Monday, June 18, 2012

You Say Potato, I Say Meaningful Economic Recovery

This morning Beloved Spouse - in response to something he read in the paper about the economy - asked if I thought were better off financially than we were before the last Presidential election. To which I replied, "Sorry, let me wipe up that coffee I just spewed all over your shirt through my nose."
Here, let me blot it up using this pile of paper towels
I just happen to have lying around.
Yeah, right.

Although I voted for President Obama in 2008, and will likely vote for him again this year because Mitt Romney makes me break out in a rash, I'll be the first to say I haven't personally felt the mighty rumblings of the earthquake of prosperity since he took office. In general he has scored much higher on the "killing foreign guys who piss us off" scale than on the "what are all these numbers to the left of the decimal point on my bank statement?" scale.

I have some of these.
They're filled with chocolate, right?

The thing about these election-year polls is that they're looking for signs that consumer confidence is up and people feel they can vote issues besides the economy, like whether or not the candidates are complete douchebags. But I think they're looking for answers in the wrong places. The pollsters are looking for people  to say things like "I have a great job" or "I'm putting money in savings" or "I'm now able to hire a nanny from a second-world country."

I'm not saying those are bad indicators. I'm saying that, given the recession we've been through and the flaccid state of the recovery, maybe the pollsters should pull back and consider what "recovery" actually means to some of us.

Why yes, I'd love to use myself as an example.

I am America, after all.

If I had unlimited funds - and by unlimited I don’t even mean if I were rich, I just mean if I didn’t spend the last three days before each paycheck treating Snickers bars as a luxury item - I would spend money on certain things. Like earrings. Seriously, I would buy a dozen pairs of earrings a week if I didn’t have to buy toilet paper. 

They are not interchangeable, you see.

I like earrings. They’re sparkly and pretty and they hang from the one part of my body I don’t feel self-conscious about people looking at. I have awesome earlobes. If there were earlobe porn, I think I could really make a splash. 

And I don’t want to hear about earlobe porn, even if it does exist, which I’m sure it does because God in His glory has yet to create anything that cannot be fetishized by someone, somewhere. It makes you wonder about God.

Am I right?

Anyway, I also like earrings because they can be bought in nearly infinite varieties without spending a lot of money. Or by spending a whole bunch of money, which is a tremendous waste of same. BelSpouse once bought me a pair of earrings for Christmas that I discovered - because he doesn’t understand how online banking works - cost about $200. They’re very pretty, but I hardly ever wear them because I’m afraid to lose them and also because I don’t have any entire outfits that cost $200.

On the other hand, BelSpouse bought me a pair of earrings shaped like turtles with little turtle legs that actually move. They cost a fraction of what the fancy Christmas earrings cost, and I wear them all the damn time. They are seriously adorable. Their little turtle legs move! That’s what I want in my accessories: not precious stones or intricate artistry - I want functional reptile anatomy.

That's also the name of my Doors cover band, by the way.

I would be terribly upset if I ever lost one of my turtle earrings. Not because of their monetary value, but because I love them and I would miss them. I would be terribly upset if I lost one of my $200 earrings, too. Mostly because if I lose something that’s worth a hundred bucks and fits on my fingertip, it should be a couple of tabs of acid or some of Johnny Depp’s pubes, not a piece of overpriced jewelry that someone as irresponsible as myself had no business wearing out in public in the first place.

Or a hundred chances at something really interesting happening.
I could go out and buy 20 pairs of earrings for $200, easy. And if I had $200 that was pure gravy - that didn’t have to be kid’s shoes or a phone bill or Prozac or dish soap or whatever is going on that makes the toilet leak out the bottom every time I flush - that’s just what I’d do.

And I would make sure to buy some I wasn’t really sure I was that crazy about.

Or, you know, the toilet paper ones would work here, too.

See, sometimes I hate making my purchases count. Not that I want to get ripped off because I’m not paying attention - like how sometimes Target charges more for a two-pack of something than it would cost to by two of the same shit separately, as if they think we’re idiot Walmart shoppers who wandered in looking for whatever nasty crap Walmart sells that I wouldn’t know about because that place is freaking evil incarnate and I don’t shop there.

I'm sure Sam Walton was a lovely man
who seldom ate his own children.

But I digress.

I do pay attention to what I’m buying, and I do enjoy getting a good deal. But what I hate about perennially being on a tight budget is having to do things like weighing the relative merits of a can of store-brand new potatoes and the Del Monte potatoes that cost ten cents more but maybe the store-brand ones are so inferior in quality that the extra ten cents is worth it, or maybe I can get away with the cheap ones because they’re just damn potatoes and how can ten cents possibly make them taste like anything else?

Why do I even need new potatoes?
I'm sure I could find gently used ones that are just as good.

I want to just spend the extra dime without thinking about it and not have to worry about the quality of my goddamn new potatoes, is what I’m saying. And I don’t like having to agonize over every single purchase so that I don’t feel I’ve shortchanged my kid out of a year of college if I happen to make an unwise spending decision.

Squeeze it, or the terrorists win.

Now, how many pairs of inexpensive earrings do you think exist in the average shopping mall?  Hundreds? Thousands? Some of them are just butt-ugly. Some of them are pretty cute. And some of them are really, really sweet. And I - because of my level of consumer confidence (remember how we were talking about that?) - feel compelled to pore over every single goddamn pair in the mall to make sure I’m getting the best possible goddamn earrings available for the money. Because if it turns out I don’t have a costume-jewelry orgasm every time I wear them, or they don’t match every outfit I own, or they have like an Indian curse on them or something, then I could be out upwards of eight dollars.

Zut freaking alors.

So here's economic theory according to Chuck Baudeliare: To me, luxury isn’t being able to go into Neiman Marcus or Tiffany’s and pick out a piece of jewelry that costs more than my mortgage payment just because I thought it was a pretty shiny object. It’s being able to drop a few bucks on a pair of earrings that may not be the most special things in the world but only reasonably cute, and not feel guilty that I bought something without performing a complex cost-benefit analysis on it.

If I could, I’d go out and buy 20 pairs of earrings, of which maybe only half of them were something I’d wear every day. Maybe a couple of them would only go with that one outfit that I wear a few times a year. Maybe I’d wear a couple of them once and decide they don’t do anything for me. Maybe I’d even look at one pair and decide to never, ever wear them because I don't know what the hell I was thinking when I bought a pair of hot-pink eagle-feather dangles with silver skulls hanging from them.

I’m getting tingly just thinking about such profligacy.

Having money is hot.
All I'm saying is that before we start anointing a new leader (or re-anointing the current one) based on whether we all think we're going to be able to buy a new Lexus on January 21st, maybe we should think about economic recovery in terms that are slightly less are-you-freaking-kidding-me? in scope.

Also, I'd like some earrings that are shaped like tiny lizards with little sparkly eyes. Promise me that, Presidential candidates, and I might just decide to vote with my earlobes.

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