Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thoughts on Entitlement, Fairness and the Consumer Culture

Recent events have my brain churning.

First of all, there's my new bicycle. Rachel's comments really got me to thinking about the whole concept of whether or not we "deserve" things. It's an interesting and somewhat complicated topic when you really start to think about it. Do we "deserve" recreational items or expensive shoes? How about paper plates? What about health care or food?
Speaking of food, Katy over at The Non-Consumer Advocate is running a SNAP challenge where people are challenged to keep their food budgets within the food stamp allotment for a family of their size.

This, of course, set off a contentious and somewhat moralistic discussion about food choices and spending choices in general. One woman related a story about a family that was on public assistance yet refused to give up their iPhones and cable television.

I, of course, weighed in with my general observation that people waste their money on stupid stuff... admittedly not the best context in which to make such an argument, since I fear some folks thought I was saying that people on public assistance somehow didn't "deserve" the help or simply made poor spending choices - which was not my point at all.

At any rate, one woman who was struggling financially piped in with the comment that everyone "deserves" some luxuries and conveniences - even poor people. There's that word again.

And then yesterday, CatMan spent several hours talking with an old friend that he's known since they were teenagers. Part of the discussion was his friend's confession that although he's been earning a six digit salary for over 20 years now, he's completely broke. Oy!

Sooooo... all of that has my little brain hopping with complicated and often contradictory thoughts. Part of just me feels like shaking some sense into people.

How in god's name could someone fritter away hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars and have practically nothing to show for it?!? I mean, I know this guy and it's not like he lives a particularly luxurious lifestyle. What on earth is he spending it all on?

And what about the "poor people" and their "luxuries." Do they "deserve" them? Do any of us "deserve" luxuries? Is it "fair" to spend tax dollars helping people who might not make the "best" financial decisions? Aren't these people a drain on our economy... gobbling up tax dollars for their "benefits?"

Well... in reality, no - they're not a "drain" at all. I mean, whatever you think about the "fairness" of it all, the fact is that if you want to stimulate the economy, one of the best things you can do is to give money to "poor people," because they will immediately spend it, which circulates the money and makes the economy grow.

So there we have the conundrum in a nutshell. Our entire economic system is based on consumerism. If people don't spend money, the economy collapses.

Now, I might think that CatMan's friend is being "irresponsible" by "wasting" his six figure salary on whatever it is he's been spending it on, but in a very real economic sense he is the upstanding citizen, and I am the dangerous radical who's threatening our country's well being by keeping so much of my "wealth" locked up in the bank. How's that for bass-ackwards?

So the reality of the situation is that all of these people who are spending money on iPhones and cable television, and convenience foods, and whatever else they're spending it on - they're not doing anything other than filling the role that our society wants them to fill. In a very real sense, they're doing what they are "supposed" to do, they are consuming!

I mean really - I'm the one who's not following the instructions here, not them! How on earth can we expect people to "resist the urge" to spend money when everything about our society tells them that spending is what they are supposed to do?

But it occurred to me this morning that part of the problem with all of these lines of thinking is that they are based on a false premise - that spending money is somehow more desirable than not spending money. Now, clearly everyone really does need certain things - food, water, shelter, access to healthcare - and to my way of thinking, in a society as wealthy as ours these things ought to be rights not privileges.

But beyond basic necessities and yes - a few luxuries, does more spending really equate to more happiness? In my experience the answer is a resounding NO! And when you look at it in that light, it really turns the whole "fairness" argument on its head.

Is it "fair" that CatMan's friend has had to work is ass off 60-70 hours per week for the past few decades in order to fulfill his role as consumer? Is it "fair" that I get to sit around enjoying the luxury of time because I have refused to "do my part" for the consumer culture?

I honestly don't know the answers to any of these questions, and in a sense I guess it's sort of pointless to even try to figure it all out. I mean it's not like any of us has the power to change our economic system even if we did have all of the answers.

I guess in the end all we can do is try to make the best decisions that we can for ourselves and our families, while remaining compassionate to the plight of those around us - both the folks struggling to get by as well as those struggling with their roles as "consumers" in this crazy culture of ours.

I'm curious... what do y'all think about all this?


  1. I don't have the answers but you ask great questions. Yes, there are people who spend on stupid stuff that they don't need (hmm, my husband and his model trains comes to mind.....) but there are also people who work their butts off and are barely making ends meet. Have you priced child care lately?! A young family making minimum wage, even if both parents work can barely make it. A co-worker of mine has 2 children in day care and pays $18000/year! How crazy is that!? Add on rent and food and there isn't much left over for 'wants' for many families. That said, I think that it is the 'wants' that can sometimes make our day- as long as they are within reason.
    But then, I'm not a spender either. I think that there are some 'things' that can help make us more content but I also don't think money or things buy happiness.

    Although, if I'm going to be miserable, I guess I'd rather be miserable with stuff than miserable without.....

    I'm sure that didn't help at all, did it.

