atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,


Today I was thinking about money and jobs and work and life in the modern world, and I finally came up with an answer for the old poser in the Torah: "How much money is 'enough'?"

I'll tell you what "enough money" is: it's when you can pay your bills without having to scramble. It's when you can live in a reasonable fashion without having to fret every expenditure.

I was there once. I'll be there again, damn it; I'd just like it if it would happen sooner rather than later.

For my entire childhood my parents had "enough" money. We did not eat filet mignon every night, or even every once in a while, but I never noticed that, or cared. We did not live in a palacial home on 4.3 acres with a swimming pool, but I never cared about that either. (Well, on hot days, I cared about the lack of a swimming pool, but I somehow managed to survive a childhood without unlimited access to a pool.) I had clothes to wear and food to eat and I was never hot or cold to the point of misery.

...I was sometimes too warm or cool but my parents' answer to those complaints was for me to adjust how much clothing I was wearing or to adjust otherwise. I was not raised by helicopter parents, THANK GOD AND ALL THE SAINTS.

If I was bored, my parents did not take responsibility for it and immediately buy me new toys and games and-and-and; they told me to find something to do, so I did.

But they paid their bills on time, and they were able to do it (for most of my childhood) on one paycheck. By the time my dad was my present age--forty years ago--he had a house, four kids, and was planning on buying a new car in the coming summer, the last new car having been bought five years earlier.

Then again, my dad had a better economy to work with. In 1975 the economy was not doing all that well, but compared to today's economy it was going gangbusters, and that was some five-odd years before our federal government began the largest peacetime expansion of public debt ever, which has wrecked the purchasing power of the average person. Besides, in the 1970s, America was still the world's manufacturing powerhouse, though that was going to change soon thanks to EPA; in 1975 there was still a good market for labor.

One cannot do what my parents did in the 1960s and 1970s. Dad made a lot of money but we were still about the middle of the middle class at most; we certainly were not "rich" by any metric I can think of. Single-income families still exist but in general they are confined to the top 5% of incomes; they certainly are not common down in the middle class--and when they are, it's a temporary phenomenon, because no one can afford to support a family on a single income.

All that being the case--I don't mind having to work, and I don't mind paying my bills, but I do mind having to scramble all the damned time, and I mind sending out reams of resumes only to get one interview from the lot, and I mind a government that taxes the shit out of me while printing money so fast that I can't get ahead, and I mind the constant worries over this and that and the other thing that have to be paid, and I mind the nattering of the aristocrats who claim that I shouldn't be so upset because after all they don't have any problems with this economy! If I'm so broke I should just work harder, right? Find another job, you lazy slacker!

In the worst economy since 1930, I think I'm actually doing pretty well--but it doesn't mean I don't want to do better. I'm trying, damn it.

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