During the summer of 2012, I told my Dear Friend: “I’m not making my fortune until there is massive tax reform. And I am not flying on any airplane until it stops being a bus with wings.” She said, “I like your way of thinking!” Would that more people had the moxie to think that way!
To be a bit more precise, the American airplane now resembles a fruit packing shed with wings or the sardine can without the olive oil. Sadly, both enterprises are long out of business in America. Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is now just a tourist trap, not a human pit of squalor. And the packing sheds, at least in the American West, are fire traps, even when renovated for weddings, restaurants, boutiques and other tourist trap-shops on the way to the mountains. To date, the Corporation has not stepped close enough to gobble up any one of those sites, so those businesses exist in quiet anonymity and inertia, not making too much money but not losing enough money to go out of business. Maybe these businesses are merely playing possum, a survival technique that works quite well for anyone or anything in danger of being pounced on and killed.
Agriculture in California, or Cal-Ag, would have done well and wisely to have performed that same protective maneuver during the recent Drought but, for the last quarter of a century, Cal-Ag got into the vicious losing cycle of paying lawyers and politicians in the Protection Racket that also took money from the lawyers and politicians on The Opposing Side, Cal-Enviro, the Environmentalists in California. The Corporation in this situation was wrong, but no one could convince the top heads they’d lost their minds for fear they would lose their farms. I personally am waiting for the types of fruits those packing sheds used to pack by the bushel barrel!
No matter what the industry in America, since the 1990s the corporate game went from merely Payola within the industry to Playola with the politicians. We, the People, are expected to play quietly with our Crayolas and wait for it all to end so that We, the Citizens, can go back to our lives and resume “normal living.” “Normal living” now includes taking plane trips to visit our far-flung loved ones who had to move to another state to get a job, or move because their jobs moved to another state. It’s hard to know who to blame more, the people who brought us the corporation or the people who brought the politics to the corporation. In either case, I blame the corporation. They were once the bastions of free enterprise. Mellon, Carnegie, Frick, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Morgan were the Captains and Titans of Industry, the industrious ones who told the politicians what to do, in their own vested interests but also in the interests of their country and the American people. America was not discovered or regulated: it was BUILT.
True, the trusts had to be busted by “T.R.” Theodore Roosevelt, or Teddy, during the Progressive Age, but now we in America have no trust to bust! The politicians are the robber barons who have taken all of our trust; but the Corporation is always wrong. Bully! T.R. believed in speaking softly and carrying a big stick. Evidently, the passengers on United Airlines are not to speak at all while the thugs carry big sticks. The recent brutalizing of a quietly seated United Airlines passenger by “the heat,” the Chicago O’Hare aviation police, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt for quietly united Americans that the customer is no longer right in any situation and the Corporation is always wrong. This indisputable truth of life has been evolving for quite some time, but I first remarked about it during my earliest days as The Homemaker.
Previous generations of Americans had looked upon the Homemaker as a Titan of Society, the one who held it all together while the world was crumbling down around families during wars, famine, and that catch-all of modernity: “societal decay.” By the 1980s, the Homemaker was viewed as a non-productive entity by many people and, above all, by Corporate America. Perhaps she threatened its concept of using women as beasts of burden. I recall the meeting that Dear Husband and I had with the Mortgage Loan Officer for Our First House. After she filled out the portion of the form for his income, and other assets, this woman looked up at me and said, “And what are you providing?” I looked at my expanding belly and said, “The future.” For any woman to feel that she is valued because of a paycheck, and not for herself, as a person, is to have transferred a rather ugly estimation of a man to the female population. “Equality” does not mean handing over to women all of the objectionable aspects of being a man. Equality, if such an ideal does exist between the sexes, means affirmation of the self, based upon respect, dignity, and honesty. In that sense, women still have a very long way to go, and it’s not because of men: it’s because of how women treat one another and themselves. The Brits call their daycare industry “minders” and I realized when I examined that term that the governments of the Western world have profited mightily from the taxes that women proffer to the bloated beasts of the bureaucracies of those governments. To heck with what is good for women or children or the family. Keep that revenue stream coming! It took the subprime collapse for many Americans to take a breath or catch their breath and notice that all of the working was for all of the spending that was for all the keeping up with the Joneses who couldn’t afford any and all of the crap either.
My first foray into being treated like a useless lump, leering at the soap-opera while vegetating on the couch, was at the Sears Department store in 1988. Dear Husband and I went there to buy our washer and dryer for our First House because Kenmore had earned such a fine reputation for those manufactured goods. The people who sold those wares, however, were just about the most indecent prigs that I’d encountered in the retail world. The plight of Sears today brings no tears to my eyes. I’d intended to use my Sears credit card for the purchase of those large appliances. The salesgirl surreptitiously did a credit check on the card, which had a very small balance, and she went to her manager. He called me and my husband to his desk and informed us that “they” needed to do an update on my credit. It seems the card had not been used of late. (Yes, first They bug you to pay off the Card, and then They bug you that the Card has not been used enough.) I asked this sales manager for the return of that little white plastic card with the gold lettering. He handed it to me. I then informed this pompous peddler that I earned that credit card during my years as a single woman. I did not have to re-earn my credit rating as a married woman. He disagreed. I saw a pair of scissors on his desk and politely asked if I could see them. He handed the scissors to me. I cut up the card in front of his eyes and handed him the pieces of the card. “Here is your credit update,” I told this man whose job was to SELL merchandise, not look upon a newly married woman with a toddler in tow as a pariah upon the profitability of his lousy company. Dear Husband and I did purchase a Kenmore washer and dryer, at a different store, for cash.
