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Wednesday, July 14, 2004


On life’s terms

The rich get richer


Everywhere I go lately, I notice a growing gap between the haves and the haves-not. As someone who is still a member of the great middle class this country has nurtured in my lifetime, I try to look at the evidence from the perspectives of those on either end of the economic spectrum.

Driving to Boise recently, I saw the parade of private jets here for the Allen & Co. conference and imagined the reactions of, say, a worker in the gardens of the homes along the Valley Club, the inhabitants of those homes, and someone like me. I am grateful for the beauties of a place like the Wood River Valley and the infusion of income to friends of mine who work for the Allen Co. every summer. We appreciate the energy and class that such people bring to our area. And yet I can't help but compare the relative ease with which our guests inhabit this resort with the struggles of a couple I know trying to buy their first house. Similar stories have been told often of late: Trying to find a place to live within reasonable commute of work in Ketchum is extremely difficult for anyone with a modest income. I wonder how teachers pay for their homes. Certainly it requires two incomes or perhaps a healthy inheritance to sustain the burden.

My parents taught me to budget a quarter of my income for the expenses of housing, including upkeep, taxes and decorating. I don't know many people who spend that small of a percentage on housing

I am fortunate that I no longer require a large home. Otherwise, I might be frustrated with the size of my condominium. I have raised my children and live a rather modest life. I chose education as a career in a time when television didn't lure viewers into the homes of the rich and famous or show lavish lifestyles. I didn't marry for money but for love. I can honestly say I'm not jealous of people with loads of money. Many have made choices and worked hard to acquire wealth. All I really want money for is some sense of security, travel and the ability to be with those I love when I want to. I am not sorry that I didn't live a more materialistic life, though, as I face retirement, I wish I had invested my savings a bit more wisely. But I don't regret the choices I made, nor do I need fancy cars, expensive toys, diamonds or furs. In short, I am lucky that I don't need to buy a home today.

As we face the coming elections, we will hear ad nauseum about how the two campaigns represent the "real" folk. Both parties have wealthy men leading their tickets, and we must all respect that reality. I will be listening for their suggestions for putting our country in better financial balance. I think it is important for our elected representatives to empathize with those of lower economic status, to see life from the viewpoint of the bus boy or the lawn trimmer or the drivers who serve them. The haves need to listen to the haves-not, the prosperous to the poor.

I recently read two juxtaposed items on the front page of the New York Times. One examined the proliferation of stores that cater to low-income people using vouchers for food as part of a major federal nutrition program called the WIC. It contained a shocking statistic: 47 percent of all babies born in the United States each year participate in the program. Forty-seven percent! Next to that was a feature on the thriving business of making cakes for "finicky brides having their cakes delivered by airplane," at a cost as much as much as $5000 plus shipping of $500. One baker was quoted as saying, "When you're spending $200,000 for a wedding, a cake that costs $5000 is not all that expensive." My reaction is one of dismay.

I understand the perception of those in third world countries that this country is selfish and has a distorted sense of values. I know Americans have good hearts, and I treasure the generosity of my community, but I can imagine America from the other end of the lens. Well-earned wealth is part of the American Dream. Wealth at the expense of others, a la Enron, is not. Instead of haves and haves-not, let's aim for haves and haves-enough.


City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.