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My Personal Metaphor for the Middle Class

posted by Bob Lawless

Today, I am visiting my parents' home and went for a walk that included a stroll down the commercial strip on the busy street near their house. Along this commercial strip in a solid middle-class neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois, is a small red brick building that thirty years ago I remember housing an insurance agency. What is there today? A payday lender.

My stroll turned into my own personal metaphor for the change in the middle class over the past generation. In place of an institution that cushioned against risk, the neighborhood now has an institution that creates it.The local bowling alley is shuttered as well -- everyone now just can  "bowl alone."

The payday lender that inspired this post does not even really stand out. In that one-quarter mile stretch of that commercial strip, there are are now five payday or auto title lenders.


There's a dragstrip down by the riverside
Where my grandma's cow used to graze
And the grass don't grow and the river don't flow
Like it did in my childhood days.
Don't it make you wanna go home, Lord, don't it make you wanna go home . . .
Sorry, off topic, but I couldn't resist.

Ever see "Jumanji"? What the town turns into after the plant shuts down?

started when reagan busted the unions & forced women out of their homes & into wage slavery...a MIT Hamilton Project showed that median wages for men have dropped $15,000 or 32% since '69 when adjusted for inflation...

There have definitely been changes over the years, some for the worse.

I would quibble with one of your examples of the old neighborhood. An insurance agency might have cushioned against risk in some ways, but when I got out of college (late 70s) I remember some scandal on how whole life insurance was a lousy investment and agents got hefty commissions for writing the policies, especially in the first couple years. I also remember cautions about checking the reliability of auto insurance (as some companies didn't pay).

My father-in-law sold insurance briefly (primarily life insurance), I think in the 60s, and he quit after a year or two because he couldn't bear to go in to families and try to sell them something they didn't need.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Along the lines of Mr. Doran's comment, I pictured you giving a benefit concert in Peoria singing a revised version of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi."

Wouldn't the demand for bowling alleys INCREASE if we were all really "bowling alone"? That doesn't mean "bowling at home" after all! It means going to an alley and using a lane up by yourself. That sacrifices the economies of league bowling, and would seem good news for the alley industry.

One unspoken reality of the payday loan hoopla, is that accounts with mainstream banks are increasingly difficult to get. Where a Social Security number and address, were once the prerequisite for acceptance, this is no longer true. Bank accounts are now treated like credit products, and a specialized rating system has been developed to determines who gets one.

Low income minorities, and illegal immigrants, are not the only PDL demographic anymore. Anyone who has defaulted on a credit card or other consumer credit product, runs the risk of being denied a checking account, and forced into the PDL market for basic banking services.

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