I am, what pollsters and admen kindly refer to as middle-age, although unless they come up with a potion that allows me to live until 120, I am hardly at the middle of my life span. Let's just say that I'm younger than Mitt Romney but older than Paul Ryan
After watching the parade of Republicans hit the stage in Tampa this past week tearfully invoking their parents' or grandparents' abject poverty, I had no choice but to come to the conclusion that I had missed out on the most American of American experiences . . . growing up dirt poor.
You see, my parents were unrelentingly middle-class. They married in 1944, and after the war, my dad was able to go to school on the G.I. Bill and earn a degree. That degree enabled him to get a job that allowed my mother to stay home with her three kids, a home that was in a nice residential neighborhood where all the other mothers stayed home with their kids too. Raging family dysfunctions aside, everyone we knew was living the Leave It To Beaver/Ozzie and Harriet dream.
Because that was the dream. Getting rich was possible, but most people didn't expect that to happen. What they aspired to was a nice little house with a nice little lawn, 2.5 children they could afford to educate, 3 square meals on the table, a car or two in the garage, a color TV in the den and a family vacation once a year. They understood then as now, most rich people are born into wealth and are destined to get wealthier. Oh sure, there were the entrepreneurs and the lucky investors, but the great majority of people were satisfied with their position in the middle, working hard to make sure their children could succeed.
However, to hear the Republicans at the convention tell it, mom and dad grew up selling worms for bait to help put food on the table, took in laundry to meet the rent, and dug ditches to buy clothes at Goodwill. In GOP America, our parents slopped pigs before school and darned socks by the light of a candle so that one day their children could grow up to create Microsoft or run a hedge fund. According to GOP America it was literally rags to riches, the middle-class didn't exist.
While this revisionist slant on the not-so-distant past is certainly a lot more colorful than the truth, which is that most of us came from suburban households with parents who earned average incomes, except of course Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan who were both born into fabulous wealth, it is just that . . . a revisionist slant. During our parents time, the fastest growing segment of American society was the middle-class. That growth, steady and sure, was the indicator of a healthy economy and a bright future for us all.
And now according to the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-like-we-did GOP speakers at the convention, the middle-class didn't exist, it was poverty and self-sacrifice that led directly to vast riches and success. Of course that was only one of many diversions from the facts that the Republicans took during their "We Are The True Americans" love fest in Tampa, but this diversion could prove to be the most dangerous. If we elect Romney/Ryan in November, their fantasy view of the past will become our blighted future. There will be only the very rich and the very poor, the middle-class won't exist anymore.