Thursday, September 22, 2011

The middle class stumbles...after shooting itself in the foot

As per usual, I've been reading a lot of financial and economic news, and right now there is a constant refrain of "the end of the middle class in America" in the news.  The middle class has, indeed, taken a beating.  Wages have stagnated, jobs have been outsourced.  The Federal Reserve has been playing with the money supply, banks, let off their leashes, preyed on everyone they could catch, and the resulting boom/bust cycles made A LOT of money disappear.  However, during the past 30 or so years when all of this was coming to a slow head, the middle class was doing a hatchet job on its economic future by participating or condoning the destruction of the traditional family and all the security it once afforded.

I'm not reading anything in the media about how divorce and illegitimacy are direct contributors to the spiking of the poverty rate - in particular, the child poverty rate.

Two of my old classmates are currently getting divorced.  Amy* lost primary custody of her children in her divorce as her ex was a stay-at-home father [I have to say, this sounds off to me; how is this even possible?  Her kids are school-age.].  She gets them a few hours one weekday night and every other weekend.  She spaced on a critical job requirement and lost her teaching job; in this economy, it's almost outside the realm of the possible that she will find another.  I don't know her financial details, but the divorce had to be costly, and she has a mortgage.  She does have a new boyfriend.  A year from now she will be either living with him or with her parents and declaring bankruptcy, if she hasn't already.  The math supports no other conclusion.

Michelle's* husband came home one day and told her, "I don't love you anymore, and I think I want a divorce."  He's never given her - or anyone else - a reason for why he wants this, he just does.  Together, they were just barely holding their heads above water.  They had a mortgage on a house that - like many, many houses in Michigan - is now underwater. Make that a mortgage and a second mortgage.  They each had some credit card debt.  She got downsized at work right before their second baby was born, and now only works a few hours a week.  After the lawyers get paid, they will be so far below water that the surface light will not be visible.  She has moved their two children into her parents' house, and he's looking for a roommate.

Michelle has two coworkers, sisters whom I also knew once upon a time.  The first is divorced, the second is getting divorced.  Her husband is bipolar and self-medicates with booze.  She has a couple of kids and was living with her parents, but now has moved in with her sister.  Her employment outlook is shaky; it looks like she's going to lose her job.

All of these women came from the exact same family background as I did: intact families with middle class incomes and college educations.  All of them grew up in safe neighborhoods, went to good schools, attended church.  And all of them are now toast financially.  Not just for now, for at least a decade into the future, probably decades.  Not because their jobs were outsourced or because they bet too much on derivatives or had a major medical event.  Because of divorce.  It is so depressing.  And their kids won't even have the stability - financially, psychologically, or even possibly physically - that they had even.

When Amy posted on Facebook about how hard her divorce was, a laundry list of women I knew in high school posted things like, "It's hard now, but you'll work through the pain!" And, "You will make it; you're a strong woman." And, "God will walk you through this.  Praying for you!!!"  I had no idea so many people I'd graduated with were already divorced.

People think divorce is something you get through, but really it's very hard for women to recover from divorce.  Remarriage is much less likely for them than their first marriage was, and they lose any/all of the equity they built in their twenties and thirties, starting over with a large debt hangover, expensive dependents, and a reduced ability to make money due to their family responsibilities.  They can save less for retirement, one they will face alone, because it takes so much time to recover from the divorce.

And that's just divorce.  Never married motherhood is a whole different scenario, bleak from the very outset financially for all but the richest moms.  An old coworker of mine, Jenny*, has three children, by two different fathers (actually three of my old coworkers have children by two different fathers).  The last guy mooched off her for the better part of a decade before she kicked him out.  Her parents have bailed her out time and again.  She's stuck making less than $30K, paying a mortgage on a old house that's underwater.  Interestingly enough, her standards for Mr. Right have not lowered at all.  She's even more exacting now about what she wants.  Jenny's parents are, again, still together and financially secure enough, even now, to infuse her with cash every so often.

The upcoming waves of women who age into retirement age and extreme economic vulnerability are going to be catastrophic for America.  So far we have papered over some of the damage with increased social spending, but that is not going to be possible in future.  The first wave of unprepared Boomer divorcees is hitting now, and there are plenty of stories about women who "did everything right" - got college degrees (and more college degrees), got decent jobs, got downsized and now live in friends' attics all over the nation.  What they have in common - no husbands - is never mentioned.  Boomer women, at least, had good jobs once.  Millenials may never have those kinds of jobs.

