Opinion: Cantaloupe Economics Makes Perfect Cents

When I was a kid, I worked during the summers picking cantaloupes to make a little money and learn a little work ethic. It was a hot and hard job, so I didn’t appreciate the education that much at the time. The money, on the other hand, I liked.

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It always amazes me how the simplest lessons are the ones that stick with you the longest. It was back during my cantaloupe-picking days on a Sunday that we made a trip to the mall where I found an item I was determined to buy with my new-earned money. I can’t even remember what it was, probably a toy or something to do with sports, but it wasn’t cheap. I do remember what my dad asked about it, “Reckon how many hours picking cantaloupes you will have to make to pay for that?” Suddenly, my desire to buy the frivolous item melted away.

It was a simple lesson that taught me nothing in life comes for free. I can’t tell you how many times that little question has echoed in my brain when the impulse to buy a new, expensive toy strikes. Picking cantaloupes as a kid has saved me a lot of money over the years.

It makes me wish all these so-called Wall Street wizards who have shaken our financial foundation to its core had picked a few cantaloupes when they were kids. The sub-prime loan mania that grew out of the 1992 revision of the Community Reinvestment Act took us down a road that made us believe that maybe things in life do come for free.

Money For Nothing And Your House For Free

For years, we happily rode this wave with people living off credit and buying more house than they could afford. Lenders loved it, and before long, everybody was borrowing from everybody. There is just one catch: Markets are smarter than people, and in the last few months, the markets have figured out there is a huge pile of debt out there that somebody has to account for.

So is it that simple? The government steps in and just takes the bad numbers off the books, and we are fine? I am no economist, but just because we say the bad debt went away, it didn’t. We taxpayers are the proud owners of that now, along with a few mortgage firms and the world’s biggest broke insurance company.

Cantaloupe picking taught me nothing in life comes free. Well, neither did the heady ride of the sub-prime market. The consequences are going to be painful, but we’ll have to face them one day. The longer we put that day off with fancy schemes and bailouts to hide from our bad decisions, the worse it will be.