    1. $18K for child care?!? Holy Moly! It almost sounds cheaper to hire a nanny or get an au pair! I agree that there are some "things" that do make us more content though - I'm thinking of my dishwasher, my bicycle and Netflix.

    2. $18k is pretty normal/low. A nanny is MORE expensive as you'd pay a higher hourly wage whereas the daycare workers' wages are broken up between the parents. I actually haven't applied for a ton of job because it's depressing what the take home pay would be, if any, after trying to pay for daycare for two children! There was actually the perfect job for me that I was dying to apply for, but after calculating cost of daycare and health insurance, I would be owing money! It's insane!

    3. That is totally insane. I'm still struggling to figure out the $18K. So I just looked up the adult/child ratio for Colorado - for toddlers it's 5 to one. So at $9K per child that comes to $45K for one full time daycare provider. I don't know what "normal" jobs pay, but that's about what I made as the director of the music school with 16 years experience. Seems sorta steep but I suppose it also includes the cost of the location and other stuff too.

      Seems like we need a better system!

    4. Well, most daycare providers are not in-home, but at facilities, so they have those added costs. However, for an in-home provider, it may actually be that much. But I do believe they need certain licensing, which may cost a bit. I just calculated what it would cost at $8 for 9hrs, 5 days a week, and it would be $18,720 I would pay a nanny...and that's the LOW end. When I nannied, I made anywhere from $10-15/hour. If I sent the boys to an in-home, "cheap" setting full-time, it would be at least $15+K (assuming $150/week/child). It's absolutely insane how much it costs, but it's also not. Imagine putting your child in just anyone's care! I'd rather pay for someone I trust rather than the's not like it's an easy job, but definitely a thankless one. In this situation, no one generally wins. The daycare workers generally don't make a huge amount while the parents are forking over a majority of their wages to cover the care. Thus the trend of more educated women choosing to stay at home for the first few years :/

    5. Agreed... it's a situation where nobody wins. But what do you do if you're a single parent who has to work, but you can't afford the child care?

      When I lived in Norway all mothers got a stipend for each child. Not sure of the details, but I think Australia has a similar system. I think women can choose to either use the money to go toward child care or to make it more financially possible to stay home with their kids. I know it totally smacks of the "nanny state" (ha ha) but ultimately it seems like a small investment for the society to make in order to give our children a better shot in life.

    6. I think France has some sort of program as well. I don't see the US going for it any time soon, unfortunately. Thankfully, I'm able to stay home, but I agree there are SO many who don't have that option, and I always wish I could do something to help! I personally have a friend who is a single mother of 3 young children. The youngest child's father is nowhere near the picture (not financially or anything), so she has to find a way to make it work with her now reduced pay. I do know there are some programs here that help the poorest pay for childcare, and our oldest receives free pre-K due to income, but at the end of the day, neither program cover EVERYTHING. UGH! We really are far behind, aren't we.

    7. Sigh. I'm wondering what it would be like to live in a country that valued its children above its millionaires.

  2. ARGH!!!!! Just lost my ENTIRE comment and it was absurdly long. Ugh. Darn it. Ok, in a nutshell, if I hear the phrase, "I just NEED a few luxuries" again this year, I might hurt someone. I hate that our consumer culture has brainwashed so many willing people into believing that the extras in life are necessities.

    Have a blessed rest of the weekend, my friend! Happy soup making weather to you too, at last.

    1. Drat! And I love absurdly long comments! I don't think all luxuries are bad, but it seems to me that most people are literally drowning in them. Makes it pretty hard to appreciate anything when it's omnipresent in your life!

  3. You know, I think the answer is moderation. There are people that could definitely learn from some financial conservatism, but there are still people like you and me who have to bully ourselves into spending on anything. It's hard because as I was sitting in the DES office waiting to see if we were approved for food stamps (applied for health insurance, but despite financially qualifying, we can't get on as "normal" adults). It was hard to sit there and 1. not place judgments on others as they furiously played on their schmancy phone or drove in their much nicer vehicle or donned "designer" clothing. It was also hard not to judge myself. I mean, we make our bills and even have a bit to spare some months with quite a bit in the bank, so why was I even there? I had to convince myself that we "deserved" this. I had to convince myself that because of the benefits we would be receiving for food, I could actually go to the doctor since I wouldn't be worried about having to take from other expenses. My own sister judges us harshly for utilizing any government assistance when we own our own home and are "doing fine". It's a really tricky thing. I would just say to consciously consume and spend. There are times I'm quite convinced that I need those donuts, but am more often good at convincing myself I do not. It's all in the education, dialogue, and honesty with self about intentions, I guess.

    1. Moderation... I totally agree.

      I personally don't think you should have ANY guilt about accepting public assistance. To me there is no shame in it whatsoever - it's just part of the give and take of our society.

      But I have a friend who has struggled with similar issues. She's a single mom with 3 kids, and could probably "get by" without assistance, but it would sure be hard. She finally came to the conclusion that the assistance she receives allows her to give her children a much higher quality of life - both because of the direct assistance and because it allows her not to have to have a second job, which means that she can actually be there for her kids. And all of that goes a LONG way towards helping them to grow up to be happy & healthy people, opening up SOOOO many more opportunities for their futures than they might otherwise be able to have.

