Sunday, January 30, 2011

Middle Class Ready to Go Galt?

That's a provocative question, isn't it? For the Ayn Rand-uninitiated, "going Galt" is a phrase derived from Rand's towering, controversial objectivist novel, Atlas Shrugged. To make a very long story short, the novel is about the fiscal and social Armageddon that occurs when an increasingly socialist US government takes things too far by taxing and regulating away any and all rewards for creating products, jobs, profits, and a decent lifestyle. So one by one, the best Americans simply quit, withdraw from society, and join their spriritual leader, John Galt, in his secret hideout to await the cataclysm that will happen when they all stop playing the stupid game. It's a strike of the productive against the drones.

A real-life version of the novel may very well be starting to play itself out today. It's the topic of a really provocative article by Gonzalo Lira entitled: The Coming Middle Class Anarchy. Lira focuses on one retired couple who have their own problems but, nonetheless, continue to play the game, paying, paying, paying even while the bank and the Feds screw with their re-fi request. (Read another, even more poignant story here.)

I've been having my "going Galt" moments over the last two years, sitting here completely out of work and trading my remaining IRA accounts like a fiend in order to come up with enough capital gains to live on in a continually whipsawing market. The rental housing I own no longer gets top dollar, and a couple units have remained unrented for months. Nonetheless, I've never defaulted on anything since I'm not that kind of dude.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to get a lower mortgage rate from a major bank on a morgtage I'm already paying. It's been two months now. Nothing has happened, they keep asking for more info, but fail to see the logic: If I'm successfully paying a mortgage that's nearly 2 points higher than the one I'm trying to get now, where is the difficulty? But the irony is, if I'd screwed this mortgage up, or even walked away from it, I'd probably be in better shape today.

While I twist in the wind on this, Wall Streeters (all of whom support Democrats, BTW) are jacking their "bonuses" up to historical highs, resuming a lavish lifestyle that most Americans have never seen. And at the bottom rungs of society, nothing is spared to send more and more money their way via this or that "entitlement" program. Who supports the fat cats and the grifters? Me. And millions of other middle class suckers like me.

The anger is building. It's what launched the much-maligned Tea Party movements and it's what eviscerated the Socialists Democrats in last fall's election. But if these elections don't produce some swift and telling results, the next chapter won't be pretty. It takes an awful, awful lot to piss off America's middle class. In fact, I'm not sure that's every really happened. But if things don't change for the middle class, and soon, I wouldn't want to work at Goldman Sachs, on Capitol Hill, or be in this country illegally.

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