What We Can and Cannot Afford

Those of us with “investment portfolios” — i.e., money that’s supposed to magically replicate itself without us doing anything except surviving — were elated this week when the wise elders in charge of America decided to reverse an impending stock market crash brought on by the bungled management of the Corona Virus pandemic. In less than 24-hours, they pumped $1.5 trillion of Federal Reserve money into purchasing securities, steadying the plunging markets. Instead of vast fortunes being wiped out, they were merely reduced. All of us rich folks with money to spend on stuff other than rent, utility bills, and food were slightly less rich, but still firmly in the game, sure to have our well-deserved “investments” back to profitable in due time. Phew! That was close.

The downside of our good fortune was optical. It doesn’t look good when you tell indebted students, the elderly on a pension, the insolvent, the ill, that we don’t have the money to pay for their healthcare and education and whatever else they think is vital — but we do have the money to make sure the really important people in our society (and their portfolios) aren’t made to suffer. (Everyone already knows we have the money for constant war-making and corporate subsidies, but that’s different; that’s essential.) Fortunately for us affluent achievers, the less important people in our society accept these priorities graciously, refraining from mob violence. They seem to understand that our allegedly classless society has several clearly understood castes. When those of us in the top tranches do well, everyone below us does well (eventually, as prosperity trickles down all in good time). To allow the investor class to fail is to allow all of the United States to fail.

When the most righteous candidate for President in our lifetime proposes Medicare for All and tuition-free college, the standard response, of course, is to roll eyes and wonder rhetorically, “Howya gonna pay for it?” and other paraphrases of “we can’t afford to take care of each other.” This latest financial market debacle is going to make future dismissals a little more challenging, but the best way to explain the paradox to benighted progressives is to remind them that we can’t pay for everything, only some things, and some things are more vital to the well-being of our nation than healthcare and education. The S&P 500, for example.

Remember, socialism is bad/evil/un-American. Except for those of us who own stocks.




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