Get a job.
Heard that derisive phrase recently? I would guess not, with the jobless rate persistently hovering near 10%. The stigma attached to collecting an unemployment check has evaporated for society as a whole, even if the individual getting the check worries how he or she will be seen.
But what happens in (2? 5?) years when the rate drops back to the level of “full employment”?
Do we go back to making all those unfortunate enough to be assisted by the government feel like second-rate citizens?
This is where my life experiences and circumstances crash into my economic and moral ideologies and make a big ol’ mess.
First off, I am fiscally conservative. My beliefs bear this out, and the way I live my life bears this out.
I despised the bank and auto bailout plans (though it now appears it will cost us far less than originally thought). The thought of rescuing individuals who leveraged themselves to the hilt to buy houses and toys with asinine credit “products” makes my stomach churn.
I believe in the antiquated notion of balanced budgets, be they individual or federal. My fianceé and I practice what we preach. Aside from our (15 year) mortgage, we have zero debt. We live well, but we live below our means. We save and invest a substantial portion of our incomes. We have both made thoughtful career decisions (education and job changes) to enable us to earn healthy salaries.
However--and this is key-—we have three major things going for us:
-We have had no unfortunate interruptions in our earnings
-We educated ourselves on the finer points of personal finance, which gave us the know-how to build this type of life for ourselves
-We had internal and external expectations (and examples) that led us to do the things that made this type of life possible
This is where the empathy comes in.
This is why the first 34 years of my life--surrounded by unintended consequences, abysmally low expectations, bad examples, and sketchy education--made me understand that we don’t all have the same road to the good life.
This is why I believe strongly in financial responsibility, yet have a difficult time finding fault in government programs that benefit the poor.
To be continued…