What Rich Used To Be

From the Slope of Hope: I've had a lifelong fascination with wealth and, more recently, wealth disparity (for proof, look no further than the SocialTrade stack on this very topic). I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in a happy, financially-secure, but very much middle-class family. We lived in this house:

0617-sinclair

Everyone I knew had the same situation. We all had pretty much the same kind of house, the same quantity of toys, the same simple vacations.........everything was so equal, you'd think we were living in some kind of socialist paradise.

We weren't, of course, and there was, naturally, one "rich kid" in the neighborhood. Everything about his life was just a little bit nicer, starting with the house he lived in:

0617-steven

Doesn't look too much different, does it? Well, that's kind of the point of this post.

As a youngster, I was acutely aware of many differences between the life I had and the one my friend Steven (AKA the rich kid) had. Although many decades have passed since then, I don't have to even try hard to remember some of those contrasts:

The White Carpet
One of my most vivid memories was walking into Steven's house and seeing stark-white wall-to-wall carpeting. In my house, we had four kids, and white carpet would have been just nuts to have. But in Steven's, there it was, white and looking good as new. It helped, I suppose, that there was plastic runners, so you had to walk on them, as if it was a plastic sidewalk in the middle of the house. Even as a child, I thought it was kind of silly to carpet a house and then lay down a strip of plastic to protect it, but who was I to say?

The Treehouse
In Steven's back yard, there was the most gorgeous treehouse. His dad ran a Ford dealership, so I guess he could pretty easily afford a carpenter to come out and construct it for him. Now, when I say "gorgeous", all I mean was that it looked good to my ten-year-old eyes. It was just a simple cube - - but it was made of high-quality wood, was obviously professionally-constructed, and conjured up much envy within me. I asked my dad every summer if I could have a treehouse, and the response was always the same: "I'll think about it." It never came.

The Thunderbird
As I mentioned, Steven's dad had a dealership (well, at least he was the general manager there), and their family had a nice, new "luxury" car. It was certainly fancier than our station wagon, and I was amazed that it had this thing called "Cruise Control", which to my young mind meant the car would actually drive itself. Steven and I were in the back seat, and he told me that the little windows were called "opera windows", which likewise sounded like something far more elegant and expensive than I'd ever own personally.

Dad Salaries
I distinctly remember one conversation my friend and I had in which our father's salaries came up. Now, I actually had no earthly clue what my father made, but for some reason I was feeling competitive and insecure that day, so I told Steven my father made $35,000 a year, which sounded tremendous to me. He countered that if MY dad made $35,000 a year, then HIS dad must make $50,000 a year. I shut up at that point, because I figured it must be true, given their apparently luxurious lifestyle.

The Boom Boom Cannon
This one seemed to sting the most of all: one Christmas, my "big gift" was a plastic UFO that could fly by way of a motorized propeller. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the damn thing to fly, in spite of my father's best efforts. So it was pretty disappointing. I visited Steven to see what he got for Christmas, and he was the proud owner of a tiny working cannon called the Boom Boom (yeah, safety concerns weren't as prevalent those days..........this was actually a working cannon, with gunpowder, albeit very small). It was made of nice, heavy metal, and I'd never seen one before. It seemed like just about the best toy imaginable.

Looking back, it was as if my dad was 6 feet tall, just like everyone's else's dad, and here was my friend who had a dad that was 6 feet and 1 inch tall. Steven's toys were just a LITTLE bit nicer. His house was a LITTLE bit cleaner. His vacations were a LITTLE bit fancier. But, in truth, the difference between his life and everyone else's was really, really small. Back then, though, I always felt poor when I was with Steven.

These days, the difference isn't between a 6 foot guy and someone 6'1". It's more like suddenly there are some people who are 900 feet tall - - 1500 feet tall - - 5000 feet tall. Their wealth is just as absurdly large as such heights would be, while at the same time the mass of humanity seems to be getting shorter by the week.

For decades - - mainly the 40s, 50s, and 60s - - wealth distribution in America was incredibly even. Someone very middle-of-the-road could still aspire to be "the rich guy" in town. If my father, for instance, got it in his head that he wanted to win the rat race in our neighborhood, it wouldn't have been that difficult. It was totally feasible. That extra inch wasn't unattainable.

