For conservatives, a high savings rate might just starve the beast

It looks like the shutdown might actually come to an end soon. Both parties have been bloodied, and now both have had enough and want to have a vote. There are two bills coming up for a vote in the Senate today, either one of which could end the shutdown if passed. But there are no guarantees.

Millions of people have been affected by the shutdown, mostly in the financial sense. More than 800,000 federal employees have had to make do without pay for weeks. Millions of people have seen an interruption in services that they paid taxes for. Millions still are looking at the possibility of not getting food stamps, tax refunds, and other services, on time. For some conservatives, this was the dream: to starve the beast. But I don’t think they were all that concerned with the cost of the shutdown, as I’m sure some number cruncher will find that the cost of the shutdown to the economy far exceeded any money “saved”.

What would the shutdown look like if those 800,000 federal employees had enough saved up to avoid the pain of a few weeks or months without a paycheck? I think that would make them self-sufficient.

It seems to me that conservative pundits and politicians have much to say about self-sufficiency. I heard someone say that Donald Trump is a self-made man. Is he? A self-made man is not self-made with financial assistance from his parents, and word has it that Trump has received more than $400 million in gifts structured as loans from his father. Loans that he never paid back.

Conservative politicians say that we should all be self-sufficient. But do they really want that? Maybe they just want us to be “more” self-sufficient but not enough to be financially independent like their friends in the donor class. Do such people really want every single American to have enough money to never be dependent on the government for any financial assistance, whatsoever? I have serious doubts that true financial self-sufficiency is what conservative politicians really have in mind.

Consider the case of Mr. Money Mustache. Here is a man who figured out, with his wife, how to save enough money to retire in 10 years. He retired at the age of 30 with enough money to maintain the same lifestyle he earned while still working. He’s not flamboyant, and he doesn’t flout wealth, for he just found that time is more valuable than the pursuit of money just for the sake of having money.

Somehow, I sincerely doubt that conservatives in Congress really want to see everyone so self-sufficient that they could pick and choose what they want to do in life. For their campaign dosh has to come from somewhere. And keeping a few neoliberalbillionaires happy is far easier than campaigning across the countryside for millions of tiny donations.

But let’s assume for a few minutes that the agenda of a typical conservative politician really is self-sufficiency. What would that look like?

I think that there would be a major shift in public policy with regards to education. Kids in every school, public or private, would be taught a philosophy of thrift and smart work. They would be taught, as Mr. Money Mustache has shown us, that with a frugal mind, one can save enough money to retire at 30. They would be taught to save 64% of their income for retirement, just like Mr. Money Mustache has shown us on his YouTube Channel.

Kids would be taught how to avoid costs that could eat into that savings. You know, like cell phones, video games and rice burner cars. They would be taught that there is plenty of time for fun in retirement. Heck, they could even be taught how to invest their savings so that it continually grows. I’m thinking DRIP, like direct re-investment programs in things like private utilities and other government sanctioned monopolies like Comcast, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

Doesn’t it seem curious then, that those who know how to invest their money have not made their knowledge all the more common? That would be something if the world’s wealthiest people poured their wealth building knowledge into a common pool. Then teachers and analysts could break it down, find the best practices and create a curriculum that every school can use. Shouldn’t that be a national priority?

You know, I hear conservatives pundits and politicians go on and on about the national debt, but they hardly ever talk about personal debt. It’s as if Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would rather not see an interruption of the service payments from former college students that keep her family businesses running. Perhaps, a high savings rate would mean that all parents could be their own bank and support their kids through school without going into debt. What if all Americans could go debt free? I guess you could say that I have a dream.

Try this one on. If young adults are already saving enough to retire, and they are well funded by the time they are 27, then they could demand a higher salary, or they stop working. At the very least, they would have the leverage they need find a better job with a higher salary than they could get from their current employer. I don’t think that kind of self-sufficiency is what elite conservatives have in mind. Wages might have to go up to fill the demand for labor, and no self-respecting Sirius radio pundit wants that.

From time to time, I hear that radio and television conservatives (I’m thinking Rush Limbaugh and Jason Chaffetz here) want to “starve the beast”, with “the beast” being the federal government. The way to do that is to curtail demand. I can’t think of a better way to reduce demand on government financial aid than by making a high savings rate a national priority. Why, if everyone had a year of expenses saved up, there would be very little demand on unemployment insurance, welfare and other wealth transfer programs. I dare say that those programs might be obsolete if everyone had enough money saved up to handle employment interruptions of a few months or even years.

I’m not totally convinced that Congress is serious about budget deficits, either. I mean, we got here with a $21 Trillion national debt for a reason: to create a safe place for wealthy people to put their money. That national debt has been piling up for decades and is backed by the taxes collected by the government. That debt pays interest, and that debt pays an interest rate far higher than you’d get at a typical bank. And that debt is guaranteed to be paid back. Our national debt is not an accident, it is a result of deliberate public policy choices made over a very long period of time.

But if people were self-sufficient, that national debt might not even be necessary. Why, if all Americans were financially self-sufficient, they might have time to show up at city council meetings, board meetings, and legislative sessions. Gosh, they might even have the means to get completely engaged in politics, and still make a living. You know, like Mitt Romney.

Just think, instead of poor people taking to the streets to protest a government decision that gores their ox, if those same poor people were self-sufficient, they’d have the means to be involved in the decision making process from beginning to end. If all Americans were financially self-sufficient, they could be so engaged in politics that they would be able to weed out the psychopaths and the liars before they ever got far in politics.

Write on.

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Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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