Do my love handles count toward being "too big to fail?"

Someone get me Hank Paulson’s phone number — I need a bailout.

This morning, my wife’s six-year-old minivan started running funny as she traveled to work (she works as a nurse for disabled children). It sputtered, it shuddered, and it shook, enough that she knew it shouldn’t have been on the road. By the end of the day, the picture was clear and the verdict was in … we need six new ignition coils and six new spark plugs, not to mention the labor, diagnostics, and injection treatments that go along with it.

Plain and simple, it sure looks like I need a bailout. And, frankly, with all of the weight I’ve packed on during the Thanksgiving holiday, and not to mention the stress-filled days and weeks leading up to it, I figure that I’ve probably achieved “too big to fail” status.

Thankfully, my wife and I are surrounded by a wonderful and loving family who, together, have decided to help us out with about half of the $1200 bill. Without them, given that my wife and I only have between $450-600 left over each month after paying bills (being in the black at all is a blessing), things sure would have been different.

Still, even if faced with the entire invoice, we would have made it through by cutting back and working harder. We’ve perfected the art of stretching our dollars, conserving our resources, and living without. Even face-to-face with the holidays, we’ve begun to once again build–slowly–our emergency fund. The balance now, appropriately enough, is right around $600.

If necessary, we could even further change our habits. Somehow, by selling stuff or taking on more and more work or shaking my “too big to fail” physique at an all-male cabaret on the weekends, we’d make it work. Sure, ee’d be facing a financial setback and, sure, we’d take on a little more debt for the time being, but we’d change our habits accordingly in order to pay that debt off. That’s the difference between us and those in Detroit. We learn from our mistakes, and do everything in our power to make sure (a) that they never happen again, or (b) that we are better prepared in the case that they do.

Notwithstanding the spark plugs and ignition coils, we’ve recently seen some pretty difficult problems in our operating budget and have done our best to change our habits accordingly. We’ve taken on more work where available, cut down spending as much as possible. As I wrote a little while back when the $700 billion bailout was being discussed, we shop at the discount supermarkets, put the generic Wal-Mart diapers on our daughter, and do the Jimmy Carter thing and wear an extra thick sweater when necessary. For us, the next logical step toward getting leaner and meaner is getting out from underneath our house, freeing up a good deal of money each month for our now-depleted emergency fund and savings, but the market right now will not allow us to sensibly do so.

Our “Big Three” automakers, however, similarly see that they are hemorrhaging cash but decide to ask for more anyway, declining to specify how exactly their own habits, in terms of labor and production costs and more, would change for the better. Citigroup, furthermore, says that it needs a $20 billion capital injection and $306 billion more in guaranteed mortgage-backed securities, yet sees no problem in going ahead and spending $400 million on naming rights for the new Mets baseball stadium — that would be like my wife and I taking the $600 generously given to us for the purpose of getting our van fixed, and buying new shoes with it.

My wife and I are extremely fortunate to have wonderful family and friends. Extremely fortunate. Still, many folks just aren’t as lucky as we are, and while we’re busy teaching Wall Street and the Motor City that it’s just fine to have their cake and eat it too, a whole lot of Americans are finding themselves choosing between food on the table or heat in the house, and nonetheless are being forced to unwittingly pay for the excesses and the egocentric nature of our banking and automotive industries.



  1. Anonymous says:

    What can we do? We write and call our congressmen and they turn a deaf ear to their constituents. They always seem to eke out enough votes for what they want. Meanwhile the folks at home suffer.

    Like you, we make countless sacrifices (no cable/dish, no eating out, vacations to family instead of resorts, 10+ yr old cars w/ several 100,000 miles on them), while the fat cats make themselves fatter.

    I am not petitioning for my piece of the pie. Never! We are blessed in so many other ways. But it is a little disheartening to live in a world full of greed and irresponsibility while trying to raise children to the antithesis of our society.

    What can we do?

  2. toto says:

    Sorry to hear about your van problem, doesn’t it figure, when you can least afford it,thats when it happens.

    On the automotive front, it is my opinion that a lot of this is a ruse, put on by the automakers. I know for years they’ve been trying to get rid of the unions, and what better way than this? Now, they can say, hey, we tried to get help, but we couldn’t, so now we have to file bankruptcy and quess what, end of the unions. If the do get the money, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an addendum to, in essence, to get rid of the unions. Either way, these guys win. I’m not for or against unions necessarily, but it doesn’t make sense to pay someone in the area of $74 per hour when it can be done by someone who appreciates the job for a whole lot less.

    It is still my opinion that if the media would get behind the domestic auto makers, and say they make good vehicles, maybe some people would buy american, instead of the imports. JMHO

  3. MUJERLATINA says:

    Next time buy a Volvo and you and your wife will run it into the ground after 200k miles… The US Automakers need to take a lesson from the Volvo folks… and the mileage is fantastic… I know I don’t sound much like a patriot, but I believe The Big Three need to learn a lesson — our purchase needs to be our ‘vote’ …

  4. It's only me says:

    Jeff – I agree that we all do the same when faced with the same situation. It’s too bad that big corporations don’t. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family. I love to read the website.

