Once again the lovely Miss Puddy and I headed out of the country for another
adventure. Last month we visited
the Dominican Republic. For those
of you who are not quite sure where it is located, the DR is on the eastern
half of the island of Hispaniola.
(Hati is on the western half of the same
were attending a conference in Punta Cana on the eastern shore of the
DR. Punta Cana is fast becoming a
resort destination where you land at the special airport and are then wisked off in an air-conditioned motor coach to the
all-inclusive resort. While the
hotel is the typical open-air lobby with wide verandas and a nice coastal
breeze the compound is walled off and has moderate security to make sure no
one enters unauthorized.
an effort to see a little more of the DR we elected to fly into Santo
Domingo, rent a car, and drive across the island. Santo Domingo is the capitol of the DR
and is a busy city of about 3 million residents. While the rate on our rental was
reasonable, I was stunned at the insurance rate for our rental car (3 times
the rental rate). However,
after about one hour of driving I couldn’t believe how anyone would
insure a car on these roads for any amount of money. The roads were not too bad except for
the occasional gigantic pot hole (do not try to drive the country side at
night). The driving was
something else. Traffic laws only
seemed to be traffic suggestions there.
They made drivers in Rome seem like careful, rational motorist. Traffic consisted of a few large
trucks, several small cars (ourselves included) and more small motorcycles
than I could count buzzing around the cars like mosquitoes. It was quite common to see 4 people on
a small 90 cc motorcycle.
Domingo was quite beautiful and boasts the oldest church in the Western
hemisphere. We visited the famous
cave in town and were surprised last night when viewing the latest Pirates of
the Caribbean movie to see those same caves filmed as the legendary fountain
of youth in the movie.
of the capitol city was old and poor.
There were a few magnificent bridges and infrastructure occasionally
but for the most part the city looked tired.
out across the island we opted to cross over the mountains and see some of
the local scenery including numerous small villages. The general population was clean and
very friendly but quite poor by US standards.
the coastal road the poverty was broken by the occasional private
resort; each one with its
magnificent signage, flowers and security gates with guards protecting the
arriving at Punta Cana we found no less than a dozen of these private resorts
that catered to every need WITHIN the resort gates. Many of the employees made the 5-hour
trip from Santo Domingo every 10 days for a long shift at the resort. Most were very happy to do so as the
resort was one of the better jobs on the island.
we did notice a struggling lower-middle class on the island it was apparent
that there were mostly “have-nots” that populated the DR. There were a very few big nice cars
that drove as though they owned the roads (they probably did), but mostly
beat up small cars, cross country buses and very old small motorcycles seemed
to be the popular mode of transportation for most people there.
the trip home I reflected about the current economic tragedy in the 1st
world. The middle class has not
had any real increase in their standard of living in decades. They have been slowly strangled and
forced into debt to maintain their standard of living. Make no mistake, the middle class has
been squeezed in the US for decades.
The “haves”, on the other hand seem to be getting richer
and richer with obscene bonuses from public corporations.
do not mean to incite class warfare or even class envy as many upper class
families have made their fortune through hard work and thrift. I just could not help but wonder about
our struggling middle class in the United States. Has the middle class in the US
indebted its soul for a few trinkets at Wal-Mart? Is the 3rd world the future
of the United States? Perhaps our
middle class would be stronger with a slightly lower standard of living and
little or no debt? I would
venture to say that even though the average home is larger and there are more
cars in the driveway in the average middle class home than in the
1950’s their net worth is much worse when adjusted for inflation. Behind all those nice facades I am
afraid you will find little or no net worth today due to a big pile of debt
(college, house, cars, credit cards, etc).
do, however, seem to be seeing more and more of those gated communities with
guards here in the good old United States.
of us will be safe until the country as a whole is prosperous and this will
not happen until the crushing debt on the middle class is cast off. Until the debt is washed out this
economic depression will not be over.
The ultimate security of the “haves” depends on a strong
middle class. When the “have-nots”
storm the gates because of hunger it is game over. Just watch the MENA (middle east &
north Africa) dictators run for cover in the next few months.
Silver Trading Company