In the middle of debate about government cuts and increasing taxes on the rich, it sometimes is difficult to envision the difference between what it means to be rich or poor in this country. There are lots of charts and graphs and percentages that show how the rich are getting richer and the gap between those that have and those that do not have is getting wider. In spite of graphic images, understanding what it all means is difficult to grasp, not only for those at the top, but also for those of us struggling to climb the ladder of success.
While it really does nothing for my understanding of the thinking that goes on in the minds of the richest one percent of our counties citizens, shopping online at Nieman Marcus illustrates for me the contrasting lives of the extremely wealthy and the rest of us.
My Nieman Marcus shopping is, of course, limited to browsing. My real shopping is on the sale rack of the nearest department store, online discount sites, or my favorite consignment or thrift shop. One of the highlights of Nieman Marcus’s spring line of fashions is a pair of sandals designed by Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton. Sarah Burton, by the way, is the woman who designed England’s Princess Kate’s wedding dress. These “Wave Strappy Wedge Sandals” sell for $5095. They feature skinny black leather straps which weave across the foot and around the wearer’s ankle. The heel is about six inches high, depending on your size, and is curvy and sculptured. This shoe, and most of the others designed by this company, looks uncomfortable. The platform sole and ultra-high heel looks like a broken ankle waiting to happen. They’re definitely not something you’d want to wear while running for a bus. Oh, of course. If you are buying this shoe, your limo is picking you up at the door.
If you are so inclined you could pick up a coordinated ensemble from this designer for under $10,000 if you shopped carefully. If, however, you are like me and need something other than a medium width shoe or want something other than black, you are just out of luck. Apparently the wealthy all have average width feet.
Nieman Marcus’s web site does not indicate if they keep this shoe in stock in all sizes or if they are made to order.
If you are one of the richest one percent and you are considering buying a single pair of shoes for an amount that would buy 50 pairs of $100 running shoes, it is not surprising that you would not be able to understand the economics of trying to live on the minimum wage or worrying that you cannot afford health care. I can’t understand wanting to buy a $500 pair of shoes which will be out of style in less than six months when the next trend is introduced. I can’t imagine what it is like to be able to even consider a pair that costs ten times that.
The inability to understand each other’s lives is part of what makes our current economic and political debates so difficult. Those who have wealth and the power it brings don’t seem to be able to empathize with those who have not had the same opportunities. It seems that what is currently labelled as “class warfare” is inevitable as the ends of the spectrum get so far apart that we see the other end as though it exists on another planet.
Just don’t ask me to walk a mile in those $5000 shoes.
Copyright © 2012 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains