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Labor Day 2011: The Vanishing Middle Class

 

When I was in elementary school I remember reading and teachers telling me and my classmates that one of the main reasons the United States of America was such a great and long lasting democracy (Although we are really a Republic, but that is a different matter all together.) was because we had a large and stable middle class.

By definition the middle class is:

“A social class with average incomes: the section of society between the poor and the wealthy, including business and professional people and skilled workers.”  [Definition from Encarta.com]

The theory goes that if the majority of people in a country, usually the middle class, have stable and decent incomes there would be no unrest and no social upheavals such as rocked France in the late 1700’s and Russia in the early 1900’s.

Democracy flourishes when most citizens can support themselves and their families, and are self-sufficient.

I always thought that all made sense.

I always thought everyone knew that, especially everyone in Washington,D.C.

I think I was wrong about everyone in Washington knowing that the strength of the United States lies in a strong, vibrant and economically stable middle class.

According to Elizabeth Warren, former Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the bank bailouts; the middle class is under assault:

Today, one in five Americans is unemployed, underemployed or just plain out of work. One in nine families can’t make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages is in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans is on food stamps. More than 120,000 families are filing for bankruptcy every month. The economic crisis has wiped more than $ trillion from pensions and savings, has left family balance sheets upside down, and threatens to put ten million homeowners out on the street.

These numbers are troubling on several different levels. It is extremely troubling from the standpoint of maintaining a stable and economically self-sufficient middle class.

The American economy has stalled. There are myriad reasons for this. But chief among them is real wages for the middle class have stagnated and even shrunk for the last ten years or more. Now add high unemployment to shrinking wages and you have the ingredients for the unraveling of the American middle class.

The stalled economy will not be vibrant again and the middle class will not be strong again until the economy recovers. The economy cannot recover until the middle class has stable, well-paying jobs that put extra money in their pockets to spend.

No one inWashingtonseems to know what to do about this conundrum.

Maybe this Labor Day they should study and think on the lessons Henry Ford learned and knew when he paid his workers well enough to be able to afford to buy his cars. Some credit him with the creation of the modern day middle class. I will tell the Henry Ford story in my next post on Wednesday, September 7th.

What is even worse than not knowing what to do is the fact that Washington doesn’t even seem to care very much about the vanishing middle class.

These days Washington won’t even say the words, “middle class.” Today it is like “middle class,” is a four letter word worse than even the “f” word.

It appears to me that Washington is ready to watch the American middle class go down the drain with nary a whimper.

Evidently in America these days’ greedy, lying, thieving, gambling bankers and financiers are too big to fail and so are bailed out with middle class taxes.

But the middle class……………..…well who cares if we fail?

These are the questions I ask on Labor Day 2011:

Is there anyone who cares about the middle class anymore? Is there anyone who will fight for the survival of the middle class?

If there is, please make yourselves known post-haste. Your country and fellow citizens need to hear from you.

The answers to these two questions will help determine IF the greatest democratic Republic the world has ever known will survive.

Celebrate the Middle Class this Labor Day!!!!
Featured Recipe    Divine Easy Fresh Tomato Sauce

This is one of the easiest and most delicious tomato sauces you will ever make or eat.

It is also super quick and easy. So quick and easy you can make it on a work night and have a home made fresh dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. Move over Rachel Ray.

A teacher I used to teach with (Gee!! I wish I could remember her name.) gave me this recipe in 1978 or 1979. I had grown tomatoes that year and had way, way, way too many to eat myself. And I could not give them away as everyone I knew had the same problem.

So this teacher who had grown up on a farm in eastern Ohio gave me this recipe so I could use up a lot of my tomatoes. She did not have a name for the recipe. Tomato Sauce is what she called it. I made the name above right now for this blog post.

This recipe is best using fresh just picked off the vine tomatoes. If you don’t have any of those, Farmer’s Markets are next best. But you can also use regular store bought and the recipe will be just as divine.

The best part is there is a basic recipe, and then there are endless variations. I will give you a few of them today. Plus I know you will come up with some novel ideas your self.

