n the words of Canadian songwriter Dallas Green, my nerves will be the death of me.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the economy again. A recent episode of Newsworld with Peter Mansbridge (God bless the CBC) put me on edge. How is it that we’ve come to rely on China for so much?
I didn’t have to think too hard about that. All I had to do was make myself an ice cream sundae. I pulled out my brand-new ice cream scoop and studied the price tag before snipping it off the handle. Made in China, it proclaimed in a tiny sans-serif font.
Made proudly in China, more like.
Quietly, industriously, China’s products have turned into the quality consumer goods that we (well, not I because I was born too late into the century) came to associate with goods made in America. Sturdy, well-made, long-lasting…these are all characteristics that made us proud to buy local. And better yet—cheap.
Now buying local often means higher prices. Why? Manufacturing is expensive in North America, materials are scarce, and the labor is unionized.
So instead we buy products in Walmart made in China because they’re well-made and cheaper than anything made in our own country. China has grown fat with money off the spending habits of North Americans who shop solely in the ‘Mart. And with that money, they’ve bought US debt. $800 billion in US Treasury bonds, if the article I linked earlier in this post is right.
And any day they could call in that debt.
So, I worry.
But why do I worry? What could I possibly do? Get out of debt myself, of course. Learn to live within my means like my grandparents would have done before me (if they lived in Canada instead of Communist Poland, where they HAD to live within their means because their means meant their share of rations). But it’s hard.
Of course it’s hard—all habit breaking is hard to do. Just ask any smoker or heroin addict. Okay, don’t talk to heroin addicts, they might steal your wallet. But, you know what I mean. Using credit is a habit that we’ve grown up accepting as the norm, but it’s not and it’s far more dangerous than we think. Because, whether or not we know it, with each purchase put on that credit card, we’re giving China a little more reason to call in our debts.
A pretty grim sentiment, one I wish I could shake off but, like the persistent flea on a dog’s back, it keeps making me itch.
So, have I made any decisions to help me get this Chinese dragon off my back (pardon the terribly metaphor)? Not really. I’m living on a prayer for the time being, like mostly everyone else who don’t even want to know that there’s a looming threat in the horizon, but my insight isn’t helping me much at all. Sometimes I wonder if Ignorance really is Bliss. At the very least, it would make my shopping less stressful.