The Search for Solutions

“Shitty weather, bad timing
Lucky penny glued to the ground
Dirty look from total stranger
Hope you get lost and you’re not found
Take a look at what we’ve become
Nothing more than silhouettes of
A pretty family on a postcard
Picture perfect, I don’t want it
So I hold my breath ’til my heart explodes
Cause this is how it is and this is how it goes
You can steal my body but you can’t steal my soul.” –Billy Talent, This is How it Goes

This month, I published several posts about economic disparity (go to part 1 here). I’d like to take a moment to talk about what kind of integrity it takes to research and look for solutions.

In the future, I want to discuss what types of solutions are helpful, the research and work that many organizations are already doing, and what type of work needs support. Solutions are not simple, and even simple ones are difficult to get the participation and resources and commitment needed. I’m not going to say that everyone should just read some Marx and Engels, and all will be well. Communism is not the answer, nor does communism provide a clear roadmap for today’s world of technological dependence and a gig economy. Addressing the problem of wealth inequality raises a lot of questions about me, and the risks I’m taking right now: why would I attack charity, and people who want to help, and temporary solutions that help people get along, while being so vocal about my own struggle to keep a roof over my head? What can we do now to help people who are worse off than ourselves, when 99.9% of us are feeling squeezed to keep up with bills? Even many celebrity millionaires in the 0.01% still work as performers, and are part of the cause to help do something about it, but cannot bring down the system, or refuse to see it for what it is, feeling squeezed themselves to keep up with their luxurious lifestyle – not to mention that getting sued or robbed or attacked or slandered are very real problems for them. If something of mine gets stolen, and it’s happened many times, for the most part I can’t afford to replace my stuff.

So as I’ve observed that capitalists are not my enemy, and capitalism is only a symptom of broader ideologies like colonialism and white supremacy, I want to invite people who love capitalism for its freedom to the conversation about solutions. I’ve observed that most people who recognize their own privilege and resources are more than willing to give and help, but they ask me: “What can we do?”

And I want to be able to say much more than just, “If you pledge to support my blog on Patreon, I’ll keep working on researching it.” I want to give comprehensive coverage of what I, as a white American who was undereducated to ensure I believed that God had ordained the United States to be a place for us to worship freely, want to inform others about. I want to deeply probe why I changed my mind, and what information I know now that so strongly convinced me that the world is not what I thought it was for my first 23 years. And then, answer the question – what can we all learn and do? If the system is so gridlocked, are there any lucrative ways to fight exploitation of the unfortunate, and transfer wealth out of the hands of the powerful? If you have money to spare, how can you give effectively? If you have more than others, how do you deal with the guilt of that, without giving so much that it’s detrimental to your own health and livelihood? Where do you even draw the line between being helpful, and failing in the attempt to help?

These are questions I am considering with gravity, and I’m using everything I know about critical thinking, reading between the lines of the Trump economy’s fake news, what I’ve learned since moving on from indoctrination preached as love and logic, and spending a fuckton more time listening to voices more exploited and oppressed than mine before I open my mouth. I entered adulthood thinking that my dwindling bank account would grow as soon as I landed a great job, grew my career, and would live as comfortably as my parents did. My siblings still think they are each alone in their financial struggles, refusing to talk much about it. They pity me, because I have stopped pretending to be a temporary embarrassed millionaire, and have processed the far more emotionally devastating truth: I am being exploited like everyone else, and my tiny corner of the grid is so puny, I’m not a threat.

There is no threat, from anyone like me, to the tyranny that has been growing since long before Trump even ran for office in the 90s. None of my hard-rocking anarchist friends are, either. We can scream by the thousands to Rage Against the Machine, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” But after the concerts are over, which we paid for with the money we earned by working for the system, and which the so-called sellouts will line their pockets with, and everyone either goes home or doesn’t, depending on how dedicated you are to music, that you’d risk living on each next tank of gas to tour. I can’t use my laptop to divert US bombs from Yemen, but I can sure as hell tell people who support the military what we’re really sacrificing our infrastructure for – and that is the destruction of billions of lives – but my voice, my perspective, my expertise, and my research, means nothing if I’m not digging earnestly for answers that are inclusive.

“If it’s not accessible to the poor, it is neither radical nor revolutionary.” Those words were painted in red on a dirty-white brick wall with the anarchy symbol, shared by a revolutionary friend. Inclusive solutions are ones without paywalls, saying you can’t read the news and inform yourself if you’re poor. They help connect people in need with people who want to help, and need to understand how. Inclusive solutions mean finding common ground between people from all backgrounds, encouraging and inviting the wealthy to use their resources in effective ways, instead of carrying resentment, because for the vast majority of the planet’s population,  life dealt our hands to us generations ago. Even if you live in a mansion, you are being squeezed for your funds, feeling pressed to work hard as a longtime employee, and advertised to with every inch of space available to reach your eyes. How do you actually help, and overcome personal bias regarding what it means to be “homeless” and “poor”?

So for now, I’ve got Patreon. But I have a long list of solutions that I’ve been carefully reading about and applying logic to. I’ll be analyzing questions like, “Poverty sucks, but if all the rich people gave all the poor people their money, would trade collapse?” And demonstrating the nuance of currency and economic factors, and inflation predictions, with the question “Would there even be enough to go around, if we could even theoretically deliver resources to war-torn and chaos-ridden countries across the world?” Finally, what many middle- and upper-class people have asked me and other survivors: “What works, and what attempts at ‘help’ have made things worse?”

Many of my peers are in the same boat as I am – running their own sites, creating their own brands, and working in client-based remote jobs to pay the bills. I’m doing the same, but the more people recognize my name, the less employable I am in an ordinary place. In every recent interview I’ve done in trying to get jobs, people have skimmed my site, and all they got from it was that I have a ton of siblings.

Being a sellout, for me, would be to put paywalls up on my blog. Patreon has extra information for my supporters, but I don’t want to advertise on my site or promote my posts by supporting Facebook’s algorithm. Google keeps emailing me saying I could start advertising with them for free. I could, at any time, fill this blog with affiliate links, and use my name and audience to promote useless junk, but I don’t want to. I’d rather be poor than take all this hard work I’ve done to identify what’s really wrong and supporting it by taking cash from advertising.

And as I ask for Patreon support, please know that anything helps, but only give if you can – It’s July 28th, and some very kind people have helped us cover utilities, rent for July, a mattress, and my partner and I are doing better thanks to having access to a kitchen and healthier food, and are both on medication. We save our bus money to go to our various clinics, and our state is covering investigation – we’ve ruled out cancer and various other life-threatening illnesses.

