The first fallacy: “Give control back to the individual.” The areas of our lives we do have some control, like taking a vacation, eating, bathing and impulse buying, are easy pick out. But we have limited to no control in areas like when to work, insurance costs, how much we spend on utilities including gas, food prices, unexpected health problems and the risks of homeownership. In each one of these areas, we can only choose the options allowed us, which are few. Capitalism offers us those limited, for profit choices only.
The second fallacy: “Personal responsibility.” We are now blaming ourselves for many of the supposed “choices” we’ve made listed above. I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t take responsibility for our bone headed decisions, but if you just need to eat, buy gas, heat your home and make an honest living, we shouldn’t blame ourselves for the unexpected downturns that might put us out on the street penniless. But we are. We’re told we are to blame. Take Diane Mcleod. The NY Times story paints a bleak picture.
Ms. McLeod was a dream customer for lenders. She juggled not one but two
mortgages, both with interest rates that rose over time, and a car loan and
high-cost credit card debt. Separated and living with her 20-year-old son, she
worked two jobs so she could afford her small, two-bedroom ranch house in
suburban Philadelphia, the Kia she drove to work, and the handbags and
knickknacks she liked.
Then last year, back-to-back medical emergencies helped push her over the
edge. She could no longer afford either her home payments or her credit card
bills. Then she lost her job. Now her home is in foreclosure and her credit
profile in ruins. Ms. McLeod, who is 47, readily admits her money problems are largely of her own making.
Did you catch that? She’s taking responsibility for something completely out of her control, back-to-back medical emergencies.
She bought into the frame “I’m in control and I’m taking responsibility.” She is wrongly applying this bumper sticker doctrine to her personal “rough patch,” as President Bush would say. And because she blames herself, she’s probably not going to think that maybe something is systematically wrong with a government that allows people like her to fall through the cracks.
It's unfortunate, but she’s never going to seek a change in the rules of the game, set up by the moneyed interests that only reflect services that profit them, not policies that service people.