Men made it, but they can’t control it

30 09 2008

I wasn’t alive during the Great Depression, but my grandparents were and due to that, I, like my parents, lived through the Great Depression vicariously.  There is a different mentality to the thought of material goods and the definition of splurge to a person who is the descendant of the Great Depression.

Obviously the crash of 1932 was felt worldwide, but people like my grandparents, whose lives til that time were spent living in sod homes in the Midwestern plains of Kansas, were of the farming variety and felt the impacts of the depression moreso than larger, populated cities.  Their lives were lived for the sixty plus years thereafter with memories of the past and an albeit subtle avoidance of being in that position again.

As an example, my grandfather would bring home the partially used rolls of toilet paper from his work that the company would typically have the janitors throw out at the end of the day.  When he died in early 2000, we found his hoard of these rolls of toilet paper.  My grandmother wouldn’t use them, so he stored them in cabinets and closets, certain that newspapers would never be used on his bum again.  But their behaviours so directly impacted how my own father lived and of course, me.

Growing up I can remember there was no such thing as splurging by popular definition.  Splurging in my family was defined by going out to a restaurant three times a year.  Movies were once a year at my birthday; and don’t you know no one releases decent movies in January.  And try as I do to break free from that mentality with my own children, I still find myself weighing the necessity of the visiting the theatre when we can easily await release to home video or DVD.

That being said, I guess I should pat myself on the back for my reactions thus far to the stock market and economy in general.  I think I can credit part of that to watching my father’s reactions in 1987 when the market fell and how he did everything he could to find cash to invest.  Yes, invest.  I can remember him bickering with other family members and friends and even the television’s evening news about how it was only going to be worse for us all if they withdrew their money.  And he did well.

It was rough, but we pulled through and even though he would never spend it, he was well off when he died at the young age of 54 due to cancer. With no real lack of funds to profit whatever his needs were, he still could not escape that mentality ingrained from his parents in his youth though. His tennis shoes were repaired with maxi pads and duct tape and I remember the shame in watching him do this.  It wasn’t that we couldn’t afford a new pair, he just didn’t see the need to spend when he didn’t absolutely have to.

So here I sit and truth be told, my only big concern at the moment is whether or not my uncle panicked and withdrew the investments for my girls and I.  I know in the past he has done this with his own, I just hope that he hasn’t.  But as for the economy, I am not really terribly concerned.

I mean, I am not naïve, it isn’t that I don’t comprehend the dangers of a failing economy.  But I really don’t think it is as far reaching as it is being painted.  It could very quickly become as such, but we have to remember that this really started with the banks and their greed.  To steal a line or two from Steinbeck, “The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it… They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don’t get it, they die the way you die without air.”

They thought that they could turn quick profits on the dreams of the middle-class and in turn became a wealthier society with our failure to succeed.  But their wealthy society was a fragile house of cards and when the bottom floor fell alongside the housing market, so has their wealth.  And now it is left to us once more to feed their livelihood?  I disagree so greatly.

I wasn’t hugely supportive of this bailout proposal, primarily because it is unfair.  I am a single mother, I have worked hard most of my life and followed the rules of the game.  I have no credit beacon score and have lived a lifestyle of buying only what I can afford.  The government deemed my salary too high for federal aid and I yet I live paycheck to paycheck.  I have begged for assistance to get child support and been rewarded with dismissal.  No government agency has ever held their hand out to middle-class me and offered me help to get through the struggles of my life.  I’ve asked and been declined.

And yet the wealthier of my fellow Americans can find beneficial loopholes to avoid paying the taxes that I am saddled with; make financial mistakes that impact the world round and for that and so much more, my tax dollars should build them a bridge to financial safety?  Where is the reasoning in that?

So today as I watched the House votes trickle in and the timer count down, it was almost a victory to me against the same high browed asses who have legally robbed me and so many others to benefit their own pockets.  I want to see our economy revived and I would truly not wish it to fall further down, but I have to wonder if it would not just be better for all of us if they had to find their own way out of this mess.

The better solution is the path they began on earlier this year with the Keynesian styled plan of putting money into the hands of the tax payer for us to stimulate the economy.  The problem of the ‘stimulus check’ was that it wasn’t enough, coupled with the fact that so many people were paying more than four dollars a gallon for fuel and were behind in loan repayments that it didn’t go to our economy much at all.

Add to this, one of the cons in his theories as he admitted himself is the prevalence of investment and saving.  Look at the Hiltons, Waltons, Kochs, Mars’, and Turners of the world.  They have enough money to last for generations and yet these folks continue to stuff their money away.  I should probably remove the Hiltons from the list, as at least as they do stimulate the economy through materialistic fulfillments.  But through the fear of economical failure, these people and so many like them, hoard away their money instead of dispersing it into our economy and that money is lost for good to circulation.  And the stimulation (for lack of a better word, I apologize for the repetitive usage) is left to those of us who cannot afford to keep our economy alive, but cannot afford to allow it to die.

By raising taxes on dollars earned and perhaps instituting an excessive tax on interest earned on investments surpassing a set amount, say even one million, and then re-introducing that tax into our economy through a stimulus style check to those at or below a set wealth, we could turn the nation around in a few years time.

There is a great deal of comparison of this redistribution of wealth stimulation to that of socialism, and while the parallels are there, the truth is they are not the same at all.  This redistribution method is not intended to put everyone as equal class economically, but a basic need for survival of each members of the two lower classes of Americans…the majority of citizens.

I could ramble some more, but my coffee ran out an hour ago and Letterman’s on which means I need to go to bed…two hours ago.  So with that, taking my broke ass out of here.



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