Ironies of the Season

A former student of mine, Derek Thomas, is a policy analyst at the Institute for Working Families–a local think-tank that focuses on policies affecting (duh!) working families. He has a recent post at the Institute’s website documenting the toll taken on those families by the ongoing sequester.

I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of guilt as I read the catalog of the sequester’s consequences for my fellow Hoosiers, not because I consider myself culpable (I didn’t vote for those responsible, nor did I support the use of this meat-ax approach to budgeting), but because I hadn’t really thought about the sequester in such concrete terms.

Most Americans who share my good fortune–still middle-class, still employed, still able to make my mortgage payments–think of the sequester in terms of policy, assuming we think of it at all. It was stupid and cowardly, evidence of Congressional dysfunction. We haven’t thought about it in terms of Indiana children thrown out of Head Start, or elderly folks who aren’t getting hot Meals from Meals on Wheels, or the landlords and tenants alike who no longer receive housing vouchers both depend upon…let alone the multiple other hardships detailed in Derek’s report.

Worse still, the full impact of the sequester hasn’t yet hit.

While low-income working families are struggling with the consequences of decisions made by people those decisions wouldn’t affect, our news media has focused on the Black Friday near-riots at big-box stores, as shoppers fought each other for the presumed “bargains” on display.

What was really on display was the disconnect between the “still-haves” and the “no-longer-haves.”

Also on display was the evident lack of concern about the latter category by those of us in the former one.


  1. I am a Wal Mart shopper; especially for Christmas. I keep reading articles about the jobless rate, unemployment running out, protests for higher wages, the loss of Head Start, Meals on Wheels, cutting food stamps and I believe every word. But; the heavy traffic when I do go out plus the full parking lots at malls, shopping centers, “big box” stores and gas stations doing big business cause me to question the money being spent daily during this sequester. And, face it, this is still a period of recession even with improving conditions.

    I am not a good gift shopper because I don’t understand all the electronic gadgets everyone is using (also can’t afford them), the fashions today are ugly and over priced so my solution is cash or gift cards for many in my family. I tried to use my Wal Mart charge card to purchase gift cards as I have done the past few years and was informed that only debit cards and cash are now accepted. No credit cards or checks. I don’t have a debit card and carry little cash so went to the Service Desk to ask questions which turned to raising some hell. The manager spoke to two other employees, made three phone calls and asked how many gift cards I wanted to purchase and their amounts. This resulted in them accepting my charge card at the Service Desk for these items. One of my loud-mouthed comments was that they were going to lose money because these gift cards are popular items; I also understood that there are those who charge purchases and don’t pay for them but I pay my bills. There were two women in line behind me who kept smiling and giving me thumbs-up, the man who later got in line kept grinning. Maybe my last comment about not paying bills explains the obvious heavy shopping, not only at this time of year. These people may consider this their solution but it causes financial problems for some businesses and makes it difficult for those of us who do pay. I am in the lower income bracket and shop accordingly; I am well aware that I am more fortunate than many thousands who have less or nothing.

    Have any of these think-tank organizations, who are paid for their thinking, come up with workable solutions or resolved any problems? Who do they send their thinking results to? Who pays their salaries and what is their salary range? Until the GOP gets off their lazy asses and passes some necessary and workable bills and votes to appoint much needed appointees in many areas; those think-tank employees are doing no more and provide no more solutions than our current Tea Party backed House of Representatives led by Boehner. Happy Holidays!

  2. We should be able to break-up Walmart by restricting inter-state commerce. There was a time when Michigan Bell couldn’t do business in Illinios. Think of how much better the USA would be if that were true today. Suppose taxes on trucks, which tear up roads, were tripple the taxes of trains, which maintain their own ways. How much less would it cost us? Think of the cost to the eco system. How can we see this so clearly and the ‘invisible hand of the market’ cannot? Mass marketing is a hoax put upon the people. The masses pay for the marketing, then pay at the market. You think Amazon saves you? If you could walk down to the corner and pay twice the price it would be half the cost. We should outlaw all this. We should vote it away. But If voting mattered, it would be illegal.

  3. And again,how can the ill-informed, non-participating, directly affected, Iphone toting, hoodie sporting, video playing, social burden be convinced of the need to become a social partcipant? It starts when a child tosses a gum wrapper out of a car and is made to go back and retrieve it. That’s when the social contract begins to become somewhat clear to them. A day later? Forget it.

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