It is so delightful to see someone scorned now vindicated!
Although they may not actually say the words, everyone loves the feeling of being able to announce, “I told you so!” Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah! I told you so! I was right and you were wrong!
And so it came to pass…
During the Great Recession of the early 2000s, I was working as the head Administrative Assistant for a very large division at the State of Indiana. I felt myself extremely fortunate to have a secure job during that perilous time, counting my blessings regularly. No raise? No problem. I’ve got a salary, and a lot of people right now don’t. We might be asked to take a partial work week? Again, no problem, I told my boss; I’m just happy to have a job.
My co-Admin in the division—we’ll call her Julia–felt the same way. The two of us got along well, working together easily. I appreciated her sense of humor and her willingness to dive in and get the work done, and we shared what others probably considered eccentric viewpoints on many matters. Julia was also one of those women who did not hold back when she had an opinion. People could think what they would of her; she would say what she thought.
So when the Great Recession of 2007 hit and bank bail-outs became the event du jour, well, Julia had an opinion. And “banks too large to fail” rubbed her (well, actually, a lot of us) the wrong way. She began referring to this government intervention as “ginormous” corporate bail-outs. (Ginormous was Julia’s favorite word. It drove me nuts, but she used it constantly. In this particular case, though, it was accurate and appropriate.)
Julia said, and said loudly, to anyone who would listen, that she had a better idea: If you’re going to give money to corporate America, then do it equitably: Give some, a lot, of that money to people. Not just to banks and big corporations; to the little guy in the street, the one hit hardest by recession. The person whose job was hanging by a thread—or gone completely. The mothers who couldn’t pay for childcare so they could get to office. Joe Schmoe who couldn’t afford gas for his car to drive to work. Jane Plain who didn’t have cash for groceries. Let the little people have and spend the money, and get the economy back on track by doing so.
Set up rules, she suggested, and, yes, she had an opinion for those, too. Incarcerated? Nope, you don’t get a cent. So rich you have a hundred tax loopholes? Nope, you’re getting your government funding in a shady manner. On disability, though, yeah; you probably need the cash more than anyone. So do the retirees on their pittance from Social Security; they’d done their bit, working for 40 or 50 years. But, otherwise, government, hand those funds out, but to people. Living entities, not corporations or banks.
I listened to Julia’s ideas, and nodded sagely. I thought she was onto something pretty smart. But I also immediately tapped onto the fact that only a few of us (mostly the underpaid serfs) agreed with her. Others, especially the top echelon types—division heads, supervisors, department managers– found Julia’s idea utterly absurd and absolutely hilarious. “Did you hear Julia’s plan?” one supervisor asked me, grinning broadly. “Yes. Yes, I did,” I answered mildly, my tone indicating nothing. The supervisor then began to expound on the nonsense of Julia’s scheme, while I continued to say nothing, keeping my expression quite neutral.
In the years following the Great Recession and all its bailouts, though, I thought often about Julia’s plan to save the nation. And I recalled it clearly, and with a genuinely wry twist of the lips, when I held in my hand the first of the checks willingly handed out to Jane Plain and all her next of kin during the economic ruin of Covid. Stimulus monies, they called them. Here’s a wad of cash for those of you who can’t leave home and go to work—who don’t have money for groceries—who have “ginormous” medical bills after battling Covid. Here you are, ma’am, sir—cash in hand. Go forth and spend it well and wisely and get our economy back on track.
Even better was the later plan (now so bitterly embattled) for student loan forgiveness. Excavate the little people from mounds of debt, debt incurred so that they could get the education necessary to find a decent job, but which now prevented them from actually living the lives that the decent job promised.
Put money into the hands of those earnest, hard workers who need it most, rather than grease the palm of yet one more shady, overpaid CEO.
Julia, they laughed at you, those bigwigs and VIPs, those key players and stuffed shirts. They mocked your idea, shaking their heads and chuckling.
But you were absolutely right.