Friday, May 20, 2005

Still rambling about class

Had a good talk with my mom two nights ago (while waiting in a long-ass line to get into the midnight showing of a certain sci-fi movie) about class. She had not heard about the Times piece (she's a middle school teacher and is too busy to read about it right now anyway--grading beckons), but she said it sounded very interesting and that she'd like to read it.

I explained to her about the interactive graphic where you set forth your job, education, income and assets and it rates you. She said she was interested in entering the information from various points in her life, to see how she moved up over time. She concurred with my belief that she'd grown up with working class roots and then moved up to middle class, followed by upper-middle class. Now, if she's not already in the top fifth, she's probably on the cusp.

One thing in particular she told me that I thought was interesting: Even though she would likely have been considered working class or lower-middle class when she was a young girl, she always thought of herself as middle-class. She and her sisters always had everything they needed: clothes, food, books for school. Plus, they had a few luxuries like vacations... it wasn't until my mom was older that she realized their "vacations" were just the result of my grandfather--a U.S. serviceman--being sent to various bases around the globe. She thought they were just vacationing in Italy or Germany, just like a few of the other middle class families they knew.

Another important component of class (at least per the Times) is education. This is another area in which my mom grew up with a middle-class (or even upper-middle class) mentality: It was just assumed that she and her sisters would go to college and get their degrees. I find this astounding because neither of my grandparents had college degrees. My grandfather went to college for one week, disliked it, dropped out and joined the Armed Forces. My grandmother would have loved to have gone to college but was just too poor to afford it. But there was never even a question that their three kids would go, even though the money for their college educations wasn't necessarily a given. My grandparents lived frugally and saved, and by the time their oldest was old enough to go to college, they had enough to send her to a state university. Same with Nos. 2 and 3. (It no doubt helped that they were spaced out four or more years and all attended state schools.) I still think it's incredible, though, that the thought never entered my mom's mind (nor her sisters' minds) that they might not go to a university. It was just something that you did--no alternative.

Anyway, the rest of the story is that my mom graduated from college, started working, started saving, married my dad, had me, left my dad, and kept working and saving. I always had everything I needed, and had, well, a lot of luxuries as well. Sure, we had a roommate in our townhouse for about five years. But the extra money meant we could take fun vacations. (Can you tell a love of travel is in my blood?) By the time I was in junior high, I would definitely say we had reached the upper-middle class.

* * *

The one Times survey question that took me by the most surprise was this: 84% of the people surveyed said they favored programs designed to help people in the lower-class get ahead. So with that kind of popular support, why isn't more being done?

And on a related note, why is Maryland Gov. Ehrlich vetoing a bill that would've required companies with more than 10,000 employees (in other words, Wal-Mart) to spend 8 percent of the company's payroll on health care benefits or give that money over to the state's health care program for the poor?


Blogger liz said...

IMHO, the reason our society doesn't do more to help poor people get ahead is because we generally elect rich people to run things.

So public education (for example)in poor areas isn't a priority to our leadership because it doesn't even come up on their radar. No-one they know goes to these schools or went to them when they were children. It's only when there is a scandal of some sort that they even know that the public school system exists.

And Governer Erlich is an Asshat Extraordinaire and is probably good friends with people on the board of Walmart.

Hopefully the legislature can overturn his veto.

This is one of those days I'm glad I live across the river.

10:38 AM, May 20, 2005  
Blogger SuzanH said...

I agree with Liz--these things just don't cross their consciousness.

I keep writing and deleting a big long rambling comment. I have too much to say about this, and can't seem to be concise.

Hope you enjoyed the movie--what happens to Anaken? Heehee!

11:17 AM, May 20, 2005  
Blogger Mieke said...

I have to read Erlich's statement giving his reasons for this veto. What could he possibly have said? I hope he gets his ass handed to him by teh legislature and by the people of Maryland when they throw him out of office.

Dickhead. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Not that I have strong feelings on the matter.

6:41 PM, May 20, 2005  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Post, SuzanH, post!

Hey, it isn't just you guys. Even here in the bluest state in the union, we have asshats in charge.

11:00 AM, May 21, 2005  
Blogger jackie said...

MD citizen here:

Ehrlich will most likely get overridden on this, but to tell you the truth, I'm a little disappointed at the spin on this here. I am truly proud to have a legislature progressive enough to have a bill get this far-- it's turly an innovative piece of legislation in a time when Wal-Mart is such a behemoth, whose shadow falls over so much of our economic landscape. How many other states are taking on Wal-Mart this bravely? It will probably pass, and hopefully other states will follow our lead, but for now, we're definitely in the vanguard.

Also, his rationale was that this legislation would tarnish Maryland's chance at being seen as a business-friendly state, which would deter large corporations form coming here and building plants, etc. Basically, he called it a threat to jobs.

and he is indeed, an asshat!

5:07 PM, May 21, 2005  
Anonymous julie w. said...

You are right about the governer. he dosent care about the employees who work for walmart. i have worked their for 8 years as a dept manager and my salary this past year was omnly 15 thousand. i only have insurance foe my husband and myself because i cant afford it for our 2 children. they have insurance through the state of maryland wich i pay a small monthly premium for which is way less than walmart and will cover all expenses like copays and prescriptions1

10:11 PM, January 10, 2006  

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