Author Topic: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift  (Read 4192 times)

Kris

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Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« on: January 26, 2015, 10:09:28 AM »
So, this isn't exactly a "wall of shame and comedy" post… but I heard this author today on Minnesota Public Radio.  She has written a book about income insecurity/social instability in the US.  For a summary version of the book, here's an article she wrote for HuffPo:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marianne-cooper-phd/one-nation-under-worry_b_5648622.html

I guess the reason I'm putting this here is, three months ago I would have completely agreed with everything she said on the radio interview and in this article.  Now, since reading MMM… I'm less convinced.  It's interesting how my perspective has changed.

On the one hand, I completely agree that the anxiety and the income inequality are real things.  On the other, of course, I immediately see so many ways in which many (not all, of course) of these factors are being monumentally exacerbated by our spendypants consumer sucka culture. 

I still have a huge amount of sympathy for SOME of the people she talked about (not so much the rich suckers who were freaking out that they still couldn't make ends meet).  But it was interesting.  I realized that three months ago, I would have been wringing my hands in despair about how awful it all is.  Now, I feel like I want to track a bunch of these people down and send them the link to the MMM blog.  I realized how much more empowered I feel now.

merula

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2015, 11:01:28 AM »
Interesting read. Unlike a lot of these kinds of articles, I feel like this one was not meant to elicit sympathy but rather show a side of income inequality that is not generally talked about.

For those on the rich side, who feel like they need $10M+ to be "completely financially secure", I have no greater judgment than I do for those who feel like 2% is the max acceptable SWR. At that point, it's not about the money, it's about something else. And while I may have issues personally with the probable environmental impact of such a lifestyle, I can hardly fault people for working to make more money.

For those on the poor side, who "scale back" to "just the basics" and "always [try] to look on the bright side", that sounds pretty Mustachian to me. Maybe she's cherry-picking examples, but talking about a single mom working as a cashier and is struggling, to me that's not a valid target for "Why aren't you saving 50% of your income?"

I think income inequality is a problem because of the way that societies with high inequality tend to be socially and politically unstable. If my goal is financial independence, then that's going to group me in with the "rich" even if my consumption is more in line with the "poor". What if I achieve FI and then political instability leads to a wealth tax or other method of nationalizing my assets?

As a mustachian, I'd rather pay a heavily progressive income tax than risk social and political instability. I can plan for taxes, I can't plan for revolutions.

MgoSam

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2015, 11:15:06 AM »
Thank you for sharing this article, I enjoyed reading it.

Do you live in MN? I love MPR as well!

Kris

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2015, 11:39:10 AM »
Interesting read. Unlike a lot of these kinds of articles, I feel like this one was not meant to elicit sympathy but rather show a side of income inequality that is not generally talked about.

I agree.  Though in the MPR interview, she was definitely showing more of her subjective feelings about the people (and she has followed their lives for years, so it's not surprising that she would become emotionally involved/sympathetic toward them). 

For those on the rich side, who feel like they need $10M+ to be "completely financially secure", I have no greater judgment than I do for those who feel like 2% is the max acceptable SWR. At that point, it's not about the money, it's about something else. And while I may have issues personally with the probable environmental impact of such a lifestyle, I can hardly fault people for working to make more money.

Again, I agree.  The thing I think she does a pretty good job of indicating is that this is not only a purely financial issue, but an emotional one.  For those who have huge amounts of money and still don't feel secure, their emotions are just as "real" to them, of course, as people who are "really" poor. 


For those on the poor side, who "scale back" to "just the basics" and "always [try] to look on the bright side", that sounds pretty Mustachian to me. Maybe she's cherry-picking examples, but talking about a single mom working as a cashier and is struggling, to me that's not a valid target for "Why aren't you saving 50% of your income?"

Again, I agree (LOL) -- to an extent.  The thing about those people (the Laura Delgado example) that struck me, though, was not the level of Mustachian-ness that this person displayed in her attitude.  It was more that I found myself thinking, "Gosh, I wonder if she would benefit from MMM."  I mean, I'm sure she is doing the best she can, and working very hard to limit expenses.  But (and I mean no judgment here), we've all seen case studies here and on MMM's blog, where someone is really struggling, and then when they put down their monthly income and expenses, we can right away see ways in which their financial situation could be instantly improved.  I kind of wanted to go over to her house and help her brainstorm, KWIM?

I think income inequality is a problem because of the way that societies with high inequality tend to be socially and politically unstable. If my goal is financial independence, then that's going to group me in with the "rich" even if my consumption is more in line with the "poor". What if I achieve FI and then political instability leads to a wealth tax or other method of nationalizing my assets?

