Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Every American in every tier of society now thinks they deserve to be rich and it is affecting everything.

I think I've finally figured out what's changed in the country since about 2015. The change hit so rapidly that it's taken me a while to suss it out in my head that something feels "dramatically" different than it did a decade ago. But I haven't been able to put my finger on it, and whenever I read articles about it (or asked people), the answers I got were too simple and didn't seem to hit the mark.

For example, when I asked about how expensive things have become, people gave me canned answers like "Inflation, Mike," or "Supply chain issues," or "Covid wrecked everything," etc. None of those answers ever worked for me. When I was in a Walgreens recently and the place was completely empty but there were customers around, I asked myself, "What's going on?" There literally was no one there. No one in the aisles, no one behind the counter. After twenty minutes a person did show up to a line that had about thirty people in it. Then they started to slowly check things out. Still...I asked myself...why is this happening? The answer: "No one wants to work anymore," and "understaffing is just a thing that happens nowadays."

Those answers are not satisfactory, and they don't explain anything of what's going on. So, what is the answer? I had an epiphany yesterday, which is why I'm writing this blog, and I think it is this. As far as Americans go, fewer and fewer are content being simply middle class or being (simply) average. Everyone at every tier of the economy wants to get rich now, and/or they want to be exceptional as far as status goes. Everyone has a seemingly limitless avarice for material things, and that's just who we've become as a society and as a country. Whether it's a homebuilder, a homeowner going to sell their home, or the average worker--everyone wants to save as much money as humanly possible and to make as much money as humanly possible on everything that they do. The compounding effect of that from top to bottom are never-ending price increases, being gouged everywhere, and cutting corners in every aspect of life. We've become a selfish, self-centered, greedy society of money grubbers with huge egos, and each and every one of us thinks we deserve to be rich and have status. It's just who we are now, and we're all paying the consequences for it.

America historically was a land of opportunity. But what's different now is the word "deserve," as in "I deserve this." That's a huge thing to realize. For example, being rich by itself is not a right, but it was always a "possibility" with the right combination of luck, work ethic, timing, and brilliance. But we now have an entire generation (multiple generations) where nothing is good enough, and they believe they are entitled to the very best that life has to offer just by virtue of being alive. That effect sloshes into everything. I think it's why we have an anxiety and depression epidemic among young people when reality reinforces their averageness. Rather than being content working a regular job and being average, the reaction is mental illness, depression, anxiety, and even anger and hatred. Being "average" is basically traumatizing now, as in "it is trauma to suggest that I can be nothing but an average human being and to live like an average human being."

Other things that come out of this is a startling rise in disability claims. There are now millions and millions of people collecting social security disability. Many of them could/should be working, but the jobs they could get (or are more likely to get) would do nothing for their self-esteem and probably be considered "drudgery." People decades ago might have been content with these kinds of jobs. But it's a lot more difficult to find those people today, so what usually happens is these people go the "social security" route and just slip out of the work force on disability.

There's also the rise of tipping on everything. It all comes out of this idea that people "deserve" more and more and more. I'm now asked to tip at McDonalds and Burger King (and I do). It's all being driven by American entitlement to more and more. All the taboos we used to have in place to keep people from overcharging and flat out asking for more money are gone.

It's also permeated dating. People now have a sky-high list of things that they are looking for in a partner. The result has been a generational collapse in marriage, a declining birthrate, more people living single than ever before, and more people just not being content with anything but "the best." Our conversations around mental health these days all revolve around, "You deserve better," as opposed to "This expectation of yours is out of touch with reality."

It's seeped into healthcare. End-of-life care for elderly people is the most expensive medical care that there is now, costing upwards of $8,000 to $10,000 a month. If this is true in 2023, imagine what it will be like in 2033 and 2043? And at those prices, there still aren't enough people to do those jobs, because it doesn't come with status.

I could go on and on, but I think I've made my point. Nearly everything in society has been touched by this idea that every single person is now deserving of the best, whether it be treatment, salary, compensation, etc. The difference between the present and even the recent past is that people are demanding it. Rents are sky high because people deserve that money to afford the best things for themselves and their children. Contractors are charging incredible amounts of money to do work because they deserve the best and have themselves and loved ones who deserve it also. Up, up, up, it goes with no end in sight.

I think that we are on the precipice of something incredibly bad as a result of this. I don't think that American capitalism ever had the capacity for everyone to have the best. There needs to be people on the bottom if you are going to double-down on that kind of economic system. So, what's going to happen is a catastrophic tearing between the "haves" and the "have nots." Amidst soaring income inequality, there will be violent reminders that opportunity, status, and wealth are "not for you or your kid." And this is just terrible not only for quality of life but for a quality of a society. I think that as people, Americans followed the path of good intentions. We brought up children trying to instill them with self-worth and telling (maybe too many of them) that they were little princes or princesses and that they deserved the best. Now, all of those chickens that got hatched are coming home to roost, and the bill that is coming due is something that a lot of us cannot afford to pay.


  1. Aaaaactually, Richard Russo's 1997 book "Straight Man" refers to the McDonald's slogan "You deserve a break today" and says much of what you just said. So clearly not a recent thing. I don't really love that book but you can buy it here

    He won the Pulitzer for "Empire Falls," which might have been his next book, but I would say "Nobody's Fool" is better. The movie starring Paul Newman and Jessica Tandy was really good too.

  2. What do they call this? End stage capitalism?

  3. I agree. Look at immigrants that come from India and other countries. They get here and work hard and end up being doctors or owning businesses. I think we have too many handouts here and it's enabling people.
    And I've been trying to comment since yesterday. Google wouldn't let me log in. Finally discovered my browser was set on the highest security, so now I'm going back to blogs and changing that so I can comment.