We have enough wealth to ensure that no one suffers from food or housing or even money insecurity. Until we do that, I’ll have a job.
I love being a money coach. There are few things in life that make me more energized and satisfied as when I help people through their blocks and to their own “light bulb moments” where things seem to click, and what felt impossible become achievable.
I help people move people from money anxiety to financial empowerment. And who doesn’t want to feel financially empowered? Who doesn’t want to feel that yes, you can do it?
But with so many people facing severe money anxiety, and now more than ever due to the pandemic, I am fully aware that the need for my services shows that as a society, we have failed our citizens, especially our most vulnerable.
Which is why I say that I would love to be out of a job.
Table of Contents
The screwed economy
The U.S. has built a society where, if you have problems making things work, well, sucks to be you.
This didn’t have to be. The U.S. is the wealthiest nation on the planet. Clearly if people have enough money to buy their own islands and ride out the pandemic in a yacht offshore, then we can make sure that other people, if they can’t afford food or medical services, don’t die.
“Yes, but we don’t want to encourage idleness,” is the refrain. “If we give too much, then people will take advantage of the system and not work, and not pull their own weight.“
Call me naive, but, what exactly is wrong with that? What’s wrong with some people not pulling their own weight? Why does everyone need to pull their own weight?
But also, some people can’t pull their own weight, through medical issues, or psychological trauma, or other infirmary of some point. Should they starve or die?
In the U.S., everyone over the age of 65 gets Medicare, a national health insurance program. Everyone who exists below a certain poverty line gets access to Medicaid, a national insurance program for those experiencing low-income.
Everyone else? Figure it out. Hope you have a job that offers you health insurance. Can’t work? Try the marketplace. Overwhelmed and exhausted by the options? Sorry, that’s just how it goes.
And I don’t know, but I feel like that’s just mean.
We have enough wealth to feed, house, and keep alive pretty much everyone. But we’ve decided that this isn’t important. Forget about Black Lives Matter, this is “No Lives Matter”.
But actually, it is Black Lives Matter. Because as it turns out, this system of screwing the poor is actually racist in origin. According to a paper in the Harvard Institute of Economic Research, the reasoning behind the U.S. lack of a social safety net when compared to Europe’s, is roughly due to its “racial heterogeneity”, i.e. because there were different kinds of people in the country, and, as it turns out, we collectively decided that we didn’t want those people to thrive, even if it meant that more of us wouldn’t thrive.
So, congrats, if you’re feeling money anxiety, it’s because of racism, even if you’re white, or otherwise part of our dominant culture.
Call me crazy but
Let’s say that you’d like to change careers. You have a partner and a child. Your partner works full time, and child-care is expensive.
If you were to quit your job to devote your time to school or training for your new career, you are automatically financially disincentivized. You will have lost your income, and you make it harder for your family to get by.
But isn’t that, well, stupid? Don’t we want people to be able to move between careers so as to align people’s best skills to their work? Don’t we want economic mobility?
And yes, it would be best if said family had built up a year’s worth of emergency fund and lived off it while transitioning careers. But not everyone has that privilege, and do we want to punish people who don’t?
Apparently, we do.
So we punish those in disadvantaged positions, which keeps those people in, well, disadvantaged positions.
I can’t help but feel like this is intentional.
Remember the pandemic?
As I’m writing this, people on unemployment in this country are getting $600 extra dollars each month.
(This provision was championed by my state senator, Ron Wyden, so I’m feeling a little home-state pride right now.)
The idea is that, as we need to stay home and not work so that we don’t all get sick and die, we want to make it easier for people to do that.
In effect, we said, “sorry you can’t earn a living, but we’re going to keep you afloat in the meantime.“
It turns out that this was kind of brilliant. During the first few months of the pandemic, the poverty level actually went down!
But, unbelievably, people were against this use of government largess, because people were making more money not working than they were working. “We’re never going to recover economically from the pandemic if everybody is at home watching Netflix.“
Apparently, it doesn’t matter if these people die. Again: No Lives Matter.
All of this is entirely backwards. If you are making more not working than you are working, then the problem isn’t the high unemployment wages, it’s low wages you were making when you were working.
Isn’t the goal to build everyone up? Don’t we want the poverty level to go down?
See above. No, we have decided we don’t.
So now the $600 is going away, and…what? We are in effect forcing people to go back to work and risk infection and death in our most vulnerable communities. And why? We certainly didn’t need to do this.
If you are anxious, I understand. You have every right. Our government is like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, yelling at the struggling salespeople to “f*** or walk”.
But we’re yelling that at people who have a broken leg.
And make no mistake, we all have a broken leg. We may not have it all the time, but almost all of us will have one at some point.
But why not dream?
What if we were to give everyone enough money to live on, not necessarily in luxury, but just enough so that they didn’t need to worry about housing insecurity, food insecurity, and medical insecurity?
What if people knew that their society valued each and every one of them, and set up system to not let them fall through the cracks, knowing that every single person has a value to our society?
What if people weren’t terrified about the future, how they’re going to take care of their family today, and how to live safely in their older years?
Well? I’d probably be out of a job.
But until then, we have to get to work. Because you can make progress to get to a better financial place, but you’re going to need all the help you can get.