New Cartoon: $AD MONEY! w/ Susie Poorman!
I am of course, referencing financial-advice programs like the "Suze Orman Show" and CNBC's "Mad Money w/ Jim Cramer" (a popular show described by Businessweek as "Louis Rukeyser meets televangelism meets Pee-wee's Playhouse"). Not that Suze Orman doesn't have sound financial advice, because she does--budget, save, invest, take realistic vacations, etc. (Jim Cramer, on the other hand, just strikes me as off his rocker, telling people to invest in crazy random stocks, but hey, what do I know?)
All of that is all very well for middle-class people (although maybe not as well as it could be when you think about college tuition and other skyrocketing costs). But there's only so much people can do personally when they're in really, truly horrible money situations and the social safety net has been pulled out from under them (see "How Tax Cuts for the Rich Can Help You!").
With cuts to federal student aid, health-care programs, child-care programs, retirement programs, etc., the burden falls more and more on individuals. We hear more and more about individual responsibility to save for health-care, for retirement, for college. But you know what? When you make barely enough to feed your family, that's a goddamned cruel joke. Expecting people who can hardly pay their rent in the moment to put away for the future is just bizarre. The math just doesn't add up. There's only so far you can squeeze a penny.
And these same jerks in the Bush Administration and Congress who are cutting the social safety net (didn't they learn ANYTHING about poverty from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?) are happy to spend billions on the Pentagon, which then uses the money that could have gone to education and sound investments in the future of our country to bomb the crap out of innocent civilians in Iraq.
I'm not saying Americans are totally devoid of personal financial responsibility. Plenty of people who make plenty of money spend more than they earn (thanks, consumer culture!) Plenty of people who could save, don't. Of course, at the same time as the government tells us to save, we're also told that shopping to keep the economy strong is our patriotic duty.
Wow, that was a poorly-organized little rant. But you get the idea. For more indepth coverage of this topic, see the Village Voice's excellent series "Generation Debt: The New Economics of Being Young".
Update. Check out the New York Times magazine's excellent piece, "What is a Living Wage?"
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