Friday, September 17, 2004

THE JOE ROGAN ADMINISTRATION. Here's a good, concise pdf from the Century Foundation, about rising personal debt in the U.S.A. (That TPM ad wasn't wasted, guys.) It is very clearly written, and peppered with astute and depressing observations like these:
Households are spending more of their incomes than ever on servicing their debts. The debt burden indicator constructed by the Federal Reserve, which measures how large a proportion of families’ incomes goes toward paying off debts, reached a new high recently... Low-income families have become especially vulnerable -- 27 percent of households in the lowest income group now report spending a staggering 40 percent of take-home earnings on debt payments.

Debt burdens are at record levels because families have been stretched to the limit in recent years. With more income going to housing and other rising expenses related to medical care, education, vehicles, child care, and so forth, families are relying on credit as a way to meet everyday needs. Remarkably, a family with two earners today actually has less discretionary income, after fixed costs like medical insurance and mortgage payments are accounted for, than did a family with only one breadwinner in the 1970s. [emphasis added]
This is one of those things that anyone who is over the age of 40, and who either lives in or has access to middle-class society, knows by both observation and instinct. Anyone who's trying to keep what was once a typical American life going, especially with kids and a house, knows that the slope's getting steeper.

But when you have pixie-dust salesmen like Larry Kudlow -- who thinks the President will landslide into a second term on the strength of the economy -- telling you that everything is going great, you might feel like a big loser if your own struggle isn't getting as exponentially easier as the economic experts tell you it should be.

So maybe a guy keeps his mouth shut about it, even to pollsters. For in the Fear Factory America has largely become, it hurts to admit defeat, or even a little weakness, because it is the same thing as loserhood, and in the modern imagination there is no greater crime than losing. So maybe he stays "positive," that is, works longer hours, or eats more bugs, just to stay even (and quietly accepts another five grand in debt to keep the house painted and the kids innoculated and the strain from showing too overtly); then, with the next jump in the price of staple goods, or the next disappointing raise, he steps up and does it again...

I wonder if the job has been done so well on him that he'll still feel that way in the voting booth.

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