      And when you look at the big picture of it all, making sure your kids have food and you can go to the doctor is a TINY investment for society, but it's one that will pay HUGE dividends not only for your family, but for the society as a whole.

      That's my take anyhow!

  4. Wow you have several major issues touched on here. The first is the welfare system and what should be considered acceptable when purchasing items with food stamps. In my mid 20s I decided to go to college. To do so I had to have enough money to pay daycare for 2 children (student loans covered that) and be able to support them on my own. Since the courts ordered my child support to be only $32 dollars a week (to cover the needs of two boys) I decided to rely on public assistance. I rushed through college to be able to get off as soon as possible because I didn't want my children to ever see this.

    I received a total of $158 in cash 2 times a month, and $60 in food stamps to feed the three of us. It was tight, but I managed to make it all work. I didn't have cable, or drive my car much. I allotted $10 a month for gasoline, and had to save that in case I needed to drive one of the boys to the doctor. Before going on assistance I had purchased a VHS player, and our treat once a month was to buy a frozen pizza, and a container of ice cream. Treats the rest of the month were out of the question. Then to make the night complete I rented a movie, cheaper than going out. You should have seen the looks and comments about my buying pizza and ice cream. Halloween I also bought candy to hand out with my stamps, that was always good for a few comments from others.

    I was only on assistance for 3 years. Afterwards, I struggled but hey that's life. Things didn't change much except our pizza was delivered (a large pizza with one topping was $6). I still rented movies, and purchased one container of ice cream a month, but no one cared what I bought when I used cash to make those purchases.

    In a society so extravagant with their spending, especially on their children, it's hard to raise children without what all their friends and classmates have.

    Were my children and I entitled, or deserved, to have the pizza, ice cream and a movie rental. I don't know if that's the correct word, but as human beings aren't we deserving enough to be allowed to have a treat once in a while without being judged? I was being judged on a couple of things I bought without any one knowing or caring what I did with the rest of my money. I didn't buy alcohol, I didn't pay sitters so I could go out, I didn't buy new clothes for myself or make up, or get my hair done, or any of those things. But so what?

    Now to the question of the economy. There are two important parts to the economy. Spending and saving. Saving is important to stimulate the ability of the banks to loan money, whereas spending is what keeps people in jobs. I have a drastically different view of how this should work in my world. I save because I don't want to run short in an emergency, I spend but almost exclusively locally to keep the local businesses going, not the large corporation. My one son tells me I hurt the economy because by buying from consignment stores and thrift shops I'm not creating jobs for manufacturing. No I'm not, but nothing is manufactured here anyway any more, so why not keep the local small businesses going and save money for myself. There are enough people, like CatMan's friend who will do enough spending for me in other ways.

    Is is fair that one person works 60-70 hours while you work as little as possible. Yes! If they want to live the consumerist way then they need to work for what they want. If you, or I, don't want to be consumers, then it's only fair that we work for what we need. If the person who works those ungodly hours should decide to reduce their wants they too could reduce the hours they work, it's still a free country, in some ways.

    1. Thank you for your points about not judging and not knowing the whole story..I tend to think 'birth surely that is not a need' about anything that is not food, water, shelter etc...

      I also find it hard to watch people I know (like someone I know who lives in cluttered house with credit card debts and a) won't get rid of any stuff without going through the drawn out process of selling it in case it has value and b) keeps buying more stuff, clothes, for example, not necessarily through physical need but, from what I can see, as an emotional comfort. Although not a very long term comfort as it does not help the financial situation!!) Anyway, I find it hard not to go all preachy and shout 'can you see the light?!' (in my head, not an actual crazy person) as to me it seems obvious that there are things that might make them happier and less stressed. But it is their life, their choice and I should just get on with mine I guess :)

    2. Lois, I am so totally impressed with the way you managed to raise your boys with so little. And it makes me soooo sad that you had to endure so much judgement for such a small monthly "treat."

      I'm thinking about your comment about saving money allowing banks to have money to loan out. I've actually heard that, counter-intuitive as it sounds, it doesn't actually work that way. I'm not entirely sure how true this is, but I've heard that banks somehow "create" money in the process of making loans - something to do with how the Federal Reserve works. Anyhow, I can't remember the details but here's a link to some videos that supposedly explain it all. Haven't had a chance to watch them yet.

      Not sure what my point is with all that, I just thought it was interesting.

      I think your point about manufacturing is spot on. You're probably doing WAY more to create good hometown jobs by shopping consignment stores than the big box variety. Plus, you're not contributing to the sweat shop slave labor situation!

    3. Nicola - I'm totally cracking up picturing you standing there yelling "Can you see the light?!?" That is something I also want to do frequently!

      I agree that many people are trying to use physical things to "medicate" an emotional situation - I certainly know that I've been there. But you are totally right that people have to make their own choices. I guess at this point in my life I'm just trying to be an example for them that there is another way to live.

