Thursday, February 19, 2009

The End of Life as We Have Known It

The sad episode of economic depression hints at a change in the American lifestyle as we have known it for the last twenty-five or so years. Many of those who have been living well beyond their means have already seen the stark reality of what living a lie can bring. I do not necessarily mean those low income folks who took adjustable mortgages and have now lost their homes. Those whom many have chastised and blamed for the mortgage meltdown. No, I mean those of the middle and upper middle class, who bought and bought to keep up with each other.

Each week when I look at the foreclosures in the local paper, I see names that belong to lawyers, real estate agents, dentists, you name it. They are losing property and homes at an accelerating rate. Their bubble has burst and they are probably not prepared to live beneath the level that they have placed themselves upon. Suddenly, they may have to live like the rest of us. The BMW, the airplane and boat, and the five bathroom house are gone.

Many of the very rich have seen their fortunes vanish with bank failures, ponzi schemes, and failed businesses. They invested their money, or money they thought was theirs, in order to increase their wealth. They simply weren't happy to live very comfortably. Rep. Michelle Bachman ("Obama is very anti-American") was complaining recently that the rich are disappearing. Many were rich on paper only and are now having to return to their roots. They may even have to work again. Horrors, they might have to cook their own meals and shop at Wal-Mart.

Two new issues have surfaced just this week. The Texas billionaire Allen Stanford is being accused of defrauding some 50,000 people out of 8 billion dollars. Who are these people? More millionaires, looking to pad their already bulging pockets? Will the Bush's be involved? Then there is the UBS scandal. Apparently, there are upwards of 52,000 U.S. citizens who have hidden money in UBS' Swiss bank to avoid paying taxes. This is the really interesting one. Who are these people? Politicians, athletes, actors, and CEO's I would bet. How many politicians are going to get caught in this one? The Bush's, Clinton's, Kennedy's, Cheney's, McCain's, Kerry's? Some preachers maybe, especially those who steal from the poor to maintain their airplanes, many homes, and expensive clothes. What about Limbaugh, Hannity, or, maybe O'Reilly? These guys have gotten filthy rich off their hate spewing and, for all their talk, would avoid taxes in a heartbeat.

This country was in danger of losing its middle class. The middle class was disappearing and the numbers of the wealthy were increasing. The lower classes were growing in number at the same time. Now, it appears that the middle class may very well be regaining its numbers as these nouveau riche fall from their mansions on the hill. Those who were truly wealthy and wisely protected their fortunes as their parents did, will continue to maintain their status, albeit with less money.

Time will tell us how this all plays out, but the playing field is being evened. Prices may stay down and many luxury items will probably disappear from the market. Car prices may fall along with the sizes of vehicles. Once again, the very rich will have their luxury cars. The rest of us will learn to live with less expensive options. We will save again as interest on savings rises. Our children may start their work life on a lower salary and not be able to afford that expensive coffee and those BMW's. We will live a more common life and future children will not expect to immediately have the luxuries they have been accustomed to at home. Thus some will not be bouncing back home, because they can't afford to live "high on the hog" by themselves.

Maybe this "correction" will return us back to earth. The American dream will still be here. The dream will not include Yachts, BMW's, homes with ten bathrooms, trips to Cancun for spring breakers, winter and summer homes, and African safaris. Maybe we will be back to a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage, for those who can afford a two car garage. Life may be more fun and less stressful. What a great thought!

1 comment:

Diane J Standiford said...

Oh, I wish it would be so.