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  • Writer's pictureMonica Harris

We Don't Talk About The Real Reason It's Hard AF To Make Ends Meet

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

August 30, 2018

Why are hundreds of millions of Americans no longer focused on getting ahead, but just staying alive?

It's an open secret that most of us are barely hanging on now.

We're so busy trying to hang on that we don't have time to think about why we're in this position. Like a wounded solider, we know that some limb or organ has been badly damaged, but we're so focused on taking our next breath that we don't stop to figure out where we've been hit -- or how badly we've been injured.

So why are hundreds of millions of Americans now limping through life, no longer focused on getting ahead, but just staying alive? The answers are hidden in plain sight.

I had lunch with a friend recently at a trendy L.A. bistro. We kept it light with salad and iced tea, and when the check came we didn't bat an eye.

$48, not including tip.

10 years ago, the thought of paying almost $60 for a glorified appetizer and beverage would have left me gobsmacked. But not anymore. Because paying grand theft for lunch served on a plate is now the new normal.

We've become numb to the obscene amount of money leaving our wallets every day.

We take for granted that everything we need and want gets more expensive every year, and if someone asks us why, the word "inflation" usually comes to mind.

But inflation is merely a symptom of the wounds we've sustained: not to our bodies, but to the MONEY in our wallets and bank accounts. The problem is that most Americans aren't aware of the extent of the injuries. But the reason it's hard AF to make ends meet now is because the U.S. dollar is dying.

And no one is talking about it.

We've become numb to the obscene amount of money leaving our wallets every day

Whether we're blue collar, white collar or missing a collar, most of us are laser-focused on how much money we bring home. And while the number of dollars we earn does matter, what matters more is our purchasing power: how much we can buy with the dollars we earn. The problem for every American now is that our purchasing power is falling at a breathtaking rate.

Over the past five generations, the U.S. dollar has steadily lost value, enduring a slow and painful death by a thousand cuts. How much value has the dollar lost?

It's now worth 95% less than it was 100 years ago.

This means the digi-dollars in our bank accounts are buying a fraction of what they bought for our parents and grandparents. In fact, they're not even buying as much as they bought a few years ago. Or even last year.

So why have we carried on with our lives, comfortably numb, as our purchasing power is ground to dust? Because most of us haven't been around long enough to pull focus and see what's happening. If the average American lived 100 years, we would have seen the slow motion death of the dollar. But in our brief lifetimes, we only see a snapshot of each phase of the dollar's death.

Millennials might think that gas has always been close to $3/gallon but, it hasn't. It was only $1.13 when I was a teen in 1984. And when my parents learned to drive in the 1960s? Gas was only $.30/gallon. In fact, between 1929 and 1964, the price of gas remained between $.20 and $.30 a gallon.

Take a moment and wrap your head around this: for 35 years, the price of gas only increased by a dime. But in the last 50 years it's gone up almost $3.00.

That's how quickly our dollar is dying.

Gas isn't the only indicator of the dollar's critical condition. Whether it's the cost of housing, groceries, electricity, insurance or a night at a decent hotel, it's all gotten insanely expensive. And there's no end in sight. Yet there's no outrage; most of us stay quiet and simply limp on because we've become numb to what's happening.

But lately it's gotten a lot harder to stay numb. Lately, the insanity has ramped up, and we're feeling the pain.

The dollar is deteriorating faster than ever, and its demise is close at hand.

There's another reason we've carried on with our lives, numb to the life-threatening injuries to our dollar: every so often, if we're lucky, our employer will give us  a "cost-of-living" increase. And the government goes to great lengths to convince us that our "higher" wages help us keep up with our loss of purchasing power.

Government economists (and the media who regurgitate their econo-speak) use arcane formulas to assure us that prices are more or less the same as they were last year. The formulas tell us that even though we think we're paying grand theft for everything we buy now, it's really just our imagination.

But if you live, eat and sleep in the "real" world, you know it's not your imagination. You know the "extra" dollars you earn aren't enough to keep you from falling behind.

If that $6.00 hamburger we love now costs $8.00, but our cost of living increase only adds $20 dollars to our bi-weekly paycheck, that burger just got a lot more expensive than economists tell us. Why? Because our $20 "raise" not only has to cover the higher cost of the burger; it has to cover EVERYTHING else that's gone up in price. (To add insult to injury, there's one government agency that seems completely clueless about inflation: the I.R.S. still expects us to find room in our budget to pay taxes, even as our dollars lose purchasing power).

The illusion of having "more" dollars has fooled many, especially those in the upper middle class, into thinking they're "wealthier" when they're really not.

The dizzying numbers in the "red hot" real estate illustrate how deceptive this illusion can be.