Fast forward to the summer of 2006. Because for the previous several years I had not worked on any contract technical writing, I thus had not annually collected the U.S. Earning Statement, the W-2. My major credit card, also earned when I was single woman, became the target of an investigation by a frantic corporation that had piled up bad debts from America all the way to China and that “financial institution” was going after every red cent in sight. My unpaid balance was in the process of being commandeered by a few of the Shysters of the Subprime. The unpaid balance on my credit card was in the low four figures; adequate payments were made monthly and on time. I was nonetheless financially and legally targeted during the subprime collapse that I believe began that summer of 2006, judging by the harassment on the telephone that came on an almost weekly basis. The Social Security number of this Homemaker had been accessed and used by this corporation to determine any earnings. Since I had not earned money for a few years, the corporation now demanded full payment of the balance. This contractual agreement between the Bank and the cardholder is legal though scarcely ethical. I was not a “bad risk,” but I was suspiciously treated like I was about to default, and was intent on running out on the unpaid balance on a credit card that I had held for over 20 years with no history of payment problems. I guess you could call the action “profiling”. I call it repulsive.
The stinking smell of the hypocrisy stunk to High Heaven. While my neighbor was “employed,” cooking her books as her own loan officer and carrying out fraudulent loans online (“rolling” them, as she put it, in an attempt to pressure me into a “2nd” with the Bank of Beijing), I was devotedly homeschooling my children and working without pay to provide a home for my husband, a U.S. government employee, and my family. It seemed that as a Homemaker, I had no legal financial rights. To this day, I believe that when my father called Banks evil, he was completely right. And to this day, I feel that I was violated by the people employed by Corporate Banks. I called them phone thugs to their ears. They were so loudly heavy-handed about doing a “phone-pay” that I informed them that I was going to record our conversation! In January 2010 I was served a summons at the front door of my house. The case nearly came to court. I was all dressed up and ready to show up at the Courthouse. At the last minute, on Good Friday, just before Easter 2012, the Bank Lawyers settled out of court for the amount due on the credit card. The amount that had been demanded by the Bank lawyers was nearly triple of what was owed. Needless to say, that piece of plastic got shredded early on in this game of gotcha and you-can’t-do-anything-about-it: I’ll shame you unethically because I have power and you have none; I have no conscience either but you do have a conscience and I will use it against you, along with your fears that I will crush you and ruin your credit rating so that you will never be able to borrow any amount of money again. If, during the despicable Subprime Collapse, this sort of blatant, rude, high-pressure financial threat (extortion) happened to people who had played by the rules for decades, what happened to good, decent, honest people just starting out in life? What about another honorable woman less feisty than myself, less willing — or able — to fight back? I was prepared to inflict as many scars as I got in this fiasco of financial “responsibility” perpetrated by the Banks.
I am basically a calm, kind, peaceful person, but when I am threatened, I become the animal about whom a sign was posted in French zoos: This animal is vicious. If attacked, it will defend itself. Or as one wary male warned another less wary male: Debra will not just rock the boat. She’ll sink the entire fleet.
Not all Homemakers are warriors. The ones who could not fight back were the real victims of the subprime sins by the Banks. As my Dear Friend said during the fateful summer of 2008, “By the time this mess is over, I hope we all come out the Rabbit Hole together.” Not all of us did. Their blood is partially on the hands of those Corporations and Banks. It was very difficult for me to give up my maiden name, Tanis, and to become Milligan upon marriage. With marriage and children, however, come tradition, and I am a traditional woman. I certainly did not want to become the bane of the file-clerk’s existence: a Hyphenator!
As I filled out the forms to legally change my name, I did not know that the financial “institutions” and retail companies would treat a married woman, who had clearly earned her way toward financial independence during her single years, like a parasite upon their pig-like Corporations. If I’d known of this mistreatment, almost abuse, and disservice to women, I nonetheless doubt that I would have changed my mind about changing my name. Debra Tanis or, more fully, Debra Lynne Tanis, was a perfectly balanced, symmetrical name. I was often told it was a perfect writer’s name. Debra Milligan may not possess the panache and assonance of “Debra Tanis”, but that name is now who I am. It does not define me as a person but it has helped me to fulfill who I am as a person and as a woman. That name has led me to become the writer that I am today. Debra Milligan is the woman I have become, partly through being a mother.
There is something very wrong with a nation that purports to treat Mother’s Day like a national sojourn on the nation’s highways to a shrine (complete with special sales!) and also treats any Homemaker like she is a deficit to the budget and a drain on the economy. On the ledger sheet of the plusses and minuses, the Homemaker is priceless. And the Corporations of the country called America can take that one to the Bank!