  5. I don't think any of us "deserve" anything. I don't think we come into this world "owed" a thing. Once we're adults, we should take some responsibility in taking care of ourselves.

    That said, as human beings, we're all in this world together. We ought to look out for one another. We ought to see value in every human being. I think we fail as a society in our lack of compassion for those who are hurting in some way, whether it's financial, emotional or physical.

    And I think we are far too quick to judge others' choices. I try to remind myself that I don't know the whole story. I don't know the circumstances. I don't know a person's background or how far they've already come. I just don't know, so I try to hold off on judgement. It isn't my job to judge anyone.

    And as for consume vs. not consume, I think there will always be enough consumers out there to offset any impact on our economy caused by the non-consumers. I know some people who are doing the job for a small city of non-consumers!

    1. Your points on judgement are spot on... and I fear I have to remind myself not to judge more frequently than I would like.

      You've also reminded me that the entire concept of "deserving" is a human construct. I mean it all presupposes some sort of societal contract. Hmmmm... more thoughts to ponder...

  6. Two thoughts about society needing to be consumers to keep the economy going are I don't subscribe to it personally(Oh I do buy things but only after much thought and then I buy the best well made product I can so it will last forever)and this is no way to run a country and if it's really true then we need a new model.The idea of continual growth is wrong, and if that means we all have to go back to a lower standard of living the so be it.
    I agree with Lili...the world owes us nothing.
    The idea that we can rape and pillage our world and environment because we think we "deserve" nice things is insulting to the majority of our world's population who are dying from hunger and disease.
    I find that the less I buy and consume the more I hate shopping and consumerism.

    I love your posts-they are always thought provoking...and of course there's the cats :)


    1. Infinite growth in a finite world... seems like a train wreck in the making to me! I totally agree that we need a new model. In my darker moments I think the only way we'll ever see one is after this society crashes and burns, and we have to start all over. OK... I need some more LOLCATS to lighten my mood after that dark thought! :-)

  7. The fact is that life is not fair and equal. There are always going to be others that are better or worse off than we are. Given that, we need to do the best we can with what we've got. This applies to all aspects of life including our finances. If someone can afford an I-phone and they want one, then they should get it. If they can't afford it, then they shouldn't get it. It's that simple. Once we get past the basic needs of food, shelter, and access to medical care, there are other things that might be nice to have, but they are not necessary. That's a fact of life that we have to remember as adults.

    1. Another excellent point! I also think that the whole "it's not fair" thing gets really magnified because we all have a tendency to think that "everybody else" has it so much better than we do, regardless of whether or not that's actually true. I often have to remind myself that we each have our own crosses to bear, some are just more apparent than others.

  8. I'm tempted to utter some hackneyed phrase like "we know the price of everything and the value of nothing . . . ." There is so much demonization of the poor these days. My fb wall is slammed with people wanting me to jump on a bandwagon demanding drug testing of welfare recipients, and many of these posts are full of invective and denigrating characteristics of welfare recipients. I'd be tempted to say that these people are ignorant, and have never known hard times, but the irony is when I comment on their posts, as often as not I found out that they themselves availed themselves of unemployment, disability, welfare or some other government program, or are currently entirely reliant on social security and medicare. Yet somehow, everyone ELSE who has received assistance from a government program is a lazy grifter sucking on the government teat and destroying society, while THEY are the virtuous exception of a person who REALLY DESERVED the help. Having spent a third of my childhood in a household that relied on unemployment/government aid and food stamps and medicaid, I take their comments a bit personally. What do we DESERVE? What does anyone DESERVE? Why do we even engage in the project of human civilization? To escape the otherwise "short, nasty and brutish" fate we would face but for the social contract. Either we deserve nothing because we are merely living entities here to engage in a survival of the fittest competition until we die, or we deserve the mutual respect that is implied by the social contract, which relies on us all realizing we share a common fate. Homelessness-->Despair-->Crime-->Illness-->Public Health and Safety collapse-->threat to civilization. The fact that most people who demonize the poor have such short sightedness that they can't think this many steps ahead about the consequences of their line of thinking, always leaves me scratching my head.

    1. Wow... such an EXCELLENT comment. Ultimately, social programs make everything SOOOO much better for everybody - even those who never need them.

      The other part that gets to me about this whole "freeloader" argument is that nobody ever points out that the amount spent on all of these social programs put together pales in comparison to the hundreds of billions of dollars of government subsidies that we happily hand over to multi-billion dollar corporations every day! Apparently hungry children, veterans and the poor are not "deserving" of our charity, but Exxon Mobile and the Koch brothers are.

  9. It is so hard to not judge how others spend their money, especially when you know they are on public assistance. My former neighbors, for example, had two young children and two very large dogs (I think they had two cats, too). They both worked, but his hours were cut.

    Their utilities were shut off when it was legal to do so and they used camping lanterns and candles for light. A tire went flat on one of their cars and they drove it with the rubber donut spare. And yet they somehow had money for beer and cigarettes and pizza delivery.