You may be stoked to learn your neighbors sold their house for $1 million -- until you realize that if you sell and want to buy a house in the same area, you'll have to pay at least $1 million, too. Factor in taxes (again) and broker fees, and it's a cinch your next home won't be as nice as the one you left. If you live in California or another high-price real estate market, you might have noticed a wave of people packing up and heading for cheaper states.

Because the illusion is wearing thin.

These people have done the math and know that their high-dollar homes don't make them "wealthier!" All they can do is maintain their standard of living by pulling up stakes and downsizing.

The illusion of having "more" dollars has fooled many, especially those in the upper middle class, into thinking they're "wealthier" when they're really not.

This begs the obvious questions: Why is the dollar dying? Why has the patient's condition suddenly gone critical? And why isn't our government talking about it?

As it turns out, the dollar isn't dying of natural causes; over the past half century it's been poisoned, slowly and quietly -- by debt.

And as debt reaches higher levels, the dollar's loss of purchasing power grows exponentially.

Debt is insidious because we've all grown so used to it. We casually assume personal debt to buy big-ticket items, like cars and homes, and many of us juggle multiple credit cards to fill the gaps for smaller purchases that our wages won't cover.

We've also grown accustomed to leverage on a macro level. For years we've heard the U.S. is saddled with ridiculous amounts of debt, numbers so dizzying they make our eyes often glaze over and tune them out. Because they don't even seem real. We tell ourselves that if carrying so much debt was such a bad thing, wouldn't we have felt the consequences by now? Things haven't fallen apart. Wifi is still working. Gas is still flowing at the pumps. Donuts and chips are still sitting on store shelves.

But the reality is that things are falling apart; it's just been happening so slowly that we haven't noticed. Because the consequences of mounting personal debt are more immediate and acute than those wrought by national debt.

If our personal spending gets out of hand with credit cards, we'll eventually hit our limit. And that's when the game ends: we'll be forced to either get our financial house in order, or face bankruptcy. But the situation is different with sovereign debt. While the U.S. government technically doesn't have a credit limit (it can borrow as much money as it wants by simply printing more), it faces a different danger, and it's one that affects every one of us: when more dollars are printed, they lose value.

In other words, the more money our government borrows, the faster the purchasing power of the dollar erodes, and the faster our standard of living deteriorates.

In this way, debt is a lot like climate change: in the early stages, we hardly feel the impact. But over time the effects grow exponential, and the crisis eventually goes parabolic. That's what's happening to the dollar now.

Let's put this crisis into perspective with some numbers. This graph shows how fast our debt has grown since 1940:

Now take a look at how fast home prices have gone up AFTER 1940:

Do you see what's happening here?

Between 1940 and 2018, U.S. debt surged from roughly $49B in 1940 to $21 trillion.

During that same period, the median home price skyrocketed from $2,038 to $277,000.

This is not a coincidence.

If you look closely at these charts you'll see that debt and home prices started rising quickly around the same time: the 1970s. And in the last 10 years the rate has increased exponentially. We're not dealing with "normal" inflation anymore. Something epic is unfolding, and like our melting ice sheets, it's happening faster.

Our debt and the price of everything we buy -- and especially real estate -- have gone into parabolic crisis mode.

You might think our elected officials would be more concerned about the fact half of Americans are clinging to survival by our fingernails than whether Russian ads on Facebook hoodwinked people into voting for Trump over Clinton. You might think that a crisis of this magnitude would be of greater interest to the media than NFL players kneeling during the national anthem or whatever is spraypainted on Melania's jacket.

So why aren't we hearing about the crime against the dollar?

Because the people we elect are the perps responsible for administering debt-poison in progressively larger and more lethal doses. So they obscure the evidence with economic double-speak to convince us that no crime has occurred. They distract us with niche issues to pit us against one another. They busy the media with chatterbox news that doesn't affect the lives of walking-wounded Americans.

Unfortunately for all of us, the situation is now turning critical.

We're fast-approaching a point where the average, middle-income American won't be able to buy (or even rent) a home anywhere -- let alone afford college tuition, keep food on the table, carry catastrophic health care, or even stream Netflix.

This isn't a partisan issue. The fate of the dollar affects all of us, and we need to start treating this issue with the urgency it deserves.

We need to make it clear to the people in BOTH parties who are (supposed to be) running our government that reducing our debt should be our #1 priority now. We need to let them know that a rapidly dying currency is the single greatest threat our country faces because it's slowly killing us all and dooming future generations.

Like our deteriorating climate, the dollar crisis has been decades in the making. And it's about to get a lot worse for all of us very soon unless we #unplug and take action.

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