But we are not okay, and we won’t be for a long time. Survivors of trauma, grief, and abuse are thrown to the wolves in this country. It’s taken me three years to get this stable, but if I don’t raise another $600, I will be threatened with eviction if I don’t pay. I’ve asked for help as many times as possible from everyone I know to ask, and people have stopped replying. Since 2013, when I was kicked out of my parents’ home and had my bank account drained, with no education or work experience or knowledge of how to adult in the outside world – aged 22 but as innocent as a 12-year-old, expected to determine reality in a world that denies the existence of emotional abuse and trauma, knowing only how to calm babies, scrub floors, wash laundry, and say “yes, sir” to any office project my dad demanded of me, paid or unpaid, all of which has to be carefully explained as experience when looking for a job.

So while I am thankful for the kindness so far, honesty with the internet is all I have: my partner and I are still in so much pain and have so little energy that neither of us can work full-time shifts on our feet. We’ve both developed too many mental illnesses to find the unlivable wages of hard labor work – such as retail shelf stocking or working many large, hot machines in a grocery store deli or restaurant kitchen – worth the exhaustion, pain and suffering, psychological dissonance, and soul-killing depression that makes you wonder whether you’ll drive to work again or drive off a bridge. You don’t even make enough to make ends meet anyway. If you relate, you are not alone. If your job treats you like shit and nobody seems to care, you are not alone. So I write from home feverishly – 500 words per hour, researching and writing. I write web content, but ghostwriters and people who optimize keywords like I do usually don’t get a byline, which is fine with me. I don’t want to use my name, obscure as it may be, to support general commerce.

I am well aware that we’re all struggling, and we can all be in this conversation together. I’ve posted a public poll on my Patreon – you don’t have to pay to vote. Just take a few seconds to tell me if you’d like to see more videos from me. Say hi. Let’s discuss problems and solutions inclusively first.

Birthday Post 5 (Or, Finally, An Actual Update)

So much to do, so little time. So much to emotionally process, as the hours of depression bore infinitely empty holes in the walls as the hours trickle by. So our lives inch by, sometimes with days feeling like weeks where you need seven naps. That’s the feeling I had when I looked back into my recovered archives and saved backups in my endless files of content, and realized I haven’t blogged on my birthday in four years.

I am 26 today. Never has my birthday felt so unimportant. I pulled on my thrift-store black professional suit with a skirt too conservative for my tastes these days, but it was what I could get when I last needed to dress up for proposing a project to a prospective new client. I pull on socks and shoes from Walmart, bright colors because I’ll change into the black heels I’m carrying along before I walk in. I remind my partner why I have to leave, and he expresses worry and reminds me to be safe between sleepy kisses four or five times. My phone ran out of service yesterday, but the call for this interview came through by a stroke of luck, so of course I scheduled it for as soon as possible, forgetting it was my birthday until I hung up the phone.

We share a bus pass, and though my destination would be a comfortable 18-minute drive if we owned a car, such an investment is out of the question for several months.

Recently someone was shocked when I told them this, and said, “I thought you were living in your car!”

Well, yes, I was living in a car. Two years ago. Cars don’t last that long when the maximum you can spend on one is $1000-$1500 on Craig’s list. I try not to think about expenses too much. It’s my birthday, and I want to look confident for my interview. Besides, I got birthday money, and that means real cigarettes. What I really need is to renew my driver’s license and cover our half of the utility bill for this month, but this is why the poor stay poor: life sucks so bad you just take what you can get. My next paycheck will be $8 short of what last month’s utility bill was. We’ll save, regroup, and cross that bridge when we come to it.

I will become instantly unemployable tomorrow. Except by remote clients who do not need proof that I am a legal adult allowed to work in this country, but to be honest the count on that is one. Though my physical and mental symptoms make work impossibly difficult, the line to be approved for disability benefits (which in the end would only provide a paper-thin safety net for my lack of savings) is years long. So far they’ve finally gotten me some in-depth x-rays and given me a medication, but are still digging for a diagnosis. They’ve ruled out cancers and other degenerative diagnoses, but this only serves to narrow the search. I’m technically just one of the 95 million Americans who have inexplicably stopped looking for work according to the government – when in fact I’m doing everything I possibly can to scrounge together the funds this system exacts from me as payment for acquiring my own means to survival.

So tell me again, why should I, whose entire livelihood is being reduced to traveling on foot to dig up pennies for people swimming in money that can afford to make food and shelter and medical care free for everyone, be crying on my birthday because my brain is so far gone from all this stress and overwork that I lost my pack of cigarettes on the transit?

I am not alone. People seem to be really upset that I’m so dedicated to my so-called victim mindset, but guys. Let me tell you why I haven’t been writing much new content since 2014.

Well, first of all. Um. I need to acknowledge my privilege here, which is something I didn’t really have the wherewithal to address four years ago. See, my parents were emotionally, spiritually, and ideologically abusive far more than they were physically abusive. To this day there are people who look me up, find my blog, and want to know more, but don’t want to hear the truth: it wasn’t all good. It wasn’t something to glorify as entertainment, as my parents and The Learning Channel did. It hindered me financially, educationally, emotionally, relationally. I not only lost my family – and let me set the record straight, they cut me off BEFORE I blogged about it – I lost all my friends, and to this day I have my reservations with a great many people who I know, consequentially, through my parents.

But oddly, as I have studied my own development of chronic pain symptoms and sought mental health treatment that revealed and have begun taking prescription medication for my depression, I’ve learned that C-PTSD has the “C” for a reason. Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder shows up in cases like myself even though I have a low ACE or Adverse Childhood Experiences score. My parents are still married – I never experienced the trauma of a parental divorce. I never saw anyone murdered in front of me, and though my family had guns, they were treated with disciplined respect. I have shown many signs of sexual abuse from an early, but to my knowledge none of my siblings have shown the same symptoms, so while my parents reacted to it in a religiously motivated way – and I had no healthy sex education with which to interpret it emotionally, I do not entirely blame them for that aspect of my trauma. I was not beaten mercilessly or even insulted with profanities incessantly, as many others have been – my view of spanking as violent remains controversial. I am white, and because my partner is not, he will never have the same instant privilege I do, which almost always means I make more than he does, even if we have the same job. At a glance, I am instantly trusted as a thin, smiling white girl with long brightly-colored hair (compliments of the boyfriend). By contrast, he is instantly distrusted for his appearance, and it makes all the difference with small inconveniences like poverty.