At a family reunion this summer I found myself talking to an aunt about her childhood.  She grew up working class.  Her father worked in a factory, did some kind of testing around huge chemical vats. He carpooled with four other men an hour each way to work.  He barely made a wage able to support a wife and three children.  Until my aunt was a sophomore in high school she lived in a basement.  He built their house on his off hours with materials he could only afford to buy piecemeal.  He dug the foundation first and they lived in that.  When it rained, it got wet and they had to bail it out with buckets.  They had a huge garden and canned everything they could.  He hunted, and his wife canned the venison.  Things were very, very close to the bone, but by the time she was in high school, the upstairs was finished and they moved into a proper house.  He retired in his early sixties without a pension and promptly died of cancer, probably caused by his constant exposure to toxic chemicals.  His widow worked part time at the dime store until her death some twenty years later, and left $50K to her children as an inheritance.

What struck me about this story was that it happened so close to when I was born, and yet it resembled my childhood not at all.  My aunt is only about twenty-seven years older than I am, and grew up in the same community as my father.  We Americans born after the temporary financial boom of the mid-twentieth century forget that this is the way people used to live, used to expect to live: a life full of hard, physical work and poverty pressing in on all sides.  The difference is that my aunt's mother knew how to survive that and even save money, and we have all but lost the ability to be that thrifty or the willingness to learn.

We are going to have to learn it again, though, because we squandered the good times, and leaner days are ahead.  If you are thinking of divorce, please read the above again.  If your situation is not completely untenable, do yourself a favor and stay married.  

*Name changed

36 comments:

  1. Welcome back to writing, hopefully, to another chain of enlightening articles amidst your busy home life!
    Three cheers for Grerp!

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  2. Increased marriage rates are not only a bulwark against the ills of the decline, they might also be a bulwark against the decline itself. Parents generally think differently as we are not just concerned with ourselves, but with our progeny. Single parenthood circumvents that foresight. It's too hardscrabble a life as a single parent; it prevents individuals from thinking about the day after tomorrow. Beyond that, being a parent generally causes people to think of larger community - the neighborhood, the church, the co-workers. Family is infectious. Encouraging families encourages a larger view of what family means. It's no longer just about our living rooms, it's about our full lives.

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  3. The bitches deserve what's coming to them.

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  4. Sad stories, but proof once again that neither those who call themselves "fiscal conservatives and social moderates", or the Buchananites whose pro-life and pro-family stances are accompanied by socialist economics know what they are talking about.

    Free markets and nuclear families are indispensible to each other. Each is a pre-condition for the other, and for the prosperity we've come to take for granted over the last 50-60 years.

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  5. man am I glad to see you blogging again, grerp. This is as good an exposition of the relationship between divorce and poverty I've seen.

    detinennui32

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Yes, Janice, I'm sure you WILL stay married, now that "he has been fortunate enough to get a substantial increase in income this coming year"! At least you are a woman who realizes now that she cannot take care of herself. There are tens of millions of other women who are not even that self-aware, or are so only on a base, instinctual level.

    If marriage was a better deal for men, then more would be ready to commit to marriage. As it is, over 70% of divorces are initiated by women. I find it interesting that out of all the divorce anecdotes cited above as evidence, only one was described in great detail - the one where the husband insists on the divorce. What about all the others? Without a remarriage these women will never recover, unless they get a large settlement from a wealthy ex or come into an inheritance.

    And as bad off are the single women: my wife has two friends from high school, now in their early 30's, never married, sleeping around with various guys but always dissatisfied, working at jobs they hate that barely cover the bills (one just filed for bankruptcy). Oddly, they never regret the time and effort and money they put into theatre and dance when they were younger - time and effort that could have been used to get a sensible degree and/or a husband. Now they are overweight and bitter. I shall be fleeing the house tonight, I can tell you!

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  8. I agree with both Ulysses and sestamibi - parenthood invests you more into society, esp. when you have the resources and support to ensure some success for your children. And prosperity is not possible if a society's men and women do not cooperate with each other publicly and privately.

    I did not include more info about the other divorces because I don't have it. Personally, I thought Amy's situation seemed a little hinky the way it was presented. Victims usually give more detail as to how they've been done wrong - which makes me wonder if there was some cheating going down. I don't know.

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  9. janice - I'm sorry you felt you had to remove your comment. Learning from mistakes we make is important growth for all of us. I certainly wouldn't fault you for that - I've made many myself!

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  10. Welcome back. It's sad to note that many marriages will end in failure. It seems many Americans cannot live humble and financially productive lives. In lean times, we learn to focus on what's really important. I hope that our country and many other countries in the west relearn this age old wisdom.

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  11. I finished reading all your posts a few months ago and never got around to thank you again for the important message you have made available.

