Monday, March 2, 2009

Remaining Optimistic

I read something rather disconcerting today while scanning Digg at lunchtime. Time magazine has this piece on the ongoing foreclosure crisis, which bears this quote from Jeff Wagoner, a Kansas City, Mo., bankruptcy attorney:

"It sounds crazy, but I'd say unless you're making over $350,000 a year, the more you're paid, the more vulnerable you are. If you lose a job, you're going to have a hard time finding another that pays as much. Or maybe you need to move to find that new job, but you're stuck with a house you can't sell."

The American ideal tells us that the more money we have, the happier we are. Study after study, of course, shows that is generally not true. Do we in some ways set ourselves up for failure, reacting to increasing wealth with increasing wants that turn into needs? It seems odd to me that when i read stories of financial woe, I almost always note that these people who have lost their jobs or homes or both say they're struggling to pay their bills, and almost always include monthly cell phone bills, cable TV bills and other frivolities in their litany of woe. They argue that cell phones are a necessity in this day and age. I say they're not. We have one, of course, but it's only turned on when we're on vacation. We pay less than $50 a year for the thing. We don't have TV in the house. We do have one indulgence: high-speed internet. But it's a want, not a need. We could live without it -- though you dear folk would be deprived of my daily musings on the absurd and useless thing that is my life.

There's a lot of hand-wringing out there among the chattering class that part of the trouble the economy is seeing is that people have finally reigned in their spending and are actually saving now. I don't see that as a bad thing. I think, in many ways, it'll encourage us all to be more aware of what things cost, aware of how we consume and use the things we buy and maybe encourage us to make the things we have last longer. Just this week, for example, we gave five boxes of videos, clothing and toys to one of Michelle's nieces. That night, we had a family in our ward stop by to drop off two big sacks of clothes their kids had grown out of, for our own brood. I like that kind of spirit. They were able to bring us clothes because another neighbor gave them some their kids had grown out of.

So I will remain optimistic about the basic goodness of humanity, and not allow myself to get scared by the economic woes we're facing as a nation. I'm far from making $350,000 a year, but we're far from living paycheck to paycheck on what I do make. And we'll keep it that way.


carl g said...

I've read or heard several "human interest" pieces the last few days about, e.g., executives who have lost their jobs and are now working as janitors. One wife was quite in tears about her husband now having to clean urinals (gasp, urinals!) so they can pay the mortgage on their McMansion. Somehow, these stories fail to pluck my heartstrings. I've cleaned urinals, and worse things, and worked far worse jobs, and may do so again. I say, get over it, bub. It's honest work. Welcome to the real world.

Brian Davidson said...

I tend to agree with you. I'm too easily shocked, I suppose, by the sense of entitlement some people develop when it comes to careers. I can't say I'd like to scrub urinals for a living, but if that were the difference between living in my home or living on the street, hand me the scrub brush. I stocked shelves at Target for nine months in 2005-06 to keep the family afloat, and I survived.