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Friday, March 28, 2008

"Come on in! The free lobster buffet is straight ahead on the right."

Brilliant At Breakfast is, well, brilliant this morning (h/t Mike's Blog Roundup). Jill writes about the "next wave" of our rolling credit crisis - home equity loans - and closes with this "What's The Matter With Kansas?" observation (emphases mine):
Then the 1980's came along, and people watched Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on television and got this idea in their heads that they could have everything that rich people had, even if they had to go into hock up to their eyeballs to get it. You could drive a luxury car by leasing it. You could have that extra bathroom by taking out an equity loan. You could have the trappings of the rich -- the bigass entry foyer with the chandelier, and the luxury cars and the multiple garages and the vacations in St. Barths -- and the fact that the rich could buy this stuff out of ready cash while ordinary Americans had to go into hock to do it never occurred to people.

And so the debt culture was born. Creative forms of debt allowed ordinary Americans to kid themselves that they were gaining entry into "the club" -- and now they too could look down on the poor and the "welfare queens", because those above them on the economic ladder were opening the doors and saying, "Come on in! The free lobster buffet is straight ahead on the right." Except that there was no free lobster buffet, and the debt culture was designed not to enrich the lives of the middle class, but to anesthetize it to what was really going on -- a massive transfer of real wealth to the richest Americans, hidden by the debt being made available to the middle class.

And now the bills are coming due and Americans are only now realizing that the free lobster buffet is off limits to them. But instead of blaming the people who made the debt available and helped them get in over their heads, they're still pointing their fingers down the economic ladder and preparing to elect another Republican president who will continue to screw them over seven ways to Sunday until there's no more blood that can be wrung from the dry stone that used to be middle class life in America.
Being one who also indulged in this despicable fantasy, I attest that Jill is exactly correct. I'd also like to think that since I have come to see it, there must be millions more who have woken up as well and, as this economic slo-mo train-wreck proceeds, the breakfast brilliance should continue to alight upon American minds.

I wonder what that's going to look like. Oh, and up yours, Wall Street.

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