Our shrinking world of privilege
In no particular order, I’m going to point out how our world of privilege is ever-shrinking.
I’ll begin with products. You already know this, so I’ll keep things to a minimum. Oh yes, privilege is interlaced with quantity. For instance you can buy a large Hershey bar of chocolate and it will taste the same as always but the "large" bar will not be equivalent in size to what you could have bought five years ago, and it will also cost more. You could say the same about almost any product that has existed for a number of years.
You may have noticed that a lot of products in the supermarket have started to packaged in smaller and smaller containers. The quality of the product may not vary (as far as we can tell), but we are certainly paying more for less -- almost across from the board -- from ice cream to cereal.
This is an odd thing to happen when wages are stagnant and people who were once considered upper-to-middle middle class has diminished.
There seems to be an effort to keep most products available even if they contain less content and cost more than in the past. I think this is more of a psychological suggestion (however lousy) that nothing is going on. You can still get all of your favorite products just as before. First of all this is false. Many products we enjoyed ten years ago have simply disappeared. Of the products that remain, yes, you can still buy them if you are willing to pay twice the price (or more) for a lesser volume.
As we have all encountered, customer service has taken a nosedive. I am mainly focusing on call centers upon which we rely very heavily. We’ve all gotten used to the idea that to talk to a customer representative will entail speaking with someone whose English is a second language. For some simple matters, this is not a great problem, but if you are trying to figure out some obscure phenomenon with your computer, the language problem can become extremely difficult. Most of them are given scripts, and if the scripts don’t follow the problem tract, they have to move the problem up the scale … still with no guarantee that your problem will be solved. Most people I know are tired of being placed on hold and listening to some ungodly music track. But that has become the norm.
Thus it seems we get less on all fronts. We get less product for our money, and when we need customer service, we are often confronted with an array of robotic responses before we can talk to a real human being -- who then may have to switch you over to some other department.
Meanwhile, such things as utilities have started to cost more in many areas -- and without substantive reason. Dealing with the government or one of its subsidiaries is like reading a novel by Kafka. Government employees normally get paid more and work far less than those in the private sector. They never quit their jobs because they know they couldn't make it in the real world. As a contractor, I've been inside both worlds and can honestly say that government workers are a bunch of slackers, generally poorly educated and yet who feel deserving of a lot of entitlements.
Most renters can expect their lease (most apartments now operate on a lease basis), can expect an increase from year to year. The management has no excuse other than their own costs are rising. The killer for me is paying "pet rent," often about $50.00 per month. This would be on top of a pet rent deposit that you have for fork over at the time of move in. Pet rent seems like a patently obvious way of gouging people who love an animal. The $50.00 fee is per animal. So, if you have two cats, expect to pay an additional $100 per month. The longer you live in one of these joints, the worse the expenditure. If you have one cat, over a period of ten years, you will have paid $5,000 supposedly for any damages. This is on top of whatever you had to pay at the the time of move in. What can a single cat do during that period of time to justify such an expense? Even if the cat has peed the cheap carpet supplied at the time of move in, its replacement value is nowhere near this type of expense. No, the cost is just another way for management to increase your monthly lease -- and there are no known laws on the books that I know of that limit this criminal expenditure. It's just another way of gouging the renter.
So where does that leave what used to be considered the middle-class? Not in very good shape. In most cases their income does not rise very noticeably, so they are forced to make cut-backs. This means fewer and fewer “luxury” items, like a bag of cherries and more money put forth to cover rent, insurance, gasoline, etc., etc.
Without going political on the subject, I cannot see how the diminishment of the middle class avails anyone. The 1% who hold the most profit of our country should be able to see that they can only bleed the middle class so far before it has an impact upon them.