Starting in the 70s, thought, and picking up speed in the 1980s, things started to change. Over the past third of a century, policy has clearly handed the wealth of the country over to the rich kids.

Notice the change that took place in 1982. Interestingly, that was exactly the same year that the original Forbes 400 list came out. Their timing couldn't have been better, because the very existence of such a "rich list" was the equivalent of ringing in an era of plutocracy. But read what the list was like in the inaugural issue.........

In the first Forbes 400 list, there were only 13 billionaires, and a net worth of 75 Million USD secured a spot on the list. The 1982 list represented 2.8% of the Gross Domestic Product of the United States. The 1982 Forbes 400 had 22.8% of the list composed of oil fortunes, with 15.3% from manufacturing, 9% from finance and only 3% from technology driven fortunes.

Being a billionaire was a big, big deal. Only 13 entries! These days, just to on the list at ALL, you need a net worth of at least $1.7 billion, 23 times higher than the original list. Amazingly, there are nearly 200 people who are billionaires that don't even make it on the list at all, because they don't have enough! So the 1982 list seems absolutely quaint in the modern era.

Life tends to move in cycles, and I doubt the scenario in which this massive disparity exists is a permanent feature of life. However, it will take many decades - - and probably more than a little social pain - - to share the wealth again.

All I can say to my younger self regarding my rich friend..........it really wasn't so bad, and Boom Boom Cannon notwithstanding, financial life was a lot more evenly-balanced back then than it is now. And I still don't have a treehouse.

Comments

DuneCreature Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:07 Permalink

What the rich used to be was safe to venture out during the day without mobs of pissed off disenfranchised looking to rob, cheat and or beat them.

It used to be safe to leave the gated community (better know as the Green Zones) any time they wanted. ... That will be daylight only and in groups very soon.

Rich now means having armed guards that you pay enough to be fairly certain they won't turn on you.

Wealthy will soon mean that being a possible target of midnight 'The Death Squads' and kidnap and ransom seeking boys is very real.

Think I'm exaggerating? ........ Been south of the border lately?

I have friends in Mexico and that is how they live. ... The richer they appear the bigger their security needs. ...... A fact of life now.

Oh, and we are importing all of trouble we can from down south and the ME as fast as we can fly it in.

Live Hard, Rich Has Its Drawbacks When You Are The Only Rich Family In A Sea Of Poverty, Die Free

~ DC v6.5

Dame Ednas Possum DuneCreature Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:13 Permalink

There seems to be a direct correlation between 'rich' and 'shithead'. I'd say there is definite causation too.  And btw... apparent wealth more often than not equates to extreme debt. There's plenty of flashy gits out there who are up to their eyeballs in debt. I know plenty of well-off people who look like they don't have a pot to piss in. I think it is part of the game in ensuring one is able to keep hold of one's wealth!  

In reply to by DuneCreature

Jubal Early Arnold Sun, 06/18/2017 - 15:25 Permalink

"He was killed for giving a large post to Wiki Leaks."Nope.  He was a kike who snitched.  He was killed as a message to all the other kikes:  either we hang together or we die separately.  Its been that way for thousands of years, they are gods chosen people and we are their cattle.  

In reply to by Arnold

vato poco Dame Ednas Possum Sun, 06/18/2017 - 16:28 Permalink

I dunno, Edna. I know a lottttttttttttt of poor shitheads. There's also this romantic notion amongst the poor/houly wage/blue collar folks that they are somehow ... better ... than management/the big boss man. Kinder, more generous, more moral, honest, all that. Pro tip: they ain't.His name was Seth Rich#PizzaGate#WhatsontheLaptops#WhoRtheAwanBrothers#WherearetheLaptopsRightNow#WhyUNoIndictWeiner#WhyUNoIndictPodesta#DraintheSwamp#BuildthatWall#TheyAllHaveToGoBack

In reply to by Dame Ednas Possum

ElTerco Dame Ednas Possum Sun, 06/18/2017 - 17:31 Permalink

Wealth means debt *and* not paying someone for the full value of their work. Someone has to get screwed/robbed in order for someone else to be 900 times more wealthy than the median. Either that or the one person can do the work of 900 times more people placed in a similar position with similar resources. I feel pretty confident to say that's an impossibility. Therefore, the wealthy are with near certainty stealing from someone else to make themselves rich. QED.

