INSECURITY BEGETS A SAVINGS MENTALITY

Imagine living with such fear that a recession, an illness or bad weather could bankrupt you.
Some Americans live that way now, as do many around the world. But a few decades ago, nearly every American felt that insecurity.
New York Times columnist David Brooks, in a June 2012 column, says although the nation needs to reduce its deficit, Americans don’t really want to. Despite the political bluster, Brooks says, solving the real problem of reducing debt is fraught with political peril.
The current generation of Americans has been led to believe that debt is not a problem. They live on borrowed money, via credit cards, all the time, and think nothing of it. There is always insurance to take care of the big expenditures. Buy now, pay later. Or, pay a small premium and live without fear.
Before the plethora of insurance products, before credit cards became actual currency, Americans always lived in fear of that big event that would either kill them, or leave them penniless. The only way to postpone the inevitable was to save their money. That meant giving up a lot of things one might want, and even some things they need. People would die because they could not afford the treatment that would save them. Secure families were wiped out by drought, tornado or hurricane. There was no insurance, only self-insurance.
Even the staunchest deficit hawks don’t want to see EVERYONE, except for the very rich, living on the edge through no fault of their own. They even want room to save the irresponsible from themselves. But to do that costs money. Hence, we have a debate about government spending vs. over-taxation.
GOVERNMENT SPENDING IS DROPPING
Let’s frame the debate in reality. First, as economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman preaches, government spending IS decreasing, mostly at the local and state levels. Those budgets are getting balanced off the backs of teachers, firefighters, police officers and other government workers who are losing jobs at a rapid rate nationwide.
As we try to get more people back to work, every teacher, firefighter, police officer and other public worker who gets laid off ADDS to the unemployment problem. Think of what bigger cuts in government spending will do to unemployment. Would such cuts enhance the private sector to the degree that it could absorb all those government workers – plus a good number of those public and private employees already out of work? Common sense would say, probably not. That’s not even considering the PRIVATE businesses that might close as GOVERNMENT cuts more spending.
We do need to get government spending under control. We do need to get our national debt down. We need NOT to be indebted to foreign creditors, even though many of those creditors NEED a vibrant and free-spending U.S. to prosper themselves.
We see what Brooks was talking about when he referred to debt solutions as politically unpalatable. Many Americans love the idea of debt reduction, until it hits their own lives. Generations past were willing to risk everything – or at least they were FORCED to risk everything.
Today, there are things in place to cushion such risks. No one wants those cushions to be taken away, but we still have to reduce our national debt.
As individuals, we need to get our own houses in order FIRST. Eliminate, or reduce, unnecessary debt. The first rule: if you are buying something that will last years, it’s OK to borrow and pay back over time. If you are buying something to consume quickly, or in a short time, pay cash or don’t buy it at all.
The second rule: if you are a government worker, or have a private-sector job you feel will not last you as long as you want it, make sure you save as much of what you earn as possible. Then, establish a Plan B for income, so when your job disappears, you can walk out with a smile. For a great Plan B, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau.
As for national debt, it didn’t happen overnight, and it will take time to eliminate. We have to do it in a way that hurts the fewest people. Everyone won’t escape unscathed. We will all pay for it in some way. But some ways are less painful, overall, than others. Let’s find those ways. Let’s not go back to the days when we were one uncontrollable disaster away from bankruptcy.
Peter

One comment on “INSECURITY BEGETS A SAVINGS MENTALITY

  1. Pingback: Elizabeth Burrows

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