He’s helped me emotionally process a side of the world I never saw. Growing up, I thought, as all my siblings still do, that homelessness and poverty is a choice, not mere lack of privilege. Eight of us are adults now, and my parents are pretty accepting of our various perspectives on religion or lack thereof, but capitalism and conservative ideology is king. I was unprepared to drop from the relatively comfortable life I had growing up. My father has two college degrees, but I had to drop out of college with an abysmal GPA when he told me I had to pay for it myself – though all he’d “paid” for up until then was his tax number for the grants I was well qualified to receive, as long as I only took a few classes at a time, because he had so many children. Though I was worked to the bone and was tired from years of being up in the night to take care of children, I didn’t worry each month how I would make rent, like I do now.

I told my boyfriend that it’s been five years since I’d had a birthday where I didn’t worry about where I was going to live. He laughed, and thought back, finally figuring that for him, he hadn’t felt that way since his 15th birthday. I know that my experience is not everyone’s experience, and have decided not to include any up-to-date information on any of my siblings in any of my writings henceforth. I tell my story for a myriad of reasons – to help people, and to connect on important issues that my generation is vastly ignorant about due to people like my parents. But if you want to know who’s getting married and who’s having kids and who’s coming out, you won’t find that here. Such things are not necessary to discuss the many topics I can write about.

When I started blogging about my family’s abuse, I was still working a job I had gotten through my parents. My productivity fell dramatically and I nearly lost that job in October 2014, the same month my blog had its largest-ever influx of visitors. I still have references with that company, and they were incredibly gracious and understanding about my need to take less pay for a job on a farm where I could have more time to recover. I saw a therapist at least once a week, slept a lot, got into meditation, obsessed over 30 Seconds to Mars and Russell Brand, and realized the nannying job I’d taken was far more work and far less compensation than I’d signed up for – I’d moved in with the family because I couldn’t afford to rent anywhere, and tensions were building with my boss, who would be in prison the following year murder and substance abuse. I stayed for most of the school year, but once I knew his children were safe, I got out, and, having nowhere to live, figured I could have a place to sleep if I worked at a summer camp.

This was around the time I lost my faith. I had a discussion about that on Facebook recently, and I really liked how I wrote this, so here is my answer I get asked a lot – why I’m not a Christian anymore:

It was indeed an incredibly disorienting experience, and one that took several years. It wasn’t until I had been cut off from my family for questioning the faith, that I was finally alone to wrestle with it for myself, no strings attached. I felt grief and anger – feelings I at first directed toward God, before realizing I was not being answered as I had once thought. But answers, bigger answers, lingered beyond any of the questions I’d asked before. Which brings me to the second question you asked – has life improved? Yes. I am more honest, more self-aware, more able to help the people around me, and would never have found a partner who understands me as deeply unless I grew past believing that my life belonged to the will of my creator, and his displeasure with choosing sin or lack of devotion. My perspective has improved, as I have known nature better than I ever did when I thought it was the handiwork of a creator, not billions of years of star-bred systems falling into place beautifully. When I no longer saw an imaginary friend who held the stars in place, I was finally able to appreciate what we know about the cosmos, and how little we know after all of our scientific study. The wonder of life, and the depths of mystery, the appreciation for mythology – all of these have become exponentially more vibrant since I left Christianity. It is, ultimately, a story of the same redemptive qualities that the myth of Christianity is about – the death of the self, the ego, the identity, and the depths of depression, hell, and solitude, leads to new awakenings. But it did not begin with a man on a cross. It has been proven true, after being a resonant story for many thousands of years.

I have never known someone who gave their troubles to God, instead of processing the pain of being human, infinitely small in vast, random space, who had truly known what it is to be “born again.” Yet Christians have taken that term and made it into something as easy as saying a prayer, cherrypicking what you want to believe about things, and continuing to live a privileged life where you go to church sometimes.

However, please note that it was not a decision. I did not “choose” to stop believing in God, nor is it possible for me to make the “decision” to believe again. I sorted through the evidence until I couldn’t argue with it anymore, and had to accept reality, regardless of how I felt about it.

As for why I think Yeshua existed and was crucified, several reasons. I can’t just ignore that most religious people in the world are Christians, and this story has been passed down, flawed and mythological as it may be. Historians generally agree it was one person or perhaps multiple people that the myth was based on – and I agree with the evidence (which is multiple mentionings of this man in other documents). I think he was crucified because (a) the probability of getting crucified if you were a foreigner with followers was really high at the time and (b) Islam makes a big deal out of denying point (a) to the point that I think they protest too much, adding credence to the possibility. I ultimately don’t know, that’s just my answer when people ask me what I think about Jesus – the historical evidence and mythological writings point to a pretty good probability that at least his existence and execution happened.

Seems kinda disjointed to go off on a tangent about religion, though, huh? It’s my birthday and I can do what I want, but I’m getting picked up by a friend who’s taking me out to sushi in a few minutes, so I have to go soon. Here’s the rest of the update:

In 2015, I was working at a summer camp, and had no way to blog because I had no internet. I was high up in the mountains, and my other trip leader, Bo, had insisted that I not even write in my journal, because I shouldn’t have to do anything on my birthday. We hiked to the top of a mountain, and another counselor revealed my birthday gift: a handful of king-size non-chocolate candies that could be easily hidden in one of the backpacks.

In 2016, I was being kicked out because my roommates weren’t happy about me letting my homeless boyfriend sleep over so often. I started smoking Swisher Sweets cigars, but I can’t stand them now.

In 2017, I was in the miserable state of living with ex-friends in an unfriendly desert town. They were able to help but stopped and kicked us out, leaving us to get back to our home state by ourselves without a word.

Now it’s 2018, and I’m back in the Pacific Northwest. I have no idea how I’m going to make rent for August (My Patreon supporters are amazing, but that doesn’t come in until after rent is due), but I know I’m not alone, and I’ve been free of that particular terror for most of my life.

As much as I hate injustice and want to do everything I can to use my experience and my abilities to end all oppression of all kinds, that is life. I am grieving and growing with my eyes open to what is and what should never be. Soon enough I will write about the many facets of what that has looked like, in my tiny corner of conscious experience.

Isolation and the Denial of Interdependence

This is part 3 in a series on economic injustice. Click here to read from the beginning.