In reply to by Dame Ednas Possum

runnymede DuneCreature Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:38 Permalink

 I lived in Mexico back in the day. I even lived in Ciudad Juarez. Never was once acosted or threatened. Even being a guero. Last time I visited, it was totally different. I would not venture out without security under any circumstances. I will not be going back. Even in my flyover country hometown, there are large swaths where I would only go if in a car, and then even not at night. Gangs, homeless and drugs everywhere. As a youngin, we literally never locked our doors and I do not recall one murder or robbery in all those years. I was a free range kid. One adventure after another--mostly outdoors and unsupervised. We clever humans have built a most impressive technological structure of society. But it is only a facade; turn over any plank and you will find the rot of decadance. Like the whited sepulchre.  

In reply to by DuneCreature

Aireannpure Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:19 Permalink

This is tearing America apart and will not end soon enough. Rebuilding will take longer than the un-building. Darwin's "REAL" book title is totally racist and every politically incorrect thing today. Yet the sheeple cling to ignorance. Darwin will win out. Faith and moral's build and contain a culture. Law and order allow this much needed rebuilding. Be grateful, generous with moral acts, pray/meditate, spend time with children (not pets) and respect police and your wife.

OCnStiggs Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:27 Permalink

DC is correct about Mexico...

A businesswoman in our town runs a really nice Mexican furniture and furnishings shop. They make runs into Mexico to pick up their merchandise once a month hauling a big trailer behind a huge van. Now, they have to go incognito, dressing in ratty clothes, they have removed any logos from the van, and, they travel a lot starting at 2 A.M. and spend much of their days in "safe houses" provided by their merchant manufacturers. She told us about the local pharmacy owner whose son was kidnapped until a huge ransom was paid. He was only home a week and another family member was kidnapped and killed. The pharmacy owner simply walked away from his business, leaving the store open. Now, there is no "farmacia" in this little town.

The locals have few firearms to protect themselves. The cartels run everything, including the government, the local cops and most of the Federales. What Mexico needs is a huge civil war to wipe out the cartels and take back their government. Not likely any time soon.

Most people think of Mexico as a quaint little country next door. Think of Iraq or Somalia and you are closer to the truth.

AGuy Horseless Headsman Sun, 06/18/2017 - 13:47 Permalink

"It's probably too late for an end to the drug war to make a difference. The cartels are too big and entrenched now. Ain't war grand?"

It would collapse in a few months if the US abandoned its war on Drugs and legalized them. Ultimately I think this is coming. the US is too broke to spend the Billions on its existing policy. Sooner or later the US gov't will switch from drug enforcement (expenditure) to drug taxation (revenue).

In reply to by Horseless Headsman

AGuy waspwench Sun, 06/18/2017 - 22:52 Permalink

"America will not legalize drugs. The American government (aka the CIA) funds itself with drug money. That's where the Clintons got their start."

Its already begun. I think there are about 10 to 12 states that already ended enforcement for pot, and many states provide free, clean needles to heroin users. The issue is that drug enforcement is becoming too expensive and they have no choice but to abandon enforcement. Perhaps the Federal gov't will never fully legalize it, but that is not going to stop starts from decriminalizing it.

In reply to by waspwench

kumquatsunite AGuy Sun, 06/18/2017 - 20:54 Permalink

There is a fundamental premise of Civilization; we do not abandon our youth (who are the ones sold drugs) to the vile and the destructive. Read up on the opium wars of China. You'll find that any society/culture/civilization that cedes to drugs will be destroyed. This, we as a Christian nation do not do. Or maybe you do want your brain surgeon to have a wee bit of heroin right before your surgery?

In reply to by AGuy

AGuy kumquatsunite Sun, 06/18/2017 - 22:47 Permalink

"There is a fundamental premise of Civilization; we do not abandon our youth (who are the ones sold drugs) to the vile and the destructive. Read up on the opium wars of China. "

Substance control does not work. Prohibition didn't work, but it fuel the means to introduce gang violence. If the on Drugs was working, the cost of drugs would have soared. Instead prices collapsed.

"maybe you do want your brain surgeon to have a wee bit of heroin right before your surgery?"

LOL! You have me pegged wrong. I barely take any OTC. never touched a narcotic, and I barely consume alcohol. It does not matter what you are I think or want. Reality shows that the war on Drugs is a complete failure. On the other hand legalizing alcohol (end of prohibition) did not destroy civilization, but it did remove gang violence and power that was empower via illegal alcohol sales.

