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Episode 004: “Capitalism Is Working for Me. So How Could I Hate It?”



Our podcast question today is on the topic of wealth, privilege, and g-g-g-g—

No, not ghosts! It’s g-g-g-guilt!

Specifically: rich white lady guilt! OooOOoooOOOO!

But don’t be afraid. Piggy and I are both ex-Catholics. Whatever kind of guilt you have, we can slice and dice it into bite-sized chunks with the studied grace of a teppanyaki chef.

Today’s question

“As a progressive person and someone who is starting to get into a pretty good place financially (have an emergency fund, bought a home a few years ago, paid off credit card debts), I’ve started feeling so guilty! It probably doesn’t help that I work in finance too. I don’t like capitalism but I’m working it the way I’m ‘supposed’ to. How do I feel less guilty for making myself financially healthy?”

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An unusual amount of effort has been expended tearing this author down.

Bitchtastic Book Review: Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado

“Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” originally meant “impossible.” Think of it: you can’t defy gravity just by pulling up on your shoes. It can’t be done.

And yet this phrase has become both a command and an insult wielded by those who insist that anyone can make it in America. “Quit whining and pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” is the refrain from news anchors and radio hosts who seem to think that being poor is a choice and poverty an indication of moral failing.

Enter Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado. I was pretty psyched to read this one, as most of the books on economics and inequality I’ve read recently have been written by academics or historians.

Linda Tirado is neither. She’s a person who has lived the reality of being poor in this country. She’s one of the millions of Americans who lives hand to mouth, told to pull herself up by her bootstraps, who has fought to navigate the maddening labyrinth of government welfare, been mistreated and shat upon in minimum wage jobs, whose life has been stressful and precarious because of a lack of money, and whose health and quality of life has therefore suffered.

This story on poverty in America is from the horse’s mouth.

Tirado answered a question on an online forum about what life was like for the poor and her post went viral. From there, she was offered a book deal. This book is basically an expansion on her original blog post. It is angry, frustrated, passionate, filled with the pent-up rage of years of being downtrodden.

Here’s what I learned.

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If you're constantly shilling out money for cheap, subpar necessities then at what point can you invest in high-quality, long-term solutions?

It’s More Expensive to Be Poor Than to Be Rich

Terry Pratchett had a really perfect explanation for one of the many reasons why it’s more expensive to be poor than to be rich:

“Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of ok for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

-Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

By this model, one reason the rich are so rich is because they manage to spend less money… and not just on boots.

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