2011 Tax Round-Up

We’re overdue for a Tax Post.

UPDATED – DARWIN CORRECTS MY CALCULATION:  After reducing the tax-table amount by our tax credits ( Child Tax Credit in our case) the amount we actually owed was only 5%.  Much better.  Matches last year’s number, something of a relief after seeing that big jump in the first try.  Thanks Darwin!

To calculate, take line 55, which is your tax less regular tax credits, divided by line 22, gross income.  At least, that’s the way I do it when Darwin reminds me that’s the way I do it.  Also when I remember that thanks to those PDF’s mentioned below, I don’t have to dig through files to check line number, I can just pull up the PDF in about ten seconds.  Yay.

1.  Our real federal tax rate was 8.5%.  That’s taking our tax from the tax table  cacluation as a portion of gross income. (Line 22 or thereabouts? I already put my forms away.  It was line 22 last year.)  I think it’s a useful calculation, since talk about taxes tends to revolve around theoretical tax rates, when the actual amount you pay may be something quite different.

[FYI for those of you haven’t done the real tax rate check-in before, please don’t post any income information or long explanations.  Just the percentage.  Privacy, modesty, all that.]

2.  I was pleased to see that behind that flashy opening page, IRS.gov remains it’s same sensible self.  If I could only have one website, that would have to be the one.  Since everything else, in theory, I could do without.  But the days of riding downtown and searching through the shelves at the tax office for the forms I need?  I do not miss those days.

3. I love fillable forms.

4. Not the ones provided by third-party businesses I’ve never heard of and wouldn’t dream of using unless I had some time to research it, which I don’t.  But those lovely, lovely IRS-issued PDF’s.  Oh how I love them.

5.  I wish South Carolina would take a hint and follow suit.  Hand-writing is so 2009.

6. But give me that ol’ newsprint 1040 instruction manual.  Thankfully my library stocks them.  I see that last year I made do with printing out and secretly sorta liked it.  I take that back.  I hope there’s some law requiring them forever and ever amen.  I can do PDF instructions for everything else, but for the 1040, I wanna flip pages.  I highlight stuff.  I make notes in the margins.  I write numbers in the grainy gray worksheets.  It is my friend.

7.  Curse you, SC, for not printing SC Long Form booklets anymore.  You, too, should give me a booklet.  I want a booklet.  I never bought into the accusations that SC is a “backward” state, but now I see it is true. Fillable PDF’s, newsprint booklets.  It is The Way.

8.  The IRS really does have good writers.

(Okay, after a certain point, I think they assume nobody is reading the instructions anymore, because if you dig into the more arcane forms, yes, incomprehensible.  But a good ol’ 1040, and schedule A and those guys — yes. Well done.  And thank you generous employers for not giving everybody $7 in foreign-source dividend income as an employee perk, the way you did that other time.  I feel an HR person was burned in effigy over that little incident.)

9.  Thank you kind person who forgot to pay me until January 2012.  I owe you one.  Saved me a ton of headache I didn’t need this year.

10.  Geek humor:  The SuperHusband was talking about income and work and raises.  I told him to tell his boss about our big financial goal: We want to pay Alternative Minimum Tax*.

*It’s a JOKE.   I’m KIDDING.  Neither Powers nor Principalities need to get a laugh at my expense by making it actually happen.  Thank you P&P for your self-restraint.

A Recipe for Poverty

A friend of mine lives in one of those helpful European countries with nationalized health care and social services and everything you could want.  And I know from experience that these systems can work pretty well for a lot of people.  I understand the appeal.

But my friend’s recent struggles to get the care she needs (nothing wildly expensive) leads me to think nationalization of social supports is a very bad solution. Here’s why:

Government-run services are much harder to shut down if they become corrupt, incompetent, or unsafe.  It takes, literally, an act of Congress.  (And then some).  In comparison, privately-run services can be boycotted by consumers, or in the case of safety-violations, legitimately shut down by government regulators.

When the system doesn’t work, there is nowhere else to turn.  Taxpayer-funded, universal-enrollment systems squeeze out private providers.  The money I could have spent on private fees has already been mailed to the government in taxes.  I no longer have that cash on hand.  The vastly diminished demand for privately-provided services also means therea are fewer private providers available to choose from.