“His philosophy was: to be up, you gotta push someone down.
That was all I knew cause that was all I was around
I found the flaws in his methods from the cause in myself
Father Diablo: Only an uncle to every one else
He taught me how to talk without looking in your eyes
Gave me a nine to five, made me ignore the lullabies
A puddle of the dried tears shade me colorless.” -Eyedea and Abilities, Read Wiped in Blue

Human beings are not independent creatures. Independence is a myth, but it is the god of the American people. From birth, we are dependent on others for survival. We cannot feed, clothe, clean, or protect ourselves. As we grow into so-called independence, we are still entirely dependent on others for these necessities. CEOs who make the most money in their corporations wouldn’t have their profits without the revenue produced by their companies. And it’s important to note that while CEOs of profitable companies catch a lot of the hatred for wealth inequality, they made up only 5% of the 0.01 percent of the wealthiest people in this country as of 2004.[1] The wealthiest among us, in fact, are the most dependent on others. The rich do not make or mend their own clothes, or wash them, for that matter. A shower requires hygienic products and running heated water, all of which are provided by someone else. Protection and security is uniquely more significant for the wealthy, because the wealthy have the most to lose in our society.[2] Paid for, yes. But money is worthless unless you have someone to pay it to.

We are interdependent beings. Yet as a country, we actively undermine interdependency.

Isolation starts with family. While some parents are ostracizing their LGBTAIQ offspring,[3] others simply don’t have stability to offer to their kids. Minorities will die young,[4] leaving little or nothing to their children, while many others are victims of unfair incarceration.[5] Meanwhile, parents who are willing and able to support their adult offspring are supporting their children more than ever: Young people living with their parents are at a 75-year high,[6] which CBS describes as a “failure” to leave the nest. Seeing young people as failures, rather than the system failing them, is a common mentality among Americans. 40% of young people are living with their parents, but another 20% also receive financial support from their parents.[7]

For the 60% of us who aren’t turning to our folks for housing, displacement is common. Every person I know who is LGBTAIQ has been ostracized by the community they were raised in – or are still closeted. Many have, like me, fled to other parts of the country to avoid the harassment of the communities that cast us out. Family and community is only part of the cause for isolation, however. Isolation is the price we pay for our individualistic ideals. As of 2017, the average American only has one close friend – and that’s just the average.[8]

What I know is that denial of interdependence is laughable, but forced isolation is no laughing matter. When I lived in Seattle, I would take a bus to work before sunrise, and I’d see silent ambulances picking dead bodies up off the streets. The New York Times published a piece just over a year ago describing the impacts of social isolation, and listed the old, the ill, and the uneducated as the most vulnerable.[9] In their analysis of the same problem, Business Insider pointed out that while social networking makes us feel more connected, equating individualism and success incentivizes isolation.[10] Perhaps the biggest contributor to isolation, though, is the taboo of discussing financial standing.[11]

In my personal experience of growing up in an extremely conservative family, I’ve seen how the ignorance of actual economic factors contributes to isolation. I don’t trust a single one of my siblings to offer any solidarity or financial support. Though several of them have set aside the religious beliefs and lifestyle we were raised to believe in, every one of my adult siblings is firmly convinced that poverty is the fault of the impoverished.

In the American mind, nobody is responsible for anyone else. Not family, not friends, not the government, not the company you work for. The proof for this is simple: suicide is seen as the crime of the person committing suicide, never the failure of life to be worth living.

Because interdependence is impossible to eradicate, the United States is a demonstration of failure to do the impossible. And as a society, we’ve collectively decided to go along with a system that sets impossible standards, then punishes its most vulnerable for their inevitable failure.

[1] https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/joshua-rauh-what-forbes-400-list-says-about-american-wealth

[2]https://books.google.com/books?id=TV_2AwAAQBAJ&pg=PT102&lpg=PT102&dq=matt+stoller+%22private+security%22&source=bl&ots=ho9htPyOvS&sig=nEu8dhAYS_WuBN3VFa6Oy1M3mUc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiez6Lwm9bZAhUjmuAKHfAxCtQQ6AEIQDAE#v=onepage&q=matt%20stoller%20%22private%20security%22&f=false

[3] https://www.ft.com/content/004c6df4-699e-11e3-aba3-00144feabdc0

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6613a6.htm

[5] https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/

[6] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/percentage-of-young-americans-living-with-their-parents-is-40-percent-a-75-year-high/

[7] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2011/05/20/parents-provide-financial-support-money-adult-children/#66102c161987

[8] http://www.businessinsider.com/emma-seppala-the-average-american-has-only-one-close-friend-2017-7

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/upshot/how-social-isolation-is-killing-us.html

[10] http://www.businessinsider.com/emma-seppala-the-average-american-has-only-one-close-friend-2017-7

[11] https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2015/04/14/the-money-taboo-why-it-exists-who-it-benefits-and-how-to-navigate-it/#6c7f08e72f62

Burned Out at 30: The Rise of the New Underclass

This is part 2 of a series on economic injustice. Click here to read the introduction.
“Stop punchin’ the clock
Punch it with all of your rage
Put the men in office
For a minimum wage
Rats, fighting for scraps
Siphon the gas from your tank
Left your pockets empty
As they laughed at the bank
They speak about draws
But make no mistake –
They’re shaking your head while they spit in your face!” –Billy Talent, Viking Death March

It was a regular trip to the DMV. My partner and I share a bus pass for the various errands we need to run, and for him to get to work (I work from home). I slipped it out of his wallet, brushed my hair, pulled on shoes, kissed him gently, and reminded him via Facebook messenger where I’d gone in case he woke early and got worried.

I couldn’t text him, because we haven’t been able to refill his phone in a couple of months. It’s not too much a hassle, just an inconvenience and worry before he logs in to his work wi-fi to tell me he’s arrived safe. What takes a car twelve minutes can take him anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour, and the walks between bust stops are painful with his undiagnosed but chronic pain. Late shifts and insomnia keep him awake at all hours.

We have so much to be grateful for, though. After two months of sleeping on stage blocks in a garage, and a third month sleeping on the floor of our newly acquired apartment, having a mattress is doing wonders for our pain. I chuckle ruefully as I take my depression prescription – the government can give us pills, but not stability. I don’t blame the government or my parents so much as human nature for these inconveniences, but the lack of stability I’ve had is one I am not alone in experiencing in this country. It is only because I am lucky enough to have very kind people willing to help me, that I have a roof over my head, and a new mattress to cushion me from the hard floor. We’re investing bit by bit and piecing together rent each month, asking for help and taking as many freelance and odd jobs as possible.

