Well, well, well — we all woke up one day last week to discover that we’d lost, um, quite a bit of money. In fact, I rather lost track, didn’t you?
Let’s see: that’ll be $85 billion for American International Group (the fabled AIG, supposedly “too big to fail,” but apparently not), $29 billion to JP Morgan Chase to enable them to rescue Bear Stearns, $200 billion or so for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and to top it all off, what the guys in the halls of power have the unmitigated gall to dub “The Mother of All Bailouts,” a $700 billion chunk of change that should save everyone else but us. And remember that incentive check we all got a few months ago, along with an invitation to run out and spend it? That was on us, too.
I couldn’t help noticing, as I watched “Meet the Press” and the other news shows over the weekend, that the talking heads were happily loading all of this debt onto the backs of what they called “the American taxpayer.” They were quick to add that this didn’t mean they advised an increase in the capital-gains tax, as this might scare off investors. They weren’t necessarily advocating an end to the Bush tax cuts, either. Goodness me, no!
The broadcast journalists had some rather telling things to say, too. One lively discussion involved how many $100,000 bank accounts a couple could have, and still count on FDIC protection for each one.
I wanted to shout into Television Land, as if down a well, “Hellloooooo in there! Remember us? The ones footing the bill?” Right now the average American saves less than $400 per year, and the average American household is carrying $117,951 in debt, including mortgages, credit-cards, installment loans, home-equity loans, and other contractual obligations.
And before you decide to judge these seemingly feckless folks, remember this: they are dealing with 5.4 percent inflation, health care costs that are increasing at an annual rate of 6.7 percent, gas prices that have gone up 35 percent this year alone, household energy costs that have risen 17 percent and wages that, on average, don’t come anywhere near keeping up with all of that.
Some 79 million American adults are having difficulty paying their medical bills — 41 percent of our adult population. That’s up from 34 percent less than three years ago. A couple headed into retirement without the benefit of ongoing health insurance coverage from an employer will need nearly a quarter of a million dollars to manage their health care. And 45 million Americans have no health care coverage at all.
All of these statistics, of course, pre-date the current mega-crisis in the world of American finance, which is said to result from greed. Or de-regulation. Or regulation that was out-of-date and didn’t match the circumstances of real-world global finance. Or a war that has cost $556,000,000,000 so far, and left the economy dependent on the housing industry. Or the fact that, as one brave commentator said, “All the grownups had left, and no one was in charge.” Well, well, well.
Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library. She lives in Commerce.
For other columns and opinions, see the Sept. 24 edition of The Commerce News.
America the broke. as a man who just turned 40 and has a first child due in march I'm mad as hell and i'm a bit scared at what this pitiful country has to offer for MY generation and my childs. American's(all who elected these officials)have truly brought America to her knees. we are no longer the Power of the world...everything america stands for is quickly vanishing. what have you done? you gave your money to china....you gave all our jobs to other countries.....who is going to fix this F@#kING mess. oh, rely on the goverment? ...somebody has to do something....if you buy a car you pay the note.....you work and pay the bills right? well how about working on getting jobs back to america to pay this wasted debt the people YOU voted into office has made....it's totally sickening to see what is going on. please please stop drop and roll ...we all must stand together to gain america her prize spot back so all of us and our ( now mine) children can live in freedom in america