Friday, November 28, 2008

‘Tis The Season To Stay Home, Stop Spending

Hello America, you’re in a Depression. Not the emotional one (although that’s likely to follow) but an economic one. In short everyone’s broke. It’s not going to get better any time soon, so you better act accordingly. Stay home, stop spending.

Seriously, this economy’s been hurting a sizable portion of the country – the working class and poor – for quite a number of years (at least since 9/11). It’s worked it’s way up the food chain through the middle class as Bush’s Economic Recovery was in full steam and quarterly profits and stock markets were soaring to all-time highs.

But now those free-market chickens have come home to roost. Most of America has finally woken up: we’ve been priced out. We can’t afford to be Americans anymore – at least not the way we used to be. You know, the ‘consumer society’ thing? Flat wages, disappearing jobs and no safety nets finally sunk in to our collective psyche, and we had to severely slow our spending.

This, of course, sent ripples up the American corporate ladder as they saw revenues (even for their cheap foreign-produced items) trickle to a drip. They had to respond by even more labor cuts to protect their profitability. When we’re not working, and job prospects begin waning – even with cheaper wages – it begins to sink into even the thickest skulls that the pockets are empty. Stop spending.

“So your prophets of finance have fallen
On their collective proverbial face.
And you hear muffled voices callin’ …
Welcome to the human race.” — Welcome To The Human Race, Timbuk 3

Clearly we can’t stop spending altogether, but we can certainly cut it back to only the necessities, foremost of which is rent or housing, followed by utilities, followed by whatever transportation costs necessary to get to job (if we have one), or job interviews and to the stores where we buy the basic staples only.

The thing that worries me is that our idiots in the White House (and probably a large number in Congress as well) want us to keep buying stuff, and helping at least prop up their business friends. And yet, these are the same people who will blame the homeowners and creditors who took out loans they couldn’t afford, defaulted and (per the neo-con mindset) are fully to blame for where America finds itself economically at the moment.

Of course, the corporations who profiteered on this (remember the stratospheric profits in these past few years?) are somehow free of culpability. They’re victims that Bush, Cheney, Paulson and Co. whine that we need to bail out – and we have, now, to the tune of $1.5 trillion. Now that these economic leviathans are saved, they want regular America to go out and spend again to help create business again ….

Wait a minute, though. We’re not working or are under-employed, still economically flat, and the future’s looking really dicey at the moment for all of us. Didn’t these same folks in the White House, the RNC and FOX news and the like just finish railing against folks who couldn’t afford the credit to buy the things they had? Why again should we be buying?

“I've got a job waiting for my graduation.
Fifty thou a year’ll buy a lot of beer.
Things are going great, and they're only getting better.
I'm doing all right, getting good grades,
The future's so bright I gotta wear shades.” — The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades, Timbuk 3

If you’ve got a job right now, thank your lucky stars. Nonetheless, I’m in full agreement with Thomas Friedman right now: save every penny you can. Nobody has any idea how long this “economic recovery” will last until we finish “recovering” from it. The one thing that we can all bank on is that the Federal bank account has already been siphoned dry by Wall Street’s Welfare State Act. We individual citizens must fend for our own, Bush Republicans will turn up the whine-o-meter every time commoners individually request help in order to squelch and scotch that idea. You’d better rely on yourself and save your money, lest you be sorry later.

Yes, retailers will entice you with heavy-rotation advertising and seemingly great sale prices (some of which are not the deals they’re advertising as being). Ultimately, it’s about scraping up what money they can out of your pockets and putting into theirs. It’ll be hard for business. It’s BEEN hard for us for quite some time. And you can safely bet Corporate America isn’t going to be helping America’s workforce any time in the next few years (at least!). Why be guilted or coerced into making yourself a little poorer?

Folks, to quote Public Enemy, “Don’t Believe The Hype!”

This is all about propping up Bush’s pals in Wall Street and Main Street. None of this means an extra dollar in your pocket, and is actually counterintuitive if this wage and labor-shedding bloodbath continues (and it will). Be smart, look out for yourself and save your money for those rainy days coming up (and take a good look at those thunderclouds on the horizon – they’re moving your way!)

You better believe the executive class is doing it. Think of it this way: the upper 2% of America has done very well during the Bush years. They’re scared and even they are hording their money. If those who can afford to buy are not buying, why should you?

Think like your grandparents and great-grandparents did when surviving the Great Depression: save every penny you can (even if you’re gainfully employed), be as resourceful and thrifty as possible and just hunker down and hope for the best. If you must buy food, buy cheap. If it’s not something critical to you surviving (such as your house payment, electricity or other utilities, minimal food, etc.) then you should not be spending the money on it.

If you’re house or rent payment ends up going delinquent next spring, you’re going to feel foolish with that “brand new, on-sale” flat screen TV or IPOD or new running shoes. Your new laptop won’t keep you from being evicted … though it may sure contribute to it.

“Life is hard. Ain't no escaping when the rent comes due.
Can't get to heaven on roller skates. Can't take a taxi cab to Timbuktu.” — Life Is Hard, Timbuk 3


Mark D. Snyder said...

But HRC just sent me a shopping guide full of wonderful companies that destroy the environment and have no regard for human rights... aren't I supposed to support them? Grrrrr

I invite you to cross post this at queertoday, we need more voices like yours!

planet trans said...

Inspired independent thinking. God bless the soul who died, crushed in the "black Friday" walmart store opening. This whole society has become a capitalist's utopia.

Polar said...

I've spent the last few years paying down credit balances, cutting debt, and cleaning up my credit report. As a result, we own a house without a mortgage, have a part ownership in another home with a normal (not subprime) mortgage, and have 7 payments to go on my car. The visa is paid in full monthly. No other debt-really. It makes you feel good when you get paid, and may save the life of the newly unemployed or disabled.

I suffered an injury, and am on medical leave of absence from work, and have short term disability. But our debt load is low. We'll be okay.

Cash is king. It will always be king. America did this to itself, by buying stuff they didn't need, by not saving and investing intelligently (and without undue risk), and by electing a fool to office 8 years ago. As you said, we let Madison Avenue tell us that we just have to have the biggest, fastest, longest, widest, and newest of everything. People need to use their common sense in the marketplace. Cellphones with GPS and internet access, large SUVs, tickle-me Elmos, video on demand with 2000 channels you'll never watch, and other consumerist junk isn't really necessary to life. In this period of retraction, many will be learning the lessons T people long ago were forced to learn. When I hear them whine, I will get out the world's smallest violin, and play "my heard bleedeth for thee."