Post adapted from my twitter feed.
Sunday afternoon. Off to the hardware store in a minute. Few things to pick up. One fewer thing than I planned. Means spending less money. Always a good thing.
That one fewer item's blinds for an upstairs bedroom. Turns out I had a set in the basement. Brand new. Still in the box. Forgot I bought them.
Can’t remember when I did. Last time we needed new blinds, most likely. Probably on sale. I was thinking ahead. Not unusual, not a constant
So I saved myself a few bucks. And I felt good about that. For about a minute. They say a penny saved is a penny earned, but that's bunk.
A penny saved is a penny that's about to be spent on something else.
The money I won't be spending on blinds I'll spend on light bulbs, batteries, the gas that gets me to the hardware store...
This is why it bothered me when the President talked about the government needing to emulate families tightening their belts in hard times.
“Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions,” The President said in his State of the Union, “The federal government should do the same.”
Newspapers, Yahoo, AOL, MSN homepages, TV news full of news you can use to help tighten the belt. Tips for saving money.
Buy store brands, cut back on the cell phone plan, use less shampoo, put in fluorescent bulbs, buy in bulk etc.
How to nickel and dime your way to prosperity. Thing is that the nickel you "save" on shampoo is just money you now have to spend on soap.
This is life, right. Costs money to live. Own a house, own a car, own a body, you have to spend money on upkeep and repairs.
You've got to pay the bills.
But we're supposed to be a middle class society, and being middle class means more than just having enough money to pay the bills.
Live within your means, be careful, watch what you spend, and you should have a little something left over after you pay the bills.
These days, if they’ve been careful, people are lucky if they have money left over from paying this bill that they can put it towards the next bill.
Save that nickel on the shampoo, save another on the soap, and you've got a dime towards paying the plumber when the toilet overflows.
Those saved nickels and dimes are spent before they're saved.
Hard times, no choice. Got to tighten our belts. But nobody likes it or even feels particularly virtuous. All they feel is poor.
Not to mention dumb.
When you’re tightening your belt every nickel and dime going out of your pocket feels like a stick-up. Treating the kids to ice cream, loaning a friend a dollar, picking up the tab at lunch, buying a round of drinks are reasons for regret. Cutting back on your Christmas and Hanukkah gift list incites an internal argument in which you don’t know which voice inside your head is the angel’s and which is the devil’s. Are you dropping Uncle Henry because he doesn’t need another tie or because you don’t like him anyway or because you’re Ebenezer Scrooge or because that leaves you the money to buy Aunt Sally a bottle of perfume that maybe she doesn’t need that maybe you’re only buying her because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t although you’re going to feel guilty or foolish if you do and…
When you’re tightening your belt it’s hard not to notice the people who seem to be loosening theirs, many of whom are the banksters and politicians and corporate con artists and pirates who blew up the economy after a decade of shaking us down for every last nickel and dime and handing us nothing but cheap toys and gizmos and overpriced houses and crumby jobs with few if any benefits and no raises that we’re terrified of losing anyway and shitloads of personal debt in return.
How come we weren’t smart enough to go into investment banking, we wonder, pulling the belt in another notch, making another hole so we can pull it in yet again next week. Where’d we get the idea we could get by in life on the salary of a school teacher or a nurse or a cop or a firefighter or a truck driver or a shoe salesman? What possessed me to go out and buy a video store franchise in the middle of a housing bubble I should have had sense enough to know wasn’t going to last forever no matter what the experts were telling me? How can I have been so dumb that I could support a family cutting hair in my own salon or slinging hash in my own diner or pumping gas and selling bread at my own service station and minimart?
Why wasn’t I smart enough to know that the only thing that matters is making money, gobs of it, and the only reason other people exist is for me to gouge them for as much cash as they can be made to part with?
Belt tightening is not a pleasant metaphor anyway.
In fact, it’s downright nasty.
Reason people can tighten their belts is there's less belly for the belt to wrap around. A tighter belt means an emptier stomach.
Belt tightening is a reference to going hungry because you can't afford to buy food.
Is that where we're headed?
Tighten your belt is easy to say to someone else when your stomach's full. It's why Republicans can say it so cheerfully.
It's not language a Democratic president ought to be using.
It's not comforting to think that while we're nickel and diming our way to paying next week's bills, the government’s about to tighten the belt.
People tighten their belts by cutting back on spending on themselves. Governments “tighten their belts” by cutting back on spending on people.
When governments “tighten their belts,” politicians and top bureaucrats in Washington and the state capitals don’t start car pooling, buying cheaper shampoo, opening a can of soup instead of buying take-out.
Governments tighten their belts by cutting services and laying people off.
When governments tighten their belts roads don’t get paved, schools go without new textbooks, parks close, neighbors and friends and family lose their jobs.
We watch as our communities and neighborhoods deteriorate and it starts to look as though we’re living in a Third World country.
The government tightens its belt by pulling ours in another couple of notches.
A Democratic President should not be talking about government belt-tightening, unless he also reminds us why the government has to tighten its belt---because the rich people and corporations have bought up enough politicians that one sure way out of this mess, raising taxes on the rich and the corporations, can never happen.
We have to tighten our belts because there’s no way in hell they’re going to let the government tighten theirs.
He could also remind us that he can’t raise our taxes either because he knows we don’t have the money because we’re already over-taxed and not by the government but by the health care industry which keeps raising the cost of premiums. That’s why we don’t get raises or Christmas bonuses anymore. Our raise and our bonus is going towards health insurance.
What, you thought the company was picking up the tab?
As it is, it looks as though the government’s tightening its belt because it has no money left after paying the banksters’ bonuses.
I understand how he has to write a budget that saves money here in order for him to have it to spend over there.
But he could tell us about that and why it has to be that way without using language that fakes a virtue. The real virtue, the Democratic virtue, is spending money that helps relieve people from the necessity of having to tighten their belts.
The President did talk about that, but I wish he’d talked about it without backing and filling at the same time.
People need to feel that something’s being done, now and forcefully. They need to feel that they’re not going to have to tighten their belts to the point they’ve got them strapped around their spines and they’re going to have to wear them that way for the rest of their working lives, which if Republicans like Paul Ryan get their way is the same as saying for the rest of their lives.
Enough of this. Time to get to the hardware store.
Maybe I'll buy blinds anyway. That way I'll have them when I need them next time. Save myself a few bucks. When my belt's even tighter.
Digby on populist rage.
Fred Clark on why Tea Partiers and most of the rest of us aren’t getting raises.