    They were eventually evicted and I know at least one of the dogs was given away. I couldn't help but wonder if they had better money management skills or were willing to make sacrifices (give up the beer and cigarettes, find good homes for the pets), would they and their children have been able to keep the utilities on, have enough money for rent and be able to stay in their home?

    It is interesting to hear or read what others feel are necessities and what are luxuries. I grew up poor so my list of what is a necessity and what is a luxury is usually very different from many others I have read or heard.

    1. I hear you... it is so hard not to judge. But I think Stefani's comments below really hit the nail on the head. Drugs and alcohol can be both the cause and the result of poverty.

      You know, I saw a TV show once (Extreme Makeover Weight loss Edition - it's terrible I know, I but even I succumb to reality television now and then.) Anyhow, the woman with the weight problem was really struggling with issues surrounding her father, who had pretty much abandoned her as a child and was fairly absorbed in a drug and alcohol problem. So the woman was talking about how angry she was at her father that he always put the drugs and alcohol before her, and the therapist said something that I thought was very interesting.

      She said in essence that that the woman needed to realize that in a very real sense her father had an emotional disability. That he was incapable of dealing with his emotions and thus had turned to drugs and alcohol. And just as if she had a parent who was confined to a wheelchair she wouldn't expect them to go on a hike with her, she couldn't reasonably expect to get emotional support from a man who really didn't have it to give.

      I thought it was a very practical and non-judgmental way to look at it. I mean, on some level we just see it as irresponsible behavior, but I think that there are always deeper emotional issues at the root of it, and so I'm trying really hard to be compassionate rather than judgmental - I don't always succeed, but I am trying! :-)

  10. Question for this readership:

    Do you think adopting a frugal/non-consumer lifesstyle is easier for someone who was poor growing up?

    I go back and forth on this when contemplating seeking a less stressful job that will give me more flexibility. Some days, I think I'm not afraid of poverty because me and poverty are old acquaintences, and some of the happiest times in my life have also been some of the poorest times in my life.

    Other times, I think I am abnormally attached to financial security because of having been impoverished. (While simultaneously lacking really good financial habits as a result of having to learn these on my own the hard way. My mom still thinks loans = free money, bills don't need to be paid, and all money in the hand should be spent. "Hey, tomorrow's the end of the month and I still have $20! Let's party!") This is poverty psychology.)

    I think it might be possible for both of these seemingly conflicting states of mind to coexist ("I'm not afraid of poverty because I know it" and "I never want to be poor again because I know it").

    Maybe the positive side of it is, I am very aware that I am the exact same person I was when I had to count pennies at the end of the month for lousy cheap Meow Mix cat food and a bagel, and that I don't believe poor people are less valuable. In that way, I'm not afraid of poverty from the perspective of self worth. I am however, afraid of not having housing, health care, veterinary bill money -- essentials. And perhaps shamefully, just slightly still deterred by the social stigma associated with poverty, even deliberate poverty. Because that's out in full effect as discussed here . . .

    Just sign me --

    Underneath the veneer of respectability, still a social parasite


    1. Now that is a very interesting question. I can absolutely see the dichotomy there. I didn't grow up poor, but we certainly had MUCH less money than the people around us. As a kid, all I wanted was to have the things that all my friends did - and I even chose my college at least in part because there were a lot of rich people there and I figured I'd learn the "tricks of the trade" so to speak. Of course, what I ended up learning was that rich and happy quite often did not go hand in hand.

      But for me, at least, choosing to live with less feels totally different than having it foisted upon me. I always feel like I'm on a mission to "outsmart the system" - it's almost a game sometimes. I'm not totally sure that this is true, but I always figure that the worst thing that could possibly happen is that I'd have to go get a real job - which is where most people are already, so really, there's nothing to lose!

    2. "Do you think adopting a frugal/non-consumer lifesstyle is easier for someone who was poor growing up?"

      In my opinion, yes. We poor folk are already used to living without, making do with what we have and generally don't miss or care about the frills that other folks seem to. At least, I don't. I had plenty of money for awhile, but I don't anymore. And I don't miss it. I have everything I need, with a little money in the bank for emergencies. I have a low paying but low stress job and I am content. The big money job came with big stress and I was miserable. I now make half of what I did and am twice as happy!

  11. Re: Alcohol (and drug) use by people with little or no money.

    I believe, and have seen firsthand, that very often alcohol abuse by the poor is a coping mechanism. Essentially self-medicating for psychological problems which have a relatioship to the poverty status (either contributed to the circumstances leading to poverty, or resulted from those circumstances). I saw my mom descend into depression and drinking after 6 months of trying and failing to get a job after being fired. I am certain there was a relationship.

    So, when people ignore other needs and buy beer and cigarettes or other intoxicants, I'm not sure they are acting out of free choice. It's maddening to watch, because certainly it doesn't improve their situation, but I think often that is a reason.

