Those of us who dwell in third-world America are well aware of the other, dreamy version our our nation. There's no fence to keep us out, usually. The barriers are more subtle. We drive through rich America all the time, past the glass-wrapped towering skyscrapers, alongside the well-manicured golf courses snaking between million dollar homes. We see the dozen or so luxury cars waiting in their reserved premium spots next to the front door in the giant office parking lot, in front of a rag tag collection of bicycles for those healthy enough and close enough to commute by manual labor in the summer heat, all framed by rows and rows of 10-year-old compact SUVs and aging economy models stewing in the sun.

The affluent now fully enjoy that rarest of Goldilocks conditions, you'd think they might be thankful to us: Our relative poverty keeps a lid on inflation holding down interest rates at record lows, our flat wages keep the stock market propped up near record highs and pump their brokerage accounts and 401-K's full with ever more dough. But they're not thankful, in fact there's a whole ideology dedicated to telling them they not only want more, but deserve it all.

Thanks to GJohnsit's diary, here's a quick peek at how the well off are doing:

Sun Sentinel -- Sales of mega yachts are turning the corner in the improving economy, according to some South Florida-based yacht sellers and builders. So far this year, there's been a notable upswing in interest for new custom-built yachts of 80 feet or more in length and less price slashing on pre-owned boats of this caliber, industry specialists say.

Bloomberg -- The ultimate golf vacation is available for $74,450, though there’s a wait on the first tee. The 2014 trip departs from Maui, tees off in Fiji and ends 22 days later at Valderrama Golf Club in Sotogrande, Spain. Covering five continents, it includes 12 rounds and transportation on a customized Boeing 757 jet. Kalos Golf, a luxury golf cruise specialist, sold out the 78 slots and has a 21-person waiting list. It’s an example of growing demand for ultraluxury travel amid rising numbers of wealthy people.

Then there's millions like me. My subset of the working poor is a newer group, or at least a growing one, the middle-aged white-collar college educated working poor. Basically the idea is bleed us for every cent possible, and when we become expensive and try to cash in on insurance or other programs we've been paying into for decades, let us die. We don't own anything of value left to sacrifice to Mammon, except for one last big score assisted by mother nature, bad luck, and some hit men in Congress wearing suits. Below is an illustration of how that might work in one case, mine. Nothing personal of course.

Most of us aren't a good prospect for 80' yachts and dream round-the-world golf vacations. But there are ways for us to spend money too! Like this:

When the tires on their Dodge Caravan had worn so thin that the steel belts were showing through, Don and Florence Cherry couldn't afford to buy a new set. So they decided to rent instead.The Rich Square, N.C., couple last September agreed to pay Rent-N-Roll $54.60 a month for 18 months in exchange for four basic Hankook tires. Over the life of the deal, that works out to $982, almost triple what the radials would have cost at Wal-Mart.
"I know you have to pay a lot more this way," said Florence Cherry, a 57-year-old nurse who drives the 15-year-old van when her husband, a Vietnam veteran, isn't using it to get to his job as a prison guard. "But we didn't really have a choice."
I'm in that group, now, it's not that we want to pay three or four times what stuff costs, it's that we have no choice. It gets worse than that. A few months ago I suffered a major heart attack, got a stent, lost 40 lbs, quit smoking, cut my cholesterol in half—I simply do not eat much and when I do it's all damn healthy stuff—and I did all that on disability pay based on 60 percent of 12 bucks an hour and reader contributions while my medical expenses exploded, leaving me near destitute. As luck would have it, I'm not done.

It seems a PFO has developed—a hole between the two main chambers of the heart—and, good news, it's a highly treatable complication. Except it means taking more time off from my low-paying job, many weeks as it has to crank through the managed care system, and more poverty level disability while I get it diagnosed and repaired. That's if the disability gets approved. If it doesn't I'll probably be fired for missing too much work, leaving me dead broke, bereft of life saving meds, and harboring a potentially deadly complication with no way to fix it.

The last time I had weird symptoms it was that heart attack that could have easily killed me. This time I was a smart about it, taking time off from work—without pay—as soon as the symptoms became noticeable and aggressively pushing the cardiologist for an answer. But there's a real good chance the insurance company will come back and tell me, "Even though you had no way to know what was going on at the time, and good reason to be worried, in retrospect that condition isn't always immediately life threatening so we're not going to approve any disability." At which point I will be fired for missing that time and I'll lose my health insurance altogether, then try to afford COBRA premiums on Texas grade unemployment payment. Which would leave me with the "freedom" to choose between the meds that keep the PFO in check or having a roof over my head.

There's not much light at the end of the tunnel, either.

Job Market
EPI analysis of job openings & Labor Turnover Survey & Current Population Survey public data series. Data shows one job for every 3.1 people looking for work. Click image for full article at Wonkblog.

Of course if you ask the fat and happy Austerians or their "small government" enablers in the congressional and media axis of evil, those pragmatic deficit hawks—almost all of whom are on the high end of the government dole or benefit from same, and who enjoyed or are still enjoying that sweet socialized medicine courtesy of John Q Taxpayer—will smugly say millions like me, in the struggling America, need to sacrifice more. Does it matter that we we don't have much left to sacrifice? That the margin is so thin for me and I'm sure for many in comments below to come, sacrifice at this point would mean giving up important things, like a meal a day or life saving meds? That's the reality. There's simply no significant luxuries and little in the way of optional basic necessities left to cut out of our bare-bone budgets.

When I point out to my conservative friends that the GOP really and truly has no plan to help people like me, that expecting us to be willing to die so that David Koch has an extra hundred million is unrealistic to put it mildly, they can't seem to process it. Usually they try to steer the debate back to some version of the shame tactic, i.e., "expecting the government to take care" of you.

Yes, simply because the middle-aged working poor paid in a couple hundred thousand dollars to a system since age 14 with the understanding it would be there for us no matter what if and when we need it, I'm the mooch. Some of us might even become permanently disabled before we reach officially sanctioned retirement age and really drag on the system! But in my case that tired cliche doesn't apply at all: The critical short-term disability that will barely keep me in Ramen and bean soup while I recover is a private policy between me and CIGNA, which includes additional short-term disability I signed up for and paid extra premiums to get. In other words, Mr. and Mrs. RedState, I was financially responsible for myself—not an easy task on 12 bucks an hour let me tell you!

This suspected PFO is not the worst thing a heart patient can get, far from it! It's easy to fix, as long as you have a spare 20 grand or comprehensive medical insurance, recovery is usually complete and virtually guaranteed. There are plenty of other things that leave workers in that gray area between bedridden and terminal, and treatable but unable to consistently work 50 hours a week for awhile. All kinds of cardio-pulmonary issues, cancers, orthopedic injuries, complications from diabetes, etc., fall under this category. What is the GOP plan for those folks?

We know the real answer, Alan Grayson said it on the House floor in 2009 and the conservative base applauded wildly when candidates repeated it during the GOP clown show last year: It would really be easier for the Paul Ryan's and David Koch's of the world if a whole bunch of us would just die, quickly, without any protracted final days in ICU. Yes, die, as soon as possible—unless we can be forced back to work and pump up their precious corporate earnings and highly coveted Social Security trust fund even more before finally, conveniently, keeling over on the job.

Ah, but one asset millions of us do still have, we're fully insured on Social Security and Medicare, having paid in for decades at a living wage when times were better. That adds up to a shitload of money, which is why the Austerians with the help of their conservative hitmen are hell bent on stealing that from us, too. Having most of it isn't enough for the super rich, they want it all, every last fucking cent.

Nothing personal, Sonny. It's just business.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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