RJ's Corner

Death of the American middle class??

2015-12-30_11-02-50.pngBut maybe the “death of the middle class” conclusion isn’t obvious at all. And perhaps there is more to the Donald Trump phenomenon. Yes, the modern left instinctively sees such studies as further confirmation that inequality is the nation’s premier economic challenge. Much of the media agrees. The rich are gobbling up more and more of the economy’s bounty, leaving less for everyone else. Case closed.

The Pew results are more complex and nuanced than that, however. One reason the middle class — say, three-person households making between $42,000 to $126,000 annually — share is declining is that the upper class is expanding. Back in 1971, 14 percent of households were upper class, and 61 percent were middle class. Today it’s 21 percent upper, 50 percent middle….

Now, none of this is to downplay the particular economic strain on lower-income Americans, especially those without a college degree. There is evidence that real wages for male workers without college degrees have been stagnant or falling for decades. And those are Trump’s biggest supporters. But the billionaire is competitive even among the better educated. When growth goes away or even recedes a bit, bad things happen to the American psyche.  Now combine that with fears college is becoming more necessary and more unaffordable in a time of expanding automation. The emergence of Trump or some populist like him seems inevitable.

SOURCE:  The American middle class is doing better than you think.

This is a very interesting Pew study that kind of confirms what I have thought all along. That is that there are still plenty of households who have more than enough discretionary spending to keep the economy going. If there wasn’t then who are the targets for all the extravagance shown by most cable TV shows.

If you are to believe what you see on TV then all of us should be striving or at least dreaming of backyards filled with fire pits, outside dining and living areas and covered with expensive slate. If there is no discretionary spending left then who are all these people? After all a billionaire only needs so many fire pits.

I have to admit that when I was making close to a six figure income I didn’t consider myself well off. Maybe that was because of my continuing penny pinching from my poorer years. I just couldn’t see constantly spending more and more.  When I retired in 2000 we bought a 1928 farmhouse that had gone through a couple of badly done rehabs. We spent about 70% of the original purchase price in renovations. Since that time our only expenses have been repairs. We are satisfied with the way things are and don’t have much desire for all the latest “improvement” so many say we must have.

Getting back to the original thoughts here, yes the middle class is definitely shrinking but still, as shown above, it accounts for half of all American families. Only about 20% of us really worry if we can put food on the nightly table but that is 20% too many. Then there is that 1% whose power has grown exponentially and have more money than they could ever spend but still savagely seek more and more.  And they are getting it thanks to decreases in taxes beyond sanity…

Evolving Faith…

I think for too long we’ve made Jesus just one character or episode in the Bible. If we want to see God, we look to Jesus. In Hebrews 1:3, the writer says that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. So I think that if we could recapture that centrality of Christ in our churches through our teaching, our worship, our way of life, well then, what would change? …  We aren’t bringing Jesus into our lives: he’s welcoming us into his life. Years later, I still feel like the only place that makes sense is in his presence, the only place I want to be is in the dust of his feet….

Rather, I was more telling stories of the places where I have evolved and changed because I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to do that. I do have areas where I can’t imagine changing but I hold even those loosely now. My catalogue of Right Answers has grown smaller over the years, for sure, and I see God as much more wild and wonderful and generous than I could have ever imagined years ago.

Source:  Evolving Faith: An Interview with Sarah Bessey – Red Letter Christians.

I very much mirror almost everything mentioned in the above quote from my friends over at Red Letter Christians.  For me it is all about Jesus and his words. Everything else in the Christian Bible is very secondary if even that important. I evolved into this attitude over time to where it has become the cornerstone of my spiritual life.

I don’t particularly like the phrase “What would Jesus do?” Instead I live by the idea of what would Jesus have ME do? I can’t possibly imitate Jesus in most matters in life but I can take what he teaches me in both my heart and my actions.

I remember in 2008 when I started my now archive blog at RedLetterLiving I got a comment from a fairly high authority in the Lutheran church organization I belonged to at the time that totally confused me.  I admit that I didn’t really read much of my church’s writing so I didn’t realize the extent of my differences with them.

Getting back to the 2008 comment, the person asked me why I was concentrating on the words of Jesus!  He said all the words of the Bible are equally important! So, to him the words about not eating meat from animals with cloven hooves was just as important as Jesus’ messages of loving each other!  I was shocked by his comments but eventually discovered  that is pretty much the attitude of the clergy in the Lutheran church I belonged. To me they just seem to be  more of a “club” type association (they call it fellowship)  who focus on adoration of their Bible rather than focusing like a laser beam on the person of Jesus.

Needless to say these revelations started me down the road asking too many questions and  correspondingly being expelled from my congregation; in the end that was probably a good thing…. it allowed my faith to evolve to the next level.

2015-12-30_10-09-20.pngIf anyone is interesting in going deeper with this topic of evolving faith I would highly recommend the book shown here by Philip Gulley. Despite what some say, it is a normal process for our beliefs in God evolve as we mature. If they don’t then we are not growing in Christ as we should. Don’t get stuck in one static place just because someone tells you they have all the answers.  Question everything even your spirituality. I think God expects us to do just that…. and He is certainly up to the questions.

 

 

Winter Cardinals in the Old Apple Tree

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I never tire of taking more pictures of the winter cardinals in the old apple tree in our backyard. As always they are gobbling up the sunflower seeds at our feeder after the recent winter storm.

