W. Bush when it wasn't batshit insane with fear. Who's to say that the reassuring figure of Boss Hogg with his hand full of "gimme" and his mouth full of "much obliged" wouldn't get elected over the Kenyan Usurper.

    2. Middle class? Despite a college education and my wife and I bringing in (barely) 50K a year I consider myself a whitehat in the Navy of life.

  13. Elder Futhark Says:

    What's wrong with Palin? I for one cannot get enough of that fucking shrill shriek. Same way that I find the ear-piercing wail of crying babies funny. And Bachmann? I am completely fascinated with that chimpanzee insanity glaze in her eyes. Haven't seen that since the National Geographic documentary when one of Jane Goodall's went schizophrenic and murdered and ate all the youngsters.

    That's what this campaign needs! More Cannibalism! And Chimps Waving Loaded Pistols!!! Yeehaw!!!

    If you can get Barbour to shoot someone in the face by accident, he's got my primary vote.

  14. acer Says:

    I'm holding out for the neocon death rattle to make Bolton the official LULZ candidate. But "Haley Barbour" does sound enough like a cast member of Gossip Girl that it might trick people into voting for him.

  15. Shane Says:

    ZakAttack: I like this visual. I had my hopes up for an actual video of this occurring in accelerated form though.

  16. anotherbozo Says:

    You remind me sadly that even a formerly apolitical type such as yours truly donated money to the Swiftboated Kerry in a desperate attempt to sink Dubya and Co. And what did the Dems do with it? Donated their surplus to a children's charity after the defeat of the most limp-wristed campaign in history. Or at least since Dukakis.

    I don't know why we need Barbour, what with a country parson who believes the earth is 6,000 years old, tops, and another who's going to have to do some pretty fancy dancing to escape his librul governorship past, not to mention cruelty to animals. I say unless the media really prevent the debate from happening (a definite possibility, admittedly) we're in for some entertaining fireworks.

    Second thought: Pawlenty as a born-again TeaBagger and Donald Trump too? Rand Paul? Can we get any more colorful? I say Barbour is so been-there-done-that. We've seen hicks before, aw shucks, and racists too.

  17. partially gruntled Says:

    My wife and I just did our taxes last year and were surprised to find out we grossed just over 150K in 2010. Holy Crap! That sounds like a lot of money until you look at what it costs to live in a place like Seattle.

    We live in a two-bedroom one-bath sub-1000 square foot house built in the 1940s with our only child. We probably wont have a second because we really can't afford it. We drive older, paid for cars and we still have our 20 year old Sharp 27" TV. We really do not live an extravagant lifestyle.

    We both grew up in traditional households where our fathers worked and out mothers chose to return to work part time when we got older. Despite the fact we both have professional jobs we are living a much more austere life than our parents. What the hell happened?

  18. JBerardi Says:

    "I'm curious to know if the fact that everyone thinks they're middle class is a result of self-delusion or years of concerted misinformation."

    A little from column A, a little from column B. The term "middle class" is kind of the opposite of a term like "liberal" in terms of political connotation. Just as the word "liberal" has been relentlessly demonized and turned into a sort of vague, non-specific adjective for "bad" that can be attached to basically anything that some republican decides they don't like, "middle-class" has been made into a vague, non-specific adjective for "good". More specifically, it's something that many different kinds of people can hear, and in their own minds, define as "me and people not unlike me". Politicians say it because it sounds nice without them having to really tell the truth, and people like it because it sounds nice without them really having to hear the truth. IE, business as usual.

  19. The Man, The Myth Says:

    When does the campaign start? Its been such a long time since I saw a debate or campaign commercial that I'm in withdrawal. Thanks for the laughs commentators. I think we need Haley Barbour too.

  20. Denn Says:

    1. Does indeed evoke Boss Hawg. Great ticket with one of the rodeo clowns (Bachman or Palin).
    2. The Horatio Alger myth; the American Dream of upward mobility (at least the perception thereof).

  21. bill Says:

    I've always thought that "middle class" has as much to do with a state of mind as much as with income. I was born middle class, I have middle-class values, etc., and that will never change, no matter how low my income goes–and believe me, it's low. Maybe I just made that up to keep myself from suicide.

  22. Nunya Says:

    When lower class represents famine stricken refugees and upper class means you earn $20million a year, yeah, anyone with the means to post on this board is middle class.

  23. smelter rat Says:

    I believe it means getting fucked at both ends.

  24. moderate indy Says:

    I live in suburban Chicago and would imagine a decent portion of my friends earn around 150K a year between husband and wife, but i would definitely consider them middle class. None are really living high on the hog. Most have no real savings, though they do have cash in 401ks and such. Most struggle to afford college for their kids, drive their cars for 5-8 years at least, and don't have particularly fancy homes. So if middle class is defined by the lifestyle you lead, it's fair to say someone making 150k in a major metropolitan area qualify as still being middle class. I also know quite a few that make in the 200-300 range, and they are able to live a much less stressful life when it comes to finances. I wouldn't put them as middle class.

  25. cromartie Says:

    moderate,

    I think children are a part of the equation when it comes to evaluating class. A DINK household with 90k is significantly better off than one with three children. One is probably upper middle class, while the other is something akin to middle/middle class. Area of the country matters as well. That same family making 90k is faring quite a bit better financially in Toledo than they are in Chicago, relative to the economy.

  26. Robert Says:

    In the second half of Orwell's "The Road to Wigan Pier", he goes into considerable depth (and some breadth) about the intricacies of the English class system. While the comparisons are by no means exact, I found it helpful in viewing this society's version of the same thing.

    It made me realize how many of the things I think of as 'basic civilized manners' were simply the customs of the tribe into which I had happened to be born. It's certainly informed my own childrearing – since I'm white, and my husband and adopted childen are black, I try to be conscious of both class and racial issues.

  27. Tosh Says:

    The democrats should adopt "Rebuild The Middle Class" as the campaign mantra
    After they win, redefine the middle class for what it actually is, or will be.