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Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Cloud Dwellers

Uncertainty and struggle are what we most often associate with poverty. Not knowing if you can still afford to pay next month's bills and worrying over how much more you can cut back when you're already barely getting by. This way of life has become more associated with the middle class than with those at the very bottom.

The statistic that shows that average black household worth is at $4,955 while average white household worth is at $110,729 is often quoted, but these numbers are not comparing similar things. Comparing the naked numbers is as misleading as comparing the average salaries in Tokyo and Bombay. What matters is not how much money you have, but how you live.

The $110,729 and $4,955 don't reflect different standards of living; but different ways of living. Much of that $110,729 is home equity. But why do you need to shoulder the burden of a mortgage, when the government will just give you housing for free?

It's misleading to think of the $110,729 families as privileged and of the $4,955 families as oppressed.

The $110,729 and  $4,955 families both have large flat screen televisions, smartphones and the usual baseline consumer toys. They could both eat equally well, except that the $4,955 family doesn't bother watching its food budget. It just takes whatever it wants off the shelf and worries about prices later.

In terms of personal satisfaction, the $4,955 family is happier than the $110,729 family.

To understand this, think of the "Cloud". You can buy a laptop powerful enough to store all your programs and data. Or you can get by with a mobile device whose apps connect online to a "Cloud" of someone else's servers which store your data. The laptop is heavier to carry than the mobile device, but makes you more independent. Or you can just live in the "Cloud" confident that no matter how you mess up your device; your data will be backed up.

America is being divided between the workers and the dwellers in the government cloud.

The $110,729 families are independent while the $4,955 families are living in the cloud. Their cloud is "Social Capital". Social Capital is their support system within their extended families and the government. Instead of using real capital, they use the collective Social Capital of family resources and government aid.

The $110,729 family pays for everything. The $4,955 family pays for very little. The $110,729 family earns and saves money because that is its medium of exchange which it uses to obtain food, shelter and clothing. The $4,955 family uses money for luxury goods like televisions or sneakers. It doesn't need to save money because cash is just bonus points. Its necessities like food, medicine and shelter are covered by the social capital of the government.

The $4,955 family is single parent, but is built around a large extended family, mostly female, and mostly on various government benefits. That family is capable of providing valuable aid, not just in government money, but also by babysitting and helping out at home.

That extended family is one reason why Clan $4,955 has 5 to 8 kids, while the mother of the two-parent $110,729 household is tearing her hair out trying to figure out how to manage two kids and a full-time job. The $110,729 household doesn't have much of an extended family. Their grandparents live somewhere else and are enjoying their retirement. They pitch in sometimes, but not nearly as much as their own parents did, and they have their own financial problems.

The $110,729 family is isolated while the $4,955 family is part of a social network that extends through a dozen female relatives to the entire government. Is it any wonder that the $4,955 family also has much less worries and is living an existence more associated with 19th century fantasies about an indolent Polynesian paradise than the grim modern day struggles of the $110,729 family living in the house they don't own and worrying what will happen to their standard of living if they lose their jobs tomorrow?

The $4,955 family has a lot of kids. Its kids, in traditional Third World style, are disposable. If a few go down, there will be public tears and wailing, but there will be a bunch of others left. Clan $4,955 doesn't do helicopter parenting or hover over Shane Apple Buckbaum-Cleavens and worry about how he's going to get into Harvard when the waiting list for a private kindergarten is so long. The $4,955 family's kids are disposable. They bring in money to the family in the form of benefits, then they drop out of school, hang around causing trouble until they marry, drift to another city or go to jail.

Their parents cry over them, a lot, but they don't invest too much in them because no single child represents their future.

The offspring of the $4,955 family are more likely to be shot, stabbed, locked up or die of a drug overdose, but the $110,729 family is more likely to be left childless. It's almost completely certain that the $4,955 family will extend into the third generation and will be several times larger. Meanwhile the $110,729 family may not even have a third generation or its third generation may see the four grandparents shrink down to two or three grandchildren.

Since the $110,729 family is actually funding the lifestyle of the $4,955 family, that's a problem, but it's a problem that no one talks about. And when social capital gets tight, Medicare for the $110,729 family's grandpa is more likely to be cut than the endless community grants that help keep the $4,955 family and all their many kids comfortable and voting Democrat early and often.

The $110,729 family is responsible. It understands that money is finite and that the government can only do so much. The $4,955 family doesn't understand that and won't accept it and has a lot more free time and energy to do something about it. The $110,729 family looks at a variety of factors before voting. The $4,955 family is practical, it looks only at its own bottom line.

