Pity the white man who can barely afford his boat for the taxes



If you are a black woman drinking a cupful of lead in Flint, Mich., you could think America passed you by and left you for dead. If you lived on South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation, you could resent the fact that your land was stolen and your future is locked behind the gates. But if you’re a white guy living in Storm Lake, what gives with the angry routine?

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton 3-to-1 among white men, probably higher in the Fourth Congressional District that gave us Steve King. We have been angry here for some time. King’s main plank is to run off all the Mexicans who have invaded The City Beautiful and made it impossible for a WASP to get ahead these days.

King has been our congressman for 16 years. That’s a long time to stew over disenfranchisement — just ask the Flint lady, who has been on the outside looking in forever.

From the corn fields of the Great Plains to the mines of Appalachia to the suburbs of Ohio, the farmers and miners and insurance salesmen have been told on AM radio that they got screwed since Rush took over the clear channels in 1988.

When they elected a black dude President, it proved Rush right. We were going down the tubes, and the leading white guy from Appalachia, Mitch McConnell, declared that the black dude shall not succeed. He blocked everything Obama tried. He even blocked him from nominating his final Supreme Court justice, with the help of an old angry white man in the form of Chuck Grassley.

What actually happened in Storm Lake?

From 2005 to 2015, per capita personal income in Buena Vista County increased 33%, from $30,000 to $40,000 a year. That beats the rate of inflation.

During that time period, every angry man got himself a cellphone, then a smart phone with which he could share angry memes about that Crooked Hillary, and show pictures of Barack Hussein Obama in a turban. The angry and forgotten man’s wife is driving a huge SUV and texting on her smart phone to the girls that she will pick them up after cross country practice because they are too tired to run home.

He is living in a house with a view of the lake. But his taxes are killing him, despite the fact that the Storm Lake School Board has cut the property tax levy for at least three years in a row. And if his retired farmer dad dies with an estate of just $4 million, the angry son will be excused an inheritance tax. If his old man had $6 million, though, the angry son would have been ripped off with a tax on $600,000 of the estate — unless Trump is elected.

The retired farmer would remember when the hospital was a vet station better fit for a calf. He would remember the Farmall with no cab. He would remember how his dad worked 120 acres with horses, seven days a week. He would remember walking beans and slopping hogs and milking cows. Life is so much worse today for the angry white son. And his son is in orthodontics school with a co-signed debt that is absolutely crushing.

Something is wrong with me. I am fairly happy with the American Dream.

The townie might remember the day when 216 Geneseo Street — the ancestral Cullen estate — had no air conditioning. You would sweat yourself to sleep. We have air conditioning in the garage nowadays. We are glad that our daughter is driving on radial tires. All our kids got through college, some with more debt than others. It was considered a huge deal that our dad went to community college in 1930.

John and I live in about the same relative universe as our parents: not rich, but not that much to worry about. I figure we live like kings compared to where all our neighbors came from: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. They have deprived me of nothing. They mow their lawns and corral their pets and wave when I drive past.

I have never seen so many huge, shiny pickups as I do today. They can cost upwards of $50,000. But there sure are lots of them around. They get 10 mpg. When gas prices go back up to $3 per gallon, the white man will get angrier. He also gets angry when he has to wait in line at the Storm Lake Marina to get his boat in. Up at Okoboji, all those angry men can barely fit on the lake. If the Mexicans were crowding them off the lake or at the beachfront restaurant you could sympathize. But they haven’t let them or the blacks in yet. When they start working at Arnold’s Park at the Nutty Bar Stand, then you can get furious.

I understand the anger and frustration of Appalachia. The coal mines will be gone. Something similar happened in rural America during the 1980s. Everyone drained out of agriculture and rural communities. Populations plummeted. Dislocation was real. Young people went back to school and got different degrees. Fathers told their sons to forget about farming, that it was a game for the integrators and those who already have capital. The sons got engineering degrees at Iowa State. They got jobs at the Chicago Board of Trade. They bought farms back home. They invested in new technologies like renewable energy. They were replaced in rural America by immigrants who got their first step onto the ladder, just like our great-great-grandparents up near Emmetsburg. They are building new critical masses out here that hold the potential for revitalizing wayward places. Storm Lake has seldom looked healthier for the white guy who owns property.

You get an education, you get a better job. That is the American way.

You figure out new uses for corn, new crops that don’t erode soil, a new way to skin a hog. White guys are doing that right now in Storm Lake and are paid pretty well to do it. Iowa slowly is reinventing itself as a state. West Virginia can do it, too, once they get their heads out of the mines.

The gripers will get left behind, and then they will end up worse than their forbears.

White men who hit the books, work hard and thank God they were born in Storm Lake, and not born female and black in Flint or brown in Guadalajara, will get over that anger thing in due time. But the adjustment is hard to watch.