If you’d just work harder, everything would be perfect

This irritates me a lot. It’s a poster in the style of “We Are the 99%” talking about how the person holding it is a college senior about to graduate debt-free, because they *work hard* and *save* and don’t spend their money on *stupid luxuries.* They go into lots of detail about their low-paying job and when they started saving and how if you’re in debt it’s your own fault for not living within your means.

Dude, good for you. First off, really seriously, good for you. If you’re working 30 hours a week in retail or food service, taking a full load of college courses, and pulling off a good GPA, my hat is off to you. That’s an accomplishment, and you have every right to be proud of it.

But where you stop making me think “Go you,” and start wanting you to shut up and go away is where you assume that people who have debt made bad decisions, or were lazy. And where you assume that hard work is the only thing responsible for you being able to graduate debt-free.

First off, you have a job. Lots of people are busting their tails trying to find work and haven’t been able to. So for every college student with your story, there are probably a dozen who can’t get a job at K-Mart or the local pizza joint because they have hundreds of applicants for every position. And you worked while you were in high school? Great. The economy sucked a lot less when you were in high school. Today, a lot of those typical teenage jobs are being filled by twenty-, thirty-, and forty-somethings who can’t get anything else.

Secondly, based on the fact that you’re physically and mentally able to do what you do, I’m guessing you’re in at least decent health. But what would happen if you were injured and couldn’t work for a month? What if you had a disability that made that work and class schedule impossible?

Third, you got scholarships. Yes, you absolutely earned those with your good grades. But there are certainly students who work just as hard, maybe even get the same grades, who don’t get scholarships, or don’t get the same amount of scholarship money you did. And people with awesome grades and scholarships still have student loans. I graduated third in my class, was a National Merit Scholar and had a “full tuition scholarship” (in scare quotes because it didn’t cover increases, so it was only full tuition my freshman year). And yet, here I am, eight years after graduation, still paying on my student loan. Not much, but I am in debt, so by this person’s standard, I fail at life.

If someone has debt, it *might* be because they made poor decisions. It might also be because they made the perfectly reasonable decision to borrow money for something that’s worth it, or at least was when they made the decision. A college education is a prerequisite for a lot of jobs, student loan interest is usually not that high, and college loans can be a good thing. If you can get a job when you get out, that is. It’s a risk, like anything else, but that doesn’t make it a bad decision. Someone starting school four years ago couldn’t have predicted where the economy would be now and how hard it would be to find a job with their degree. And that’s without even taking into consideration how banks can and do misrepresent loan terms or make huge numbers of bad decisions.

Responsibility is for Other People

One thing I’ve noticed in a lot of different places is how quick people are to armchair quarterback someone else’s life and decide they’re being “irresponsible.”

A lady I know manages a rental property for a family member, and she was telling me about how stupid she thinks it is that she gets calls from military families wanting to know if she’ll rent to someone with two dogs and three cats. According to her, they shouldn’t have pets, since they know they’re going to move around a lot. It’s irresponsible, poor planning. Sure, if you know you’re moving soon, it’s a bad time to get a dog. But, because someone’s in the military, what, their kids aren’t supposed to have a dog? With all the sacrifices their family is already making? Seriously? Plus, cats and dogs can live ten to fifteen years. How many people stay in the same place that long anymore? Every pet I ever had as a kid was with us through at least one move, and my family hardly moved around at all. SO I guess that means just about everyone is disqualified from having a pet.

Another example showed up in the comments thread of an Alas post on We Are the 99 Percent. The post was about stories of people who have worked hard, saved, been responsible, and still are failing to make ends meet. One commenter decided to nitpick a lot of the posts to turn around and blame them for the problems. They picked the wrong major or spent too much on their degree. Again, sure, it’s good to pick a degree you can actually do something with. But “degree you can do something with” changes all the time, and is based on your skills. (If I’d tortured myself through a comp sci degree, for example, I’d probably be a lousy programmer.) And yet, somehow it’s reasonable to expect people to predict the future, or to magically become good at things they have no aptitude or interest in.

Sure, I get why people do this. If bad things happen to people who *don’t* deserve them, that means you’re not safe either, no matter how well you plan or how smart and how superior you tell yourself you are.

The Puppy Is Eating My Life

I have lots of ideas for posts, but haven’t posted in a while, largely because of this girl:Reba (a red and white pit bull) cuddled up to Mr. Thinkstoomuch

We’re fostering her for a rescue organization, and she’s a sweetie. She’s also fairly needy, and because of her background (she came in pretty beat up), we’ve had to introduce her very slowly to our dog.

But I do still exist…I think.