Monday, March 16, 2009

20/20 - Bailouts and Bull

First off, I'm so very glad we have a DVR with our Comcast service. I had to get to bed early Friday night, since the alarm clock was set to 5:30 a.m. for Saturday's race. Thanks to the wonders of dual tuners and the DVR, I was not only able to record the next-to-last episode of "Battlestar Galactica", but didn't have to miss John Stossel's 20/20 special "Bailouts and Bull".

Watched it with the kids during lunch Saturday. As with Stossel's other specials, this one was great. I'd seen most of the subjects covered, through Drew Carey's webcasts on Reason TV, but thought Stossel and his team did a great job packaging the issues together, and taking the questions to our representatives in Washington, DC.

I'm not sure how much of the segments the younger kids were able to follow. I figure it's like other grown up topics - they'll absorb as much as their brains are ready for, and ignore the rest. It's good they saw the economists who don't agree with the constant cries of crisis and calls for more bailouts. And that my daughter, who does worry and ask questions after the economy is discussed on the evening news, saw the segment showing the middle class is actually doing alright.

But... the biggest reason I wanted them to see the special was the final segment. Stossel spoke with two people who perfectly illustrate a lesson I want my children to hear at every possible opportunity.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. In it, she details her year of working a variety of low-end and minimum wage jobs, and not being able to make ends meet. At the end of the year, she had nothing to show for her labor... except for the material for her book.

Adam Shepard is also an author, of the book Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream. In the book, he details his year - no savings, no shelter, and an entry level, low paying job. Though they started out from a very similar point, Shepard ended the year with a completely different result than Ehrenreich. He ended the year with a furnished apartment, $5,500 in savings, and a used truck.

Ehrenreich's conclusion, based on her struggles and failure, is that it is almost impossible for the lower income workers to get ahead in today's economy, and extremely difficult to even just stay afloat. Shepard's message is that it's not easy, but if you are willing to make sacrifices and work hard, success isn't out of reach.

Attitude makes a tremendous difference. If you start out with "It's impossible. I can't." in your mind, you'll prove yourself right. If you start with the thought "I can. Now, what's the best way to get it done?", then you'll find a way.

It's always wonderful to have real world examples to point to during discussions of life lessons and character. I'm so glad to have seen Friday's show with the kidlets.

The Bailouts and Bull episode is available in segments on YouTube, and probably in full from ABC's website. Here's the segment I've been talking about:


Adam said...

Heyyyy mappchik,

Thank you for posting! I'm glad you enjoyed Stossel's piece. :)



Slamdunk said...

Excellent post Mappchik. I heard Shepard being interviewed awhile back on a Dr. Helen podcast and it was very interesting.

I remember browsing through the Ehenreich book and was very frustrated. From what I remember about it, it gave the perspective of only a very small minority of folks--those starting from absolute scratch. I was glad Shepard even debunked that myth.

Maybe my Internet probs will be figured out later and I can actually watch the video...

Slamdunk said...

Ok, watched the video and it was certainly worth it. Nice to see JS confront Barbara Ehrenreich as she is paid big dollars to spread an untrue message--and her best rebuttal is: "well, that was my experience." I doubt she includes that phrase in her speeches.

mappchik said...

...and her best rebuttal is: "well, that was my experience." I doubt she includes that phrase in her speeches...

That rebuttal says so much. If you go out and do things exactly the same way she did, you'll get the same result - so she's technically telling the truth.

It's frustrating that so many students are being forced to read her book as text, without getting the comparison. Some will question her, like Shepard did, but most will simply accept it as fact.

Glad you got a chance to watch the video. The rest of the show is pretty darn good, too.