Thursday, October 13, 2011

You too can barely make it if you try!

So I see this is making the Internet rounds today:

If the tea party could articulate this well, Sarah Palin would already be on her third term.
I guess it's supposed to be inspirational. But I'm here to absolutely knock it to pieces (and apparently to mix metaphors):

• So you're a college senior, eh? Graduating debt-free? Neat! I've been there. Feels pretty good. I'm proud of you.

• Good for you again. It's wonderful that you're busting your ass just to stay afloat. There's nothing more American than that.

• And you saved money for school starting at 17! That's a hell of a job you had. Did you wait tables or own the restaurant?

• Ah, two scholarships covering 90 percent of your tuition. Well, that diminishes your bootstrap story a bit, but go on...

• A 3.8 GPA. Well done. Better than I ever did in college. I blame this blog. And my work ethic, which is clearly inferior to yours.

• Well, I lived with my parents all seven years I was in college (like you, on scholarship), and only got the modest apartment when I was 26. I drove a beater then, just paid off my current car, was given an iPhone only because my old phone was literally cracking at the seams and still don't have a credit card. So I win! Oops, promised myself I wouldn't play that game. Sorry.

• Just like you, even if I was in debt, I wouldn't blame Wall Street for my financial decisions. The thing is, I do blame the big banks, encouraged by years of federal economic deregulation, for gambling with this country's kitty to the point where we have one of the biggest wealth stratifications and weakest economies in American history. See, as it turns out, you can't really run a country like you run your household, nor can you even remotely compare the two. And no one who knows what's going on would ever seriously do that.

• I live below my means because I never know what the future will bring, but chances are it will suck, being that I am not a have-slash-billionaire.

• I don't expect anything to be handed to me either. But I'd like to be handed what I'm worth. And I'd like everyone who works hard to also be handed what they're worth. Working your at-dollar-sign-dollar-sign off is commendable, but it doesn't change the fact that you see yourself as someone who deserves to scrape for peanuts and is not worth a living wage in a country that could afford it if it didn't worship self-destructive greed. 

• Oh, I almost forgot: you go to a public university. Let me guess: taxes are an affront to your sovereignty?

• Certainly someone of your political ilk has heard the line, "You'll see when you get into the real world"?

• And you will. Let's see how debt-free you remain when you're working the graveyard shift at Wal-Mart with the other college graduates, exchanging mutual shocked glances at the consequences of basing your votes on talk radio.

All snark aside, a lot of these characteristics above actually applied to me. I have financial acumen that even the staunchest economic conservative would praise (not that I have much choice, but still). And yet, I will never pretend that I did it all on my own; I had a ton of help from family, friends and the government along the way. And there isn't a damn thing wrong with that. What is wrong is insisting that everyone can do it entirely on their own, that the only two kinds of people in America are John Galts and welfare leeches. Also wrong: conflating very real Wall Street issues with personal responsibility. There's no need to be haughty, Mystery Hands — I'm not aware of anyone blaming their reckless personal spending habits on Wall Street. Who's to say the protesters are all in deep debt anyway? I think there may be a different kind of anger raging there.

And yes, I get it, the whole 99 percent, Occupy Everywhere protest is a bit cloying at times. I myself have never been a protester; I think there are better ways of getting a message across in most cases. But kudos to the protesters for doing it. They're expressing their speech and harming no one. And that's what freedom should be about — not about bragging the hardest about being an island (when you're a peninsula at best).

I should have written this blog on paper in neat handwriting like yours, Mystery Hands. But that would have required production values that I can't afford at the moment. After all, I can't have everything I want. And I'm perfectly OK with that. Right?


venessalewis said...

The hands belong to a Hooters waitress. And she's debt free thanks to her tips and "extra curriculars." ;)

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see what kind of letter she writes when she tries to get a home for her family after working so hard for so long, only to find out she doesn't qualify for a loan, because of insufficient credit history.

Someone needs to go out in the "REAL" world and work a "REAL" job. Life doesn't grade on a curve.