“Universal” services shortchange the poor.  The supposed reason for creating nationalized services is so that the poor have access to the essentials they need, such as medical care or education.  The reality of government-run bureaucracies, however, is that they favor the upper-middle class — the people who have the resources and connections to work the system to their advantage.

How, then, to help the poor? By helping the poor.

Those who truly cannot provide for themselves do indeed need our assistance.  One can reasonably argue that in a large, diverse, and mobile society, government-provided alms are a legitimate way of caring for those who might otherwise be overlooked by private charities.

But the whole nation cannot need alms.  It is a mathematical joke.  We cannot all be poor all the time.

3.5 Time Outs: Seen On My Screen Porch

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who has me so well trained I had this ready to go before even finding out if he means to continue.  Updated to report: Yes!  And check out the stylish Christmas theme:

Click to find out if Larry D. received his underground Lair from Santa this year.


This week we are Bunny-sitting.  Cinnamon and Jenny-Bunny look delicious, but they are not for eating.  We are working hard to avoid bunny-tragedy.  The dog sits at the glass door looking out on the screen porch and whimpers.  The cat sneaked in from outside when someone left the screen door open, and there was much bunny-scurrying in the cages.  But bunnies remain both safe and entertained, because also on my screen porch is . . .


Ping Pong!  I felt un-American, having no ping-pong table all these years.  I still don’t, but I talked the 5-year-old into buying a package of balls for her brother for Christmas.   (She bought her sisters scented hand lotion; I didn’t think He Who Is Doubtful About Bathing would want the lotion.)  I sprung for two paddles.  Christmas afternoon we set up my 2×5 folding table on the screen porch — true Table Tennis.  Perfect size for children, and for adults who want to sit while they play, plus it is more compact than a regular table.  And you don’t feel bad about eating on it.   The balls don’t bounce well on the plastic table, so SuperHusband loaned us a sheet of luan plywood to place over top, and that both improved the bounce and gave us the happy ping-ponging sound.

The family is divided between the bitter minority that thinks we must have a net, and the large, superior-reasoning majority who observe that we’d just have 10,000 net balls.  Screened porches are the ideal place for ping-pong, because the balls can’t get far.  Plus, covered.  No rain.  But still outside.  Children + Balls = Outside.

NEWSBRIEF: LIVE FROM BOY’S BEDROOM:  DOGS EAT PING PONG BALLS.  Don’t store them in the house.  That’s the other reason dog sits whimpering at glass door.   All those balls, bouncing back and forth, and that horrid glass between.  It is the week of Dog Torment.


Also seen from the living room is this view, which I included in the homeschool photo-fest this past fall not because it had to do with homeschooling, but because I was so excited about my invention.

Taken in warmer months. It is not this green in December.

Here’s what happened:

  1. Our dryer attempted death.
  2. My dryer-repair guy was going to be preoccupied with gainful employment for a while.
  3. No problem.  Neglected laundry tree out in the back yard.
  4. Wait. Rain.
  5. Plus mosquitoes.
  6. I’m not complaining just observing.
  7. Did I mention dryer-guy not home to fix dryer?

Meanwhile, we had a patio table out front on the, er, patio. (Actually the driveway, but we don’t drive on that part so we call it The Patio.  Pretend with us.)  I pulled the umbrella out and stuffed it in the shed, then dragged the table into the screen porch.  Placed the umbrella stand in position under the table.

I used tools we don’t want to talk about to dig the laundry tree out by its roots where it was determined to be permanently affixed in the yard.  [If I have one superpower, it is furniture-moving.  Laundry Tree you met your match.]  Put old socks from the cloth bin on the pokey edges of the laundry tree, and very very carefully, with would-have-been-horrified-and-cringing spouse safely away in a neighboring state, erected the laundry tree in the hole in the center of the table where the umbrella used to live.

It works great!  The mesh top of the patio-table is perfect for laying things flat to dry.  Only caveat is that since the laundry tree is not in the ground, it stands taller than normal.  I’m 5’7″ in a pair of sneakers and can reach fine, but it doesn’t work for shorter people.  So now I’m commissioning child-height under-eaves laundry lines for the small people, because they seriously need a feedback loop about how much laundry they are generating.  Plus, see “Decrepitude”, “Plague”, etc., I would get a much more reliable flow of smug superiority if my ability to hang laundry didn’t depend on standing* quite so much.

