I was in the lobby of the Four Seasons when a maybe ten year old boy sat down at the piano and started to tickle the ivories. This was not some child whose parents had forced him to take piano lessons, rather he was a near-virtuoso. Who was taking lessons at the University of Miami. Paid for by his parents. From Mexico.
Greetings from Vail, Colorado, where the one percent is so rampant, I’m surprised Michael Moore hasn’t written a book about it. Used to be skiing was a middle class sport. No more. There’s not a single person on the hill in jeans. Lift tickets are $139 a day, and despite being able to purchase a season pass for less than $700, the maze is full of customers. That’s right, you’ve got to wait in line, a long one, to pay through the nose.
How did we get here?
It didn’t used to be this way. I went to public school. Some of the kids lived in the projects. But not only did we have music lessons and art classes, paper and pencils were FREE! No more.
Unless you go to private school.
That’s the dirty little secret of the one percent, they’re pulling away from us. Their kids may be snotty and entitled, but they’re educated at the best institutions money can buy, they’re enriched not only after school, but during the summer, when they fly to far-flung places to “do good,” which looks really good on their college resume compared to the poor kid who stays home in July and August watching television because he can’t even get a job.
Even worse, the poor kids don’t know about educational opportunities. They don’t know about the Ivy League, they don’t know elite institutions are need blind, that if you get in, tuition is free if you’re broke.
But the poor don’t believe they’re going to be broke for long. They’re living in such complete darkness, they don’t even know how the ruling class operates.
Real estate values in Vail are burgeoning. They’ve blown by the 2008 pre-recession peak. As they have in many wealthy neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the poor can’t afford a house at all. And they can’t get a job that would pay a mortgage. They’re reduced to service jobs, which frequently don’t even pay the rent.
Like in Vail. Where the concierge hands you your skis with a smile on his face. His boss told him to do it. But he probably won’t get fired if he doesn’t, because there’s an employment shortage, because there’s nowhere to live! Just like your maid takes the bus from an hour away, resort workers can’t afford to live in the Village, but there are no far-flung suburbs, only vast open land.
But the minimum wage can’t go up because “small business owners” will be hurt and the public will have to pay an extra dime for a hamburger. Well, if you know anything about economics, our country is driven by consumer spending. Most rich people only need one or two cars. We need the regular public to buy cars to get the economy humming. But people are not only broke, they’re not optimistic about their future.
Used to be you could have middle class goals, like being a school teacher. But now teachers are chumps, except for the best and the brightest who participate in Teach America, burnishing their resumes before they go to work at the bank. The divide keeps getting bigger and bigger and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop.
The rich own the media. They don’t want revolution. They want the FCC in their back pocket, just where they need it. So you’ve got people voting against health care when they’ve got none and the government would subsidize it. Huh? Life expectancy in America is lagging other established nations, not because the rich are dying in droves, they can see the best doctors, but because the poor don’t go to the hospital until it’s too late.
So what’s going to happen?
It’s incumbent upon the rich and the powerful to change things.
But it appears that except for Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, most rich will give a few bucks to charity, but want to keep their lofted perch.
But the rich are not the only powerful ones. We’ve got artists too.
Jefferson Airplane used to sing about tearing down the walls, that we should be together as a force of change. But today’s artists just want to sell out to the corporation so they can fly private too.
And students are so shocked, and so indebted, that they’ve got no time to do anything but desperately try to get on the gravy train. When I graduated from college I was a ski bum, they don’t exist anymore. It’s poor immigrants who do all the work in ski areas today.
And sacrifice is a dirty word. We’re all so desperate we cling to whatever we have, our coarse society tells us we deserve it, and we can guard it with our firearms.
You don’t read about the rich shooting each other, do you? Little Johnny picking up Daddy’s gun and popping his sister? That’s because Rich Johnny has got a 24/7 nanny, he’s never unsupervised, while poor Johnny’s parents both work to try and make ends meet.
So it’s a land of serfs and lords. And if you don’t have a six figure income, you’re a serf. Sounds bad, I know it, but it’s the truth. Your future is limited, the joke is on you. You’ve got reality television to keep you company.
And it’s no different in the music business. Ever notice the executives have long tenures and tons of cash and almost all acts are poor and have little longevity? You’re working on Maggie’s Farm all right, where you’re worked to death for the quarterly report. Screw credibility, screw getting it right, we need the billing!
And the poor are lining up to be hosed. It’s the human lottery. Just give me a chance.
And the middle class is getting squeezed out. Used to be the educated class had power, now the rich go to concierge doctors and have usurped all the goodies of the intelligentsia, whose kids are not so stupid, who are becoming financiers and techies to ensure their survival.
There’s no coding in the ghetto. Only sports. Wherein we watch the underprivileged pound each other for our enjoyment. That’s the NFL, watch it, but own it.
And since the poor are so ignorant, change is only going to come from above. Elon Musk will fix income inequality before Occupy Wall Street.
But Elon Musk is a footnote compared to a musician.
But we’ve got blank Britney in Vegas and jive Justin Bieber all over the airwaves as airhead Kim Kardashian rules the gossip pages.
There is no educated Kim Kardashian. Because no one who’s paid their time in school is going to sacrifice it for a brief moment in the public eye. They’d rather acquire power than bling.
So we need hope. That’s what human beings run upon.
Stop believing you’re gonna be rich. Your odds of winning the lottery are just about as good.
Stop being beholden to the rich, educated class. Don’t be their lackeys.
Stand up to power.
Have something to say.
And realize we’re all in it together. And when we lift up our brother we lift up ourselves, because we all live in a society, which we want to be safe and equitable with opportunity for all.