Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

It Just Slips Through My Fingers
by James Glaser
January 22, 2010

Of course I am talking about money, and I don't think it has any thing to do with living in the South verses living in the North. At first I was thinking that it was my imagination, and that things really weren't more expensive, it was just that inflation made it look that way. Now I don't think imagination has any thing to do with it, things are more expensive.

I was going through some old paper work and I found a pay stub from 1976. In one 40 hour week, I took home $408 dollars. That year I was building my first house, and got a Farmers Home Administration loan for $25,000 to build it. That loan included the price of the land. We bought five acres on the west bank of the Big Fork River, about eleven miles from the Canadian border in Northern Minnesota. The house was two stories with a full basement, three bedrooms and one and one half baths. We had a front porch, and two decks. The floors were real oak and so was the trim. The outside was stucco and if I remember right there were 13 windows, 2 sets of French doors, and a nice oak front door. On top of all of that we had to put in a well and septic system with that loan money. Yes, my wife and I did all the work, plus friends put in their labor, too.

What really got me going on this train of thought is the potting shed I am building out by my garden. This is a eight foot by eight foot little shed with a four by eight foot porch. It is tiny. I think by the time I am done, I'll have close to a thousand dollars in materials.

Money, or the lack of money is a funny thing. Now that the kids are grown, I have to admit that I eat out more often, because I have more money or less responsibilities. Lately, the price of meals seems to be going up. I know that isn't true for fast foods, but if you want "real" food, and you leave a normal tip, you're at 12 to 15 dollars for lunch. Heck, breakfast for Wanda and I runs close to twenty dollars, and we are not eating at five star places. Probably 2 or 3 stars would be about right.

The same is true going to the grocery store. A 5 ounce can of evaporated milk cost 89 cents and the little can of jellied cranberry sauce is a buck. Beef is out of sight for good cuts, and one of our farmer friends said he gets 85 cents a pound when he sells his cows. Potatoes are getting close to a dollar a pound, and now this is true, I have bought hundred pound bags in the last ten years for ten dollars from the farmer, and he felt good about it.

What really galls me is that Washington keeps telling us that inflation is under control, in fact they claim that there is a little bit of deflation and that our money buys more now than it did a year ago. I don't know what they are buying, but it sure isn't the same things that I am.

So, here I am in the South, watching money slip through my fingers and worrying about it, and then I look around and see people with a bunch of kids to feed. That makes me think of how blessed I was to be from my generation. Yes, times are hard now, but really life in America has been very good for the last forty years, and it is hard for me to understand how we let it get away from us.

I still remember how Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress decided that we would all be better off with free trade. Of course Bill and the members of Congress never worked in a factory making something. They made money off other people. So if the average working stiff was making less, but they still had their income or their income was going up, well that was fine with them.

NAFTA and free trade agreements like that are great for corporations and their share holders, but working people are really not share holders in corporations. Working people are trying to get enough money to feed their kids, and keep a roof over their heads. Congress and the upper class in America don't care about that.

Maybe it is because I am in the South, and the population is way higher than where I lived in Minnesota, but I see lots of people just getting by, and a lot of people who are not getting by.

Washington keeps talking about the millions of people in this country that don't have health insurance, but what about the millions of people in this country that don't have enough to eat? Yes, universal health care sounds good. But I think it would be far better if every American had enough to eat and had a place to sleep out of the elements. Down here is not unusual to see somebody sleeping in front of a closed gas station or under a bridge.

Our elected officials can not comprehend what it is like to be at the bottom, and part of that is because it now take millions of dollars to get elected to any office in Washington. People who can get together that much money, have no concept of what it is like to not be able to get together enough money for a meal.

So, today I am pondering where all my money goes, and the majority of Americans are wondering that same thing. Soon, the people at the bottom, especially the young ones who have never had it good, are going to get mad. When that happens, the people at the top are going to know what it is like to be at the bottom, because we will all be down there.

Our elect officials continue doing what they have been doing for the last few decades. They continue to ignore the suffering going on in our country. Also, they continue borrowing money by the trillions, and they funnel that money to their friends and business associates. The past couple of years have shown us that everything can come to an end, and those at the top have a lot farther to fall than we do. Remember, long falls hurt way more than short ones.

Post Script:

I write these columns, and then wait a while and reread them. This one is kind of sad, and the rain today might have brought it on. Or maybe it was the guy we saw sleeping in front of the closed gas station out side of Valdosta, Georgia. He was under the overhang of the building, and he had a tarp to help keep the rain off.

It seems that I see people, men and women living on the streets and highways all the time now. No, they don't look happy.

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