  12. Oh man, I have so much to say here but don't know where to start. For those here who do not know me, I raise my family of 5 on $1200 a month, last years taxes show an annual income of less than $14,000 ( it was just under) Is that considered "Poor" LOL? Hubby left (by my force) a decent paying job that left him with 2 heart attacks by age 38, the same year the economy fell flat. NOw the only thing we have is his one minimum wage job that he was lucky enough to find when we moved to a small rural town.

    Anyways I do not feel entitled to anything but making what I make out of my own life by the sweat of my own blood. We do not get food stamps or medical or anything however the last several months as things have gotten worse and worse it seems financially oh do I stare at those applications online for them wondering it it is time to turn for help.

    Americans sense of feelings of "entitlement" actually pisses me off and while I know I do not have the right to judge, I do find myself "Judging" the choices of the poor or those who make lots of money screaming they can't make it because they blow a hole in their pocket. I actually lost a friend of 30 years when I told her I did not want to hear her whining anymore about evictions or shut off notices while they made $60,000 a year and borrowed another $30,000 a year from her in-laws to live a high life all the while I made it as a single mom on $9,000 at the time.

    When our car breaks down, we bike the 5 miles to town DAILY , hubby for work and me to haul 80 lbs of groceries back on a bike without a trailer on it, so all on back packs on the handles........with a bad back and health issues...NOT EASY. Then the same day bike another 15 miles looking for returnable cans, or foraging for apple trees or whatever it takes! While my 2 adult children lay around playing face book games all day waiting for the world to hand everything to them without an ounce of effort. I shake my head wondering how they got that way because they actually feel ENTILED to a lazy life that everything is handed to them , no effort given, no ambition, complaining how bored they may be........this PISSES ME OFF!

    Smoking? yeah I dont drink but 2 or 3 glasses of wine maybe twice a year ( um superbowl sunday do I get slack for that? LOL) But YES I SMOKE. When my fuel tank reaches zero and I still have no money and the panic attacks hit I smoke up a storm. While my cupboards start getting bare and I honestly don't know where I can squeeze more money out for food, I smoke. While my sons Dad buys gifts to send home to me that I then in return have to turn around an pay things I never would of done such as WI-Fi/high speed internet for a laptop for a lap top or xbox live memberships, it pisses me off and I smoke because of added bills I can't afford. I smoke so I don't have a heart attack from abnormal levels of stress at times. While not making excuses it IS STUPID to smoke but also a habit after 30 years of doing I am finding VERY difficult to break!) It is my ONLY stress relieving device though.

    Entitled? I think we as a society are spoiled little brats for the most part and most people now adays would not know an honest days work if it hit them in the face.

    Medical? I dont think we are entiteled to that either I stare at the application because hubby is begging me as I may be facing a health issue that may very well take my life in a few years. But honestly modern medicine only has succeeding in over populating us as we now live longer, and maybe, just maybe we should accept when it is our time to go as nature intended. ( Not something I usually discuss as I believe in positive thought and our bodies are designed to heal themselves when right healthy choices are made to allow that healing)

    I think money and materialism has totally screwed up priorities and values.......when children only average 15 minutes a day of quality time with a parten there is something WRONG with that picture.

    1. I think the big issue here is that community has been lost, nobody knows their neighbors or wants to know them. I am not one that buys into the economy will collaspe without high consumption, but I do believe communities need to be re-built as they were intended in the old days. They should support and help one another, aide one another, care for one another building relationships that will endure and stenghten all for the betterment of the community itself.

    2. Lots to think about here. So much, in fact, that I had to break my response into separate comments because Blogger wouldn't let me blather on so long! :)

      First of all, I want to say that I'm really impressed with your resourcefulness and resolve to make it despite your circumstances. I also really understand the anger at the whole notion of entitlement.

      That being said, I guess I tend to take a fairly big picture pragmatic view when considering this sort of thing. I mean, I think it's easy to get caught up in what is or isn't "fair" and who does or doesn't "deserve" this or that. But on some level none of that is really the point.

      It's like we, as a society have "agreed" (I use that term loosely) that it is better for all of us if we don't have people starving on the streets, and if we provide a pathway to help people get back on their feet when life kicks them to the ground. I think Stefani made some excellent points below - "kicking people to the curb" as she put it tends to create a snowball effect of other potentially more serious consequences.

      Lots to think about here.

      First of all, I want to say that I'm really impressed with your resourcefulness and resolve to make it despite your circumstances. I also really understand the anger at the whole notion of entitlement.

      That being said, I guess I tend to take a fairly big picture pragmatic view when considering this sort of thing. I mean, I think it's easy to get caught up in what is or isn't "fair" and who does or doesn't "deserve" this or that. But on some level none of that is really the point.

      It's like we, as a society have "agreed" (I use that term loosely) that it is better for all of us if we don't have people starving on the streets, and if we provide a pathway to help people get back on their feet when life kicks them to the ground. I think Stefani made some excellent points below - "kicking people to the curb" as she put it tends to create a snowball effect of other potentially more serious consequences.

      I also think that we in this society have a somewhat unrealistic picture of those who have "made it on their own." I mean, it's easy to paint people who accept food stamps or welfare as societal leeches, but in a very real sense we all "leech" off of each other every single day - that's just part of the give and take of living within a society.