I think SuperHusband is willing to take the job, because now the dryer is getting serious about its death threats (it wails pitifully), and it pains the man to spend money on something you technically don’t need, plus costs more money to operate, when all that cash could be spent, on, say, camera lenses.  He thinks that if we are serious about hanging out laundry all the time, maybe he can nurse the dryer along a few more years with urgent-case-use only.


So.  Smug superiority.  Hanging out your laundry, if you are the grumpy, complaining type, can make you downright peevish towards so-called environmental groups that are advocating for this and that alternative fuel, but can’t be bothered to push a serious campaign to cut American energy usage in very simple ways.  Laundry lines being #1.  And #2 on the list is


Something I’ll rant about next week. Hope your 12 Days are fantabulous — is anyone else having a Chocolate Year of Christmas?  I’ve been getting the stuff from everybody.  Let me just say: Best gift ever.  Okay and single-malt scotch is right up there, but not everyone is the SuperHusband, and plus you don’t have to be so moderate on the chocolate.





*If you’ve been sitting on the edge of your chair wondering when on oh when I’ll post the next decrepitude-watch post, the short version is: All is way better than a year ago, not so good as two years ago.  Reliably walking maybe 2 miles?  And then I can fit in another hour or so of other house-yard-etc activity.  Depending on your perspective, that either seems like an extravagant plenty or a laughable pittance.  I agree.  Anyhow, it is enough to hang laundry, plague not withstanding.  I happen to love hanging laundry, so long as I can get the other people to leave me alone while I do it.  Silence.  It’s all about the silence.

Book Recommendation : 5000 Years of Slavery

I have been frustrated in trying to find a good book about slavery.  Most in our library focus entirely on the history of slavery in the United States, with perhaps a brief mention in passing of the existence of slavery in other times and places.  I find this limited treatment of the topic leads to some problematic misunderstandings — in many ways perpetuating the same racism that enabled American slavery and the subsequent post-emancipation civil rights abuses.

So I was glad to discover this book:

This is an introductory treatment, very readable and with lots of pictures, but it is not for young children.  What I like:

  • Separate chapters on slavery in the ancient world, pre-colonial Europe, Africa from ancient times to present, in the Americas among indigenous tribes and states, in Asia, and in the modern world internationally.
  • Precise scope.  Serfdom, for example, is mentioned only when the conditions truly amounted to slavery — mere garden-variety medieval serfdom is passed over in favor of actual slavery in the era.  In the same way, contemporary slavery is restricted to true slavery — forced labor with no option of departure — rather than degenerating into a diatribe against poor wages and lousy working conditions.  (Those are serious problems, but they are not slavery.)
  • Honest who-did-what-when reporting.  No bizarre cultural biases or weird anti-European narratives.
  • Factual but not voyeuristic accounts.  The realities of rape, starvation, torture, and the like are all mentioned where the historical record shows they happened, but there is no morbid dwelling on gruesome details.

What it amounts to is a book you can take seriously.  Good starting point, though it certainly left me wanting to learn more.  Highly recommended.


Rant-o-Rama: Trinkets of Death

Do you love the planet?  Or the poor?  Or low gas prices?

Boycott Dollar Tree*.

Okay, not specifically Dollar Tree.  Just all cheap plastic trinkets.  The adorable ones from Target.  The bargain ones from Walmart.  The pious ones from Oriental Trading Company.  And especially the ones in your McDonald’s happy meal.  Here’s why:

  1. Plastic trinket are made from fossil fuels.   Better to ship those barrels of oil straight to the strategic national fuel reserve.
  2. More fuel is spent manufacturing the trinkets.  At factories that might not be so zero emissions?
  3. Using labor that could have been spent producing something a person actually needs, such as food, shelter, or clean water.
  4. More fuel (and labor) is spent shipping the trinkets to your local trinket store.
  5. Where you waste your time wandering around dazed and confused until your mind deforms under the glare of the flourescent lights.
  6. When you could have been doing something wholesome and productive, like playing video games, or gambling.
  7. And then the children who receive the trinkets will fight over them with their siblings.
  8. If they have no siblings, they will find some.
  9. The trinkets will end up lodged in some essential piece of household machinery.
  10. And then you will put them in the landfill.

Trinkets do not build wealth.  Trinkets do not help the economy.  They are a transfer payment that wastes natural resources.  If you want to do a good work with your $.97,  invest in the production of a good or service people actually need.

End of rant.