  5. Fernley Girl says:

    Sorry, off topic, but I don’t know who else to ask. Donofrio just posted the “full court” sent the suit to conference to the Dec. 5th. From the way the post was written this seems significant, but I don’t know why. (He’s at: now) TIA

  6. Darla says:

    Jeff: I really want to commend you for your no-nonsense, honest approach to your topics. I’ve followed your blog since well before your election (I’m Canadian) and very much appreciate your candor. I am impressed with your principles – you are actually one of the few people I know that don’t believe you are entitled to something regardless if you can pay for it!

    You quite often make me re-evaluate what I stand for, and blogs like that are few and far between.

    Again, thanks.

  7. mcnorman says:

    Thank God for family.

  8. Anonymous says:


    I hope you can get some news on what happened in court today. Obama was suppose to give some answers. but he might have remained silent. Everyone wants to know what happened. I hope you can find out. Nothing on the Berg site that I can find.

    It is almost 11 pm now. plenty of time to give us a heads up on this important day.

  9. Anonymous says:
  10. Jeff Schreiber says:

    At 11:00pm, my friend, I had just walked in the door after having had two classes tonight.

    I've got some comments from Berg, as well as an update. I'm working it in as fast as I can.

    Plus, I've got 65 pages of Decedent's Estates & Trusts to read for tomorrow night's class. Busy busy.


  11. Anonymous says:

    I am soooo happy you are with us and working a hard and diligently as you do to keep us apprised about what all these things mean.

    I justt left the Donofrio site and it is scheduled for a full conference on Friday before all 9 justices.

    The Wronski (sp?) case mystifies me though, why would anyone send that case to “the anthrax lab” and try to get rid of it that way. I do understand Ginsburg said no on it, but then he resubmitted it to someone else, and it got put somewhere??? How can things like that happen, when I thought it was already scheduled to be on the docket with Berg’s case on Friday also.

    We have to get all of these cases heard, preferably together on the same day, because of the impact that each of them brings and the mutlitude of people that have been keeping their hopes going based on them.

    Thanks for all the work you are doing, and I appreciate the long nights you are having….

    Reno, NV.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Sorry to hear about the van, not to be a jerk but the coils and plugs are a cheap at home fix. I had the same problem with my car, brought it in or well towed in. And the they quoted me over $1500, with out he tow fee. I looked at the guy told him to tow it back to my apartment, and started to read. I fixed the dang thing better then it was before in two days, while they said it would take them a week. I only spent around $50 with the deals I got on parts, and recived a tounge lashing from the landlord for work on my car in the parking lot. I brought the car back to the garage and basicly rubbed it in his face. Now he made up some rubish about other things that needed to be done to it but I didn’t buy it, now four years later the dang thing still runs perfect.

    Lesson…its far cheaper to do what americans did in the old days that is roll up your sleeves and do the work yourself. Don’t give me any lip either about you not being able work on a car your self, or you don’t have the time. Cause that my friend is a excuse, and lazyness. I work two jobs, my wife works 12 hours a day and we have two kids and I still found the time. Also I don’t know one thing about cars, but I can read and follow directions really well. For the future DO NOT trust the mechanics, my brother in law is one (no he didn’t fix my car for me he…charges me to much lol) and he told me about all the BS price add ons. He told me one time they had a car in for a simple two hour fix and they left it sitting for a week charging the owner for it.

    So just FYI do as much work as you can for your self don’t pay some one to do it for you.

    As for the rest of what you said, your right of course we all know the bailouts are bad BUT this is a socity of instant gratification. Bailouts provide that, thus the people are happy. And meanwhile the more informed out there are screaming about how its bad and why it shouldn’t be done. We tell every one what the negitives are but the sheep don’t want to hear the bad, and thus we are deemed as crazies, fearmongers, unamerican, and stupid.

    And the funny thing is down the road when we are proved right people won’t say to us “oh you weren’t cazy” oh know they’ll sit around scraching their heads asking “duh what happend?”

    Its to the point that I’ve given up, unlike you Jeff I don’t have the drive to try and explain this to people who don’t listen. I can learn to fix my car but I can’t deal with morons who refuse to listen or refuse to hear the truth. I salute you sir, what you write here is the truth and no matter what people say you continue on. You are a better man then me, except I fixed my car (j/k don’t be mad only a joke).

    Keep spreading the truth dude, and please keep shopping at Wal-Mart you keep me employed (one of my jobs lol).

    Have a nice day

    ps excuse the spelling I just got home from my second job and can’t be bothered with spell chek. I always check your site before bed. Only time I have.

  13. Ron Smith says:

    Jeff, please don’t read the following message…I’d like to surprise you:

    Fellow readers: How ’bout we Bless Jeff and his family with the balance of the $1200 needed to fix his van. I just made a donation and you can too through the “contribute” button on the right side of the page.

    If just 30 readers would pony up $20/ea, we’d have the $600 he still needs by today.

    Any takers?

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