America’s enduring love affair with big spending is fetching up against some unromantic realities. But a lifelong saver assures us that there are worse fates than socking it away for a rainy day.
Remember Jack Benny? Cheapness was his shtick; on his radio and television shows he occasionally made hilarious subterranean visits to his money, which was protected by locks, alligators, and an ancient security guard who, from the look of him, had last seen action at the Second Battle of Bull Run. “Your money or your life,” to the rest of us, is Hobson’s choice; to Benny, it was an existential crisis.
Ah, those were the days—a halcyon time when, the Depression still a fresh memory, Americans enjoyed both affluence and restraint. Willy Loman’s refrigerator payments notwithstanding, consumer indebtedness at midcentury now looks like a mere flyspeck, at least from the towering mountain of debt atop which we sit.
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Daniel Akst writes for a living—which enforces thrift—in New York’s Hudson Valley. He is a contributing editor of The Wilson Quarterly.more from this author >>