No money, no vote.

On paper, the $4,955 family is poor. But so were the Polynesian beach combers. Poverty is relative. From the perspective of a white male capitalist, the $4,955 family is ridiculously poor, but its life is actually comfortable and worry-free compared to the $110,729 family.

On paper, the $4,955 family is poor. But in a society where hundreds of billions of dollars go into funding social capital, the old dollar-and-cent household values no longer apply.

A 1913 family that had less than 5% of the net worth of the average household would have been living a grim existence complete with patched clothing, hungry children and a ramshackle hut that they were paying an outrageous weekly rent for. But a 2013 family with 5% of the net worth has just dropped out and is letting the average household carry it.

There are still plenty of working poor in America, but the broken families that pad out the bottom of that $4,955 statistic rarely work for a living. They work for extras. Social capital has freed them of the need to work for anything except luxuries. And when they work, they don't pay taxes, usually they get someone else's taxes back as Earned Income Credits.

On paper, the $110,729 family has an impressive household worth, but much of that worth comes from a mortgaged home that it is struggling to keep up the payments on. The $4,955 family lives in a housing project that they can’t lose no matter how many payments they miss on their high interest credit cards. If the payments get too hard, they'll drop $199 on a hole-in-the-wall lawyer to declare bankruptcy.

The middle class has become the new poor. The old economic uncertainties of the households at the bottom of the ladder have fallen squarely on it-- with none of the sympathy, which is still reserved for their welfare wards.

The middle class is trapped by its own aspirations. Those aspirations are weighed down by a political system that exists for the benefit of the upper and lower classes. Though the middle class still has the majority of the vote, it has the least political influence because it has the least disposable time and wealth, and lacks a dedicated political class to represent its interests

The United States is no longer a middle class country. It is a country whose political establishment answers to the operatives of the very rich and the very poor, the donor class and the welfare class. Politicians have a vested interest in catering to very rich donors or welfare voters because they have the time, money and organizations to get their way. And what they want is wealth redistribution upward and downward from the middle class.

The middle class is being looted by crony capitalists and welfare clans. The liberal Robin Hoods who direct billions in stolen money to Green Energy companies and ghetto voters do their best to convince the middle class that it should vote for them because it's actually poor. 

The middle class is poor, but it has all the disadvantages of poverty and none of the advantages.

Its workaholic efforts leave it at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with the idle rich and poor who launch Green Energy companies that are meant to fail and stand in line waiting to cash their latest government check every other week. The middle class just doesn't have the time or energy to do anything about the trap that's in. Unlike the rich and poor, it can't even get politically organized.

The Obama vision is a "Cloud" America where all the money is in the government cloud and each family is given support according to its needs and is taken for whatever its abilities earn. That vision is already true on the $4,955 scale and is coming true on the $110,729 level as well.

The government money "Cloud" works about as well as Healthcare.gov. Its brand of central planning has failed everywhere it's been tried. But the experiment won't completely crash until the middle class does. Margaret Thatcher famously said that Socialism works until it runs out of other people's money. The "other people" are the middle class who have the most money and the least ability to protect it from the cloud dwellers.

There are two Americas; the America of the working class and the Obamerica of the government class. Measuring poverty in net worth is relevant in only one of these Americas. To measure poverty across both nations, we must speak of the poverty of freedom, the poverty of family and marriage, the poverty of economic security and the poverty of leisure time.

These are the true measures of modern poverty in an America where some people are living in a postmodern government cloud that uses social capital instead of personal income and others are scratching out an uncertain living to support the "Cloud Dwellers" who manage the government bureaucracy, work at non-profits and squat in the $4,955 space.

Our postmodern economy punishes personal aspiration and rewards the surrender of economic independence to the government. More Americans are vanishing into the government cloud, going on disability, dropping out of the system and entering the cloud until the cloud is too heavy to keep on floating in the sky and sinks down to earth or until the New Poor get tired of living fearful lives to subsidize the utopian fantasies of the 1% and the Polynesian lifestyles of the $4,955.

An American workers' revolution will not be a Socialist revolution, it will be an Anti-Socialist revolution of the new poor of the middle class.

38 comments:

Varda Meyers Epstein said...

Ouch says this mother of 12 children.

Anonymous said...

No, this is not right.

mindRider said...

Dear Daniel, once again a clear cut analysis of the factual situation in which however one thing is lacking: Most of those you describe as the American poor are black and what is happening is historic justice in the sense of what goes around comes around for the fact they where, once freed never compensated for having been dragged out of Africa to forcefully do the white man's heavy and dirty work. This is sort of their delayed Widergutmachung pay, to be payed for by the wrong class of Americans no doubt but had the black's back wages been payed right after the civil war and would they have been fully accepted as equals it would slowly but surely have created a black middle-class with values similar to the white middle-class and the lopsided destructiveness of the present situation could have been avoided.

