An ever widening circle of riff-raff

In an article in the November 12th issue of the Wall Street Journal, it’s reported that America’s job recovery is happening, but at two different rates of speed for different segments of the population.

As usual, the poor and lower-middle class, in addition to seniors, young people, those undereducated and the already unemployed are bearing the brunt of the uneven recovery and it’s a trend that’s troubling many as it seems to be getting worse.

Experts anticipated this type of sketchy growth but hoped, as past numbers had indicated, that incomes for those less fortunate would improve as they had in previous recessions.  This time however, almost five years since the last slump, things are not going as anticipated.  Simply put, people making more-$50,000 a year and up-are being economically repaired a whole lot quicker than their poorer relations.  They’re able to spend more and likewise, have more confidence in the government and the direction it’s going.

So, as another holiday shopping season begins, I’m pushed to think that the question for each of us becomes, “am I one of the poorer relations”?   You’d be surprised what the answer is particularly as the majority of the jobs regained have been lower paying ones.

It used to be that the term riff-raff meant hoodlums, thugs, criminals or those generally bent on causing trouble.  In turn, keeping out the riff-raff meant you were holding their kind at bay.  These days, for me at least, it seems the expression has politically-incorrectly evolved to include a much broader, more innocent segment of the population.  More and more the same phrase seems to signify a lack of wealth or opportunity that’s been afforded some individuals.

And if you listen to some members of the extreme right, you come away thinking that the term could include anybody and everybody; i.e. the homeless, the cognitively challenged, members of the LGBT community, the poor, both the lower middle and even some of the middle-class.   It’s an extra wide brush that’s painting people, all with the supposed intent of taking back America for the real Americans.

Maybe it’s me but it seems that everything from automobiles to electronics, from toys to education and from homes to hobbies; everything is being priced more and more out of reach of the ordinary citizen.  And with those high costs comes an inability for many to be able to afford or partake of, or participate in, or enroll in, or enjoy.  It creates a new caste and cultivates a culture of lost opportunity that prevents many from partaking in the pursuit of that elusive American dream.

In such a fashion, price is becoming the great un-equalizer for our society.  It speaks to the old adage, if you have to ask how much then maybe it’s not for you.  The issue is that when they say “you”, they’re referring to a continually growing portion of the populace; operative words being “continually growing”.  Besides which, I don’t think the adage was meant to include anything and everything.

So, as ‘Black Thursday’ looms and more vendors decide to deduct additional family time from their already stressed employees, I say again, ask yourself, what am I?  Where do I fit in this equation?

And if you don’t have a Lexus sitting in your driveway with a big red bow on it for your loved one, take a deep breath and appreciate that you just might be a part of that riff-raff crowd.  Welcome to the party.

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Filed under jobs & joblessness, Life and Society, Opinion

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