There will always be people that choose the path of self-destruction and laws cannot change that. The only logical action is prevent criminals from monetizing off drug trafficing, taxing it, and using taxes to educate the youth.

A person that becomes a brain surgeon is not going to ever touch narcotics to begin with so you're argument is non-existent. It is not laws that prevent people from taking or not taking narcotics, but the traits of the person. Today any surgeon can easily acquire narcotics. They simply chose not to.

In reply to by kumquatsunite

Pollygotacracker OCnStiggs Sun, 06/18/2017 - 17:46 Permalink

Mexico is horribly corrupt. I've traveled there and seen men out in the scorching sun building roads literally with their bare hands. You rarely see the mega wealthy people. But, once at a very nice restaurant I sat at a table next to a group of ladies. They had clothes, shoes, and handbags purchased in Europe. I know expensive when I see it. I hate to see the U.S. going down this road. 

In reply to by OCnStiggs

Jedclampetisdead Sun, 06/18/2017 - 10:47 Permalink

Agree, my mom was a secretary making about 10k/yr, dad used car salesman made 20k/yr. Bought our house for 30k.   Average house in miami florida for everybody in the 70s

Arnold Arnold Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:32 Permalink

To have several millions in assets as we do, and be a one percent-er in the world is staggering.

Sonny Barger hasn't ever stopped rolling in his grave.

I suggest we dig him up and rebury him every year, like Bill Cody, just to replace the worn out coffin.

Oh....he ain't dead yet?

In reply to by Arnold

VK Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:23 Permalink

The looting goes on. It will only stop when the FED is destroyed and the cartels brought down - sickcare, warmongering and unintelligence complex.

Stud Duck Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:31 Permalink

As an individual raised rural, I watched the wealthier ranchers flaunt their money with new cars and equipment and the common rancher like my Dad comment, well he did not make it, his grandfather homesteaded and his father kept it together. Then I wathced all that his grandfather and father get squandered by the kids in businesses in the bug city. The ranch is sold to California investorsprobably backed by Chinese banks, they are plowing up the sod grasses and drilling irrigation wells into aquafers  that area about dried up.Soon it will be blowing dirt storms again, a young man from the area will buy it on the court house steps and maybe make it, if the weather is good to him.Jesus main point in his preachings that got him in big trouble with the guys in Rome was his ranting about a new thing called money!

AGuy Stud Duck Sun, 06/18/2017 - 13:41 Permalink

"Soon it will be blowing dirt storms again, a young man from the area will buy it on the court house steps and maybe make it, if the weather is good to him."

Which Young man would that be? Do to mean a Millenial that is glued to a smartphone, likely buried in Debt with a social studies degree, and has zero knowledge about agriculture?

Why would anyone in Ag. buy property with no water, depleted aquifer, land likely saturated in salt minerals (from ground water, with all the top soil blown away? I think I'd rather by a bridge! /sarc

In reply to by Stud Duck

Shift For Brains northern vigor Sun, 06/18/2017 - 17:52 Permalink

There are more than that. We read about the snowflakes, the SJWs, the economic retards. There are still a lot of kids--maybe more since they see the carnage all around--who are going to surprise a lot of boomers and even themselves, maybe.It's funny with all the news on how bad the younger ones are, I keep running into really good ones. I always try to tell them that America will be in good hands if they are an example of who is coming onto the watch. Unsurprisingly, they almost always look proud to be told that.

In reply to by northern vigor

AGuy northern vigor Sun, 06/18/2017 - 18:22 Permalink

"Out of a hundred kids there will be one that is just head and shoulders over the other 99. He could fall into a shit pile and come out smelling like a rose. He'll buy it on the court steps."

Nobody is that has any common sense about Ag. is going to buy property with no water, saturated in mineral salts from excessive aquifer irrigation, with the top soil blown away. Most people call that a desert.

Perhaps some dumb millenial will buy it, but it will be a lost cause.

In reply to by northern vigor

2banana Sun, 06/18/2017 - 11:44 Permalink

There is only one way to fix this.Bigger and bigger government with more and more regulations and higher and higher taxes to make things fair.And to import millions of moucher muslim rapists.Oh wait - that is two things.