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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What About Me? The 1% Versus the 99% - Who Supports Who?

In the Opinion pages of the New York Times James Atlas wrote an entertaining article about flying that used airlines as a metaphor for the dilemma of the increasingly disempowered middle classes. The cheapest seats aren’t particularly cheap anymore, legroom is almost non-existent and the service is lousy. These seats take up 99% of the plane’s capacity. Up front, the 1% have bars and beds and fabulous luxury. 

Apart from being entertained, I liked the analogy. No matter what stage it plays out on, the dynamics of decreasing mobility of the middle class are about the majority creating a foundation and paying for all the luxuries of the minorities. It’s my uneducated opinion that if airlines didn't have economy class nobody would be flying. My comment on the article got a reply from somebody who calls herself Accountant, in Atlanta, who works in the industry. She didn't say what level she worked at but she  insisted it was the other way round, that the 1st class subsidize economy class. I find it hard to believe.

Moving away from flying to economics, if the middle class didn't work for a pittance relative to what they contribute countries wouldn't have economies. And if you want to rise these days it's possible, just as it was during the Great Depression. It's just that you have to really fight and claw your way up. Survival of the fittest. Which isn’t the same as survival of the most decent.

It’s a big challenge to rise up from the boggy bottom of the rung. But, having said that, middle classes in the West live in a kind of stupor. Sticking to the analogy of James Atlas's article, if we all banded together around the world in the way that Egyptians do, for example, and picketed massive industries like airlines that are inefficiently run and charge the earth, they’d have to do something. Manage their money better, for a start so they could afford to charge less. Take responsibility for running a good business.

But we don’t do that. We carry on using them and complaining. Or else we don’t travel because we can’t afford even the lowest fares. We want them to listen to our complaints and change but why should they? We give them absolutely no incentive. 

It’s like being in a relationship where you’re being constantly dismissed. You can cry and shout and stamp your feet and beg them to change, to see you. But so long as you stay, why should they? The only way to change things is to say this is costing me too much. If you don’t want to change you don’t have to. But unless you change, I’m out of here.