Waking Up America

Just finished reading an excellent diary over on Daily Kos on the biggest triumph of the banking industry,  and thinking about the country as it is today. (I am not going to link to it, as I don’t want to give him linkbacks.) I remember listening to NPR back in 2008, right after the economic crash, and someone was talking about how food was sitting on the docks, rotting, because the grocery stores couldn’t get the credit to pay for that food to be moved to their stores. And I still wonder what it would have looked like if the government hadn’t stepped in and bailed out the banks. Would we have had panic as the grocery stores emptied? Hording? Fighting over the basics?

Sadly, not many Americans listen to NPR, and Fox News didn’t tell them about this tragedy that was closely averted. They mostly went back to sleep, except the people who were losing their homes. They didn’t get the big bailout from the government that the banks did, which may have helped the economy by loosening up money that people would have actually spent, as opposed to the banks, sitting on their monies the last six  years.

So how do we wake up our fellow Americans to the fact that this government and economy are shell games? That few in government have the well being of their fellow man in mind when they legislate? That they need to not just vote for Democrats, but vote for populist Democrats, people who come from and understand the troubles that the “little guys” are having.

And what does being “awake” to all of this look like?

Due to the fact that I read dailykos well before 2008, I knew a crash was coming. I told a few broker friends, most of whom poo-poohed me. One smart guy agreed. But my husband and I didn’t know what to do about it. He took his retirement money out of the riskiest investments, and we just waited.

When it hit, I was amazed that most people didn’t get it. That the US economy was on the verge of actually collapsing. As in, no money to get food to stores, no money to move products to stores, a serious break in the way we view the world. I think it was too much for most people. As Neil Postman discusses in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” and in the excerpt with the same name, Huxley was more right in his future predictions than Orwell was. Huxley said we won’t have to burn books, no one will want to read them. He said that the things that we love will destroy us. I see this all around me. An addiction to Facebook, games online, reality TV shows. All things that are easy to fall into, all things which distract us from seeing what is really going on. The anesthesiation of the masses. It’s really hard to believe it can all go away tomorrow when we see such abundance around us every day. But it can. This is not a conspiracy theory. It almost did in 2008.

So how do we wake our fellow Americans up? And what does it look like to be awake? Sadly, I don’t have many answers to the first question. I think that if anyone wanted to be awake, there is enough information out there for them to really look at who is benefitting from the laws that are made every year. Cui bono??  Not hard to see. I do try to talk to Republicans about the fact that in this economy, we are fighting each other for crumbs as the rich walk away with the bank, but of course, they blame Obama and won’t hear anything else. So I stick to talking to like minded folks about this.

Here are some things we have been thinking about what it means to be awake.  A few things, but please – suggestions welcome.

1. Be careful with money. My husband and I have been very careless with money in the past. I started a dog rescue and lost, literally, tens of thousands of dollars. Ditto for two businesses I started. Great ideas, just cost a fortune. Save instead of spend. How?

a. I have a very cheap car. A Honda Fit. Works just great, I love it, cost about 16K, and gets great gas mileage. My mother has a Prius, which is also good, but she pays almost $500 a month to lease it, and I find that a waste.

b. Cancel extras. We have no TV. We saved $120 cancelling it, and just have netflix now for about $7 a month. And you know what? Most TV is total crap. If I really want to see a show, I can usually pay $1.99 on amazon to see it. A huge savings and big time saver as well.

c. Put away a percentage of every penny we bring in, even when we can’t. If we had a bill, we would find a way to pay it, so I pay myself every time I get money. This has to be done. I need to be able to have a cushion, and something to help my own kids as they get married and have families. I think money is protection, and I want to feel safe in this economy that doesn’t give a damn about me.

d. Cut down on entertainment. I do go to local restaurants, but much less frequently that I used to. We used to eat out at least once a week. About $400 a month. Now it’s every other or third month. A huge savings. That money – into savings. We don’t like the movie theater, because I hate paying good money to listen to someone yakking behind me. So we rent a movie, saving about $16 after tickets and popcorn. I prefer the black raspberry ice cream I get on sale at Stewart’s anyway.

e. Grow what you can, recycle what you can. Lots of information out there.

f. Stop buying into the BS that your daughter needs a 15K party for her Sweet Sixteen. My kids had friends over and I bought a nice cake. They had a blast. Much more fun playing manhunt and having a bonfire than they would have at a stuffy party where they all had to be dressed up and on formal behavior. Kids love our parties. And we serve them BBQ food. You will never regret putting that 15K in the bank. (and I know, most people here probably don’t do that, but we are talking about what most Americans value, and this is a big one in the part of the country where I live. Conspicuous consumption at its most gruesome.)

g. Buy gold?? I am trying to find out more about this. My friend, who is very good with her money, has about 20K in the bank in gold and won’t cash it in. She says that if it ever hits the fan, gold is currency. This is true. I just was taking a jewelry class from a goldsmith who was living in Egypt when they had their revolution. He survived for two years on the gold he had in his shop. His money, he said, was worthless. This is anecdotal, but he seemed to be quite honest about this.

Other ideas? I don’t know. Just some musings. I truly think that all Americans who are not wealthy need to start seeing this as a Us vs.Them issue. They don’t care. Just saw a video of Wall Streeters mocking the peons, taken by a young man who snuck into their affair. It really irked me, although I knew this already. So money = security and I need to start putting more away. As much as I can, even though it seems impossible.




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