I keep wanting to write something totally erudite about the economic crisis that could still cause our country to bail out banks to the tune of a trillion dollars, but I cannot.
There is something deep in me that I want to say about how egregious this bailout would be, but words escape me. Even as I search for special words I see myself looking eyeball to eyeball with a student whose parent is now unemployed, which means her tuition and fees will go unpaid.
Or, I see myself having a conversation with my financial aid officer who will tell me how much money she needs to keep some of our highest achieving students enrolled. There is something to say about the way our economy is melting down, about those who benefited and those who did not. And then there is something else to say. This is not personal. But each of us needs to take it personally.
In other words, this is a wake up call for every American who has been careless with her money. This is a wake up call for anyone who needs to look at her portfolio and figure out how to balance it. This is a painful holler for anyone who doesn't know what she is worth or how her pension fund is invested. It is time for all of us to take this crisis personally.
Most Americans are not millionaires; most of us work hard for the money.
It's a rough thing, being out there, trying to figure out how to make ends meet. It is utterly galling that 535 people are considering how to rescue bankers and nobody is rescuing us. And some of this crisis is utterly manufactured. No matter. We have to take this nonsense personally because it affects us.
Now is the time to pick up one of those personal finance books and implement a plan. Now is the time for each of us to be financial literacy warriors, pushing, focusing, fighting, fighting to make sure we understand everything we need to know about this economy. Put down the metro section of the paper, and pick up the business section. Now is the time for us to be as passionate about cash as we once were about celebrities.
When we take it personally, we can get it — we can get on program about the things that we must do to survive the next two years. Yes, two years. It is my humble opinion that it will take that long to turn the economy around, and that the new president, whoever he is, will be shackled by the funk of this economic crisis for awhile. And we don't need a drama king who suspends campaigns to deal with something he has no control over.
Let me be clear. We didn't do this. Somebody is reading and chafing and saying why should I have to bear the burden of the banks. Why must I take the weight of irresponsible profiteers? No matter. In this crisis we are in the same boat. Were I a member of Congress I'd manage this very differently, but I'm not. My professional family, the faculty, staff, students, and parents at Bennett College for Women are in crisis around this madness and I am writing as if they are reading. This is personal because survival is personal. This is a clarion call for all of us to immerse ourselves in the business of financial literacy, and to remember, as our ancestors did, to thrive, not just survive, in hard times. We spend prudently, we save, we invest, we exhale, and we remember that we are not defined by our possessions but by our hearts.
Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women. She can be reached at [email protected].