Upstairs/Downstairs – America’s widening background and culture gap.
While reading a link on another blog site to a take down of an article by Matt Yglesias in Salon by Michael Lind and one of the comments given to the link, it occurred to me that a major problem we have in this country is the widening disconnect between the the backgrounds of the elites and those underneath. Their personal history and upbringing as it were. [h/t EmmaZahn]
As callous as he is candid, Yglesias explains that a large pool of low-wage, menial servants allows members of the elite professional class to avoid wasting time on household chores:
Immigration skeptics often act as if there’s some fixed pool of jobs that we compete for. But it’s obvious that in a world without immigrant housecleaners, we wouldn’t have an equal number of much-higher-paid native-born maids. What we’d have is less housecleaning being done on a market basis and more being done as unpaid work at home. For many middle-class families that would be pure waste. Time spent cleaning the toilet that could be spent on higher-value labor, on leisure, or on quality time with friends and family.
By “middle class,” Yglesias evidently means “upper middle class” or “elite.”
Someone should tell the business and economics correspondent of Slate that, unlike upscale journalists in Washington and New York, most Americans can’t afford maids and nannies.
The commenter to the link I got brought up a very good point, that people like Yglesias likely grew up in relative privilege and simply cannot imagine why anyone would not have servants or grounds keepers or any of the other things that go along with their status. Why would anyone waste their time doing menial tasks such as housework and yard work and parenting when they can hire someone else to do it for them. And why wouldn’t they want to pay as little as possible for it. And why should they care about these menial workers lives. It’s not their business. It’s only logical.
Having servants and yard keepers and nannies used to be only for the very well to do. The rich.
Middle and even upper middle class did not have them. Even if they could afford it, it was seen as terribly ostentatious and even crass.
David Seaton asked when the left lost it’s way. As I replied to it, it was when a large portion began driving BMWs, living in gated communities, hiring maids , sending their kids to private schools, using lawn services and viewing that as normal.