Stuck in the Middle

Americans like to think they are all middle class.  If you are “middle class,” you can rest assured that you are a good person, not a lazy, snobby “rich” person, or a lazy, stupid “poor” person.  It reminds me of middle school. We all must be “average.” A boy should be average height. Short boys are emotionally damaged freaks. A girl should have average breasts. Girls with giant boobs are sluts.

You can find a lot of people protesting that although they make a particular amount of money, they are still average, middle class. (A woman commenting in the Times today said $100,000. Median household income in the U.S. currently hovers around $50,000 a year.) The tax cuts proposed for people who earn more than $250,000 a year are for “small business owners,” although somewhere between three and nine percent of small business owners make this much money, according to a dozen websites I trolled. I don’t know about the owners of my coffeehouse, the owner of my usual bar, the shop where I hunt for sweaters—are they making more than that? If so, they should buy themselves nicer cars. That’s just my opinion.  Car fetish notwithstanding, “small business owner” is code for “middle class,” because people can’t get “rich” with a small business, it has to be large.  Whatever, guys.

I’ll call myself rich not because of how my income compares to everyone else’s, but because I have a job that pays enough to meet my needs, with some left over. I’m not going to go without meals if I don’t get a tax cut. I’ll order the cheap scotch, buy fewer pairs of shoes.  I can contribute a little more to society, if y’all really need it. If we’re spending more than we have, the government can take a little more from me. It’s a tiny thank-you for the priceless riches of my public education, living in a safe, stable democracy, and knowing that the elderly and the poor will get the health care they need, that the unemployed won’t starve. I can’t tell you how happy I am to fund those things. Almost as happy as I’d be if I drank the fancier scotch. Almost.

In adulthood, I think we should all aspire to be better and bolder. If you’re a man, be as short as Napoleon, and listen in on conversations in the elevator because no one realizes you are the CEO. If you’re a woman, have giant boobs and tell everyone to look at your face while you’re being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Exceed, stand up tall. We’re all Americans, and we’re all rich. Some of us are just lucky enough to have extra money for taxes at the moment. I think that includes the middle and certainly the rich—if there are any rich people out there besides me.

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2 thoughts on “Stuck in the Middle”

  1. Well done, Elizabeth. I liked this a lot. I ranted much the same to a class on Thursday night. Asked them what, exactly, the slogans to “cut taxes” meant. Are all the public school doing so great that we can give them even less to stretch among more kids? I don’t get it.
    Their eyes got wide watching me.

  2. Thanks. The language is bizarre, as with all political matters. To retain a tax “cut” seems to be to be keeping our contribution at levels that suited a surplus, not a deficit. I wish the Republican impulse to not borrow would extend to paying up when NECESSARY. Public school funding is necessary, not frills, as is unemployment.

    I do feel lucky here that we have always had to be clever with our resources. Students and teachers have skills and experience for hard times.

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