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Thursday, December 3, 2009

How much is that in real money?

I remember spending all day one summer Saturday when I was about eight or nine-years-old, collecting, with the help of my best friend, paper, scrap metal, bottles, etc., and taking it all, in my red Radio Flyer wagon, to the scrap iron junkyard, across the tracks, about a mile from my childhood stomping grounds.

We worked from hot morning through hotter afternoon gathering wagon-loads of stuff to sell at the junkyard. You see, it was my mom's birthday and I wanted to buy her a birthday card. (I know... "aaauw, isn't that just adorable?")

We watched, sweaty and disgustingly dirty, as our "golden cargo" was weighed. "OK boys," the junkman said. "That comes to 24 cents."  I couldn't believe it. All of our hard work had earned the enormous total of 12 cents each! (OK, so 24 cents in 'the olden days' would have been more in today's cents, but even then, it wasn't much.)

The card I coveted... the one with 'just the right message,' cost 15 cents. I can still remember, it had a rose on the front and some kind of mushy message inside. So here I am, a mess and still 3 cents short. But my buddy came through and made up the difference.

Bought the card, signed my name and proudly took it home to mom, who was napping on the bed at the time. I flopped beside her, proud and beaming. But before I could open my mouth, she flew off the bed and hollered, "JERRY! GET OFF... RIGHT NOW! YOU ARE JUST FILFTHY."

Fighting tears, I meekly pushed the card into her hands and said "Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you." Then I cried.

Well, I have to tell you, that 15 cent card was probably the most valuable 'real money' I ever had. It brought me a big tearful hug from mom, my favorite fried chicken dinner and special status for the next few days... until I did something kid-like and life went on.

I know that the less you have, the more it means. That's kind of what triggered this thought as I read today that Bank Of America is set to repay its $18.4 BILLION taxpayer subsidy. Now here's what I don't get... just a short time ago, BofA would have gone out of business if they didn't get the loan. Then, within months, they made it back and repaid. Well, good for them and us. But hey, how much is $18.4 billion in real money? Seems like it should take a longer time to generate that kind of cash and regain solvency than mere months. And where's the sweat? It's a non-attainable goal for almost all of us. One just doesn't live that long. I suppose it is the volatility of today's world, and it scares me.

I just know that my 12 cents earned probably meant more to me then than this $18.4 billion does to BofA today. And to us taxpayers who footed the loan, it's real money out of our pockets. What this really means, according to the Wall Street Journal and other experts in these kinds of matters, is that BofA can now, without government interference, again pay millionaires big, BIG bonuses and go back to life as usual.

Somehow along the line, I lost the concept of 'real money."

1 comment:

  1. I was watching one of the morning shows today, and they brought up a really good point: how many small businesses have suffered as a result? I mean, they obviously have really tightened up their lending to pay back the government so quickly.

    It's sad, and I am most saddened that this cycle will likely repeat itself.

    (Also, that's a really sweet story about the card you bought your mom.)

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