Click on the image to see a larger version…

The Power of the Media

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Of course the editorial cartoon above my Paul Combs is an exaggeration but it certainly has more than an ounce of truth in it. The media just seems to dominate almost everything in our lives now days. Cell phones are now on every restaurant table and are the main focus of those diners even to the exclusion of those sitting across the table from them. If it rings for whatever reason it almost always takes attention away from everything else.

Fox News is the prime instigator of media bias. They have so many “ditto-heads” watching who totally fall in line with whatever they seem to say. To those folks, if Fox proclaims something is has to be absolutely true without any questions or doubts.

George Orwell many years ago wrote a novel entitled 1984 where the government took total control of life.  He wasn’t too far off on his predictions but he got the main player wrong. It was not Big Brother but instead Mother Media…

Reflections…

I wanted to spend a little more time in reflecting on my recent trip to Branson MO the week before Christmas. This one has an artsy touch :)

Birds In Flight

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Just a quick pic that I took recently. The blue clip is to keep the racoons from stealing the suet :)

El Nino… Climate Change…

2015-12-28_12-22-05.pngCall it what you want but I kind of wonder what all the deniers are saying about this winter season? Certainly they can’t deny that things are much different this year than last. Tornadoes in December are just not normal and neither are blizzards in the south and balmy weather in the north.

When we visited the Southwest last April I simply fell in love with the area and  dream of spending my final years there. As a result of my deafness I have a condition where my balance is tenuous at best so ice is a deadly enemy to me. I have had two severe falls since my retirement, both resulting in  broken ribs and back compression fractures. I dream of a time where I don’t have to worry about that sort of thing. But since my wife simply loves snow and wouldn’t think of living without it,  I only have dreams right now.

This was our second trip the New Mexico and we spent almost a week of it in Santa Fe. I loved the place and even found a continuous care retirement facility (CCRC) called El Castillo that might end up being my home some day. Santa Fe is located about 7,000 feet above sea level and being so is cooler than most of the areas around it during the summer but I didn’t have much of an idea about winter so I have been tracking it for this season.

So far the winter there is much more frigid there than here in southern Indiana. It is on average about  12 degrees cooler and where my current home has had only one inch of snow so far Santa Fe has had almost eight inches!  Will I be going from bad to worse with the ice situation?  With El Nino disrupting everything I kind of think the weather there is just out of sync.

Getting back to climate change I guess I can’t really predict what the circumstances will be in future years. Who knows?? But I do know that things will only get worse the longer we allow the deniers to hold us back from substantial changes to our carbon footprint. It just makes sense to me that it is time to move from one hundred year old carbon based energy sources to something more sustainable. It is time for us to force those who live mainly in the past into the 21st century.

 

My Favorite All Time Junkyard

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Here is my favorite junkyard of all time.  It is located in La Fruto Colorado and I discovered it in April 2015 while traveling the back roads to from Santa Fe to Denver…  (click on it to see a larger image)

Were We Wrong??

From the title it is hard to determine where this post is going. We can be wrong about almost anything in this life and there seems to always be someone around to alert us of that fact. If we get something set in our minds that just isn’t true then we are the worst kind of wrong. But… that is not where this post is going. :)

2015-12-27_12-48-23.pngFinally, here is the full question,  were we wrong to separate from mother England, especially through  violence?

Looking back with hindsight it is always easy to judge the past by today’s criteria.  I will try not to do that but will use the wisdom of what came next to speculate how we might be different if we had not collectively made the decision we did.

It seems that the primary reason for our revolt against the mother country was money.  We simply didn’t like being taxed, especially since we had no say in where those taxes would come from. Of course the other primary reason was probably the arrogance of a king and the nobles who depended on him for their lifestyles.  They saw America as a source for income and not much else. When that income started dwindling they just raised taxes even more.

Was this reason enough to go to war over? Like most wars our revolution was an ongoing thing. One thing led to another. The Boston massacre might have started it but then a tit for tat scrimmages escalated it.  Initially there was little thought of becoming an independent nation. We simply wanted to keep more of our income to ourselves instead of shipping it off to people we knew little about.

Even when the war became official with our “Declaration of Independence” barely half of us agreed with that document. Raising an army to go against the toughest in the world was by no means a sure thing.  But soon the you kill us and we will kill you mentality took over.

In the overall scheme of the world we are still a relatively new country. Less than three hundred years of existence where many are ten times that old.  Most countries have little or no idea about how they came about because they seem to have been always there.

What would have happened if we had not rebelled? A likely scenario would be Canada. Yes, they are independent of their mother country but did so by peaceful means about a hundred years later than us.

On my visits to our northern neighbors I have realized a basic difference between us and them. They, for the most part are much less belligerent than we are. They spend on the military about the same percentage as the rest of the world whereas we spend almost a hundred times more.  Is part of this aggressiveness on our part associated with our founding? Is our obsession with guns and the NRA part of it too?

Canada, who for the most part have the same lineage as us took a very different track to world affairs. Would we be more like them if we had not rushed to war in 1776?  That is an idea certainly interesting to ponder…

 

Killed by the NRA…

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The title for this post should be used every time another senseless death occurs because of unstable people getting their hands on guns. If the current batch of politicians are so afraid of the NRA then it is time for them to go…. no matter their party affiliation.

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