Anonymous said...

Nailhead meet hammer

Anonymous said...

As usual, I'm now depressed. This is my default reaction whenever I read this blog.

This piece offers us a bleak vision of America and thus the world. As goes America, so goes the world

So why do I continue to indulge this masochistic behaviour? Because it's true is why. The insight is jolting. It's also conveyed to us with compelling clarity and is therefore compulsive. I can't leave it alone.

Greenfield, I'm not sure whether your gift is a blessing or a curse. If it saddens me, what does it do to you?

Whatever the topic, you distill it to the pure, irreducible essence so reading is a mixture of wonder and discomfort. As the reader follows the unambiguous logic to its conclusion he can only believe that the dénouement will be apocalyptic. This will all end in tears. Let's hope, and pray, the the forces of good will prevail when inevitable conflict finally arrives.

The conflict will come. If it is now, it is not to come, if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.

God bless you and keep you, sir.

churchill

Anonymous said...

Destroying the middle class IS part of a leftist strategy. Just as Obama destroying private insurance industry is the strategy to force Single Payer. The administration doesn't even try to hide that fact, even now in the midst of their shameless roll-out fiasco. America's middle class has had its head in the sand for far too long. In this piece, you are holding up a mirror for the middle class to see themselves but they've (we've) been warned for decades. I guess they were too busy watching American Idol (or in the south, college football). I'm dismayed by how many prefer to keep their heads in the sand for fear of being called racist. Or worse - conservative, Tea Party, capitalist, etc. Every American should read your blog, especially the middle class.

fsy said...


The $4,955 family has a lot of kids. Its kids, in traditional Third World style, are disposable.


I wonder if that has anything to do with the family size.

We had 9 children until 3 years ago when our oldest daughter, a 28-year-old mother of 3, was killed in a car accident. I probably don't go an hour without thinking of her. The other children can't "take her place" in any way.

I suspect that the large families who find one child of ten to be "disposable" would have the same attitude toward one out of one.

Anonymous said...

A very excellent article and I enjoyed reading it very much. But I am left with one question: why are the chldren of the "Cloud" families so angry? They should be blissfully happy living in their Nirvana without all the worries that producers must face day to day. Instead many of them have become packs of wild predators looking for prey to attack. Perhaps somewhere deep down they are aware that all this free cheese is being handed out by their do gooder benefactors not out of some sincere concern but out of a belief that like irresponsible children they do not have the capability to look after themselves. Can there be a greater "dis?" Ironic isn't it that the sons and daughters of Margaret Sanger and her fellow eugenicists can now feel good about caring for these unfortunate inferiors.

Anonymous said...

In the Road to Serfdom, Hayek defined Nazism as a middle class socialism and the conditions were what you describe in America. A middle class that can only better itself as a violent group instead of individual accomplishment and classes of the country that was already favored by socialism as its natural enemies. It was the breakdown of socialism into its natural conclusion. Violent tribes fighting over resources. I wish more people would read your column.

mrs adela bradley said...

Blacks were doing much better in America, mindRider, before slavery reparations, paid over the course of the past fifty years in the form of government checks, begot the welfare queen lifestyle. The quote-unquote civil rights movement was largely a ploy to justify federal government expansionism.

BarryCuda said...

Please go back to salon or puffington post.

DenisO said...

mindRider, you disappoint me. Simple answers like reparations can be extended to almost everyone on the Planet, for everyone has a history of unfairness. Regardless, the average person will find it hard to refuse "free" money, food, shelter, if it is offered for nothing more than a vote. It's not just Blacks; it's anyone who can't see past their nose. A pampered slave is still a slave, who becomes permanently enslaved by the welfare life and no need for education or trade skill. Likewise, if there is no need for morality, there will be none.
The pendulum always moves too far, forcing it to reverse. Always, and the farther it goes the more forcefully it moves to the other extreme.
Regards,

fodderwing said...

"An American worker's revolution ... will be an Anti-Socialist revolution of the new poor of the middle class."

And the revolution just may begin when enough Americans find themselves in need of a knee replacement or a new heart valve, only to have to wait in line behind some lifetime crack dealer in the same condition who never contributed anything for his healthcare and never intended to.

Anonymous said...