I also decided to use Penne Rigate instead of spaghetti today. There are all sorts of lovely pasta shapes. You don’t always have to use spaghetti. So live it up. Go wild!!!!! Find a pasta shape you like and use it today!!!

One last thing, this recipe is great cold too. So IF you have any leftovers they are great for taking to work or school the next day. You can double this recipe to make sure you do have leftovers.

This is what you will need for 4 people:

6 medium tomatoes

2-3 cloves garlic

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Pasta of your choice

Variation # 1 Add Ins

3-4 tablespoons Sweet Vermouth

About 1 tablespoon of sugar

A large pinch ¼ teaspoon) dried oregano

 NOTE: See below for a list of Variation suggestions.

Here is what you do:

Put a pot of water for the pasta up to boil.

Wash the tomatoes and give them a rough chop. Run the peeled garlic through a press.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant about 1 minute or so.

Add the tomatoes and the salt and pepper.

Cook uncovered about 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes and their juices start to thicken slightly.

NOTE: If the tomatoes have too much water and the sauce does not thicken after 10-15 minutes remove some of the water with a large spoon and discard.

Sauce thickens.

Cook and drain your pasta until al dente or to taste.

Now comes the best part. When the sauce begins to thicken remove the skillet from the heat and add your Add Ins. [See list below.]

Mix well and serve over the pasta. You can tell this is home made pasta sauce. Look at those chunks of tomatoes on that pasta. And because the tomatoes are fresh this is just a melt in your mouth little slice of heaven on earth delicious. You don’t even need any cheese.

VARIATIONS:

# 2 This is the original recipe I got from the teacher who gave me this recipe. It was not a variation. I have made those up since or for today.

All this teacher did was take the sauce off the heat and she added some fresh chopped basil. She instructed not to add the basil while on the heat, as cooking can make basil bitter. Add it off the heat and right before serving over the pasta.

# 3 Add chopped fresh parsley.

#4 Add Rosemary

#5 Add chipotle peppers or red pepper flakes if you like heat.

#6 Add nothing. Just the tomato sauce by itself is also a super great sauce. You can really taste the tomatoes then.

Bon appétit!!!

Cost

Basic Recipe

6 medium tomatoes               Free if from your own garden

                                           $2.91 from store

2-3 cloves garlic                    $0.22

2-3 tablespoons olive oil         $0.45

Salt and pepper to taste          —–

Pasta of your choice              $1.29

Basic Total cost = $4.87

Variation # 1 Add Ins

3-4 tablespoons Sweet Vermouth               $0.48

About 1 tablespoon of sugar                      $0.08

Pinch (¼ teaspoon) dried oregano             $0.05             

Total cost Add Ins = $0.61
Total cost  = $5.48
Cost per person = $1.37

NOTE: Total cost will vary based on the Add Ins you use.

Quote of the Day

I have to live for others and not for myself: that’s middle-class morality.

George Bernard Shaw

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3 comments to Labor Day 2011: The Vanishing Middle Class

  • It appears that our representatives, who most often come from families with wealth, have no idea what life is like for the majority of use out here; the ‘middle class’ who work hard, pay our bills and can barely keep up with inflationary prices in a recession that sees us having to make do without any cost of living increases. I own my own small business and have not been able to raise prices for 6 years…the market just won’t tolerate it but the utilities and food I pay for; the necessities, they keep getting more expensive.

    It takes great wealth to get elected to represent us and great payback for the support of that wealth. There is no surprise to me that we are ignored. The phrase ‘The rich get richer’ has been around forever for a reason. It’s true.

    • Roberta

      You said it all so well, Barbara. You summed the problem up so well with your real life expereince. I think everyone in Congress is, or is close to being, millionaires. How can they represent us, the average citizen? They can’t. They represent themselves and other millionaires. SAD.

  • Ah yes – more plugged in, and more disconnected in oh-so-many ways.
    Funny, my happy list is all about the senses and relationships – no big dollars needed to enjoy fresh herbs, summer watermelon, or nephew’s giggles.
    xoxoxo
    ps – I didn’t know people cooked with vermouth LOL