Judge My Purchases In The Past Week, Please

In the past week, I have eaten at Taco Bell.

I have purchased a pair of shoes I did not strictly need. And a bar of fancy soap I didn’t need at all.

I went to see a movie (Silver Linings Playbook, stop whatever you’re doing and go).

I paid $31 to park in a parking garage from hell downtown. Screw that place at Jackson and LaSalle, don’t ever park there.

I kicked in $15 for a magazine subscription, and $3 to have some bagels around the house.

I’m sure there have been other things, but I don’t think so. I’ve been busy, and skipping lunch.

Now, go.

I mean it, go. This is our national Olympics right now, judging what other people spend their money on. Our entire social structure is based on the idea that Those People Can’t Have Nice Things.

Exhibit A.

I’ll do this for you: In the case of Taco Bell, I should have made myself a peanut butter sandwich at home and taken it to work. I have plenty of shoes. The fancy soap smelled like coffee and cinnamon and cream, but I have lots of soap like that, because I hoard soap that smells like that.

Could have lived without the movie. There are a thousand movies I haven’t watched that are online for free and also some books in my house I haven’t read if I needed to kill a couple of hours.

The parking garage was just me being lazy and vain. It was a block away from a meeting I was late to, and I should have left earlier and double-checked the address, and left myself time to drive around until I found a free/cheap space. I also could have taken the train, but it was pissing it down outside and when you’re trying to impress people you don’t want to show up looking like a wet cat dragging a ginormous dripping umbrella. Even a cab would have been cheaper.

The magazine subscription and the bagels were even dumber. We have piles of magazines thanks to friends’ children selling subscriptions for school, and I can bake my own bread if I have a carb craving, even my own cheese bread.

Even the big purchases I make on a regular basis, you could take issue with. Mortgage payment? Why the hell don’t I rent somewhere, and cheaper? Car payment? Realistically, the Saturn of Love maybe could have limped through another winter, or we could have bought a cheaper car. Groceries? Do I really need a bottle of wine, that frozen pizza, this week?

The ferrets are a huge expense and serve no useful purpose whatsoever, beyond companionship and therapy and reasons to get up in the morning. Get right down to it, I’m pretty sure Mr. A and I could live cheaper separately. Maybe we should split up. Get our own places. I’ll take Riot, he can take Bucky and we’ll have joint custody of Claire.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I am not, thank whatever gods there be, presently on TANF or other assistance. People like me, who are not on assistance, we spend money at fast-food restaurants and movie theaters and clothing stores and all kinds of other places. And then we act all shocked and appalled when other people do the same because HURR DURR OUR TAX DOLLARS. As if people suddenly stop wanting a cheeseburger or something after they lose their jobs or get thwacked with medical bills or any of the thousands of other ways you wind up needing TANF. As if they stop being people like us, and should wait in line patiently for their bread and beets.

And let’s get past the morality of this somewhat: The only way to ensure that somebody WON’T ever spend OUR TAX DOLLARS on something we consider stupid even once is to create some kind of Virtuous Expense Agency that delivers each family a box of what we consider them to need each week and then monitors that family’s usage of the same.

Need would be decided, I imagine, by editorial boards of the greatest newspapers in America or some other group of smuggy scolds in no danger of missing a meal, so as to provide maximum punishment to make the rest of us feel good. And then we would need to make sure nobody was trading things on some kind of black market, or selling unwanted things for cash to get a cheeseburger anyway, so an enforcement angle would have to be designed, along with appropriate punishments.

Because that wouldn’t be wildly expensive, intrusive, creepy and pointless at all, or an example of the kind of government overreach that conservatives pretend to hate.

Easier to just hold in our minds that people want cheeseburgers and movies and clothing, no matter how poor they are, and go about trying to make a world in which nobody needs to be on public assistance, so that we can go back to worrying about our own stupid spending habits instead of everybody else’s. Thirty-one dollars to park, seriously? That meeting was like an hour long.


11 thoughts on “Judge My Purchases In The Past Week, Please

  1. I don’t buy tacos or nice soap or magazines (except Stringing once or twice a year) and I still don’t care what TANF is spent on.
    If some people had their way the poor would be chewing on a crust of brown bread while they huddle over a peat fire.

