Monday, July 03, 2006

Mor(e) for Less



A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog orignally titled "American Hypocrisy." Sadly, I was working on a non-Mac computer and the "publish post" button blorped and took me back to the main page, neglecting to save my article. I had tried to copy it to the clipboard first (a move I long ago learned could be a savior for just such an occasion), but apparently Command-C doesn't work so well on those other computers. ANYWAY...things being as they are, I now have additional fodder for the ways I see hypocrisy in our modern society; the new title of this piece suggests just that.

On the way home from seeing Superman Returns yesterday (cannot reccomend highly enough, BTW) I noticed a new supermarket: MOR FOR LESS. No typo there; apparently, Dan Quale scared the hell out of everyone with his spelling of common garden fruits, so now otherwise capable signmakers are leaving off perfectly good "e's." The thing I really LIKED about the sign, though, was how representative it is of the current mindset of many U.S. citizens: the idea that, in some way, we actually CAN get "more for less." The missing "e", however, is a perfect analogy for the truth: you cannot, in reality, get more for less, and by trying, you simply get...well, what you pay for. Which in this case, is less.

How did we arrive at this hypocritical juncture? What made us believe that, by spending LESS money, we could put MORE in our carts? Part of it, I believe, is a drop in quality. Make something a little more cheaply, and then you can afford to buy MORE of it. Cheap crap, that is. See my Disposable article for my feelings about quality control in modern life. Another aspect, though, is a little more sinister to consider. I think, conspiracy theory wackiness aside, that some of it stems from our governments. Local, state, federal...they ALL want us to believe that we can accomplish MORE with LESS.

Take St. Johns, for instance. In my hometown, we have around 40 miles of "in-town" roads. Over 75% of them are rated at "poor" or "failing." We haven't had a major road reconstruction in town since the 1960s. The local government, recognizing a problem, ran TWO millage proposals in two years to try to raise funds for major road repairs. Not just your typical mill-&-fill job, you understand: complete removal of current surface and rebuilding, from the bed up. The first proposal was a lot to swallow, even for social liberals like Tess and me. We voted against it. The second proposal was the one I figured the local government actually WANTED to pass, but offered it up as a "better option" than the shoot-the-moon proposal we got at first. Tess & I voted for that one, and the tally was much closer...but it still failed. Since then, we've been at a standstill. Many people in town believe that the funds for these major road repairs can come from trimming the current budget. All of this would be accomplished, of course, without actually CUTTING any services the city currently provides: the belief is they can get MORE (road repairs) for LESS (money in the overall budget). Can't be done. At the city's best estimate, the reconstruction of only 2 miles of roadways would eat up the ENTIRE budget. So, even if we spent all the money the city takes in (and close the schools, shut down the police and fire services, etc. etc.), it would still take 20 years to reconstruct all the roads. At which point, well, we'd probably need to start all over again. The city council is hesitant to come right out and SAY that, of course, because we're constantly bombarded with the very hypocritical message that it CAN be done...but it can't, and most people seem to want to stay ignorant of that.

So-called "conservative" federal administrations can take their share of the blame for this kind of thinking. Take the recent federal recessions, for instance. On one hand, we're told by financial planners that we in the U.S. are at an all-time low of savings; that we're saving LESS than we ever have since the era of the Great Depression. Then President Bush and like-minded anti-taxation folks come trotting out and give us something like this: "The recession will go away once the economy picks up, and in order for that to happen we need to CUT taxes and people need to go out and spend money to stimulate the ecomony." Hypocrisy: we're told to SAVE and SPEND at the same time. Can't do it. And you can't CUT taxes without also cutting spending; but, our president seems to be pretty good at actually doing that very thing...he who hasn't ever vetoed a spending bill. How long will THAT house of cards last, I wonder?