      For example. I don't have kids, but I still have to pay property taxes, most of which goes towards paying for public schools, which is a service that I will obviously never get to use. I suppose I could look at it as if my neighbors' kids were somehow leeching off of me, but I don't see it that way. In my mind, we're not paying to educate our own kids per se, we're paying to live in an educated society.

      Similarly, look at all the other ways that people accept government handouts without ever even realizing it. CatMan did a calculation a few years ago and figured that if you include all of the government subsidies, tax breaks, and support systems (pipelines etc.) the actual cost of a gallon of gasoline is something like $18.50. We, of course, pay nothing remotely like that because our government picks up a huge chunk of the tab.

      But because we never see that subsidy we don't think of gasoline as the government subsidized product that it really is. Sooo... do you think that folks driving around in gas guzzling Hummer limos feel guilty about accepting $15/gallon in gasoline "welfare?" I don't think so!

    3. And don't EVEN get me started on the billions upon billions of tax dollars that are handed out to other giant corporations... or the billions upon billions of tax dollars that are never even collected because rich individuals and corporations have found ways to "game the system" and shelter their wealth from taxes!

      But in a real sense, I can't blame them for taking advantage of whatever the system gives them - that's the way it works! I may not like or agree with the system, and I think it's my responsibility to work to change the parts I disagree with, but in the meantime it's the system we've got, and we all have to live within it - and it's really not fair to you to refuse what is due to you simply because you don't like the way the system is set up.

      It's sort of like in sports when your team benefits from a referee making a really bad call. What do you do... refuse to accept the penalty? No... you take it, because you know that next time the chips could just as easily fall in the other direction.

      I guess that's all my long-winded way of saying that I really think you should take advantage of every program that you're eligible for... especially the medical stuff. Just practically speaking it will probably cost society much less to treat you now than it will to treat you later after it becomes an emergency!

      And with other programs as well... I mean think how much more you would be able to contribute to your community if you didn't have to struggle so much personally. As resourceful as you are, I can only imagine the things you could do if you could get a leg up and devote your energies to something bigger than collecting cans - and that's really the point of programs like welfare and food stamps. It seems to me that helping you feed your family and get medical care for a little while is a pretty trivial investment for society to make when you look at what we'd get in return - we'd get you able to dedicate your amazing energies back into society!

      OK... I'll stop ranting now. On a totally different topic, CatMan used to work as a therapist with former heroine addicts, and EVERY SINGLE ONE of them said that quitting heroine was a piece of cake compared to quitting smoking, so you're certainly not alone in that struggle.

      Thanks so much for sharing so much of your story and your perspective. I wish you the very best!


    4. Oops! Sorry for the duplicate info there... guess I messed up in my cutting and pasting.

    5. Stop staring at those applications and fill them out! You'll be a whole lot less stressed and healthier if you can get a bit of help for the time being. And, if it makes you feel better, when you are back on your feet and doing well, you can "pay it back" by helping out someone less fortunate. What goes around comes around, even the good stuff!

  13. Poor to rich:

    The problem I see with assailing people feeling "entitled" to basic necessities like food, housing, health care and -- what's next? education? -- is that there is no rational measure to judge the reasonableness of this sense of entitlement unless you agree that it is reasonable to assume that we as a civil society should want our members to have these things. Increasingly, these necessities are out of reach for a larger and larger percentage of the population. Take someone in your husbands situation who ends up being unable to keep his job with health benefits after a medical crisis, who then cannot find or perform at another position where he will be able to have medical. What do we do with people in that situation? Kick them to the curb?

    Take someone who was too dumb to realize that the real estate market wouldn't keep going up, who bought the line of bullshit sold to them by the predatory lender, who found thsmselves unable to make ballooning payments, who lost their home and their credit right along with it, who can't get an apartment even now due to this bad credit and is essentially homeless. With kids. What do we do? Kick them to the curb?

    Food? What about the social costs of a family that cannot afford to eat healthy food? Who instead can only afford the various permutations of corn syrup and MSG at 99 cents a bag/box. Who end up obese and with diabetes, kids with behavioral problems due to chemicals, making education next to impossible . . . what do we do? kick them to the curb?

    And once we've kicked this substantial slice of society to the curb, what then? Without an educated workforce to do our jobs, do we simply import educated workers from China where they value educating the talented, or do we instead simply send our jobs overseas?

    When we are stepping over sick homeless people and having public health crisis one after another due to epidemics in the street, what do we do? How do we absorb the impact on our economy and quality of life?

    When there are so many aging, sick people and not adequate resources to care for them and not enough educated people to work and generate a tax base to care for them much less directly provide care, what then?

    It's all connected . . . I don't believe we can be a prosperous society by turning poverty into a moral shortcoming, but believe it's important to analyze and address the causes of poverty.

    Maybe we can find some answers in Scandinavia. Their societies seem to be doing very well compared to the rest of the world . . .