*No bloggers darkened the door of Dollar Tree to ascertain what portion of the merchandise is trinkets.  100% of the Dollar Tree items purchased for the Fitz home happen to be trinkets.  But no doubt Dollar Tree sells worthy items as well.  Purchase those.

Think eternally, shop locally

Sarah R. on Reasons to Support Your Local Catholic Bookstore.

Yes.  Yes.

If there is not a local store you are able to shop at, mail order is the next best thing. For that reason, I’m 100% behind all catholic retailers.  But you’ve got to support your local shop, because they do a work the mail-order folks can’t do.  Mine:

  • Provides real live friendly clerks to answer questions about the faith from passersby.
  • Opens a whole world of catholic thought to people who just stopped in a for a first-communion card.
  • Lets you look at the books!  It’s way easier to size up a book in person than on the pc.
  • Supports local catholic events with a bookshop presence.
  • Turns out for parish sales, allowing Catholics who would never even know great Catholic books exist to browse at their leisure.
  • Provides a venue for authors to sell books and meet readers.
  • Offers free book study courses — authentic, faithfully Catholic religious ed that reaches an audience your parish may not be equipped to teach.

This is not a profit-making venture.  No one is getting rich stocking GKC and nun-of-the-month calendars. Book stores have miserable margins, small dealers face higher costs than the big guys, and the Catholic niche is tiny.  These shops are run as a ministry.

If you knew your parish religious education program was evangelizing hundreds of non-Catholics and fallen-away Catholics, wouldn’t you put a few bucks into the special collection for that ministry?

If your parish had a full-time staff person whose only job was to answer questions about the faith from people too shy to darken the door of a church, don’t you think a little contribution towards that person’s puny salary would be in order?

Support your local Catholic bookstore.


Here are the ones I know about in my corner of the universe:

St. Anthony’s in Greenville and Spartanburg

St. Francis Shop in Columbia

Pauline Books and Media in Charleston

UPDATED to add:

Queen of Peace Bookstore in Vancouver, WA

If you know of others, please add them in the combox.  Or write a post with your own links.


Logic, Criticism, & the 99%

There are two critiques of the 99% movement that I’ve seen floating around, that I wanted to address.  The first is this:

“You are criticizing capitalism, but you own a __[insert name of product manufactured by said capitalists]___”

There’s a little bit of truth in this criticism: Obviously someone who owns a smart phone isn’t secretly longing to run away and join the Amish.  (Who are capitalists, by the way.  They just aren’t no-holds-barred, if-I-can-than-it-is-good capitalists.)

But I think the criticism also points to a bigger problem: Consumers do not bear the primary responsibility for the behavior of their suppliers.  It is the job of the supplier to be a responsible employer and manufacturer.  A boycott is a useful tool, but it is one that only works at the extremes, when there is a known, egregious violation.  I can’t possibly know the inner workings of every manufacturer whose products I consume.  It is too big a task.  And to simply Boycott Everything and go be Amish is not the solution (unless you just want to be Amish, a worthy pursuit but not a universal vocation); boycotting every manufactured good also hurts honest employers and employees.

And then there’s the question of how evil is too evil?  Again, boycotting is a great tool for serious, longstanding, public offenses.  But it would be entirely reasonable, say, for someone who hired me to both say, “Jen, you need to come to work on time and get your projects done by deadline,” and at the same time, not fire me because I was five minutes late.  Or ten minutes.  Or an hour.  It’s up to the judgment of my employer to choose what combination of actions are the best way to deal with my transgression.  Entirely reasonable to both reprimand me severely, and keep me in their employ a little longer.  Public protest is the reprimand, boycott is the layoff.

–> In the case of the OWS, since protestors do not themselves have the authority to step in and oversee corporate operations, it is reasonable to insist that the proper authorities do what is necessary.

(We can agree or not on whether those demands have merit.  No one claims the OWS people even agree on these matters.  And I certainly don’t hold with violent protest of any kind.  I only argue here that our criticism of the criticizers ought to stick to logical arguments.)

UPDATE: Darwin points out in the combox that some OWS protesters really do want to dismantle capitalism.  So he is correct, to criticize that portion of the group for using the fruits of capitalism is a legitimate argument. 


The second criticism I’m hearing:

“You aren’t poor.  You have all this great stuff like running water and cell phones.  Quit complaining.”

