Saturday, June 19, 2010

The New Poor

The NY Times is running a series of articles titles "The New Poor" and chronicling the ever-more-depressing state of the American economy. Stories like this one hit home very hard for me, because when I was younger both of my parents were in some serious financial straights. I remember answering the phone repeatedly to deflect bill collectors. I remember the lawyers. And I remember the eventual bankruptcy.

The problem is, whether free-market whack-jobs want to admit it or not, a side-effect of our capitalist economy. My dad calls it "The Land of the Vultures." When you fall in a strongly capitalist society, the vultures descend upon you. Bill collectors, hucksters, financial companies who make all their money from late fees, etc. These are the people and companies that literally make money from your suffering.

Once you fall, you have to, like an antelope on the savanna, be extremely careful. You never know where a lion might lurk. The problem is not that the lions are out there, the problem is that the lions are dressed like other antelope. They actively attempt to hide what they are. Worse still, they only attack if you're injured to begin with! Credit card companies, shitty car loans, bank fees, check-cashing companies. Any one of these can bring you down. The lion removes its disguise, and before you know it, you're down, the lion is gone, and the vultures descend.

This is one of the issues why the angry white men who scream and holler about free markets and whatnot on Fox News don't understand. They've never fallen. They don't know what it's like to be in the land of the vultures. They've never been on capitalism's shit-list.

I've grown more liberal as I've aged. Maybe because I've seen more friends in the land of the vultures and have grazed it myself. I'm still very strongly a free-market advocate. I think it's quite obvious that the American economy, for all its faults, is the best economic model on the planet. I just think that minor tweaks to issues at the extremes, where the vultures live, can make it even better.

Peddling Relief, Firms Put Debtors in Deeper Hole (New York Times)

No comments: