Keep Your Nose Clean

When I was a young adult, this expression was a warning to us to straighten up and fly right – to stay out of trouble. It was said to young men more than it was said to young women, but it meant that things would come our way if we followed the rules.

Today’s young people don’t look at the world the way we did in the late 70s.

I earned my degree to teach school for about $2000 a year. You didn’t need student loans, just a good summer job.

Food was cheap, gas was cheap, beer at the state college bar was 35 cents a cup. I drank Slow Gin fizzes at $1.00 a pop. Toothpaste was also a dollar. Sometimes I had to choose. My parents sent me $5.00 a week for incidentals. Dorm life was cheap – toilet paper, heat, and hot water were provided.

I bought my first car (used) for $3000 in 1977 and a new car for under $10,000 (1980) when my first car sat in flood waters and forever more smelled like a swamp.

I taught school and earned $8500 my first year. Sometimes I had to eat peanut butter sandwiches the last week of the month before pay day. I could rent a place to live for $125.00 a month in rural Nebraska where I taught. My rent went up to $300 a month when I moved to Omaha.

I got a free farm dog and paid $60.00 to have her spayed.

I saved up and bought a house in Omaha for $29,500 in 1984. I had officially joined the middle class.

I moved to California and sold my house in 1986 for $32,000, happy about the profit I made.

Nothing is like that anymore. Everything costs too much for young people starting out.

I do not think mobs of people should be looting stores with crow bars and pepper spray (they even looted Home Depot to steal the crow bars).  But I understand it.

There is such a feeling of hopelessness among young people. How can they strive for anything that I was able to achieve in the late 70s and early 80s? The middle class is no more. Now it’s the haves and have-nots. The divide is widening with every stroke of congress’s pen and every employer that won’t pay a living wage.

Why are billionaire government officials deciding healthcare costs for the millions of people who can barely buy groceries?

My youngest laments that she will never own property. She will, because her parents own property. We will pass it on to our kids. But those families that don’t own property, how will they ever build wealth in the U.S.? Maybe move to Iowa and rent there and save up?

I might be ranting at this point, but come on, some friends of mine who sit on their substantial 401Ks have no empathy for anyone struggling. Choosing between insulin and groceries is a reality in this country, and it is shameful.

We were once the greatest country on the planet, with opportunities at all levels of the playing field. Now it is skewed toward the well-off, with little hope for the rest. 

And thus, the looting.

I rest my case.

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