Call Dr. Phil. Our twisted relationship with money needs an intervention. Oh, we've always been conflicted about wealth. We love to hate those who have more than we do. But we think our lives would be a lot better if we were Donald Trump.
Call Dr. Phil. Our twisted relationship with money needs an intervention.
Oh, we've always been conflicted about wealth.
We love to hate those who have more than we do. But we think our lives would be a lot better if we were Donald Trump.
Paying as little as possible for something garners praise, admiration and envy. But no one wants to be thought of as cheap.
America was built on capitalism. But captains of industry were heartless, soulless so-and-sos.
We like it when the woman who scrubbed floors for 40 years wins the lottery. But we know, in our heart of hearts, the windfall will ruin her life.
Disclosing one's salary is the height of bad manners. But we like to know exactly what pro athletes, Hollywood stars and politicians make, so we can shake our heads and wag our fingers. And wish we made that kind of money, too.
People were desperate during the Great Depression. But they saved their nickels to watch big-budget Busby Berkeley extravaganzas with costumes that cost enough to outfit Omaha.
And they enjoyed watching Huey Long breathing fire on Capitol Hill, throwing verbal grenades at the rich, pushing for redistribution of wealth, and making sure it was redistributed in ways that best met his needs.
If you've never seen Huey Long in the newsreels, just watch TV clips of Washington politicians railing against AIG last week. They did Long proud, though it's unlikely even the eyebrow-raising Kingfish would have joked American International Group execs should do the honorable thing and kill themselves.
Our elected officials screamed slurs and threats as if they'd found themselves in a bar brawl and were sure the other guy was too drunk to throw a punch.
On some sick level, it felt good. Our relationship with money may be nuts, but we're not. The fundamentals of capitalism tell us success, not failure, is rewarded. These bozos at AIG deserve our collective scorn. After all, it's our money being used to bail out these businesses too big to fail. We're extremely dissatisfied with the goods we were sold, so yes, we'd like our money back.
We'd rather use it on a bailout that helps us.
Which raises a problem. We can all agree helping AIG screw-ups isn't helping us, but what exactly would help the we-the-people us? Loans for small businesses? Extension of unemployment benefits? Saving people's homes? Road and infrastructure repair? Money for schools, special ed programs, health care or law enforcement?
Congress is supposed to act on our behalf. It's our elected officials' job to sort out what would most benefit most people.
But we know how that played out.
Same old, same old.
Same Huey Long-like outrage. Same Huey Long-like tradition of appointing friends, relatives and party loyalists to government jobs.
The kind of job we wish we had, where we could make a nice salary without much actual work.
The kind of job that's pretty much like getting a bonus for merely showing up to work at AIG.
Not the kind of jobs most of us actually do have, where pay is tied to performance, and even if you're tops in your field you could get laid off at any time, if you haven't been already.
We know it's wrong when someone else gets money for nothing, but there's something so darned appealing about the concept.
Appealing enough that Bravo is banking on the fact we haven't changed much in 75 years, and can't get enough of watching wealthy folks while we struggle through tough times.
"The Real Housewives of New Jersey," which debuts in May, "follows five of the most affluent Jersey Girls as they live lavish lifestyles and deal with all the drama that money can buy," according to bravotv.com.
Not having money can buy plenty of drama, too. Just not the kind that makes good reality TV.
We want reality we can't possibly attain.
Our train-wreck relationship with money makes us beg Bernie Madoff to take our life savings, even when we should know something's not right, then get irate because he's not breaking rocks in the hot sun.
Our love-hate affair makes us want to grab our torches and storm the homes of AIG officials, while taking great comfort in the fact Wall Street numbers are going up again.
So, Dr. Phil, can you explain our problem in that folksy way? Tell us this dog won't hunt? Help us grasp it would be easier to work through this chapter of America's financial history if we didn't have conflicted feelings every step of the way?
Or is it too late for an intervention anyway?
Julia Spitz can be reached at 508-626-3968 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check metrowestdailynews.com or milforddailynews.com for the Spitz Bits blog.