The great myth of Main Street

November 19, 2008, 6:10 PM UTC

One of my very hostile but articulate readers, Mike from Spokane, gives me both barrels between the eyes this morning. I think Mike thinks I won’t publish it, because I’m a panty-waist business type swilling gin at breakfast. Here’s what he says:

Bing…with all due respect (as you recently stated to me), you have no idea what you’re frigging talking about. You, and corporate America, are so far removed from the realities of Main Street America, that you continue to confuse your personal financial comfort concerns with those of middle America.

I fully expect that you will delete all posts contrary to your limited and self-serving view, but at least you (or one of your corporate lackeys) will have to read statements that reflect what most of America regards as self-evident…that expanding and supporting corporate greed through taxpayer handouts for incompetence is no path out of the mess we’re in. Not much satisfaction from this end, but at least you, or one of your timorous syncophants, will know that your world has finally sunk below used car salesmen in terms of universal public esteem.

Finally, fearing being one step from flinging fries at the local ‘In&Out’ joint may play well while swilling $20 cocktails in some high-end Manhattan watering hole, but it is a daily reality for millions of Americans who invested billions in now collapsed 401K plans.

Mike, it’s always a pleasure to hear from you. But sometimes it’s hard to see things clearly with so much blood in your eye. I sent my corporate lackeys and timorous sycophants out of the room. This is between you and me.

First of all, this “corporate America” that’s on a different plane that “Main Street America” is a myth. I have worked in theaters, as a cab driver, in small companies, large corporations and mega-watt global behemoths, and they are all the same. They are people working for a living. And in one and all, it’s the most dysfunctional that run the place. Whatever the gig, we work, we try to enjoy our jobs, and we go home. Guess where our homes are? Main Street.

Secondly, I come from Illinois. So I don’t want to hear a lot of pompous, self-aggrandizing bushwah about middle America, either. We all live here. We are all Americans. None of us are more American than any others. We are all equally American. Let’s move on.

I understand that you need to see people like me, because I sometimes wear a tie and work in an office, as rich, shallow mofos who deserve to be pilloried, in order to keep on feeling that righteous anger of yours. But in my opinion you’d do better to see all of us (except the very rich and unsuccessful putzes who whipped up this soggy mess) as citizens of the same troubled system. Everybody I know is very nervous about their jobs. Nobody I know has a pension. We worry about our stock price, and our families, and our friends, and what the hell is going to happen to us if the big companies that provide so many people with jobs aren’t helped out right now.

We don’t sympathize with the idiots who have gotten us all into such trouble. And we certainly don’t want THEM to benefit from any assistance that is given to these failing auto makers, banks, insurance companies, whatever. We just don’t want the entire ship to sink, taking the lives of all on board, because the captain and his crew are dolts, numbskulls and screw-ups, or because politicians, responding to the anger of their constituents, continue to follow instead of lead.

Take the miscreants out behind the barn! Line them up against the wall! Pepper them with heat-seeking projectiles! But when you’re done with that satisfying exercise, let’s try to save the American auto industry, the banks where we keep our money, and probably the mortgages of all those people who believed they could buy a home with no money down because a greedy guy in a suit told them they could.

Personally, at this point I’m not a big believer in the “free market” approach. It seems to benefit the guys in charge of the marketplace. And that’s not us. And by “us” I mean we, the people. And by the way: MY 401K blows, too.

Thanks for writing, Mike. Say hi to Spokane.

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