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.
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.
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.