And Then, McMegan?

Megan McArdle thinks your choices were stupid:

The woman highlighted in the article, after all, is not going to be saved by Social Security; she’s 57. Without massive changes in spending, she’s headed for bankruptcy long before she’s eligible to collect benefits. That’s not to say that she’s a profligate spendthrift who deserves the pain she’s suffering; rather, the errors she’s made are incredibly common. That’s why it’s worth running through some of the most common mistakes that land people in these kinds of messes …

I still can’t think too hard about 2007 without a shudder: Both wage-earners in the house unemployed, me just out of the hospital after major surgery, the housing market just beginning to bottom out. Three months of this, during which I daydreamed about selling all our shit and moving us to Europe. All the pets got sick and died. The car’s transmission needed to be rebuilt (either that or buy a new one, which we would totally get a loan for given that neither of us had jobs). We racked up credit card debt that we just now, just in May, finished paying off.

Had we made all the choices up until that point that we could have made in order to best prepare ourselves for what was happening? Of course not. Looking back, I wished like hell we had eloped. I wish we’d never bought a place. I wish we hadn’t done surgery on Stripe (Joey and Fox I was okay with, but seriously, Stripe, I was around the fucking bend about that animal). I thought of all the stupid shit I owned and how much of a loss I’d take if I sold it all. Who could pass a test like the one above, in which all your choices are viewed through the lens of being insufficiently ready for the apocalypse? I mean, by that logic, if the zombies take over tomorrow, I will have been a failure as a human being for not having gotten an Olympic medal in marksmanship and for not owning a collection of shovels.

(Which reminds me, it’s payday, I should stock up on flour. The squirrels are really fat and it’s going to be a long cold winter. When we’re all out of food I will not give you any bread, but will lecture you self-importantly about how you should have done likewise.)

Which is the point of stupid glibertarian bullshit like this anyway. It’s not to actually give advice, it’s to excuse the reader from giving a damn about the story being told, and cast the writer as a better person for having wound up on the winning side. God, in a discussion about the presently superfucked economy, do I ever NOT want to debate how many vacations you should have taken or not taken. The whole thing … she may not deserve her pain, but let’s talk about how you can avoid it by being a good girl. Save for retirement starting at 13 and sacrifice your unemployment for part-time work that pays less (bzuh?) and do everything RIGHT, and you won’t be fucked by the universe. It’s so easy!

Trouble is, I get to the end of a piece like this and say, “So what now?” What now? We’ve delineated all the choices Good and Virtuous People should make, which helps the people currently screwed … how? How does this WORK? It is generally good advice not to smoke so as not to get cancer; if I’m coughing up a lung does telling me I should have quit years ago cure me? Our economy is screwed, and this has fuck-all to do with how much people have saved for retirement, or how much Social Security costs, or how high the taxes on the Go Galt Dancers are. It has to do with meeting structural changes with U RAH RAH tax cuts for 40 fucking years, pretending aggressively that lots of things that aren’t the problem are, and picking through the trash of anybody who dares speak up to find a suspiciously high electric bill.

Which I’ve got zero time for. Gotta go buy some shovels.

Via Roy.


5 thoughts on “And Then, McMegan?

  1. I once met a woman who escaped from Germany a week before Jews were no longer allowed to leave. She met her husband years later and he had survived the camps. She asked if I’d like to know the secret to life. When I told her yes, she said, “Spend all your money on education and travel.” I was perplexed, as those are the two things for which there are no tangible assets. I asked why. “Because,” she said with the look of someone who knew what it was like to lose more than a job or a bank account. “those are the only things they can never take away from you.”

  2. But, but, people have to be punished for their mistakes don’t they? Isn’t that why society exists? You especially need to be punished if you’re not wealthy.

  3. I planned for the apocalypse and it hit me and I’mstill in the shit. And all the moralizing assholes in the world don’t make me any less angry about it, even if they’re giving me strokes.

  4. I lost my job in January 2008. I had recently inherited some money, so I had a little cushion. I took some contract work – including one job that required a 500 mile commute. Finally in June this year I started a new job. (I’m 59.) I still have some savings, but my current income is lower than my previous income. I’ve decided I need to do some serious economizing for the future – and the first thing I decided to cut was my subscription to The Atlantic.

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