Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Pack of Lies

This article is a confessional written by a successful professional writer who even once had a television gig. It contains all the information I have been wailing about for the last nine years, but more importantly it is an honest appraisal of the lies about our economy that the author believed and how that affected his life. The story is long, deeply disturbing, and brilliantly written. When you are ready, read it—to the end. I couldn’t make it to the end on the first read. It made me ill.

The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans

I hesitate to try and comment on this article. I can cover the material in fewer words, but I can’t do a better job. It also made me angry, not the best emotion for a personal finance author.

Don’t believe the lies. Don’t bite the hook.

This will be hard because the big green money machine doesn’t want you to find financial freedom. It wants docile tax donkeys, debt slaves, and people who are wholly dependent, who will always vote to perpetuate the lies. Here are some of them.

If you do well in K through 12, be accepted, if you learn to fit in:
You will be rewarded with a good paying job that doesn’t require any skill or particular level of effort on your part.

If you do what your boss tells you to do:
You will be rewarded with job security, regular raises, and promotions until it is time to retire. Then your boss will care for you the rest of your life.

If you are even barely average:
You can go to the university of your choice and major in any subject you find halfway interesting.

If you hang around long enough and spend enough money to graduate:
You are guaranteed a job in a cubicle where you can wear nice clothes and play computer games in air conditioned comfort without ever getting dirty or doing any work that produces anything of value.

If you buy enough stuff:
You will become happy and everyone else will want to be like you.

If you can’t enjoy the life you want because you don’t have enough money:
The Government will give you everything you desire because you deserve it.

If the Government doesn’t have a program to cover what you desire:
The friendly people at the bank will give you all the money you need to fulfill your every wish.

At the beginning of the industrial revolution, as Seth Godin observes in Linchpin, machines that were purchased with capital and tended by obedient human robots greatly increased the quality of life for the entire world. However, now the entire world has access to machines that require fewer and fewer human robots to produce all the goods that the world can buy. There is a worldwide surplus of labor that has trapped the American worker into a race to the bottom, a race that can’t be won.

Even the white collar worker, a well paid part of the machine, has proven to be nothing more than human robot. Consider a mid-level accounting professional in a large bureaucracy. Today he is being replaced by sophisticated accounting programs that exist in the “cloud.” Want a report? Any report? Assemble the outline. Push a button. Voila. Presto chango. Data becomes a report. A week’s worth of labor by a college graduate is complete in a second more than it actually takes to print the document.

As a child I was taught to believe the key to the good life (consume, consume, consume) was a college degree, any college degree. That was true until the baby boom hit. Then, for the first time, there were more college graduates than jobs for college graduates. This situation has continued to get worse in the years following 1970. Don’t expect it to get any better.

Nothing is free. The Government can redistribute wealth and print money, but it can’t create wealth. Reasonable men and women can disagree as to the size and nature of Government, where tax money comes from and where it goes, but the bottom line is somebody pays. There are no free lunches. There is another problem with Government, humans. As a species we have an amazingly consistent track record of producing government fraud, waste (mal-investment), and abuse of individuals, their lives, liberties, and property.

Lord Acton said it best, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Look at the world we inhabit and tell me this isn’t the truth.

If you think the people at the bank who help you indulge your lusts and desire to become a conspicuous consumer have your best interest at heart, think again. They are giving you 0.5% to 2.5% to borrow your money that they then lend to you at 4% for mortgages, 8% for student loans guaranteed by the Government, and 8% to 25% for unsecured revolving credit. I won’t even discuss the sleazy world of subprime credit.

Who has the biggest, fanciest, buildings in your city? The bank? The insurance company? The hospital? What is this telling you?

You must take 100% responsibility for you own life and be willing to live with the consequences of your decisions and actions. You can still find financial freedom by learning to manage your money. That is the easy part. Simply pay yourself first. Put something aside every month until you have a respectable emergency fund. This is going to take some time. Don’t beat yourself up. Just keep adding a little every month until you have enough to invest. Once you reach that point the miracle of compound interest will work for you rather than against you.

How to earn more money is the hard question. I wish I had a simple answer, but I don’t. Here are some thoughts from the Bible. There are many more verses on the subject, but I think the bottom line is do everything you do as though you are working for God rather than man and let the chips fall where they may.

Proverbs 22:29
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:24
Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment