While I was sitting in what passes for a traffic back up here in suburban Memphis, I was flipping through the news channels on XM and landed briefly on CNN (in case you’re wondering, FoxNews had just gone to commercial so CNN was the best I could do on short notice). A teaser they were running at the moment was decrying the difficulty “middle class” families have making ends meet in America “these days.”
Looking around me, I noticed what I could only assume were predominately middle class folks sitting in traffic along side me. The vast majority were sitting in $35-45,000 SUVs, $25-30,000 mini-vans, and a few in relatively “inexpensive” sedans. Many had pulled out of their relatively new suburban homes, with three or four bedrooms and two car garages. Although I couldn’t tell from my vantage point, I suspect most of the kids in those vehicles were wearing what passes as the latest fashion in clothing.
You’re probably wondering, by this point, what I’m trying to say, so I’ll be blunt: The middle class in this country has such a hard time making ends meet because they spend too damned much money. But wait, you say, people have a right to drive the car they want, to wear the clothes they want, and to do any damned thing that suits them. You know what? No one said you had to have any of these things to be “middle class.”
Stop taking all your guidance from the damned television, from musicians, and from sports stars. These people make more for one appearance on television, by singing one song, or by taking one at bat than we do in a year. Guess what? No matter how much you spend, they’re always going to have and be able to do more. That’s life.
Sometimes you just have to say that you can’t afford it. I’ve never been accused a being tight fisted when it comes to money, but just because I want a Corvette doesn’t mean that I can afford one. I do have a little red sports car. I do have a house in my “first choice” neighborhood. But I don’t have kids to support. That’s my choice and the trade off I’m willing to make. If I had a family to support my choices would necessarily be different.
As long as Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class are walking around in hock up to their necks, with three cars in the driveway, and kids wearing $200 sneakers, I don’t have much sympathy. When they get their priorities squared away and their financial house in order and still can’t make ends meet, then I’m willing to concede that we’re at a crisis point. Until then, get a damned grip.