I puff on my vape pen, a gifted hand-me-down from a friend. It gives me some gentle and sweet relief from my morning anxiety, and the soreness of adjusting to a new mattress for the first time in a while (well, I’m always in pain, it’s just pronounced this week, and the mattress is already a welcome comfort that will grow softer). I scroll through Facebook, have a few morning rants, and read half a chapter of a book on my library app. Someone from across the world gave me an Amazon gift card. I’ve got one paperback on child psychology on its way in the mail, and I’m still deciding which precious e-books I’ll buy with the rest of it – ones that are hard to find through public libraries.

It’s not called “DMV” in this state, but I knew I’d found it when I walked into a short and unattractive building, which greeted guests with a large “PICK A NUMBER” dispenser upon entering its overly secure double doors. I was not prompted to sit in a disjointed room with haphazard rows of plastic chairs that promised a lengthy wait, but I did so. There were people with clipboards acting more important than their paychecks would ever reflect, being pestered while various lines sprawled around the chairs. Even the effeminate, computerized voice that announced numbers sounded like it had given up on trying to sound cheerful.

I waited half an hour, reading some more – no harm done. We’d saved $20 after covering bills and needs for me to renew my driver’s license. We don’t have a car for me to drive, I really only need it to acquire tobacco, weed, and alcohol. I don’t even drink, so the alcohol one I rarely use (I’m not religiously opposed to ever touching An Alcohol but I’m only in the mood like twice a year). Before my number was called, someone came around to answer questions, and we realized I had none of the paperwork necessary to prove my residency.

Updating my address with USPS would cost $1 to my debit card, which has covered basic needs already, and my birthday will have passed by the time it arrives, when my license needs to be renewed. I ask if I can call my leasing office – I’ve just moved into a local apartment complex. We go through everything on the list, and finally find one document I qualify to prove I am an adult over the age of 21, living in the United States of America. Why? I’m a virtual freelancer – I don’t receive paychecks from a local address. I’m on a shared lease, because I can’t afford a whole apartment on my apparent worth to society alone, so a utility bill is out.

I smiled politely. I’ve worked customer service, I know he can’t change the list, only help people with it. “I just had one last question, it said online that renewing your license costs $20, is that correct?”

His face dropped only slightly, his customer-service game face was on and I knew it well. “Um, it’s $89, ma’am.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t have been able to get it then, anyway,” I said, trying to take it well.

“Yeah, because it’s actually $35 for just the application fee, then $54 for the license itself.”

I left, crushed. I’d rushed out the door for a place in line and skipped my breakfast for something that’s compulsory in my country. If I acquire tobacco, borrow a friend’s car, smoke marijuana, or drink alcohol, I must be able to prove that I am responsible. Fair enough! I want to live in a place where there are consequences for doing all of the above at the same time. Sure, we should all carry licenses, you only have to update them every few years. The anarchist in me prickles at the surveillance, but I know I won’t live to see Earth become Alderaan.

Now I’m being told that if I don’t fork up another ninety bucks on top of what feels like shoveling cash onto a raging fire, I can’t buy any recreational drugs or drive.

This is literally a price trap – damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I could possibly scrounge up $90 extra, but it’s impossible to explain to middle-class people what life below the poverty line is like. But if I don’t replace my identification card, I can’t legally buy or sell or do specific things. The punishment for breaking this law, which is out of the question, is more debt for someone like me, but it’s a slap on the wrist compared to what a person of color in the same situation could expect. In the United States today, marijuana is now legal in states where prisoners are serving lengthy sentences for what free pedestrians do every day.

Poor, young people like me, who are both underemployed and living with invisible physical or mental illness, don’t have $89 to spare. That price tag reads as a giant “No.” I can’t have it, even though I am a responsible adult nearing 26 years old who works as hard as my body allows, knows how to drive a vehicle according to local laws, and may need to in certain situations. I smoke to help with my symptoms, but I don’t mix driving and being under the influence. I can easily take a test, pass their vision check, answer questions, and provide information. This would be even more difficult for someone without my privilege, I think ruefully, but even for me, this is out of reach. You can drown in two feet or twelve feet of water, as they say.

Walking is getting harder for my man as his pain spreads, and we only finally got him in to see a doctor three days ago. I walked the five blocks and found the bus back, plus the final few blocks once the bus dropped me at the nearest intersection, in an angry, disappointed haze. There had been one rolled cigarette left that morning, and I told my love that I’d pick up some tubes – $5 for 200 of them, so cheap that, contrary to popular belief, the addiction is cheaper than caffeine. Brand-name packs of cigarettes are an occasional splurge these days.

“It’s robbery,” I fumed to my partner. I was shaking as I finally rolled the first cigarette from the new box of tubes, having wasted three hours that could have been better spent writing or applying for more freelance jobs. I’m trying to gain weight after years of this nonsense harming my weight, so I make a chocolate-banana-strawberry-yogurt protein milkshake, in our little $20 blender, replaced last week because cheap blenders burn out or fray, like the last one did. He said, “It is, they’re squeezing us dry. You should blog about this little injustice, because it’s exactly what is constantly getting in our way.”

He’s not wrong. The trouble finding the right paperwork, and the steep price, shows that I don’t fit their system, one that is older than me, but has already aged and exhausted me. So I will wait, and just keep doing what I’m doing.

Waiting in the gridlock has taken such a toll on me, I often wonder how much of the trauma is my upbringing, or my inability to get stable enough to recover properly. Every time I find a doctor, I need to be sure I’m going to be living in the area for the next few months while I wait for an appointment. And I’m one of the lucky ones – I’m white and I have a platform that many do not. No matter how many people donate to my Patreon, however, that money is still being funneled back into the system built on hundreds of years of exploitation. I’m just exploiting the more fortunate back a little, and there are some wonderful people in the world who don’t mind that, because they recognize that the system is broken, and it is an act of rebellion to support art and real solutions in these unstable times, in any way you can.

The unemployment rate is incredibly low, despite the grim tightness with which so many of us are clutching our wallets. But the majority of the employed are underemployed in this economy. Anyone who has been optimistic since 2008 hasn’t been paying attention, and from what I hear from locals and travelers, a lot of Europe and many other parts of the world are watching their infrastructures implode in different ways in the shock of the past decade. The years between 2008 and 2018 have, for many of us, felt like one long, miserable, exhausted road trip with no destination, sleeping in our breaking-down cars periodically as we go.

