Thursday, April 28, 2005

economic rantings

I don't think I belong in this era anymore. I think I'd like to go back to 1986 or 1990. I'd say 1976, but I hated the clothes. I'd say 1920, but they wouldn't let me vote and they would think I, being a person of color, ought to behave like a servant. These and the lack of indoor plumbing disqualify any earlier era.

I wake up in the morning and hear:

- George Bush needs a couple more billion dollars for his Iraqi adventure
- The budget deficit is at a record high
- The trade deficit is at a record high
- Housing prices are, yep, at a record high

Then I hear an ad offering loans. You can borrow on the equity of your house so you can pay off bills, your new car, the last smattering of bills for your vacation, or perhaps some microwaveable chicken boxes for tonight's dinner. Better yet, with a loan you can buy a new car or go on vacation. Or you can buy the home of your dreams with the special balloon loan where you pay interest only, or even better, pay *less* than interest-only (so you end up owing more at then end of five years than you originally borrowed).

Then I hear other ads. They seem to use the word 'deserve' quite a lot. You 'deserve' a new car. You 'deserve' a vacation. You 'deserve' a $2500 flat-screen TV. Does anyone actually believe they deserve these things? What have they done to merit the reward? Everyone breathes, for godsake.

I see receipts left behind at the ATM, showing bank balances of less than $100. I think $30 is the lowest I've seen. However, that may be caused by low income and high rent, not excesses in rewarding one's breathing. I just hope the person with the $30 balance is not paying a monthly fee for the account.

Sometime when I wasn't looking, it seems the concept of saving money has gone into hiding, or has perhaps ailed and died.

I'm sure I'm going to sound like a curmudgeon, but the way I was raised, if you didn't have the money for something, you didn't buy it. If you wanted to save money on a limited income, you ate rice, mac&cheese, and the cheapest chicken you can find. You deserve nothing until you've done the above for a couple years.

The way I was raised, you could not have everything. You chose your focus. You want a car? Save for the car. You want a vacation too? Pick which one's more important, more needed.

You tried to create a cushion for emergencies. Accidents happen. People get sick. Cars explode. You don't want to have to go through the shame of borrowing money to pay for these things.

Historically speaking, credit was embarrassing -- it meant you didn't have the money to pay your bills. When I was a young person, credit was something to be worked for. You had to be trusted in order to be extended credit. Now credit card companies want to give everyone a credit card, because they can bleed people from the fees and the interest.

And our president tells us spending money is patriotic. Spending allegedly supports our economy (even though most of the clothing available to us, and nearly everything sold by Wal-Mart, is made in China or some such country where labor is cheap.)

Our president is clearly a child of this era. [I suppose I could have left off the last three words of that sentence, but there is a desire to keep this essay flowing right.] There is profligate spending and no concept that money is subject to economics in the same way water is subject to air pressure. Money going out has to come from somewhere; someone has to pay in the end.

Send me back to the late forties. I want to be a boomer before boomers became pigs.

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