What is the logic behind this kind of accusation:

  • If you aren’t the victim, you aren’t allowed to protest injustice?
  • If the robber is leaving you with all the stuff you really need, it’s okay if he just slips in and takes off with a few trinkets?
  • If your pimp / master / feudal lord sees that your basic needs are met, therefore sex-trafficking / slavery / serfdom are acceptable social structures?
  • You aren’t being pimped / enslaved / bound to the land, quit griping that you can’t afford the surgery you need?

Again, this is not a defense of any particular item on the all-purpose protest agenda of the OWS folk.  Only an observation that if you are going to critique someone’s arguments, critique their arguments.  Is there nothing to protest?  Then show that in fact our government is run fairly and efficiently, the needs of the poor are tended to adequately, workers are paid reasonable wages, and there is therefore no need for change of this or that type.

It is both fun and helpful to debate actual economic questions.  So do that.

Property Taxes, Vacation, & Friendship with the 1%

We sneaked away this weekend for a last-minute beach retreat, courtesy of the 1%.  Ridiculously luxurious surroundings, a feast for the armchair architect, but eventually I kept thinking the place needed an overhaul from Extreme Makeover, Monastery Edition — too much rich food begins to wear.  (All the same: Lovely weekend and we are very grateful to our patron.)

But here’s what I want:  Property tax reform that protects middle-class vacation retreats. My arguments:

1. There’s a legitimate need for retreat.  To withdraw to some quiet, natural place and just be very quiet.  It would seem self-indulgent except that even the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal  agree.

2. For married people with children, a house or cabin or apartment with amenities for children seems appropriate.

3.  In much of the world, there is a real shortage of monasteries set up for the drooling / yelling / jumping-on-the-bed set.

4.  But it’s not so hard to find a nice quiet place near a good Catholic parish church.

5. Somebody’s got to own the house.

But here is what is happening in my state: 

1. Ordinary families with normal middle-class incomes purchase land in some remote, unpopular, but peaceful location.

2. They erect a frugal structure suitable for family retreats.

3. For a while, family, friends, and guests (including complete strangers on tight budgets looking for a rental cheaper than a hotel), get to enjoy the retreat.

4. Then the area becomes popular, rich people buy up neighboring properties (no complaints there, rich people need retreats too), and land values rise.

5. So what?  You still have your humble little family cabin.

6. Until property taxes are raised to reflect the increase of land values.

7. And your family has to sell the retreat.  Because the taxes are so ridiculously high.  The buyer bulldozes your cabin and builds a beautiful, tasteful, mini-mansion that rents for more than anyone you know can afford.

8.  And then you don’t have anywhere to go.

9.  And you know that if you buy a little retreat somewhere else, the same thing will happen again.

I guess one could argue that if you take the windfall from selling the place then you’re so much happier with all that cash from your investment.  Except that a) you weren’t trying to invest for cash, you just wanted a family vacation cabin b) my experience is that the finances don’t end up working that well.  The general consensus is that the family well-being was greater when the family had the cabin.

I’m not sure how you do this in a way that protects the family cabin without also making it easy for land magnates to hoard vast stretches for future development and not pay taxes on their accumulation.  But that’s what I want.

Vocation and Education

Glad I clicked on this article by Elizabeth Scalia at First Things.  (I almost never click on anything that doesn’t arrive whole and entire in my feed reader.  This one was worth it.)  She writes:

A sense of calling is an idea to which our children often lack an introduction. We tell students they can plot their futures based on test scores measuring information regurgitation; we have no means of measuring their imaginations or their dreams, yet is from these that their deepest and truest longings—and thus their vocations, the things they were born to do—are discovered.

Last year I tried discussing vocations with the fifth graders.  I began by asking, “What are you good at?  What do you love to do?”

My own children have a clear sense of these things by late-elementary school.  They know what they like — military history for that one, emergency medicine for the other.  Even younger, they know what they are like.  This one reads massive quanitities of everything, writes satire, and loves hard manual labor; that one has a talent for teaching and connecting with small children; this one wants to know how it works and then make her own; that one feels everything very, very deeply.

Those were the types of answers I expected from my 5th graders.  Instead, they produced a list of academic subjects and school sports.  They were a room full of people who like math and play soccer.  Very few had a hobby other than an organized sport or club; even fewer had an interest in a field of study beyond whatever passes for “social studies” or “language arts”. The idea that you might, say, love poetry and have developed a taste for this or that type of poem? Nope.