    A year ago I was ready to leave my husband for the "problem with no name" but had enough sense to stick it out for our son, and about 6 months ago I came across the "Manosphere" for the first time and finally figured out why I would have considered such a stupid move in the first place.

    The advice you offer is timely, and you don't dilute your message to spare feelings, which I appreciate. Honesty and candor are invaluable in helping women understand the reality our society so blithely pretends doesn't exist.

    Again, thank you. Finding you amongst all the anti-woman rhetoric (understandable though it may be) made it possible to digest the message that MRAs are trying to get across.

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  12. While this post was very good and I appreciated the wisdom of it, it also makes me sad, Grerp.

    Those were heart-wrenching stories.

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  13. How interesting - my post was deleted. Politically incorrect, was it?

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  14. I didn't delete it. It's possible blogger is burping.

    gruff said: "I like the essay, but this comment by sestamibi brought me up short:

    "Free markets and nuclear families are indispensible to each other. Each is a pre-condition for the other, and for the prosperity we've come to take for granted over the last 50-60 years."

    This could not possibly be more wrong. Free markets, by which I understand the unbridled activity of capital, are the single severest poison for strong families. In every single country where capitalism is introduced, traditional families and traditional social structures begin to break down, and they break down faster in more capitalist countries. It's the most capitalist countries in the West - the US and UK - that have the highest rates of divorce, teen pregnancy, delinquency etc. in the West.

    It may be true that the strong family was a precondition for the _rise_ of capitalism and the modern free market, but the market corrodes the conditions for its own continuation. Turn on the TV: Who's putting all that porn and violence in the media? Who's promoting the primacy of individual sense desires? That's right, corporate advertising, in other words the free market.

    If anything can be done for a dollar, then anything will be done for a dollar, including destroying family bonds. And that's what we're seeing today.

    Unbridled free markets are the nemesis of the family."

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  15. I apologize for my rush to judgement.

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  16. Anonymous 10:37 - thanks so much for commenting. It made my day to read that. I'm really hoping someone benefits from my typing on this keyboard. My best to you.

    And thanks for all the welcome back greetings, everyone. :)

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  17. Grerp don't forget to mention the sexual liberation (promiscuity, adultery and other concepts). I'd think this started the disaster and then family breakdown started to occur. Illegitimacy is a cause but divorce is a consequence for example. Divorce is a consequence of liberazed legal laws due to the influence of feminism (one sector of liberalism) on the culture on one hand and the free love movement (another sector of liberalism) on the other hand.

    Note: Sexual liberation is a child of the enlightment and of the human desire to rebel against God.

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  18. What need to be restrained:

    1 - The free market.

    2 - Women with their alpha cads. Paternity is a huge problem (mainly fatherlessness and children of different fathers).

    What needs to be broken down and dismantled:

    1 - Federal education. Too much liberal indoctrination. A lot of colleges need to go too.

    2 - Wasting billions of dollars on scams like global warming. Money needs to be used more effectively towards genuine protection of the environment and our natural resources.

    3 - Stop all of the liberal and neoconservative interventions and wars in the Middle East. Bring the troops home to guard the borders along Mexico and to enforce strong borders.

    What needs to be rejected:

    1 - Useless media venues and entertainment which actively harms the soul and health of civilization.

    What needs to be done:

    1 - Higher rates of devout orthodox religious families and stronger community bonds through religion, language and race.

    2 - Drop out of liberal society and oppose it.

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  19. Grerp,

    Thanks for the support. I deleted the comment after I saw what the poster after me said, and realized how much what I wrote was misinterpreted. I meant that having an increase in income- ANY increase, should be looked at as an opportunity to save, not to spend (unfortunately our current Political administration does not feel this way). I was not in any way gloating or thinking that someone else will "take care of me". We are all responsible to take care of ourselves first, and then help others.

    No worries, I know you gotta have a thick skin in these parts sometimes...:) In any case, Im so glad you are back to blogging.

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  20. Before we think about what sort of economic system would be most beneficial to the family, we should eliminate the various ways that the government subsidies illegitimacy and divorce. For Example:

    1) Public education denigrating the nuclear family

    2) No fault divorce

    3) The courts subsidising frivolous divorces through distorted alimony schemes.

    4) Taxpayers covering abortion (in many countries)

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  21. It is sad. Women go into divorce with fantasies of independence and happiness, because that's the vision that's sold to them by their friends and popular culture. The reality is so different. I can understand when there's abuse, but that's not what I'm talking about.

    I don't know how we got here, with so many messages from so many places persuading women to divorce. It's wrong, and it's harmful to these women, their husbands, and their families.

