Prostituting the American Dream

I haven’t written much today because there isn’t much to write. Presidential boxing has been interrupted by bailout buffoonery. (The politicians, not the concept.) I’m super sore from lifting this morning. There’s still a sick kid commandeering the remote for the best TV. I’m behind on laundry.

And I’m really ticked about the way this economic information is playing out. I know most of you won’t agree, so it’s risky business indeed to share my opinion. But I’ll try anyway.

What comes to mind when you hear “the American Dream?” Everything you ever wanted? Safety for religious and political freedom? A new Porsche and a mansion with a circle drive? Tell me what you think when you hear that phrase. I’d like to know, too, if you think you are living that dream. I know I am. But I also know the spouse and I worked hard and made good decisions to achieve it.

Work is an important component of the American Dream. When I was looking around for some background to help with this post I found the words “thrift,” “hard work,” “happy,” and “successful.” It makes perfect sense to me that these four would stand together as part of the Dream. Sadly, I think the Dream has been prostituted – sold for money – and purchased by those who only saw the words happy and successful. They think it should come easy.

I’ve written before about finding blame in a mirror instead of Capitol Hill, or even Wall Street. An article front page above the fold in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel really made a point I don’t think writers Spivak and Bice intended. They encouraged pity on the 45 year old mom that lost a million in real estate on her $21,000 year salary. Everyone I’ve talked to is outraged.

Why is her American Dream is supposed to come without hard work and thrift? Sure someone kept writing new loans, but she kept signing for them. The very people that caused the financial crisis with ramped up loans on little ability to pay are now the ones we’re supposed to pity according to this article.

No pity here. I’m mad.

If you can’t put your hand around a machine or a steering wheel or a broom and move this country towards better productivity, for goodness sake stick it back in your pocket. I’m tired of handing you money, having you blame me when your get-rich-quick schemes don’t work out, and then having you ask for more money.

She wanted her version of the American Dream. The one where the happiness and success came without hard work and thrift. Now she’s bankrupt. Lucky for her, there was protection in place to let her have a few luxuries while the rest of us are mopping up her debt. Years ago she would have ended up in a debtors’ prison.

I know, “tell me how you really feel, Cindy.” You all know I rarely shy away from tackling the tough stuff. Here’s the harsh reality: if you want to live on exorbitant credit, you’d better be able to afford it. When you land on your backside because of your own greed, I’ll hand you a mirror, and then walk away.

After all, you’ll want to someone to blame.


  1. Cindy,

    I’ve made my “success” by living BELOW my means. No circular drive, but I do have the Porsche. We’ll disregard that it’s almost 23 years old and has 175K on the clock πŸ˜‰

    My first home loan was a “stretch” when one adds in the private (off the books) unsecured “2nd”. We did without a LOT of things in order to stay solvent. My obligation was to not default on what I had bitten off. My word, my promise, my reputation were first orders of responsibility.

    Now, at 47, my money “worries” are over. I still live a rather non-descript lifestyle. I still live in that first house. My newest car is a 2001. Most of my costly toys were 2nd hand. I have a couple rentals in OR, with negative cashflow, but my residence is paid for. The ONLY money I owe is on the rentals. Not too bad for 47, but hey…I’d love to have another zero on the end of my net worth.

    I’ve never had an ARM, even though I could certainly pencil out ways one could’ve save me some $’s. But I sleep better at night knowing what my bills will be next month or next year. I don’t like suprises, when it’s smebody reaching into my pocket for my wallet.

  2. I agree 500% with everything you said. But you wanted to know. So, yes, I’m living the American Dream. My spouse and I work hard – and have worked hard for decades. We saved. We are happy. Most important which impacts absolutely everything else is that we have our health. Without good health everything else isn’t worth a shit, so we’re lucky. And yes, I’m major mad about losing so much of my investments – well into 6 figures already and that was after a rebalance last year from 95% stocks to 70% stocks. My spouse and I care considered and are successful. We measure success not only in our jobs, but in our friends, the outcome in how we raised our kids, savings, success in jobs and how we treat people in our lives including personal life and work life. Yeah, I’m major pissed off – but I was pissed off before about the health care crisis. Cindy, when you and I were young people in our mid 20’s …. health insurance for a couple was a hundred bucks a month …. now if you can find it, it costs upwards of 1500 bucks a month for two. Talk about greed. Enough said. Bottom line to answer your question, yeah I’m major pissed off. Good post. Thanks!

  3. Repubabubba says:

    Yes, on this we agree:
    The American dream has been sold down the river.
    Though I’ve got mine, the high priced lawyer spouse who used to be a musician, the pool, vacation homes and new church jet, and the wife who redecorated that, and my fourteen children.

    I would put forth, however, that the mistakes of the greedy poor (dumb purchase of million dollar house) are no better when executed by the greedy wealthy (see Ken Lay and many other executives and their politician cronies in Washington in the OLD Republican party, before the 2008 RNC re-birth that washed the slate clean and changed everyone)

    For me, the lack of thrift is appalling even as others suffer around us. The excesses , the cars and status symbols are all just a lack of humility and humanity.
    The selling and wanton exploitation of our natural resources as a shame as well as these are a legacy of our nation independent of the current population and should be used with thrift and care.
    I would put forth that a lack of humility, a lack or respect, a glib disregard for the truth,are all contributors to the I’ve got mine attitude which breeds the “I must have it all now” desire.

    Friends and inner peace will lead the way to success, and times of plenty.

    On this, we can all agree.

  4. Im living my American Dream… Medical School. Not being greedy, but going deep into debt. What say you?

  5. My idea of the “American Dream” is quite simple, and it has nothing to do with money. I’ve been very very poor, I’ve been extremely comfortable and granted, comfortable is a lot better, but does it bring happiness? Nope, not always. I’ve known extremely RICH folks who were absolutely miserable people. I’ve known poor folks who were very happy. What was the difference? Love, faith and family. Makes a HUGE difference.

    Just my 2 cents worth. πŸ™‚

  6. I wouldn’t say I’m living the American Dream, but that is my choice. And maybe that is the American Dream, being able to do what you want.

    I grew up poor, might still be considered poor. Don’t have much, but I don’t need much. My folks taught me by example to stand up on my own, to be independent, to be responsible and pay my debts.

    The current financial mess tells me that not all parents did that to their kids.

    More debt than one can handle; not just by individuals ($1 mil in real estate on $21 thousand?). Everyone, it seems, has been taught that to get ahead, to get the Dream requires debt.

    I could do a pretty good rant myself, so don’t get me started πŸ™‚

    I echo Kate that love, faith and family is important, but I’m not sure it’s considered part of the Dream anymore.

  7. A component of this situation was to throw away all common sense and sound economic and financial practice to make the AD available to anyone especially if it was politically correct. In the end the pc thing did no favors to any of us.

  8. Repubabubba says:

    Not true from my perspective Leapin. How do you think the missus and I bought our first double-wide ? And now I have a JET,( and Sarah Palin)!

  9. Repubabubba – I figured you got a government grant as a community organizer. My jet is Brett Favre ! I can’t account for what your missus must have been thinking but she deserves everything she is getting with you !

  10. I think Pat Buchanan is right here (I first saw it on Dad29) when he says Poulsen is right,

    To save the sheep who might have been wiped out in a general financial panic, we may have to save the pigs.