  2. On the other hand, I would turn the argument around and look at what the affluent buy, compare it to what it could accomplish among the working class, and put them in the double bind that if they don’t spend it then the amount is wasted as it isn’t accomplishing any purpose nor is it spurring the economy.
    For example, one luxury car for $ 100 K (and there is even a luxury model on the market just shy of $ 500,000 – that is 1/2 million !). Could have bought a KIA and employed 2 more people for a year.

  3. “If some people had their way the poor would be chewing on a crust of brown bread while they huddle over a peat fire.”
    And that’s pretty much how it used to be…which turns out to be worse for the larger economy. Wal-Mart, for instance, is the biggest redeemer of SNAP (food stamps) if I remember right. It’s as good as cash for them.
    Prisons and workhouses are far more expensive to build and maintain…
    People whining about “the poors” and all the “free stuff” they’re allegedly getting are remarkably small-minded…and I also suspect heavily prone to projecting outward their own self-loathing…

  4. Merit in that contention that nobody needs a $200,000 car, never mind a $500,000 car.
    Put people back to work! Quit hoarding cash and jobs!

  5. I catch myself doing the same thing with my cousin. Trying to puzzle out what the hell the other cousin spends his money on. He bums money from my aunt constantly. She has less than a third his income and three time his expenses. The price of his going to visit her in assisted living is ponying up the cash for gas or whatever he just has to have that he cannot afford. Then I catch myself and I am embarrassed to be such a jerk.
    As far as the wastrel poor lament from millionaire talking heads and the people behind them in the grocery who think poor people don’t deserve anything but misery and starvation. Eff them.

  6. I got into a knock down drag out about that very post over at Alicublog so I’ve been thinking about it all day.
    There is such a thing as living within your means and putting off immiediate gratification and saving and all that stuff. But those things don’t and can’t mean anything in a life of monetary and food scarcity. We know that. If you are a nomadic hunter, part of a hunting group, you’ve got to share your food with everyone because you simply have no way of hoarding it and a better way of handling it is to share out what you’ve got and rely on social norms to make sure everyone shares with you when you have nothing and they have something.
    The bitter, brutal, low level support offered to the working poor and the indigent in this society is designed to keep people feeling insecure–they are uncertain of their benefits, they have to fight to get and keep them, they are humiliated while getting them and frequently while using them, and they can lose them by changing jobs, housing, schooling, or incomes.
    This is a recipe for disaster because there is neither incentive nor chance for individuals and families to save (within the system) or to figure out more responsible and far sighted uses for their money (because there isn’t enough money and because they can’t count on it.
    If we put some thought into the system and created incentives for people to learn good nutrition, good shopping habits, careful saving habits, long range planning and etc… and then we took the money we waste on lecturing people, threatening people, cutting people off and gave it to them in benefits that they couldn’t lose by building up assets we’d be better off.

  7. Well, ya know…if you are going to use the idea that it’s taxpayers’ money, so we get to dictate what those poor wastrels are spending that money on, then let’s go all the way and start monitoring what government workers spend THEIR money on. It’s taxpayers’ money, amirite? Shit, a boyfriend of a friend of mine works for the government AND gets military pension and he’s got 3 fucking cars, a $300,000 house, more goddamned running shoes than he needs and also buys a whole lot of chips. I think that’s wasting MY money.
    Yeah. Talk about your nanny state…

  8. @mothra – They harped on that quite a bit back in 2011. I suspect it got a little bit old (and backfired just a bit), so they moved on to an “easier” target.
    Don’t forget, when it came to the bonuses for Wall Street over on Fox it was unrealistic that anyone with a family could live on less than $200,000 but when Scotty (or as I like to call him, Governor Crazy Pants) went after the teachers and government employees, they were bankrupting the state at far less than that. Hell, the Gannett Media folks recently rolled out their online searchable database of all public employees in Wisconsin that make more than $25,000 and one local paper is publishing the names of all local employees that make more than $50,000 in the paper.

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