    The women I know that are divorced all went in thinking that life afterward would be wonderful. They were convinced of this by movies, books, TV, friends, and online articles. Instead, they find themselves financially stressed out and emotionally wrecked, with little to look forward to in life. Most of them miss their husbands tremendously. All of them are sick about the reality of what it's done to themselves and their kids. They all wonder when the good part comes, and this is even from those who divorced over 10 years ago.

    How can this be reversed? Do we need to call out TV, movies, books, friends, and news articles when they sensationalize divorce? How can anyone claim that divorce is empowering and fulfilling to anyone (unless they're escaping abuse, I guess)? Do we need to make the family court system more equitable? I don't know. All I do know is that too many women are being persuaded to choose divorce in potentially good and healthy marriages, and they're being sold a rotten bill of goods in the process.

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  22. How can anyone claim that divorce is empowering and fulfilling to anyone (unless they're escaping abuse, I guess)?

    Feminism, the daughter of the monstrosity called liberalism, is an ironic and suicidal movement just like its parent. It shouts about the liberation of women but is only leading them towards their bondage and destruction. Not to mention they have weakened the claims of abuse with so much of their cry-wolf rape allegations and abuse charges unfortunately.

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  23. Not to mention they have weakened the claims of abuse with so much of their cry-wolf rape allegations and abuse charges unfortunately.

    I meant "they" here as feminists and their erroneous charges.

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  24. Grerp,

    I hate to sound opportunistically positive about this, but I find this a great boon for us single men who have a sneak peak into what we might be put through should we make the mistake of marrying. It is too much of a risk for a man to take nowadays. Good people don't stay good people all the time and giving them even the smallest morsel of power and leverage over those they perceive as having wronged them in some miniscule way, such as a disagreement, will only lead to chaos and destruction. I for one am glad the economy is the way it is. Single men who have been perceived as betas, meaning they are humble and responsible men who have a work ethic second to none, will be the ones to financially prosper. They will find a way. Because for all the tail-chasing that alpha thugs and their saucy wenches have been indulging in, beta's have been honing their skills of survival and marketability in a fluid and unstable global marketplace. Suffice to say, that this article and what the MRM has published demonstrates to me that a time of great suffering is coming for all those who considered themselves "empowered" enough to exercise such power with little to no discretion or thought towards the consequences of their actions.

    To me, this is the system re-establishing a point of equilibrium because by introducing this culture of divorce, we have opened the floodgates for chaos to systematically destroy our once great civilization. I have already seen, from my network of friends, that those who have practical degrees in science and math are the ones who are gainfully employed and have had a solid employment record. Coincidentally enough, ALL of my friends who are employed and NOT living with their parents are men. The ones who have a net positive cash flow in their bank accounts are all single men. I say all this because many of these tragedies could have been averted. However ideas such as personal accountability as well as a practical and sober perspective on your needs vs. wants when it comes to interpersonal relationships and family support are not "cool" or "popular" and therefore stories such as these will become the norm and will probably be indicative in the history books of the future of what it was like to live in early 21st century United States.

    So to those men who aren't the alpha's, who are considering marriage and are frustrated at the hypergamic attitudes and behaviors most women display, fret not. Their comeuppance is coming and it will be a very harsh and cold winter for them. Meanwhile, live in well deserved and hard earned prosperity as those who have cast you aside for your responsible, quiet and humble natures suffer the consequences for their ill decisions.

    Crimson Viceroy

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  25. Glad to see you writing on this... I note Alte and Terri are onto the same issue (as well as Athol)

    Chris

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  26. I have sizable funds, bulletproof credit and a low cost of living. Which has sustained me even though I haven't worked in awhile. On the other hand, my ex still lives in the fantasy house she picked for us to buy when we married. I was the one who filed for divorce. How did that happen? I OK'd the big beautiful house on her promise to contribute to the expenses; she broke this promise over and over again. Even when she was working, she contributed almost nothing to the bottom line. At one point, I had to suspend my 401k contributions for 6 months in order to keep current on all the house bills.

    So I said I've had it, if you are not contributing to the house then we are going to sell it and downsize to something I can afford on my paycheck alone. She refused my financial leadership; instead she kept busy disrespecting me and refusing sex. I said, me or the house, you choose. She still refused to consider selling the house and yet it was quite the shock to her when I had her served with the divorce papers. She had a fantasy that I was still going to keel over. Even then, she still wanted that house so badly she borrowed to buy me out.

