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Jun 11 2013

The two America’s on parade

In Wellsville things are great. Better than great, they’re selling a bunch of super rich stuff. I wish I lived there, in that America, or at least on the outskirts where I could visit once in a while, to taste basic financial security for a weekend. But I live in the other America, where you can also spend money! In fact you can rent all kinds of necessities and pay many times what they would cost if you could just afford to buy them. First a 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.

I probably have a PFO, that’s a treatable complication from heart surgery. It probably means more heart surgery. Which means if I’m lucky I’ll get a few weeks of disability bringing in a cool grand a month while my medical expenses explode. That’s if the disability doesn’t get shot down by the insurance company, if they don’t decide, “well, in retrospect you probably could have worked without keeling over for some of that time, and even though you didn’t know that when these weird symptoms started and the last time you had symptoms it was massive heart attack, we’re gonna screw ya cuz we can!’  Oh, and if I don’t get canned for missing too much work and lose my health insurance altogether. Leaving me broke and desperately needing follow up treatment.

So I’m probably not a good prospect for 80′ yachts and dream round-the-world golf vacas. But here’s a commodity I might qualify for, it’s aimed squarely at my America:

LA Times — 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 guess next time I need tires I’d be lucky to qualify for that deal, it would mean I still have a low paying job. I have lost 40 lbs, quit smoking, cut my cholesterol in half — simply do not eat much and when I do it’s all damn healthy stuff — after getting through a massive MI and a stent on 12 bucks an hour and reader contributions, leaving me near destitute. But ask the Austerians, those pragmatic deficit hawks almost all of whom are on the high end of the government dole and enjoying that sweet socialized medicine courtesy of John Q Taxpayer, and they’ll say millions like me, in the poor America, need to sacrifice more.

We don’t have much left. 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 ton of money, which is why the Austerians are hell bent on stealing that from us, too. Having most of it isn’t enough, they want it all, every last cent.

 

10 comments

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  1. 1
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    And when the Austerians’ intellectual violence — their mangling of facts, logic and math into convoluted walls of “shut up” — fails to convince, they engage in real violence, harassing and violently repressing anyone who dares protest their regime. When called out on it, they deny, deny, deny, deny, in fact, they make it a capital crime of unfairness to even suggest that this is a pattern of behaviour.

    They also have the gall to make the claim that the radical Left is somehow “just as bad”, complaining about, say, “misandry” or “reverse racism”, or asking why we supposedly hate the rich for their “success”. This is pure emotional abuse itself; they are gaslighting by trying to say that we just want to have power over them.

    But There Is No Alternative, and This Is Not Abuse.

  2. 2
    Neil Rickert

    A mega-yacht sounds great. And so does that ultimate golf trip.

    They sound great until I think about it. And then I realize that I would be bored silly.

  3. 3
    Jeremy Shaffer

    The tire rental story reminds me of Sam Vimes’ “Better Pair of Boots” theory of economics, explained in several Discworld books, that posits that rich people are rich simply because they can afford to spend less money.

  4. 4
    lochaber

    That tire rental scam is just disgusting.

    And the golf-vacation thing sounds pretty boring as well. I never quite got the point of traveling around the world to sit by a hotel pool or play golf.

  5. 5
    jamessweet

    Sorry, all I can see is the grocer’s apostrophe in the title of the post.

  6. 6
    stever

    Thanx, jamessweet. I was about to post that complaint myself. I suppose that in another century, all homophones will be defined to be synonymous, so nobody will care if they type “to” or “too”, “there” or “their.” “You” will become just “u.” In the meantime, it looks illiterate. Maybe, when all prose has devolved into txtspk, they will finally get rid of that damn greengrocer’s apostrophe.

  7. 7
    S. W.

    They need to quit taking and be smarter overlords. Americans will only take so much.

    If they don’t, they WILL go out French Revolution style.

  8. 8
    coragyps

    The tire-rental crap is actually pretty widespread – Aaron’s is one example of a company that will rent you a refrigerator, or sofa, or a Wii, at rates so that you could buy it in a few months. Handy, perhaps, if you are well-to-do and on a four-month assignment in Podunk, Texas. But it is aimed entirely at the working poor who can’t get past a credit check. And the goods are rented, so there’s no legal steps involved in taking things back, either.

  9. 9
    JasonTD

    Regarding the tire rental story – I’ve been in that situation before, where you suddenly need new tires and have nothing in the bank to buy them with. I lucked out and was able to buy them on credit, despite not having the best credit score. Even 20+% interest is better than the raw deal they got.

    Still, what I learned is that maintenance is part of the cost of owning a car, as much as buying gas for it is. You need to budget appropriately for those kinds of expenses, keeping some cash in reserve in case something breaks down, and watching for and saving for predictable expenses, like getting new tires before the steel starts showing through. If they can find $54.60 a month to rent the tires now, they should have been able to put $50 away a month for 6 months to buy the new tires before they got that bad.

    To the extent that these kinds of renting scams target the working poor, they do so because the working poor too often either can’t save adequately, don’t know how to save, or don’t have the discipline to save. When you’re well off, it’s easy to save, as Jeremy Shaffer pointed out above, simply because it’s easier to not spend money. But I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck for most of my adult life, and it was the stress of doing so that finally urged me to find room in my budget to put money away for future big purchases.

  10. 10
    JasonTD

    We don’t have much left. 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 ton of money, which is why the Austerians are hell bent on stealing that from us, too. Having most of it isn’t enough, they want it all, every last cent.

    The theory, in the early 80′s, was that the Social Security Trust could be built up over the next 3 decades to cover the retirement of the boomers. (See here) Also, the Medicare tax was uncapped in 1994 to boost its revenue, presumably for similar reasons. I’m assuming that this is what you mean when you say “we’re fully insured” by those programs.

    But these trusts are proving to be inadequate. The latest report from the trustees has Medicare’s trust running out in 2026. The disability fund, part of Social Security, is projected to run out in 2 years.. Social Security itself, is projected to run through the trust fund in about 2033. 20 years is a long time and thus uncertain, but it is better to act now than wait. (If only Republicans would apply that logic to climate change. If wishes were horses . . .) If these trusts run out, and no other changes are made in the meantime, then these programs will only be able to issue benefits equal to what is coming in from their dedicated taxes, which will mean significant reductions of benefits.

    So, while the ‘austerians’, in their fondest wishes, would like to eliminate these programs (something that would never actually happen), simply doing nothing isn’t in anyone’s best interests either. A choice of increasing taxes, reducing benefits and/or COLA, or raising eligibility ages (or a combination of these) will need to be done in order to extend these benefits indefinitely.

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