So far, I’ve mainly just been trying to parse all the really bad news about the economy. I’ve been trying to understand how it went so bad so quickly, what the ramifications are, and how long it will take to fix it, if it is even fixable at all.
I’ve come to the conclusion that financiers are greedy and that I’m about to get screwed over. The first probably comes as no surprise. Any group of people who collectively pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars dealing in money that didn’t exist can only be described as greedy, and possibly crooked. However, what’s done is done, and we can only deal with the fallout – not erase the doing.
As to the latter, I don’t mean to sound self-centered. It’s not just me that’s going to get the short end of the stick. It’s going to be all the Americans (we are apparently a small minority) who have been careful to live within their means. I live well below my means, actually, and I’ve been socking away all the cash I can spare. I rent, because I’ve known my living arrangements would be temporary until after I got married. So I don’t have a mortgage. Hurray on that score – I’m not facing the problem of owing more on a house than it is really worth. However, it means I’m not going to be on the receiving end of any of those taxpayer billions that the government is pouring into the economy, including mortgage relief. The trouble with those billions is the *taxpayer* bit. You know who’s going to provide those billions? Not the people losing their shirts in bad mortgages. Not the people who’ve lost their jobs to a slowing economy. It’s going to be people like me who have actually been responsible that are going to have to pay for the mess that Wall Street got us into.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to turn into a right wing anti-tax reactionary. I view the paying of taxes as something of a patriotic duty – my investment in my country. I also hold to the philosophy that, to a certain extent, we are all responsible for one another. If I have extra money, there’s no reason not to use it to help those who have less. You could argue that we have a moral obligation to do just that. But there’s still a large part of me that is highly irritated that a bunch of greedy crooks fooled the naive public into believing they really could afford that beautiful house if they’d just sign away their life savings, and I’m going to be in the subset of people that has to pay for that mess.
I just want to stamp my foot and yell at the top of my lungs that IT’S NOT FAIR!!! I had a difficult time toward the end of grad school. I was recovering from an illness, and had a rough time getting my feet back under me. I clawed my way back from grad-degree-limbo, worked in retail and quality control until I could graduate and get a decent job in my field. I started out living paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve moved up enough to have a significant amount saved up despite buying a car and having a wedding. I did everything right after that rocky start. I was all set to really embark on the American Dream (or whatever) with my husband, and now it’s not looking likely that we’ll have that dream. Not for awhile anyway. I did what fiscally responsible adults are supposed to do, and it’s going to get me precisely nowhere. It’s not fair.
Not that that matters, of course. Just like everyone else, I’ll have to tighten my belt and go without a lot of things to bail out people who deserve none of my help. I hope my money also helps people who really need it, who are on the brink of destitution. That will make it all much easier to swallow. I hope this gets us as a culture back to a place where thrift is fashionable, conscientious financial behavior is de rigeur, and rampant conspicuous consumption is gauche and passe. We used to be a country like that, but we lost our way. Here’s hoping that the changing of the guard in Washington brings about the economic and philosophical changes we clearly need.