One shoe off

September 12, 2007

in the poor house

Editor’s note: This was written a couple of weeks ago. It’s a little overdue, but I thought I would share it 1) in the interest of having some kind of content on this blog and 2) because the themes of “affluenza,” poverty and consumerism are ones that continually bounce up to the surface.

So, Tony Snow finally announced his resignation. Funny how people around Bush are dropping like flies. It’s like the party guests who go home early, not hanging around to be rousted off the floor or couch and thrown out by the host.

Funny, also, how Mr. Snow cites financial reasons for leaving his job. Apparently, as White House spokesperson he made a paltry $168,000, which he says isn’t enough to support his family. FYI the median income for a family of five in D.C. is $35,754. Yet, Mr. Snow claims he “had to take out a loan” in order to make ends meet when he left his high-paying Fox job to come to the White House. And yet, his income of $168k puts him in the top 5 percent. So, there are 3 options, as I see it:
1) He’s lying, and he’s really leaving because of a) his cancer or b) everyone else is leaving.

2) Tony Snow and his family, like a huge chunk of people, are mired in debt. For the average American, that’s nearly $19,000 in consumer debt, not counting mortgages. The average principal on a mortgage is about $69,000. So, let’s for fun say that the average American owes about $90,000. We’ll pretend Mr. Snow is indeed average. I suppose that, were his family to suddenly need to pay off all their debt all at once, an income $168,000 would be a little tight. (Failing to point out, however, that even that scenario would leave him with $78,000 to live off of. More than twice the median income mentioned above).

3) Mr. Snow lives way beyond his means. There is no reason at all why a five person family cannot have all their needs — food, shelter, clothing, water — met on $168k a year. Yes Mr. Snow has been ill, but federal employees are one of the few groups of people who DO have good insurance. And what about all that money he was making at Fox? Do you mean to tell me he saved NONE of it? He’s burnt through it all?

I’ve been afraid for a very long time that the industrialized world is going to run into an economic catastrophe on the scale of the Great Depression sometime in the next 50 years. My biggest fear, though, is that we’ve lost the skills to deal with that kind of catastrophe. Cable TV and (and to a lesser extent Internet access) have become “utilities” that are considered equal to electricity or gas service. We each spend about $2100 a year on restaurant meals. We’ve forgotten how to soak a bean, much less bake a loaf of bread. God forbid we brew our own coffee, or drink tap water from a glass.

Maybe my Walden Pond complex is coming back … every once in awhile I get this urge to dramatically simplify my life and start valuing NON-thing things. I can’t help but think that as a person of faith I need to take seriously Jesus’ command to live a life where people matter much more than things, and where we stop worrying about the money and live instead lives that are more humane. Lives that are more human.

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