2015 feels like a long time ago to many people my age, but it was then that the CEO of Gallup criticized the US government’s data gathering techniques, and the media’s eagerness to celebrate a low unemployment rate. He wrote:

“The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market. None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job — if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news — currently [2015] 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast ‘falling’ unemployment.”

I’ve been given countless tidbits of useless advice. “Get a job” becomes “get a better job” in a matter of moments when I try to explain that poverty has no easy fix, no reliable solution. Even though the evidence backs me up – the book I’m reading is a new release from June 26th of this year, called “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America” by Alissa Quart. A part of the overworked vanishing middle class herself, she addresses in 320 dense pages how bad it already is and is projected to get. In the introduction, she describes how her parents could afford full-time jobs with benefits – “nothing fancy,” as she puts it, but nothing like the housing crisis that’s now facing the majority of Americans. After assessing her own disappointment in reaching her mid-forties and feeling crushed by impossible debt, she writes,

“I felt juvenile, but also suspected that the game was rigged – that unlike me, the very wealthy who now filled the city of my birth didn’t lacerate themselves for small missteps. This personal experience was partly how I arrived at the mantra of this book: It’s not your fault. It seems key to me – to recognize that feeling in the red or on the edge isn’t all your personal problem. And while some psychological analysis or boosts may help, the problem of not being able to afford to live in America can’t be cured by self-help mantras. It can’t be mended simply by creating a resume that utilizes several colors of printer ink or a regimen of cleansing green juices. The problem is systemic.”

Why a low unemployment rate no longer means domestic success

Because the unemployment rate was such a major factor in the Great Depression, with the number of unemployed Americans reaching 25%,[1] it should come as no surprise that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is burying the numbers on current employment.[2] Having a part-time job isn’t a number recorded on this year’s employment situation summary – rather, the dividing line of part-time work is just whether people are working more or less than 35 hours a week – regardless of whether they are working multiple jobs to do so.[3] That means when BLS also reported in 2017 that only 19% of part-time workers have access to medical care benefits, they are not gathering or reporting data on how many people are actually working multiple part-time jobs without benefits.[4] They know how many people are working multiple jobs, though: 7.5 million.[5] In their technical note on that report, BLS admits that it does not include the self-employed in its percentages,[6] despite the fact that we make up 20% of the job market today.[7]

An independent (but oft-cited) study predicts that freelancers will make up the majority of the economy by 2027.[8] By contrast, people who HAVE jobs are fairly confident that they’ll be able to keep their jobs in the near future.[9] But those who are piecing together a living with odd jobs are struggling with inconsistent budgets month to month.[10] The problem of pay equality is very hidden, especially because only 58% of workers are paid by the hour,[11] leaving the remaining workers’ compensation in the dark: how fair are contracts? I once got paid $1,800 for two and a half months of 70-hour weeks, and the contract stated that any necessities required from my employer – sold to me by my employer – would come out of my paycheck.

It’s also expected to get worse. One oft-overlooked fact is that while the unemployment rate is incredibly low, another number is growing at an exponential rate: people who are just done looking for work, exiting the workforce for a multitude of reasons. A blogger’s analysis reports on this buried demographic from the 2016 BLS report:[12]

From January 2000 to January 2016, the number of citizens Employed rose by 11%, Not-in-Labor Force by 37% and U6 Unemployed by 57%.  Since the end of the Great Recession in 2010 through 2015, Unemployment dropped by 40% but voluntary workforce departures continued a steady exodus reaching a high watermark of 94 million able-bodied adults who choose not to work.  If this trend remains unabated, Jobenomics forecasts that America’s able-bodied, not-working population could equal its working population by the mid-2020s, or sooner if the United States slips into recession.

By not including the able-bodied, not-working population in State of the Union deliberations, policymakers play a statistical shell game with American citizens who cannot be expected to comprehend the intricacies of labor force statistics. Sooner or later, the American people will figure out that it is theoretically possible for the United States to have a zero rate of unemployment while simultaneously having zero people employed in the labor force. The reason for this disquieting statement involves how government measures unemployment. To be classified as unemployed, one must be looking for work. Able-bodied Americans who quit looking and voluntarily depart the workforce are accounted in the Not-in-Labor-Force category—a category that is generally never mentioned in politics or the media.

The U6 category is defined as follows:

The four survey questions that government interviewers use to record a person as unemployed include… (1) Do you currently want a job, either full or part time? (2) What is the main reason you were not looking for work during the last 4 weeks? (3) Did you look for work at any time during the last 12 months? (4) Last week, could you have started a job if one had been offered?” If a person answers yes to all four questions, that person is considered Unemployed. If the answer is no to any of these questions, that person is enrolled in the Not-in-Labor-Force category.

According to CNBC, economists have no idea what these 95 million not-in-labor-force people are doing.[13] The report includes some theoretical references that these people would just rather rely on benefits than work, but that doesn’t account for much – you can’t get unemployment benefits without actively seeking work; and only 41 million people are on food stamps,[14] many of them employed or disabled. These survey questions being asked leave far too many questions unanswered. Question 2 isn’t a yes-or-no question. I’ve been asked these questions many times while applying for benefits, and nobody bothers to ask me for specifics. I’d be happy to inform them, though, that I couldn’t start if I’d been offered a job the week my car broke down, or I had no money for bus fare, or I was unable to meet dress code standards due to not having expensive enough clothes, or I was sick, or I was in debilitating pain.

Due to these wild inaccuracies from our government, it is nearly impossible to gather information on the state of the union. However, many independent researchers and organizations are working hard to measure what inflation, and the new value of a job, look like. The organization Equality of Opportunity released numbers it called “The Fading American Dream” in 2016, showing that people born in the 1980s are about half as likely as those born in the 1940s to make more money than their parents did.[15] They also showed that in the southeast corner of the United States, upward mobility is gridlocked – people in the lowest 20% income bracket have a less than 5% chance of reaching the top 20% income bracket.[16]

All these numbers simply say this: working hard, and getting a job, may have been a route to success 60 or even 30 years ago, but it is now nearly impossible. That said, it was never an option for people with disabilities, people without access to so-called skilled work, and it’s still not an option for the septuagenarian workforce who seem to have missed their chance to get rich – and are working alongside millennials in low-wage positions past the age of 70, unable to retire.[17] And that’s not even to mention how the retirement crisis looks for people of color.[18] When I read the September 2017 recent report The Road to Zero Wealth, I wrote the following on my Facebook:

Holy shit this needs so much more coverage but it has been BURIED beneath headlines.