I don't favor reparations because it really means taking from those who did no wrong and giving to those who suffered no wrong. Slavery ended 160 years ago there is no one alive to "punish" or reward. However in the modern context in the last 5 years the federal government has given $3.7 trillion to the poor at the expense of the working class. So I will make an exception and agree with reparations paid by those who got the $3.7 trillion to be paid to the taxpayers that have been supporting them for too long.

mushroom said...

The middle class is being looted by crony capitalists and welfare clans.

Yes, the crony capitalists and corporate welfare system, the connections between Treasury, the Fed and the investment banking sector can't be ignored. Grandpa here can't afford to put the money I've saved into low-risk interest-bearing CDs or similar instruments because, at rates below 1%, I'm losing money every day to the stealth tax of inflation. Meanwhile welfare recipients get inflation adjustments.

I will have to sink some of my assets into longer term investments, which means I'll end up working another 8 years instead of another 3.

mrs adela bradley said...

Slavery, in the US, ended 160 years ago, yes. And people always seem to skip right over the fact there was a horrendous civil war fought, or so the official narrative goes, to bring the institution to an end. If you want to talk about reparations, Massachusetts owes the American South big time.

Moriah said...

I guess Jews should be taken care of by most of the Arab, Russian and Western world if suffering is the criteria for reparations. And what of those who sold their brothers into slavery? The Irish were terribly abused by the English and in America too when they came here and of course the Chinese. The Japanese oppressed too, and the Russians. Everybody has a dog in this hunt but nobody makes society responsible like the Black man. In a way they're right. Democrats created a new slavery - a new set of chains for the Black man and his baby mama..Entitlements..

Anonymous said...

So where in scripture is it that one should seek to have few children and plan to slack for the last 30 years of life? Job, when faced with near annihilation (from a clan $110k viewpoint) continued to trust in The Almighty. He returned to full productivity, including producing another 12 offspring to the glory of G-d, all producers as well no doubt. Our sin is not honoring the original commandment to fill the earth and subdue it; we have created a new set of values which places personal comfort over the commands from Adoni.

mrs adela bradley said...

100,000,000 killed by Communism in the last century. The discussion should be about how to prevent its killing more, not some red herring of 19th c slavery reparations.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Let's just say it out loud: the Conservative Middle Class is the ONLY disenfranchised voter class. Obama's pastor warned his congregants to avoid seeking out a middle class lifestyle, and for good reason. The plan has been, all along, to create a new slave class out of us. It's working, too.

Anonymous said...

No reparations? Trillions on social welfare programs?

Anonymous said...

Only 300,000 of the 12,000,000 slaves from Africa came the the USA. WE are now paying $1,000,000,000,000 a year for those 300,000 folks. Thanks southerners, what a deal!

Anonymous said...

So true and so sad. I work in community mental health and can tell you that my welfare/Medicaid clients have more "things" than I do. They get free or very low cost housing, free medical, food stamps, have big screen TV's with cable of course, free clothing, etc, etc. I work paycheck to paycheck which is getting more difficult. I'm ready to drop out and figure out a way to exist without being a slave to the gov't or "poor". I have always lived a responsible life and I clearly see the writing on the wall. There is definitely a war on responsibility and lots of empathy for the takers. Things are upside down and I'm just sick of it.

AG said...

What should be our motivation to stay out of the cloud? I am really running out of reasons to keep up working for essentially nothing. I am no where near the $110K family, and I deffinately do not live in the cloud. But the cloud is becoming very tempting. It is becoming disheatening to work two jobs, 60-70 hours a week and have nothing to show for it.

Rollory said...

Dis be raciss yo!

Aguila2011 said...

Oh yes Rollory, if we not be nice to da black man, den we mus be raciss! Word!

Aguila2011 said...

I applaud the truth that Mr. Greenfield writes. At first I thought you were treading on very thin ice but after reading the entire piece, your premise holds. The game is rigged. And while I agree with some readers that visiting your site can be disquieting, it also provides quite a learning opportunity. This article paints a portrait of a rigged game that I had not imagined, or had not put together the pieces into a "whole."

Before I left for the Philippines, I worked part time in property management for Section 8 housing in Las Vegas. It was not a pretty sight. While those on welfare, probably 90%+ black in Clark County, living conditions were anything but Polynesian. New homes were destroyed in a one year lease and residents simply moved to another new home at tax-payer expense. But it is not like these residents had big screen tv's, or even furniture. They had mattresses on the floor for beds and maybe some furniture and a cheap dining set. But they lived like they were in the stone age where no one knew how to clean up after themselves. Move out inspections were traumatic requiring hundreds of photos for insurance claims, and I was also concerned for my own health simply entering these domains for all the filth within. A shame. The economics of it all just did not make sense.