    1. I think you've really nailed it with this comment. It's SOOOO not about what's personally "fair" or not, it's about giving people the best chance possible to become/stay productive members of society - because all of us are better off living in a society full of people who can participate and contribute.

  14. PS. I work in the IT field. I love and adore my employees from China. They are very hard workers, they are not cultural inclined to brag or overestimate their own skills, they are fabulous employees. But I do take mental note, with some concern, that we can scarcely find an educated American worker to do the jobs we hire them for. Those individuals are very very very few and far between.

    1. My husband did not have medical when he had his decent job, and yeah he was pretty much kicked to the curb by being told go go right back to work not even 8 hours after having a heart attack. He was getting ready to have a third when I forced the issue of him leaving.

      But look, nobody thinks the same, spends the same, lives the same for we are not a collective mind and this is going to make any solution a difficult one if not an impossible one.

      But I do believe that if we are going to use modern medicines to extend life, and have a defective system in place that encourages over eating, and eating bad food choices that many still go unaware of which leads to health problems to the uninsured, there is a definate need for reviewing and rebuilding a new structure. In one sense we add to the population problems, and yet in the other direction our foods, water and air are causing us to be filled with more diseases at younger ages....there may be something to be said for that statement perhaps?

      I do believe in free choices though and in the very abundance of our country and if people can re-learn all the crap that has been spoon fed to them to believe in and start thinking for themselves and out of the box, that things could lead to a much brighter future.

      I tell people we are where we are in large due the the many choices we have made on our path, and yet while we have less money, for the most part we are much happier because our choices reflect our values and principles we live by.

      I am not saying to not have compassion for those in need and the less fortuante, but I also know, how you look at things makes a big difference in whether you feel lacking or see a life full of love, joy and daily gratitude. Yet I also plan on improving our situation so I can help and make a difference in the lives of those struggling with poverty......after all I have struggled with it most my life and it is a matter dear to my heart.

      I will also admit to making my own fair share of stupid mistakes, after all I learned frugality from my mother and grandmother, but I was never taught money management and had to learn as I went and made mistakes.

    2. Sorry I seem to be rambling with no true direction, forgive me, I must be tired.

      I just don't think we are owed anything , yet no clue what the solution is to a rapidly growing problem.

    3. Well, the issue of over-population is a whole other discussion. I tend to agree that we're fast heading toward a situation where there are more people than the planet can actually support. But I don't think that withholding health care is a good solution. I personally think that we need to work on improving access to, and education about birth control - both within our country and beyond its borders. We also need to look at our economic systems and deal with the situations where people feel compelled to have large families for financial reasons. If it takes 5 kids to provide for you in your retirement, we've got a serious problem!

      And in terms of healthy food choices - it seems to me that our farm policies are at least partly to blame for that. When you have a system that subsidizes all of the worst foods, you're bound to end up exactly where we currently are.

  15. i actually read a book and in one part they mentioned a survey that was conducted that weighed personal happiness against income... apparently your happiness will increase with money up to about $80,000 a year in salary, and then after the people making any more money than that weren't any happier than anyone below them. The reason for this is that the main thing money can do is give you security. Reduce stress in your life and worry. Therefore, people who dont spend their money on stupid things are usually happier. :) Also, it said that television is one of the main things that gets us to spend money because we're exposed to not just commercials, but shows like The Real Housewives and Keeping Up with the Kardashians that turns us on to a "glamorous" life. But an interesting thing it pointed out about the housewives is that theyre not even actually rich. Most of them end up with mortages they can never pay. Its all just a show for tv. This all from the book "How to be smarter, richer, and happier than your parents" by zac bissonnette

  16. i actually read a book and in one part they mentioned a survey that was conducted that weighed personal happiness against income... apparently your happiness will increase with money up to about $80,000 a year in salary, and then after the people making any more money than that weren't any happier than anyone below them. The reason for this is that the main thing money can do is give you security. Reduce stress in your life and worry. Therefore, people who dont spend their money on stupid things are usually happier. :) Also, it said that television is one of the main things that gets us to spend money because we're exposed to not just commercials, but shows like The Real Housewives and Keeping Up with the Kardashians that turns us on to a "glamorous" life. But an interesting thing it pointed out about the housewives is that theyre not even actually rich. Most of them end up with mortages they can never pay. Its all just a show for tv. This all from the book "How to be smarter, richer, and happier than your parents" by zac bissonnette

    1. I've heard similar things, although the figure was much smaller (like around $20K) - but it was a while ago. Anyhow, I totally agree about the security thing... although I also think that security can be had for much less money if you are willing to lower your standards a bit.

      And I also have to say THANK YOU for FINALLY giving me some clue who these Kardashian people are! I guess I live under a cabbage leaf because I've never heard of either of those TV shows - but I have heard people talk endlessly about someone named Kim Kardashian and I never had a clue who they were referring to. Seriously, at first I thought it was a Star Trek character (Cardassian rather than Kardashian.) Oh well... it took me years to figure out that Paris Hilton wasn't a hotel in France!


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