    She was able to take advantage of the lower interest rates, but now she hasn't been able to find work in nearly two years and her cash is really going to start running down when her unemployment runs out in a few months. I think in about 2 or 3 years if not sooner she will be living out of her car. Just maybe then she will regret how she treated me like crap and didn't accept my leadership. Especially when she hears that I'm fine even though I'm not working either. I planned for this contingency many years ago and had anticipated since 2007 that this was going to happen to me. She just couldn't accept my leadership, well hey I told ya this was gonna happen babe, you just didn't wanna listen...

    On the other hand, I'm not counting on her awakening. Nor will I let her crash at my place. She'll be just another older woman entering her 50's single and destitute. Undeserving of my pity and compassion. It was within her power to remain married to me and make it good for me. She couldn't do it and she will pay the price for her selfishness and narcissism.

    Cruel? I don't think so. Women reading this blog who are disrespecting their husbands and thinking about divorce? Better think twice before you dump on him and then dump him cuz that might soon be you living out your life in someone else's basement or spare bedroom. And collecting cans by the side of the road.

    My sisters on the other hand know dang well to whom they owe their prosperity and standard of living. So far as I know, they are hanging tight with their husbands through thick and thin. Bravo to them! They will always have a place in my heart.

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  27. "Interestingly enough, her standards for Mr. Right have not lowered at all. She's even more exacting now about what she wants."

    Honestly, with 3 kids from 2 dads, and never married, I'm not sure you can really say she has terribly exacting standards. That goes double since she wasted a decade on a deadbeat mooch.

    Her list for a husband may be very specific. But she clearly ignores that list on a regular basis.

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  28. Grerp, I also just want to thank you for writing this blog. I spent a couple of weeks reading and reading your posts, starting from the very first one and working my way through. I learned a lot and it surprised me how much and how often I agreed with you. I check back in to your blog weekly to see if you've posted recently. Your posts have really helped me form some direction in my life and put into words a lot of what I was feeling but couldn't articulate.

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  29. Rachel - thank so much for saying this. It means a lot to me to think that what I wrote has been helpful to people out there. I am so glad you have found this blog useful to you.

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  30. The problem is not divorce, though it contributes, but the fact that Americans waste too much money and don't save enough.

    Way too many Americans buy big houses they cannot afford instead of small houses they can afford (or even renting and saving, if they can't afford a house yet). And when their mortgages are already higher than they can afford, a job loss or divorce will plunge them into bankruptcy.

    As for marriage, both men and women should get an education, work hard and save as much as they can. Best not marry at all (and be very careful about birth control), because it is possible to live decently on your own, whether you're male or female. And if you must marry, make sure that you have known the other person for a while, that he or she is responsible about money and make sure to find a way to keep your funds separate from your partner's in case he or she leaves you.

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  31. Since women initiate 2/3 of all divorces, your examples were not at all proportional to reality.

    As women get custody of the kids 85% of the time, your (outlier) stay at home dad example was also not representative of the real world.

    The women in your examples can thank the women's movement for their situations.

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  32. Here is a little update on the Gunwitch case. It turns out I was wrong about the "crazy drug addicts shouldn't attack men with loaded guns" thing.

    It turns out, it's wase "crazy drug addicts with knives shouldn't attack men with loaded guns".

    I await the deafening silence of the evil whores who will never, ever apologize for being totally and completely wrong.

    This case is fairly typical. Maybe the sacred cow is rich, maybe he is a cop, maybe he is a she, but this is pretty much typical.

    And the evil whores always scream for their blood. How many do they have to condemn before they are bad people?

    One? Two? A thousand? Ten thousand?

    Fortunately, they don't get a say in that.

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  33. What a wonderful post. God bless you.

    I have never understood divorce. Mind you, I would never take up with a progressive liberal or hairy chested man-hating feminist either. I prefer truly intelligent women to poseurs, I suppose.

    Stand by your man girls - and he will stand by you.

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  34. Grerp, excellent post. Glad to see you resume blogging

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  35. Grerp, Much of our social fabric - based on conservative religious/social 'rules' kept expectations in line with economic realities and sustained lives - was been stripped away during the "ME" cycle of the last 30 - 40 years. We are now to a point where most of our nation is 'flat busted'.
    The word compromise has been stripped from any situation, be it marriage, life choices, even the expectation of the car we drive and the home we live in.
    Murphy Brown 'first' established her economic independence, then made choices (not easy ones) that changed her life. This is not unlike others..
    Men have been marginalized in many cases silently. I'm not discounting that Women haven't been marginalized as of late. But, since the 70's equality was thought to be the same as independence (but with everything their mother's had too). But, that's not possible without other compromises...
    Maybe classes in the social impact of decision making are needed.

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