Gimme my money!

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September 26, 2008 by 8junebugs

The U.S. economy continues its spectacular collapse, and I’m seeing responses that fall into two categories:

1: “Holy recession, Batman! I cannot peel my eyes away from MSNBC! Or CNN! Stop the commercials, people, this is effing serious!”

2: “Huh? So what? I don’t have money in that bank. The fundamentals of our ‘Merican economy are sound.”

If, by fundamentals, group #2 means the American reliance on credit and investments and lack of attention to personal finance, they’re dead wrong.

If group #2 means the American work ethic and ability to adapt in the face of hardship, they may well be dead wronger. I grew up with solid faith in this myself, and yet my experience in the workforce leads me to believe that we may be screwed six ways from Sunday.

The adaptable workforce, the sleeve-roller-uppers and the pound-wise penny pinchers whose parents taught them good ol’ Depression-proof values, are retiring. Our culture has maintained a level of economic comfort and downright luxury long enough that some of the Puritanical work ethic has been bred right out of us.

This is neither completely bad nor completely good — I believe it’s quite wonderful that a generation and a half has had the miracle of the internets and the convenience of ATMs and mobile phones and the like. But I also believe it’s softened these newer Americans in a way that leaves them unprepared for a less comfortable lifestyle.

There are always exceptions (and let’s not forget how many of our fellow citizens continue to struggle to make ends meet, much less achieve their full potential), and humans are by nature fairly adaptable. But we are also creatures of habit, and our current American habits make me wish I’d never read Atlas Shrugged, much less read it once a year since 1997.

For those of you who did not grow up on Mary Poppins, the post title is what young Michael Banks screams when Dick Van Dyke’s character snatches tuppence from his little hand, thus kicking off the scene that taught me what a “run on a bank” really is. Or was, in 1910. Now it would just break the internets.

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