The Rustbelt’s Tips for Weathering the Recession


It has been an interesting couple weeks. The victory at Smithfields, the victory at Republic Windows (that is two labor victories in a week which must be some sort of millennial record), George Bush gets a deserved Iraqi shoe or two tossed his way and, of course, the revolt of Greece’s young people. What’s next? Workers’ Councils? Not quite. A long road ahead, but what some of these things tell us is that not only is struggle necessary, it is possible. And sometimes that can make all of the difference in the world, especially when passivity is counted in years.

Still the cold winds blow. A deep recession, the destruction of the UAW, a bewildering array of illusions in the next dude to wear the Purple Robes and more eco-advertising hokum than I can stomach. In Michigan this recession feels more like a state-wide dislocation. Everyone, but those at the top, are really hurting. I have a lot of experience with poverty and am often asked, “Rustbelt, you’ve been the kind of poor that only a communist could tolerate most of your adult life, what’s the secret to living with nothing?” Well here are a couple of hints on surviving the recession.

First- Don’t eat every day. Americans eat way too much anyway. We could all use the diet that, thankfully, the economy now affords us so take advantage of it. If you must eat stick to basics; potatoes, rice and pastas. The heavy foods that make your stomach think it has been well fed. Use things like vegetables and meats as condiments. Who needs all those pesky nutrients and proteins anyway. I’ve lived off a single bag of northern beans for 5 weeks. One bean at a time comrades. One bean at a time.

Second- If you can’t live without booze, coffee or herb (and we all need whatever little pleasure we can get these days) try giving up one of your other addictions. Like washing your clothes. It may be harder to get a date, but there will be a few extra quarters in your pocket at the end of the week. And what does a 40 of Steel Reserve cost these days anyway? One round with the dryer given up and you’ll be singing sweet malted songs. Needless to say if you smoke you’ll need to give that up. Or alternatively you can hang around the art school. They always stub the best butts there. You are guaranteed to find American Spirits of some clove cigarettes. The only problem is the possibility of black lipstick smudging the end. Sacrifices comrades, we all have to make them (well not all of us).

Third- Marry rich. Marry Madonna or Paul McCartney. They both have openings as I understand it.

Fourth- We all really need vacations in times like these. When you are poor everything becomes a reminder of your poverty. Get out of town! How? Obama needs A Few (more) Good Men and Women to fight the Good War. Nearly every town and village has a recruiting office for the Armed Forces. Join up. If you can get through basic you should find yourself overseas pretty soon. Bring your handy Pashtun-English dictionary (they don’t have these in the army so you’ll have to get one from Barnes and Noble) and desert once you get there. Afghanistan has excellent hiking opportunities I hear.

Fifth- Don’t pay rent even if you can. You would be surprised how much money you’ll have if you just stop paying your bills.

Sixth- Get all of your entertainment needs from the library. CDs, movies, books; the library is the last bulwark of civilization. Use it or lose it. They should have the latest 2003 releases by now so catch up on everything you didn’t see when the economy was good and you were too busy having fun to stay at home watching the tube. If your local library is anything like mine you’ll soon be reduced to renting how-to knitting DVDs. Don’t complain, take the opportunity to pick up a new skill. Learn to love show tunes and the library’s music catalog comes alive!

Seventh- Since you are not working these days spend your time daydreaming about dismantling the machinery of the state and associated and generous redistributions. Develop intricate plans for organizing your local proletariat to seize the storehouses, granaries and factories. Take hold of the means of production and democratically plan the economy giving yourself some sort of cush commissariat in the Winnebago Reacquisition Department, gather your friends and make your own socialist Festival Express. It is not necessary to wait for socialism to make this happen. Granted stealing a luxury recreational road vehicle may land you in jail, but then you won’t have to worry about getting rent in on time or if you are going to eat that day. Yes, I hear you, there are downsides to prison but we all have to force ourselves to look on the bright side these days lest we see anything bright at all.

Eighth- Take inspiration from the youth of Greece and the workers at Republic. You don’t have to just daydream about what might be. You can intervene in this insanity, you can make a difference. Together we can change the world.  Remember, “The great only appear great because we are on our knees; Let us rise!”

This advice is free.


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3 Responses to “The Rustbelt’s Tips for Weathering the Recession”

  1. one other piece of advice, if there is any way to get a shift at a grocery store, even 4 hours, the ability to supplement your food goes up dramatically; How it could be done: as you are cleaning and mopping knock groceries off the shelf into your garbage bag, throw said garbage bag in the outside dumpster. come back that night and get said garbage bag. go home and eat like a king. this method kept me fed for most of the 1990′s. and if your lucky get that one shift at a health food store. you’ll be eating organic to boot! now getting that shift is the hard part.

  2. erice,

    I worked in grocery stores cutting meat for too many years and can attest to the efficacy of your excellent advice. One place I worked at in Detroit (perhaps the last grocery store in Detroit?) we had to bang on the trash compactor before we used it to make sure that any unfortunates dumpster diving would be warned before they were crushed. Eventually The Man took to padlocking the dumpster and food had to be liberated down one’s pants. A bit more dangerous perhaps, but with the baggy aesthetic these days most young folks should have room.


  3. Just saw this cartoon, which made me think of your post:

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