Thursday, October 09, 2008

Show me the E$chaton

Great gramma used to wash out used paper towels and hang them to dry in the kitchen. She could afford paper towels but living through the Depression taught her to conserve. She could afford glasses and cups too, but preferred to use old jelly jars instead. My ultra-conservative paternal grampa used to diligently save his empty Coke bottles and return them to the store--not just for the deposit refund, but because he was an actual 'conserve'-ative, unlike today's breed of "buy whatever you want and throw everything away because you can" chuckleheads. Grampa was a butcher and he used all the bits of dead animals for something. I remember he used to bring home brown paper wrappers full of eyes and brains and whatnot. When I asked him why he had eyes he said the local high school wanted them.

I have to wonder now what's coming down the pike financially. Are we at last going to atone for our sins during the last few decades of "irrational exuberance"? Is this another brief blip like we had in the early '80s or '90s? WTF?

Watching the decline in the markets is at once exhilarating and terrifying. I have a few 401Ks and 403bs from old jobs, but there's never been much there, and there's even less now. Market fluctuations don't particularly concern me. If we get to the point where public schools shut down, then I'll be worried of course, but I don't have a lot of money tied up in Wall Street voodoo; and if we're at the point where public schools are shuttered it'll be roving gangs of maurauders looting anyhow and I'll be defending my house with hot pitch. I'm more of a ten-year Savings Bond, ING CD kind of guy than a Wall Street player. I have some gold, and a lot of silver coins stashed away, and some rice and beans. But mostly I spend as I go, like most Americans. The money I should have saved over the years has funded books, music, and travel. I'd do nothing differently if I had to do it over.

One concern is unusually elevated credit card debt. Last year while I was a half-time teacher and full-time grad student I used the plastic more and then over the summer it crept up too and then I was buying school supplies on credit. Got to get that shit paid off so Joe Biden's friends in Newark stay off my back.

I worry about my kids a lot. Their lives are already pretty marginal--a huge dip in the economy could topple many beyond their current despair and into the unthinkable.


John Vondracek said...

I'm actually really relieved and glad to hear you say some of this, especially the part about it being "at once exhilarating and terrifying"

I have actually felt the same way, nervous about my business (and general prosperity and livelihood) but also really enjoying watching the bottom fall out of something that was so corrupted and ruined to the core... I feel terrible for thinking these things, mostly because I know that those crooks will never feel the ramifications the way the bottom tiers of our society will, but all the same I can't help but feel like no matter how painful this might be, necessary, earned, and deserved it very well might be.

Of course I might just be some spoiled rotten little jerk who has no IDEA what real trouble looms ahead, and looks at it like a child can't really conceive of the permanence of death... Maybe if I were more educated, I might feel more lament and dread... but as it turns out, my brain just can't feel sorry for the way things are.

of course, talk to me in 6 months, when my home value is gone, I'm evicted and unemployed, and a new gun owner, and i'm sure I'll think much differently...

:) jv

alicia said...

The thing that they are all afraid of is that it's just going to get worse. When there were first talks of a bail-out, one of the guys interviewed I believe in the Times, spoke about his father and the Big Crash before the Great Depression. And how his father was a small business owner, and how his father was actually glad those "rich bastards" got it, but after a few years, credit dried up, he lost all his customers and never had full-time steady employment again. Just because you don't have much invested in the stock market doesn't mean you will not be affected by this in one way or another.

But I think you make a good point about maybe this is some kind of penance for being told "to go shopping" when our country was at war. Need I remind everyone this was the first war where we as US citizens were not asked to curb or conserve.

I remember when Bush got elected and I was riding the bus to NYC from Baltimore, and two people were talking about getting theie "early" tax rebate checks, and saying see, he's only been in the office for a few months and already things are getting better. I wonder how those two people are doing now. I don't know if that $200 went as far as they thought it would.