Their worlds, it seemed, were so narrow. No room in the schedule for finding out who they were and what they loved.

Sometimes I feel like the music instructor pushing the talented kid to attend a thousand workshops and camps, when I take parents aside and tell them that this son or daughter has a talent for theology, and needs to be given more instruction, above and beyond the regular parish offerings.

I tell my DRE that if we don’t offer a serious high school religious ed program, we are like a school praying for more pre-med students, but never offering high school biology.  Do we really want more priests and religious?  We have to give our students a chance to discover the depth and riches of an adult faith.  And then, if they are called, to fall in love.


Are we all middle class?

The Economist seems doubtful about the 91% of Americans who identify themselves as “middle class”.  Not strictly middle-middle-class.  The 91% number is the sum of people who consider themselves either lower-, plain old middle, or upper-middle class.  Can this be so?

I’ll argue yes.  Here’s why:

1. We really are that rich.  As a nation.  The trappings of wealth — quality electronics, barely-worn clothing, cute little decorative accents — can be had for little or no cost,  just for the luck of being nearby when some richer person decides to upgrade.  Thrift stores ship old clothing by the bale off to some other place to be dealt with, because no one in the US needs bother learn how to mend or make-over some outdated or worn garment. There comes a time when your nation is wealthy enough that bottom percentile brackets do not necessarily indicate poverty.

2. We really are that educated.  Class is in part about education.   I have to go back four generations to find an ancestor who has less than a high-school diploma.  Unless you are fresh off the boat, these days everyone goes to high school.  And if you don’t graduate your first go-through, you can go back and get a GED later.   The Economist says that a college degree was the mark of middle class cultural identity.  I disagree.  Both sets of my grandparents were high-school-only, WWII-era young adults.  A high school education alone, combined with job success, firmly launched them all from working-class to middle-class.

3.  Income is different from class.  I knew this when I was a kid: If you were a teacher, even though you didn’t make any money, you were definitely middle-class.  It was your education and your line of work that made you qualify.  I think teachers earn more now than they did then.  But now I know an awful lot of people with college and graduate degrees who live at the poverty line, income-wise.  If you choose a lousy-paying career-field, have a stay-at-home-parent, and enough kids, guess what?  You get to be poor.  Financially.  But you’re still educated, well-spoken, able to navigate the world of the middle-class (often: upper-middle class) comfortably.  In a survey about class (not income), you’d pick middle.

4.  Income isn’t nothing.  So say your formal education isn’t impressive, and  your line of work is not so white-collar.  If you make enough money to afford a comfortable home, put your kids through school, never have to worry about clothes or food, or medical care, and on top of all that you can buy yourself any number of little luxuries . . . how is that not middle?  You aren’t poor, for sure.  Maybe your origins and even your tastes run “working class” (though my experience is that once income is removed as a factor, tastes in food and drink vary independently of family of origin).  But sooner or later you get too rich not be middle class.

5. The top is so very high.  There’s this point on the salary scale where you just aren’t middle, income-wise.  I’d hazard it’s somewhere around the $200k/year, thereabouts, less or more depending on your perspective and your life situation — though if you want to put the figure higher or lower, go ahead.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s this point, whatever it might be, where people (both writers at The Economist, and also the people who really are in the financial middle of the income distribution), start to laugh at you when you say you are merely “upper middle class”.  And you are wondering why they are laughing.  Because here’s what: You who are now rich know that a) you really aren’t that rich compared to the super-rich people, b) at any time your paycheck could dry up and you’d go back to being a normal person, c) you don’t have any of the trappings of upbringing and connection that rich people have, because you are, um, middle class.  Your cultural identity sticks.  You’re a son of the middle class who happens to have a lot of money right now.  It is the exact same thing as the PhD living below the poverty line, only at the other end of the income spread.  (He’s probably your brother.  Literally.)

Anyway that’s my take.   The Economist says you can’t talk about about class in America.  I think it’s more like, there’s not a lot to say.  We’re a vast middle.  I would assume that 91% of us feel that way anyhow — that we belong to this giant cultural lump, bonded by the real hope of three-bedroom homes, shoe clutter, and free public high school education.


And in light of my perfect contentment living here deep amongst the middling-types, has anyone read Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Happy are the Poor?  If yes, I’m keen to hear your thoughts.