“While households of color are projected to reach majority status by 2043, if the racial wealth divide is left unaddressed, median Black household wealth is on a path to hit zero by 2053 and median Latino household wealth is projected to hit zero twenty years later. In sharp contrast, median White household wealth would climb to $137,000 by 2053…Even earning a middle-class income does not guarantee a family middle-class economic security, according to the report. White households in the middle income quintile—those earning $37,201-61,328 annually—own nearly eight times as much wealth ($86,100) as Black middle-income earners ($11,000) and ten times that of their Latino counterparts ($8,600).”

If you’re white and you think you couldn’t get by with $8,000-$10,000 in the bank, check your fucking privilege.

I have so much more to say, but I think this covers a sizable chunk of turning all this research into blog-size pieces.

Want to support my ad-free, anti-establishment work? I have a Patreon for that!


Sources Cited:

[1] https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1510

[2] https://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/2018/02/05/the-ratio-of-part-time-employed-january-2018

[3] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

[4] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/ebs2.tn.htm

[5] https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat36.pdf

[6] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/ebs2.tn.htm

[7] https://www.npr.org/2018/01/22/578825135/rise-of-the-contract-workers-work-is-different-now

[8] https://www.upwork.com/i/freelancing-in-america/2017/

[9] https://www.thestreet.com/story/13141180/1/job-security-confidence-is-soaring-but-americans-still-dont-have-the-right-skills.html

[10] https://www.npr.org/2018/01/22/578825135/rise-of-the-contract-workers-work-is-different-now

[11] https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2016/home.htm

[12] http://jobenomicsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2016-U.S.-Labor-Force-State-of-the-Union-11-Jan-2015.pdf

[13] https://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/02/95-million-american-workers-not-in-us-labor-force.html

[14] https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/pd/34SNAPmonthly.pdf

[15] http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/abs_mobility_summary.pdf

[16]https://www.stlouisfed.org/~/media/Files/PDFs/Community%20Development/EconMobilityPapers/Section1/EconMobility_1-1Chetty_508.pdf?d=l&s=tw

[17] http://theweek.com/articles/749428/americas-reluctant-septuagenarian-workforce

[18] https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/03/09/the-retirement-crisis-facing-african-americans/#48821564f5ba

An Introduction to My Research on the United States Economic Crisis

“Halt, freeze, who goes there?
Do you have the right?
Do you have the right documentation?” –Enter Shikari

The letter said that if I didn’t attend the meeting, I would be denied access to food benefits. My partner received one, too. When we arrived, after nursing our dying car to the location, we were lectured about how we needed to fill out ten pages of paperwork, and we’d be required to show that we’d put in 30 hours per week searching for jobs.

“If the state doesn’t provide us with money, we can’t give you anything,” the preppy lady with an expensive suit and jewelry said. I bit my tongue to hold back from asking if she’d still get paid, since she works for an organization that gets taxpayer funding to kick the poor. I wondered how much she makes.

The benefits of having a job, according to those who have no fear for their wellbeing, include being able to own a house, get out of debt, and have a life purpose. These were written without irony on a powerpoint presentation, followed by statistics showing that the highest demand for jobs are in minimum-wage positions. I laughed openly, because I know these are all lies, designed to motivate the least fortunate among us to sell their time to our broken infrastructure.

This happened several months ago. The car is long gone, we’re in a different part of the country now, our food stamps are covered and we’re eating healthier, some very kind people have stepped in to help us find our feet, and we’re in line to get medical care. I tell this story because the climb to stability has been long and grueling, and my partner and I are not alone. I have come to accept that I may never be free of asking for help and paying it forward when I get a little ahead myself. Of course, being in the kind of poverty that the United States inflicts is nothing compared to countless types of suffering the world over, but I’m not here to compare traumas.

I’m here to bring attention to a crisis.

Life expectancy is dropping.[1] Millennials like me will live shorter lives than our parents if this trend continues, and more of us are turning to suicide.[2] These warning signs have been directly linked with economic disparity in Spain[3] [4] and Greece[5], with Greece having both a higher life expectancy[6] and lower budget deficit[7] than the US. When discussing wealth disparity, economists are beginning to discuss the 0.01% owning 0.99% of the wealth of the 1%,[8] because even the majority of the 1% are wage earners who make less than $400,000 per year.[9] Wealth inequality reached its highest point since the Great Depression in 2013, and it has shown no signs of slowing, according to the Pew Research Center.[11] This effectively means that the US is now a developing nation [12] and as of August 2017, the wealth disparity in the United States is worse than in Russia or Iran.[10]

The American Dream is dying or already dead.[13] If you’re not already rich, your chances of getting rich are steadily declining.[14] Back in 2009, only 4% of Americans earned six figures, and 0.5% earned 250,000 or more – so the other 3.5% are making less than a quarter million a year.[15] The widest gap in wealth, Slate noted recently, is between white women and women of color.[16] Wealth for minorities is expected to drop to less than zero by 2053, just ten years after minorities are projected to outnumber white people.[17] And the growth rate for the richest is exponentially increasing on the daily.[18]

99.9% of the country should be united on the issue of wealth disparity. The only reason we aren’t is propaganda. If you choose to take the time to read my research on this subject, I will fully cite my claims.

If this was a monarchy, the suffering of this country’s people would be unacceptable. Kings who hoard and let their people live in dire need have terrible reputations. If this was a democracy, it would demonstrate the failure of mob rule, but this is not a democracy. But because it is a monetary republic, our system is doing precisely what it is supposed to do.

I intentionally refer to the United States government as a “monetary republic.” That is the truest description of our constitution, our founders, and our governmental structure. It is not capitalistic, because the market has never been free of legal oversight.[19] Even the word “oversight” presumes that market forces have some kind of accountability, but that could not be further from the truth. If you have money in this country, the system is on your side.[20] [21] [22] If you don’t, you might as well be dead, in my personal experience. That is the country I live in, and that is the country I am trying to escape or die trying.

A Quick Note on the Nature of Money

“The economy is not real. The economy is a construction. The economy is an idea, a notion. It requires our belief, like a dollar bill or a pound note, requires us to believe in the myth of its value. And as soon as we withdraw our consent, as soon as we disobey, it’s over.” –Russell Brand, interview with Bob Roth

As many of you know, I’m not a fan of money at all. I also don’t think that poverty is in any way unique to the United States. It amazes me, though, that this subject is still so widely up for debate in the minds of the American people. We are rivaled in wealth disparity among OECD countries only by Mexico and Chile.[23] I was unable to find numbers on how the United States compares to its 41 peers as a developed country. I’m most familiar with my own country’s economics and legislative system, and I’ve only experienced the injustice of poverty here, so I feel most capable of researching my own country.