Once the concept of hypocrisy starts to get under your skin, you begin to see it everywhere. Take physical health: we're told by unanimous voices from the medical community that obesity in the U.S. is increasing at an alarming rate, and all across the board: adults & children, men & women, ethnicities...whatever. We're told that, unless we DO something about it, we're facing the first generation ever to have a life expectancy that's actually SHORTER than their parents. We're told the foods we should eat, the exercise we should get, and a host of other things designed to make us not necessarily all Brat Pitt lookalikes, but at least HEALTHY, dammit. Then I go to Mackinac Island, and what do I see? Advertisements in the windows of no fewer than five clothing stores: "We now carry 2x-3x-4x sizes!" One store, I swear, used a brightly-colored, cheerful sign to declare they had FIVE-X sizes in t-shirts! Hypocrisy: eat smarter and be healthy...oh, and here are the tent sizes for those of you eating all that fudge.

Jubal Harshaw had a great word he liked to use throughout his appearances in Robert Heinlein's novels: "tanstaafl." It's an acronym, athough you can say it as a kind of eastern-Russian sounding word. Try it: "tanstaafl" It stands for "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch." Great concept, and one that, once you recognize its inherent truth, goes a long way toward eliminating hypocisy in your life. Want better roads? Pay for 'em...tanstaafl. Wanna eat that large pizza & chase it with a 2-liter? Enjoy your Type-2...tanstaafl. There IS no "more for less," and anyone who tries to sell it to you is simply hiding the true cost. Live smart. Get what you pay for. Avoid hypocrisy.

8 Comments:

Blogger Lisa said...

Love the acronym. My fave is

FYATHYRIO.

I'll give you time to figure it out. ;)

10:37 AM  
Blogger Animal said...

Let's see...is it:

"Fool, you ASK to hump, you retarded imbecil! Oy!"

12:24 PM  
Blogger Gknee said...

FYATHYRIO = Forget You And The Horse You Rode In On

Jerry's family is quite different from mine. My family has always been about quality first, price second. I remember the first time we got him a good winter jacket he just looked at me with these welled up eyes and said "I never had a good coat before". He has that coat after 11 years.

Being a morbid obese woman I have to comment on that too. It is a sad state that the country has gotten into. We went to dinner the other night and the portions were huge. Because we have been slimming down on our own we recognized that one it was normal to have 20 oz of pork chops in a meal and second that most people would just gobble it up without thinking. Jerry and I have become quite the "doggie bag" carriers. It is nice to see that most fast food chains now are offering healthier choices.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Dude... could you look anymore like Silent Bob?

love the post. remind me to send you information on a 19th century economist with similar viewpoints

when's the mint festival 5k?

9:37 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Did the razor break?
I always like to hear the teachers view. Don't consider myself a Dem or Rep, I'm in the middle. Every Dem I've liked, the press has ran out of town. The Rep are going way to far to the right for me. McCain in 08? I'm had a few week moments when I considered Hillary, but she scares me. She just wants POWER! All the wrong reasons to run for Pres. My hope is that one of these years we have a choice between two good people. But I don't think the press will ever let that happen.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Hi there, first time reader, long time blogger. Caught your site thru Passmore's...

Gotta agree with you on this one, brother. Everyone is up in arms about losing business out of state/the country, yet no one wants to pony up the extra cash to buy truly American products or services. Instead, we covet the "cheapest" product with shitty quality (but it was 50% off!)

My husband is from Deutschland. Those people have little disposable income (personal taxes are over 50%, gas is $6/gallon), but they are loyal to more expensive German products. It is keeping their economy afloat...and their businesses are staying put.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Nitmos said...

...we are all portaling through Luki's site...entering some strange new world....

If you want a quality product or service, you have to pay for it. No doubt. The problem is that everyone is knee-jerky, instinctively afraid of the word "Government" - like the boogeyman. Without government - anarchy; too much - oppression. But there is a middle ground people. I want the city to pick up my leaves from my curb when I rake them but everyone is afraid of the what, extra $5 in taxes, to pay for it? So now I have to spend several extra hours every fall raking them into little bags and illegally dumping them at the nearest apartment complex. When I could be out spending money stimulating the economy.

Let me say though that it is possible to get More for Less. For fear of giving a big secret away, I won't say what major government run health system I support (it rhymes with Pedicare). It COULD expand and provide the same services to every citizen of the U.S. and a cheaper rate than our skyrocketing insurance premiums. But that cuts too close to the socialism bones for some folks...

10:05 AM  
Blogger Nitmos said...

BTW, I'm hoping the unshaven thong look is still in. ;)

10:11 AM  

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