As a mustachian, I'd rather pay a heavily progressive income tax than risk social and political instability. I can plan for taxes, I can't plan for revolutions.

+ 1. 

Kris

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2015, 11:40:00 AM »
Thank you for sharing this article, I enjoyed reading it.

Do you live in MN? I love MPR as well!

Yes, I do -- Saint Paul!  You?

We are really lucky to have such fantastic public radio here.

mlipps

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2015, 12:37:32 PM »
I like the way you put your initial thoughts in the OP, Kris. I agree that while I still have a great deal of sympathy for people who are in a difficult place financially, MMM has made me feel much more empowered personally. And yes, it has definitely changed the way I read articles like this. Thanks for sharing, it was an interesting read.

nereo

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2015, 01:31:25 PM »
I guess the reason I'm putting this here is, three months ago I would have completely agreed with everything she said on the radio interview and in this article.  Now, since reading MMM… I'm less convinced.  It's interesting how my perspective has changed.

On the one hand, I completely agree that the anxiety and the income inequality are real things.  On the other, of course, I immediately see so many ways in which many (not all, of course) of these factors are being monumentally exacerbated by our spendypants consumer sucka culture. 

This reminds me of something I keep thinking about.  Everywhere I turn I keep hearing about about the 'struggling middle class' and about the 'middle class is being left behind' and that the middle class "hasn't had a pay-raise in more than a decade."  While there's truth to all those statements, it's an incredibly pessimistic and one-sided way of looking at things.  Circa 2000, we were collectively patting ourselves on the back and talking about how strong and prosperous the US middle-class was.  Never before had the middle-class had that much money to spend.
Now fast-forward to the the post great-recession, and graph after graph shows that the middle-class have more or less the same amount of money (adjusted for inflation) as they did back in 2000 - only now it's a travesty, not a triumph. 
Most of the problem is (literally) relative; we are comparing the middle class to the significantly and increasingly wealthy top-incomes.  It also goes against our notion that things should steadily improve.  But if it was great to be middle-class in 1999, why is it suddenly almost "impossible to survive" in the middle class now, as so many articles keep insisting?

Going back to the article, the author keeps referencing how the middle class feels squeezed.  She states that the only way for one person to feel secure is to have accumulate several million dollars more. What struck me though is the common theme that these are all perceptions. 

MgoSam

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2015, 02:14:58 PM »
Thank you for sharing this article, I enjoyed reading it.

Do you live in MN? I love MPR as well!

Yes, I do -- Saint Paul!  You?

We are really lucky to have such fantastic public radio here.

Minneapolis! Yeah, I love MPR and am proud to be able to say "I make MPR happen!"

Kris

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2015, 03:16:18 PM »
Thank you for sharing this article, I enjoyed reading it.

Do you live in MN? I love MPR as well!

Yes, I do -- Saint Paul!  You?

We are really lucky to have such fantastic public radio here.

Minneapolis! Yeah, I love MPR and am proud to be able to say "I make MPR happen!"


Me, too!  Sustainers represent! :-)

Capsu78

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Re: Marianne Cooper, Cut Adrift
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2015, 04:29:04 PM »
So I read this article today as well as this one published in WAPO:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/01/24/the-american-dream-shatters-in-prince-georges-county/

I have empathy towards the folks in both... for a while...then the crudmudgeon in me starts to come out.  So here is what "he" is saying.  The reason we are starting to see these articles pop up is because the battle space is being prepared for the 2016 Presidential election.  There is at least one possible candidate who began their obscure aspiration to the presidency on a Senate run peppered with the slogan  "the middle class is getting hammered.."  "Inequality is ruining the middle class".   What I think we may be seeing is the same folks in the "media politico industrial complex" who brought us fatiguing cynical campaigns filled with strawmen every other year for the past decade are already fully invested in this issue for the run up to 2016.

In the WAPO article, I was moved by the subjects predicament and bought into the narrative that these where responsible people who caught into some bad timing.  It wasn't until I wandered into the comments section where between some of the vile race baiting comments, I saw someone post that a property search of these folks indicated they were not victims of inequality, but rather had stripped out all of their hard won equity of both their condo and their home through refinancing as opposed to "predatory" lending.  While I admire the fact they pay their mortgage every month, they don't seem to acknowledge that you only get to spend a dollar once.

OK my wife is coming.  I have to put the Crudmudgean back in his box!   If my wife finds out we have been hanging out, I will be on the undersized sofa tonight...   
« Last Edit: January 26, 2015, 04:38:49 PM by Capsu78 »