September 25, 2008

Privatizing gains and socializing losses? Priceless.

Banks love me. Chase. HSBC card services. Capital One. Institutions love me too. Sallie Mae. The US department of education. Boulder Community Hospital. How do I know this? Because they are kind enough to call me every day, at least 20 times a day (yes, each one of them) to remind them that I am behind on my payments. My cell phone incoming calls list look like binary code broken up only by the infrequent “mom at home,” or “Marina at work.” When I answer these mysterious, ubiquitous calls from Florida, Texas, 1-800-UOUS, and my favorite, “blocked ID,” the operator on the other end greets me warmly and in a thick (usually Indonesian or Indian accent) and asks me to pay a large sum of money to bring my account current. I explain (again) that I still do not have the required sum of money, since the whole Power Ball thing was awash, and that in light of the current cost of living versus the modest wage that I earn that alas, I am still as broke as I was the day before and the day before that and the day before that.
Now, before you pass judgment on my deliquent account(s), you should know that I have neither a closet full of Manolos nor any big ticket items to show for my debt. (No digital camera, no new computer, and no flat-screen TV, no surround sound) I do however, have medical bills from a car accident, thanks to Colorado’s no fault insurance laws. I have car repairs long undone and food long ago eaten from when I worked for ten dollars an hour both during and after the time I spent in college. In fact, the most expensive, big ticket item that I bought, was my four-year, in-state, undergraduate degree for which I owe the US government $60,000.

I know that you know where this story is going. And believe me when I tell you that I am not asking for your sympathy. I am embarrassed that I owe this much money. One might even say that I am in some way ashamed because I have failed to secure my upward mobility in society by pursuing a college education. Still, the vague sense that I am a disappointing American specimen is eclipsed only by the notion that it is not my fault that my FICO score is a figure that has most recently begun to resemble the average daily balance in my checking account. There were never any trust funds in my family, no college savings accounts, no inheritances…and no high paying jobs. Like many like me, I have always worked and worked hard. I have had many jobs, more than three jobs at once and jobs that most people wouldn’t deign to try all in the name of trying to rectify my financial situation so that I can finally look good on paper, buy a house, perhaps a nicer car, travel a bit, write a book – and more or less, live the good life. Put my head down on the pillow and know that I have kept the hungry banks at bay. The happy shiny sunny someday when I can kiss my creditors goodbye.

I know that I am not alone. You, perhaps are afraid of losing your house, your boat, your grad school loans, your day-care, your time-share in Hawaii, your job, your business, your fridge full of organic produce, or your bi-annual shopping sprees at Banana Republic/REI/Target/CompUSA. You now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world as we know it has changed, for a good long while. One thing economists know for certain is that Santa might go retro-nostalgia on the good kids of America this year and stuff more stockings with oranges than with I-pods and play stations. President Bush spoke to us last night to tell us what he knows. He reminded us that times are tough and attempted to instill within us a great fear that we needed to open our purse strings and sacrifice for the good of the country.

But I still want to know what everyone else wants to know. I understand that without a 700 billion dollar bail out, this country is destined to travel farther down the road to hell in a Bush woven hand basket than ever before. But hey, I’ve been here for a while already – what’s an extra few thousand dollars in taxes??? My creditors will just have to wait. Maybe I’ll eat less and finally attain the ever-coveted starvation look so popular with the kids these days. Either way, I’m ready for my misery to have some company! Please allow me to be the first to roll out the polyester carpet and welcome you to my economic bracket!!!

It is my understanding that the assets that they expect us (the taxpayers) to reach into our lint-lined pockets to subsidize are not accounted for. That’s okay with me! I paid for Lou Pai’s strippers in 2001, and I’ll pay McCain’s 12 houses now! No problem! Because I know, from experience that it will all trickle down like it has before! Maybe Sarah Palin will hire me to be her new nanny! After all, she must pay more than the minimum wage, right?

Oh-and speaking of wages-
700 billion dollars if given to every man, woman and child in this country is roughly $2000. That’s about $6,500 for the average family. A few month’s mortgage payment for most people. A zero balance on a credit card. A few months worth of gas.

Well, my friends, either way this cookie crumbles, some of us are about to fall face first into the gap between rich and poor.

And still, we do nothing.

The people of France would have taken to the streets (with matches, mind you) in protest a long time ago.

Whatever happened to tossing the tea off of the ship, shaking a defiant fist at the oppressive powers that be and belting out (in our best Dee Snider voices of course)

“We’re not gonna take it! You know we aint gonna take it! We are not gonna take it anymore!!!”

When did this country stop being OURS and start becoming THEIRS. The answer to that question would be simply – the moment we started allowing them to buy it, us and each other. It was a little chapter in US history called de-regulating the rich while regulating the poor.

When these corporations were booming nobody sent us paychecks, but now, we must send them more of ours.
In short, if ever there was a catchphrase to sum up this controversial, economic conundrum, it would be this:

Privatizing gains and socializing losses? Priceless.

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