12 July, 2008

Woman of the People

[Update below]

I don't usually do gratuitous political slaps on this blog, but this was just too much:

"You're getting $600 — what can you do with that? Not to be ungrateful or anything, but maybe it pays down a bill, but it doesn't pay down every bill every month," she said. "The short-term quick fix kinda stuff sounds good, and it may even feel good that first month when you get that check, and then you go out and you buy a pair of earrings."

Silly me, I thought it could be an opportunity to recover from unemployment or stupid past financial decisions so that I could move forward and maybe this time not spend money I don't have... But hey, that's just me.

I blogged about my thoughts on what to do with my stimulus check. I still haven't been able to bring myself to spend it on the frivolous thing I had in mind--being responsible seemed the way to go. And being only recently well-employed and with prices going up as they are, having a cushion isn't a bad idea. Besides, my car will be paid off next month, giving me significant budget breathing room to do fun things.

But hey, why be responsible? I'll just take Ms. Obama's advice and spend it on earrings that could be mistaken for something one tenth the price while working in my service-oriented career (as she advised) instead of pursuing the kind of job that would allow me to actually afford those $600 earrings. Then, when my poor financial planning and frivolous spending catch up with me, I'll just turn to the Obama-led government. 'Cause Ms. Obama is gonna take care of me, right?

Of course, the other interpretation of her comment is that this middle class Woman of the Little People views spending $600 on earrings the way we view spending $100 on a dress.

Other than my car and the grand piano I inherited, I own only one thing that costs $600 or more: a gorgeous brooch of great sentimental value that I received as a gift.

I have yet to find an occasion to wear it.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that gentlemen readers may not understand the subtlety of Ms. Obama saying we might spend the $600 on earrings (vs. something else).

A woman doesn't buy expensive earrings for herself, She just doesn't. If she has extra money to spend on fashion, it's much more likely to be spent on something more noticeable--such as a pair of shoes, a handbag, or a dress. If she's going to buy earrings, it's going to be relatively "cheap" ones that go with a certain outfit because not too many people are going to notice whether her earrings cost $50 or $500... not to mention, where is the average middle class woman going that would require such expensive earrings?? For that once-in-a-lifetime event, she's going to pour her money into her dress, not her jewelry.

The average woman with a $600 windfall may spend it on a shopping spree resulting in a pair of top-of-the-line shoes, a nice dress and a full day at the spa. No way is she spending it all on earrings. That only happens if $600 is mere pocket change to her. Nothing wrong with that except, (as I allude to in comments below) that is completely at odds with the image the Obamas are trying to sell us.