Minnesota's Own Nero

Oil is hovering around $115 a barrel, the lowest price of
gas in the Twin Cities is $3.18, foreclosures are still a-rising, and yet, in her latest column,
the Star Tribune’s Katherine Kersten
believes all we need to weather the storm of inflation, diminished access to
credit, and skyrocketing healthcare costs is a shit-eating grin and a positive attitude.
Allow me to add a hefty supply of recreational pharmaceuticals to the list,
because these days I’d love to have some of whatever Kersten is smoking. A few
wise British men once said, "Life’s
a piece of shit, when you look at it,"
and that certainly applies in the
current economic climate.

Kersten’s premise seems to be that we can take notes from
our parents and grandparents – those stalwart souls who grew up during the
Great Depression and maintained a positive attitude despite the slings and
arrows of daily life. And why yes, she’s right – life would be far more
craptastic if we were faced with a worldwide economic disaster compounded by a
severe drought shortly after a global conflict that caused the deaths of more
than 20 million people. However, what Ms. Kersten failed to mention in what was
likely supposed to be a feel-good piece meant to evoke images of fluffy bunnies
and ponies prancing through verdant fields before she vomits forth more Powerline
talking points
, is that those bunnies and ponies are taking turns crapping
all over the bank accounts of the average Star Tribune reader.

You see, while no, we aren’t staring at a nigh-complete
collapse of financial markets at home and abroad, we are looking at what is
potentially the beginning of a long, slow, inexorable slide into poverty for
the middle class. The last thirty years have seen a gradual widening of the gap
between middle and upper class workers, of course, with C-level pay packages
growing more and more whacked out every year. In addition to his $10 million
pay package, CEO George Buckley has a harem of gold-painted succubi
at his beck and call. NWA CEO Doug Steenland’s stock options are worth
millions, but the value of the midgets who function as his office furniture is

The most egregious omission, however, the one that makes me
believe the chemicals in Kersten’s home perm
have seeped into her brainpan and taken up residence, thus blocking rational
thought altogether, is her complete and utter obliviousness to the fact that
many people in the state, and even the country, believe that life will actually
be worse for their children than it was for them. And there’s no improvement in
sight. The developing world is demanding resources, driving up prices for all,
and that same developing world is placing increasing pressure on wages by
competing for jobs and businesses that happily obey the cow god in
return for reduced costs and delicious curries.

This is a dramatic reversal from the norm in this country,
where the wealth of one generation is traditionally built on by the next. And
they’re feeling pessimistic for good reason – the middle and lower classes have
been largely left out of the economic boom of the last decade. Real income has
been largely stagnant due to rising healthcare, food and energy costs, and the
heightened lifestyle of many middle-class Americans was funded by credit –
which has dried up in the face of falling real estate prices. For the first
time in nearly 80 years, the country’s middle class is shrinking and the best
advice Kersten can muster is to act like Stepford wives? I suppose it makes
perfect sense to grin and bear it when we’re already getting thoroughly
buggered by the folks who’ve reaped the rewards of the massive economic
expansion of recent years whilst we hear how great life is in these United States.

What’s truly galling is the patronizing attitude. While it’s
obvious things could be worse – N’Sync has not yet reunited,
after all – we’re coming off an economic boom that actually set the stage for
the recession by encouraging a middle class that hasn’t seen any real
improvement to their lot in life in nearly 20 years to heavily leverage the one
asset that could provide ready amounts of cash, their homes. Now that bill is
coming due and we’re supposed to chuckle turn those lemons into
? I’d say no one is stupid enough to take that approach, but the comments on Kersten’s blog
belie that.

So there are really two options at hand. One could get angry
that the number of children in Minnesota
below the poverty line has increased by 30 percent since 2000. Or get downright
pissed off that your paltry 2.5 percent pay increase is dwarfed by the average
3 percent increase in healthcare costs, not to mention the nigh 50 percent
increase in energy prices in the last few years. Or, like Ms. Kersten and her screaming
hordes, you can lay down and take it, shouting "thank you sir, may I have
another!?" all the while. Though how she manages to enunciate through the ball
, I’ll never quite figure out.