I‘ve been taking my own advice, and doing my darnedest to avoid proffering half-baked opinions on the Coronavirus matter, a matter that’s producing new (and often conflicting) information every day. There are, however, countless others who are seizing on the fallout to thump their treasured drums and flog their favorite themes, unabashedly and in the broadest sense.

One crossed my path this morning, and it tickled some genetic-ancestral memories. It came across, as all good bullshit does, as a graphical meme, complete with a bold border and sharp red underlining to stress key phrases and dog-whistles.

There are enough falsehoods, errors, and logical fallacies in those two sentences that, were you to make a drinking game out of naming them, you’d end up rather deep in your cups, so, I’ll leave them for your Saturday-night entertainment.

Instead, I want to address the “one paycheck from poverty” angle of this. It’s not a new assertion, with a report that 40% of Americans live in this state making a splash early last year.

The sub-context or implication of this assertion is that the economy isn’t working for most Americans the way they are being told. It’s likely that you, the reader, already know the punch line, especially if you’re familiar with Aesop’s fable, The Ants & the Grasshopper. While there is (of course) disagreement as to the deeper messaging of the tale, such disagreement misses the simplest conclusion: that the grasshopper didn’t act responsibly or with forethought.

So it goes in our modern society. Despite ubiquitous advice that each of us should have an “emergency fund” of at least three months’ living expenses (and some recommend six to nine), we hear these reports of the paycheck-to-paycheck living of nearly half the nation, and know it’s true. We also know that, in lieu of an emergency fund, many people have substantial credit card debt (in 2020, median debt is $2300 and mean debt is $5700), making things even worse.

No degree of economy-boom will change this state of affairs. It’s cultural. It’s a reflection of reduced personal responsibility, and it explains the increased affinity for socialism (which, boiled down to its current essence, is nothing more than “someone else take care of me” infantilism couched in bullshit about unfairness). Even if the socialists got their way, and converted our economy into that of their fantasies, we will STILL witness the utter lack of financial preparedness for a crisis such as this among a large chunk of the population. An even bigger chunk, I’d bet, than we currently see, because we’d be told “don’t worry, the government will cover your ass.”

But, as we are seeing, the government simply can’t provide for everyone, and that’s before we contemplate the already-gargantuan national debt.

I know, some will argue that living costs are such that it’s impossible for the average person to accumulate three months expenses in cash. With pretty rare exception, this doesn’t pass the sniff test. The success and ubiquity of fast food restaurants are by themselves a telltale as to reality. Truth be told, if you really wanted to pull together an emergency fund, all you’d have to do is cut back on dining out, on drinking, on your Starbucks venti matcha green tea Frappuccino, and on your Amazon retail-therapy for a while. In other words, exercise for a relatively brief time the discipline that your grandparents embraced for most of their lives, before credit cards and our grasshopper society emerged.

Perhaps, after the COVID-19 crisis has resolved, some might suddenly realize they need a bit more ant and a bit less grasshopper in life. Unfortunately, politicians rarely get elected on a platform of personal responsibility, no matter that the proof of their inability to be real substitutes for it is demonstrated, starkly, time and again.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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