The show “Dirty Money” is quite popular right now on Netflix. It is a 6-part documentary series profiling some of today’s largest economic scandals, and culminates in an episode titled “The Confidence Man”, all about the US President and ultimate ‘Con-Man’, Donald Trump. It’s disturbing, but hardly shocking to me.
I also listen to the “Fake News” New York Times’ Podcast “The Daily”, where in 2017 they featured a story about lady working at a Carrier plant in Arizona. She had worked there a long time, and had no formal education or training or many other prospects in the region. She was earning $1000 per week. She was the epitome of “The American Worker” and then she was told the plant would be shutting down soon.
Now despite recognizing that this job was the best-paid position she could hope for in her circumstances, she had been living cheque-to-cheque, so the news of a pending lay-off was devastating. This particular lady supports her grown children and even grandchildren, some with special medical needs. However, she also has a flashy new truck she mentions needing to make payments on every month.
She voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, largely based on one issue – Healthcare. But since then she has been told the plant she works at will be moving to Mexico, and her job is ultimately more crucial than her reduced health care costs. She talks about how Trump mentioned her Plant specifically on Twitter during his campaign and how she thought that he really cares and that he really sees them. Like, specifically, them. At their factory exactly.
But, of course, like any Con-Man, Trump used people’s desire for better things for themselves and their families, such as jobs, to gain their confidence and votes, but has never held any intentions to fulfill the dreams and desires of these people. He hasn’t mentioned or taken any action for the folks at this worker’s factory since he was inaugurated.
Now, however, here’s my heartless, cool and calculated financial two cents: she shouldn’t be living cheque-to-cheque. If she weren’t, she could place her vote based on what’s best for the country rather than what’s best for her in the moment (i.e. avoid supporting a racist con-man just to keep a job). It sounds like she is in a pretty tough spot having to provide for so many dependents, but noone should be buying any truck on loan, especially a brand-new truck. The way this fact was gleamed over in the interview is a clear example of our deeply embedded modern way of thinking that debt is perfectly normal and that everyone should be entitled to the ability to have it all – including a brand-new pickup truck to drive to work and back. That’s just a part of the American Dream, no? We are entitled to this. It is a passage of rite. The missing piece of this equation, however, is that it is no longer 1972.
Just think, if we were not so dependent on our jobs we, as a democratic society, could think rationally and learn to value other things besides dollar bills. Here we have a citizen talking about how one issue has been what she voted on in at least the last 3 elections. When you’re in poverty or living cheque-to-cheque due to spending far beyond your means like most of us, money is the most valuable thing there is. With some better money management skills and a shift in the way we think about our income, jobs, and money, we could collectively vote as a wealthy society, without the man dangling our jobs over our heads to distract us from all the other bullshit that goes on. That is to say, we could collectively start to value things besides money simply by being more responsible and caring with our own money.
When you borrow money for that car, you can pay over 25% more in interest, taxes and fees than the already too-high sticker price. And when you get a 25-year mortgage with just 5% down!? Well…I just got a new idea for a blog post but, needless to say, it’s a LOT! And if on top of that you are still living cheque-to-cheque, then ya, money and jobs are still the most important thing to you. But wake the !@#$ up already! You are enslaving yourself to the one universally worshipped thing in this world, the dollar, which itself is simply a bunch of generally useless pieces of paper and numbers on your screen. It’s time to move on with your life and give us all our democracy back.
Indeed, the only risk to you practicing some fiscal responsibility is a better future for everyone, starting with you.