The title and subtitle of this blog article are rather inflammatory, aren't they? I'm sure you're sitting at your computer yelling "I AM NOT A SLAVE!" But I must ask you, are you so sure that you are not a slave? Read on and you will see that you, like most average people, are a slave... you just don't know it... yet.
Lets look at the definition of "slave" from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary
1 : a person held in servitude as the chattel of another
2 : one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence
3 : a device (as the printer of a computer) that is directly responsive to another
4 : DRUDGE, TOILER
Let's go back to an earlier time, one with an average family of 4, with an average father with an average job, and an average mother who was able to stay home with the two kids. This average family lived in an average house, in an average neighborhood in an average mid-western town. We're not really going to be dealing with a real family, but rather a TV family that was based on your average real family. We're dealing with the Cleavers here. Beaver, Wally, Ward and June were the average American family, their life style was based on your average American family - they were neither rich, nor were they poor.
Now back in the day, Ward got up every morning, ate and went to work. He came home at about the same time every day. Weekends were spent around the house fixing things and doing house and yard work. Sometimes Ward had to work late and sometimes he had to go on business trips, but he lead a pretty boring but comfortable life. With the income he brought in from his average paying job they were able to have a car, a house, pay the bills, eat and take the odd vacation. Wally and the Beav didn't have ratty clothes or have to worry about where the next meal was coming from. Sure it was idyllic and over simplified, but the Cleavers represented reality... they may have been a bit too perfect, but most average people at the time could relate to the overall averageness of the Cleaver's lifestyle.
Can you say the same thing for yourself today. Probably not. In most average families of four - mom, dad and two kids - both parents work. Let's leave out keeping up with the Jones' here, we're just talking about your average working family, the same ones the Cleavers represented from the 1950's. When was the last time you had a family vacation that didn't include just sitting around the house or heading to Grandma's for a week? Most likely you can't remember a time when the four of your went off for a family vacation. Even with both parents working you're probably having a tough time making ends meet.
These days your average job barely pays the average bills. They talk about the standard of living increasing since say the 50s, but what the (very average) Cleavers had on Ward's income is damn near impossible to do today. The Cleavers were an average family, Ward had an average job, and they lived in your average house in an average Mid-western neighborhood in "Mayfield", Ohio.
So let's look at a single income family with an average income:
An average wage in 2004 was about $36,000 [cite]
An average mortgage was about $1400/month (16k/year) [cite]
Average electric bill is $1,500/year [cite]
Average heating bill is $1,000/year [cite]
Average food bill for family of 4 is between $12,000 and $20,000/year [cite1] [cite2]
Average car payment of $225/month ($2,700/year) [cite]
Average car insurance is $2,000/year
Average property taxes is $2,300/year [cite]
Total expenses from above is $37,500(12,000 food bill) or 45,500(20,000 food bill)
That means that if you have one parent working with an average income of $36,000 the family is in the hole $1500 without even taking into consideration all other expenses including medical, dental, clothes, etc. Let's put this in perspective, we're talking average income, average payments for the necessities - a car to get to work and insurance, electricity and heat, an average mortgage payment on an average house, average property taxes and an average food bill. There is no phone, no cable, no entertainment, no clothes, no gas for the car, no medical or other expenses factored in. There are also no taxes taken into account in this example, these taxes would most likely lower the take home pay by 10 to 20%... meaning that the family would be in the hole $5100 or $8700. If we add the average medical costs, the average family of 4 used $12,000 [cite]
of medical expenses for 2005, which would push the total to $49500 or $57500
which requires both parents to be working, which can add day care costs, another car payment and insurance, etc.
Sure, some people make more than this, some also make less. Some people live in areas where these costs are lower, but some also live in areas where these costs are higher. This is the average income and costs, just like the in the example of the Cleavers. So where the Cleavers could have a real life on a single average income, today we can not live on a single average income. Many of the possible savings will be eaten up by the taxes that must be paid on each paycheck.
Where did the money go? Taxes have risen a great deal since the days of the Cleavers, the 1950's. Costs have gone up. The dollar is worth less, thus the purchasing power of every dollar we are paid has decreased. Wages have been sliding in recent years as companies have gone overseas to lower their costs and new jobs are likely in low paying service sector companies. If you look at the numbers "inflation" has now outpaced wage increases, this means another blow to wages.
In very real terms, unless you are very lucky, your family of four will have to have both parents working just to get the average bills paid and maybe have some medical coverage and the normal extras like cable, etc.
If freedom is measured in your ability to live a basic lifestyle and have some free time left over then we are anything but free these days. We have become slaves, economic slaves, to the government and the corporations. Back in Ward Cleaver's day corporations paid a decent living wage to their employees, they made a decent profit and they were good corporate citizens. Today companies pay the least they can get away with, they pay little in taxes, and they don't give a damn about being a good corporate citizen. Because corporations pay less taxes today and we have more people who are considered poor by the government that leaves a big chunk of money that has to come from somewhere. That money comes from the small corporations - the mom and pops, and from the average family - the ever shrinking middle class - in the form of increased taxes. It comes from the economic slaves who toil and drudge day in and day out with a majority of their hard earned money going to the government and the profits or their labor going to their master, I mean employer.
If you think about it very carefully there is very little that sets you and I apart from the slaves of history. We get to choose our master, we are not whipped or killed out of hand - but we can be fired or our jobs go overseas and we lose everything as surely as if we had been killed. We may not be owned outright but could be considered indentured, indentured to the government for taxes, the bank for our mortgage, the utilities, etc. Yes, my fellow slave, we are as much slaves today as were the slaves of history... they knew they were slaves, we have yet to realize that we are slaves.