Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Fat, Trapped, Aging Fast
The other night PBS had a show, hosted by Paula Zahn, about retirement planning. Was it written by Zahn, maybe? It seemed aimed at the kindergarten set (surely they're not ready for this), along the lines, to paraphrase, of "there are stocks, children; there are bonds;there are IRAs, too. And you must save money or else you won't have enough when you're old." No angle at all--nothing about why Americans spend so much money, or about how most of these people, enormously fat as they almost w/o exception were, are the lucky ones--the ones who make enough money to put something aside. Just one comment from one financial person about how she worried about the old ladies you see waitressing, who you know aren't doing it because they want a second career. No real mention of the fact that social security is almost never enough to support anyone living in retirement in the US. Not really any recognition of how many many people live hand-to-mouth in the US and couldn't possibly save any money. Or of how bankruptcy law has changed. It did make me realize how lucky I have been, though, (and largely because of the men I've married) (although I guess also because I am who I am and I was brought up that way) these people are just so hopelessly trapped (I mean the ones on the show who, mostly, were taking care of their retirement planning perfectly well) in ordinary if minimal petty bourgeois life. And wow! almost every one hugely fat, yet there was no mention of that--it just went on as if that was the normal way to be, which maybe it is in America. Note, though, that the professionals who were asked for expert advice (pretty feeble, frankly) were all rather slim. (It could be partly the way they were dressed--the experts in suits; the someday-to-be-retired people in American casual (sweatsuits, etc.)--suits seem to disguise at least partly the hideous sloppiness of what seems to be the new American weight standard. The new American public TV standard is another thing--I hope this doesn't indicate a trend. I thought public TV was supposed to be different. This was totally puerile.