Thursday, October 09, 2008

I'm Mad Too, Eddie

Katrina at Callapidder Days wrote a post yesterday about these Current Events -- about what's really important, and what she hopes to learn and to teach her family throughout it all.

Her post was very nice, kind, compassionate, and grounded, and yet it still served as a trigger to remind me how irritated I got watching just a few minutes of the Presidential debate at the questions that all the middle-American working folk undecided voters asked about these hard economic times (even a morning show host the following day said that most of them weren't really questions, and couldn't they assume that the system wasn't broken and ask a question about changing something).

Yesterday I whined, today I rant:

Why am I irritated? Why is it a trigger button for me?

One issue is that by temperament I'm naturally a "good little soldier." I am loyal to the establishment; I follow the rules. So to hear criticism of our country and of our President doesn't sit well with me. In the last few months, even I have questioned the action (or inaction?) of our current president, but I am amazed at the lack of respect for the Office of the President that would result in making a movie mocking a current President.

About the economy -- yes, times are hard. High gas prices, rising food costs, and the mortgage/housing "crisis" are impacting many. I do not argue that point, but what triggers my irritation is a complete lack of personal responsibility.

  • The housing "crisis"? It's due to people taking out stupid loans -- such as no-interest, or adjustable rate, so that they can buy a house that was too expensive for them in the first place, in hopes that their house would increase in value (after which they would presumably refinance again or take out the increase in home equity value in yet another loan). Because we are all chasing the American dream -- no, we deserve the American dream -- they expected that in five years that they would be making enough to pay for the house that they couldn't afford when they made the decision to buy it. I've heard people place blame on the "evil" banks and mortgage companies that aggressively try to sell these types of unsound loans, and yes, they bear some responsibility, but that argument didn't work for Hitler's henchmen, did it? Why are we accepting it from Americans here? Since when are people not expected to rely on their own good sense?
  • Tough economic times -- even Obama said something about the government's overspending, and how when a regular American faces budget tightening, they make some changes, like going out to eat less often. Even Terry jumped in here, "No they don't!" he yelled at the TV. "That's the problem."

    I know that this is an area that I should be more compassionate in,** but I struggle with seeing people's choices and their resulting complaints about hard times. I do admit that it might be different for us, because Terry does make a good income -- higher than average, I know. BUT there were many years in our early marriage when we made much less than other two-income college educated people, and due to his financial good sense, we lived within those means, and still tucked a bit away in savings. For most middle class people, "hard times" means that they have to put their $10 lunch at work on their credit card and accrue debt. How about bringing a sandwich to work? How about NOT buying two $4 coffees each day at Starbucks? This is the reality of what "hard times" means to the average middle class worker. And they aren't even willing to make these changes, seeing designer coffee as a promise of that American dream.

  • I'm mad that people who are in these failing industries (financial -- like my husband!), and have made $80,000 or double that for the last ten years, couldn't get by on six months severance, and even stretch it another six months if needed, because they too have been living beyond their means.

  • Even those who really do face a squeeze -- living on a "working wage" with fixed costs such as gas and food rising -- are not willing to cut into comforts. Direct TV, TiVo, and cell phones are not necessities. If someone needed to, they could cut $100 a month from their bills by just doing without these things -- for a time, if needed. But they aren't willing to. They'd rather complain about the mess that the government has gotten us into than to change their way of life. It would hurt, but it's not impossible.

    I think about what people did during the Depression, and people would never do that now -- former businessmen selling apples on the side of the corner, or ripping apart clothes to resew new ones. We aren't even willing to try drastic change, even when it's needed. We want the government to step in and fix it.

So, are you mad, too?

Maybe you are mad at the powers that be, just like those at the debate. Maybe you're mad at me, now. If so, I'd love to know why. Convince me that I am cruel and heartless and completely dispassionate, and there's another side to this that I'm not seeing. **I'm serious. Even if I still think I'm right, maybe something you say will help me gain some more compassion.

Maybe you are with me, confused at America's own lack of personal responsibility. How should people cope with these changes in our economy?


Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

This is a soapbox for me right now and I could NOT agree with you more!!!

Because we have lived on a budget for years and spend less than my husband makes, all this hoopla means we're saving less than we want to be in order to cover increases in gas and food.

When we bought our house 5 years ago my dad (a baby boomer) tried to convince me an adjustable rate was the way to go. It didn't make sense then and it doesn't make sense now! This is the same man who tried to convince me it's cheaper for the 2 of them to eat out than to cook at home. Um. No. I can feed my family of 5 for a week on what they spend for 2 adults eating out 2 meals.

I feel bad for those suffering because of the bad decisions of someone else. But if you sucked $90,000 of "equity" out of your home and now can't pay the adjustable rate, it's time to take responsibility for a very POOR choice! Taking responsibility... isn't that what mature grown-ups do?

Ok. I'll climb off my soapbox now. = )

Carrie said...

I'm behind you in your rant 100%. And the reason I'm unsympathetic towards foreclosures is because I was once in the position of being in an unbearable debt situation. I was not taught how to spend wisely growing up. It was a painful process getting OUT of debt and I was extremely blessed to marry someone who makes "good financial sense" as you say.

It IS about taking personal responsibility for your actions and that is something that Americans in general (politicians or otherwise) want to do these days. We're blame-throwers. We seldom keep our blame to ourselves. And we demand that the government helps get us out of the holes that we ourselves have dug so that we might fall into them.

T with Honey said...

I feel exactly the same way and I've said so on my blog.

I had a family member visit my house years ago and comment about our lack of a big screen TV and video game system. At the time he had 2 such TV and both a Nintendo DS and Xbox. Ready for the part that raises my blood pressure? His family gets food stamps to help feed his kids because his income is so low.

Members of my own family have made comments about us being penny pinchers - meant to be disparaging. In order to keep the family peace I put on a big smile and say "Thank you" while commenting on how much we have already saved for Princess's college education.

Many are too materialistic and unwilling to do without the extras. If only we could inject a little common sense into the world.

Katrina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katrina said...

Like the other commenters, I am with you 100%. In fact, even though I wrote a "nice" post yesterday, I couldn't even watch the debate the other night without distracting myself with email and internet surfing -- because it all makes me MAD. And you're right on -- I get SO irritated when people talk about how they can't possibly pay their bills, but I know they're getting cable (plus movie channels, of course) and have excessive cell phone plans, etc., etc.

That's why the whole idea of a bailout has infuriated me. Why in the world do we think people have learned anything? Won't they just keep pursuing more, more, more at the expense of common sense and rational financial responsibility?

I'll stop now, but could rant on and on.

P.S. I do feel compassion (and I think you would too) if you actually knew a family that was struggling but was honestly doing everything they could to be frugal, responsible, honest, and hard-working. The problem is, those families seem few and far between.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Whew -- I'm glad to know I'm not totally off base here.

And yes, for the record, I DO have compassion for people who are struggling financially -- even if they got themselves into it in the first place.

It's the excuses and sense of entitlement that frustrate me.

Lisa writes... said...

Rant on, sister!

I couldn't watch the debate either, what with the overwhelming urge to THROW UP!

Dawn said...

I agree with you 100%.

It's the bad judgement of people that gets them in the messes they are in. People believe they are ENTITLED to everything.

And, I also agree that the lack of disrespect for the president is sickening. Could they do the job he does? Not many could.

Very good post. :)

Kipi said...

Amen! I couldn't have said it better. What ever happened to "Ask not what your country can do for you..."?