So while the middle class struggles for it's existence by working hard, the poor, from what I have personally observed may have a roof over their heads but "quality of life" still does not compare. However, the time to fight the good fight is drawing near because what is going on is too much. The system is broken and everything is out of control. Thanks for the great writing and observation.

Anonymous said...

Once more y'all equate slavery with southern and poor(and on welfare) with black. Well folks I am southern , from the poorest county in the USA (Owsley Co. Kentucky) . We have allways been poor by the standards set in New York and DC. There are no blacks in the county because there were never any slaves, we "hillbillies" were to poor and to Republican (as in union army). Most of Us only have one to three children (not six to ten) and would love to have a full time job (the nearest part time Wal-Mart type Mc Job is ten to 40 miles away over one lane switchback roads that are seldom maintained and NEVER plowed in winter) My family has held our family farm for 250 years , most families that live in eastern Kentucky have been there for over two hundred years. We really have no plans to move. So thanks for the little bite of New York ,but I don't think you know very much about life outside "big City" and you really don't know anything at all about poverty in "flyover country". (Having read your blog for a while now, I don't think you know very much about America past Cape May)

Allen said...

Reminded me very much of this, particularly the finale:

http://pjmedia.com/zombie/2013/05/28/karl-marx-was-a-tea-partier/

And also, more generally in tone, this:

http://www.amazon.com/Capitalism-Socialism-Democracy-Joseph-Schumpeter/dp/0061330086/ref=la_B000AP9F38_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383683189&sr=1-6

Elisandra said...

A lot of what you said here is true, but there's a huge gap in between the two extremes. I'm a white female living in Los Angeles, I work very hard at my job for $12,000/yr and support myself on it, barely, no money left after rent and utilities, with no government benefits at all. No car, no smartphone, no cable TV, and my television is the kind that sticks out in the back. For all I know I'm the only person left whose income is so dramatically low and isn't receiving government benefits of some kind. Instead, the government expects me to spend my utility money on forced-to-buy medical insurance, We working poor are in real dire circumstances these days. Before the economy collapsed about 5 years ago I was part of what I guess was the middle class, $50,000/yr household income.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Yes. The working poor have it worst of all. I know.

mrs adela bradley said...

"The old economic uncertainties of the households at the bottom of the ladder have fallen squarely on it-- with none of the sympathy, which is still reserved for their welfare wards."

Or for the Identity Politics candidates. Reparations for the abuses endured by the transgenders and ESL immigrants etc. in the building of the country must now be paid in the form of employment preferences. My super-capable husband couldn't get a job for two years here on the Left Coast because he couldn't tick off none of them specialness boxes.

cloud-buster said...

You use the term "crony capitalist." I think we on the right need to move firmly to ban this term from our vocabulary, because it explicitly associates the cronyists withe capitalism, as if they wouldn't be cronyists under a socialist system.

Their cronyism has nothing to do with capitalism. They would be crony Fascists, crony Marxists, crony collectivists. Under any system imaginable, they will use cronyism to try to advance their interests.

Free market capitalism is the greatest enabler of prosperity in history, to associate the evils of cronyism specifically with capitalism does it a great disservice.

B Nelson said...

I absolutely agree with cloud-buster. True Capitalism (with a capital "C") has no place for cronyism. Cronyism comes from a government's/bureaucrat's ability to grant favors, exemptions, etc. True Capitalism is laissez faire - separation of economics and state; there are no favors or exemptions to be granted. "Crony capitalism" is a leftist term used to attack Capitalism - we must stop using the terms leftists give to concepts (much like "liberals" and "progressives") so that we can protect those concepts from destruction.

mrs adela bradley said...

True, capitalism has been maligned without being understood. But Daniel has done a great job of turning the leftist use of the term on its head; to wit, "Crony capitalism is a lot easier than actual capitalism."

Anonymous said...

this present system is Roman Catholic Welfare-ism

Anonymous said...

This is a generalization people. Sure there anr many exceptions, but this is broadly and largely accurate. Many of us know a large family that also has a mortgage and everyone of working age does work. Many of us know a family where nobody is working and on the so called dole, and I know both. The generalizations are useful as while the real world in not binary, it applies to enough to be accurate as a high level summary.

Anonymous said...

You're blaming the poor. All that is happening is globalisation and automation is doing to the middle classes what was done to the poor/working classes in 70's and 80's. There is no way of stopping it. Thinking that stopping a bit of welfare to the poorest will prevent the middle classes joining them is pure fantasy peddled by the right wing.

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