Currency itself is archaic in a modern world where debts can be bought and sold, and money is mostly digital. That’s why this is still a worthwhile discussion to have. Just because wealth distribution is broken, does not necessarily mean that the redistribution of wealth is a simple or effective process. Wealth is still money, currency, assets, and net worth. Addressing this problem requires acknowledging that a poverty-creating and poverty-punishing system is unjust.

This isn’t a topic I will be addressing in the book I’m working on right now, so it belongs on the blog. So far, this has been the first two pages of a 36-page document full of research on what’s happening to our economy – so if this introduction seems choppy, that’s because this topic is complex. My aim is to tell my story, advocate for those who are dealing with the same roadblocks I am, and unearth as many creative solutions as possible for those who can and want to help but aren’t sure how. Read on in the Justice and Advocacy category.

For further reading, check out the new 2018 release “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America” by Alissa Quart. I’m reading it now, follow me on Goodreads to see my progress and reviews!

The in-depth research in this article was made possible by my Patreon supporters.

References:

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/21/health/us-life-expectancy-study/index.html

[2] http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/apr/19/deaths-of-despair-stalk-millennials-in-unforgiving/

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0213911114000764

[4] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bruno_Casal/publication/289129438_The_economic_crisis_and_death_by_suicide_in_Spain_Empirical_evidence_based_on_a_data_panel_and_the_quantification_of_losses_in_labour_productivity/links/5689965508aebccc4e17260d/The-economic-crisis-and-death-by-suicide-in-Spain-Empirical-evidence-based-on-a-data-panel-and-the-quantification-of-losses-in-labour-productivity.pdf

[5] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2017/07/22/study-economic-crisis-shortens-life-expectancy-of-greeks/

[6] http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Greece/United-States/Health

[7] http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Greece/United-States/Economy

[8] http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/never-mind-1-percent-lets-talk-about-001-percent

[9] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/06/how-much-you-need-to-earn-to-be-in-the-top-1-percent-at-every-age.html

[10] http://fortune.com/2017/08/01/wealth-gap-america/

[11] https://journalistsresource.org/studies/economics/inequality/income-inequality-research-distribution-class

[12] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-developing-nation-regressing-economy-poverty-donald-trump-mit-economist-peter-temin-a7694726.html

[13] http://www.businessinsider.com/the-american-dream-of-social-mobility-2017-3?r=US&IR=T

[14] https://www.stlouisfed.org/~/media/Files/PDFs/Community%20Development/EconMobilityPapers/Section1/EconMobility_1-1Chetty_508.pdf?d=l&s=tw

[15] https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1110/getting-rich-what-are-your-odds.aspx

[16] https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/03/for-women-of-color-work-life-balance-is-a-different-kind-of-problem.html

[17] http://fortune.com/2017/09/19/racial-inequality-wealth-gap-america/

[18] http://www.businessinsider.com/income-gap-between-upper-middle-class-and-very-rich-2017-7

[19] https://money.howstuffworks.com/free-market-economy2.htm

[20] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/12/lobbying-10-ways-corprations-influence-government

[21] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/how-corporate-lobbyists-conquered-american-democracy/390822/

[22] https://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

[23] https://www.keepeek.com//Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/economics/measuring-income-inequality-and-poverty-at-the-regional-level-in-oecd-countries_5jxzf5khtg9t-en#.Wp23PujwZPY#page13

Breaking the Taboo

We’ve alienated each other from the conversation about fiscal policy, corporate policy, and shamed ourselves into silence. Either you’re a temporarily embarrassed rich person in the job and car and house and clothes of a poor person, or you’re too rich to ever disclose what you make, and feel guilty for amassing wealth that’s just pennies to the few people doing most of modern exploitation.

So, in the spirit of breaking taboos, I will reveal how much money I made last year: $12,000. Without unreportable charity, it would have been completely impossible for me to have kept a roof over my head during that entire time.

You and I will never be rich. Unless you’re in the 0.01%, but hey, there’s only a 0.01% chance that you’re in the 0.01%, right? You will always make exactly amount of money you need, by statistical chance. Never more, never less. Because inflation means every step forward keeps you exactly where you are. Let’s say you want to be earning $70k by 2023. That’s a valid goal for anyone to aim for five years in the future. My friend Matthew used an inflation calculator[1] to determine that $70,000 will have the spending power of $61,869 in 2023. That’s what a gridlocked economy looks like.

What are our chances of getting incredibly wealthy, and making the ranks of billionaires? The number of billionaires has doubled in the past seven years…from 1,011 in 2010[2] to 2,043 in 2017.[3] Interestingly, none of that wealth was spread from the original billionaires to the others. Each of the billionaires who’ve joined the list have apparently built their “own” (I’d say stolen) wealth. This is demonstrated in the fact that the amount of money they all have has also doubled.

So, just to guess: if this trend continues (double the number of billionaires and double the wealth between them in the next seven years), there will be somewhere around an even 4,000 billionaires in the world by 2025. That means that compared to everyone else in the world, you’ve got a 0.00005714288979593702% chance of becoming a billionaire in the next seven years. That number is so astronomical, it looks like it’s straight out of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And yet I will guarantee you that people who are stuck in the mentality that the American Dream is real, that it’s not false hope to believe in those kinds of chances, will say one of two things in response. It’s either “well, I don’t need to be a billionaire,” or “you can still work really hard and get there.”

Yet I have numerous friends who nobly claim that they will someday get rich, so that they can join the ranks of philanthropic heroes. I urge you, please, consider the fallaciousness of this dream. You and I need to stop pretending that we are rich, that we’ll someday be rich, or that we identify with the rich. Unless of course, you agree with Congress members in thinking that $450,000/year is “middle class,”[4] in which case you are equally dissociative toward facts.

[1] https://smartasset.com/investing/inflation-calculator#LmeRPSsb5q

[2] https://www.forbes.com/2010/03/09/worlds-richest-people-slim-gates-buffett-billionaires-2010-intro.html#4d128eb141ab

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2017/03/20/forbes-2017-billionaires-list-meet-the-richest-people-on-the-planet/#2a71d4fa62ff

[4] http://www.newsweek.com/tax-cuts-republicans-middle-class-trump-701094