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According to Johnson, economists have long theorized that people smooth their consumption over their lifetime, offsetting bad years with good ones—borrowing in the bad, saving in the good. But recent research indicates that when people get some money—a bonus, a tax refund, a small inheritance—they are, in fact, more likely to spend it than to save it.

Many of us, it turns out, are living in a more or less continual state of financial peril. So if you really want to know why there is such deep economic discontent in America today, even when many indicators say the country is heading in the right direction, ask a member of that 47 percent. Ask me. Financial impotence goes by other names: financial fragility, financial insecurity, financial distress.

But whatever you call it, the evidence strongly indicates that either a sizable minority or a slim majority of Americans are on thin ice financially. How thin? They found that slightly more than one-quarter could not, and another 19 percent could do so only if they pawned possessions or took out payday loans. That is precisely what Edward Wolff, an economist at New York University and the author of a forthcoming book on the history of wealth in America, did.

Median net worth has declined steeply in the past generation—down And though the bursting of the housing bubble in certainly contributed to the drop, the decline for the lower quintiles began long before the recession—as early as the mids, Wolff says. He found that in , prime-working-age families in the bottom two income quintiles had no net worth at all and thus nothing to spend. Even in the second-highest quintile, a family could maintain its normal consumption for only 5.

Granted, those numbers do not include home equity. Certain groups—African Americans, Hispanics, lower-income people—have fewer financial resources than others. Lusardi, who was quick to point out that a small number of passerby interviews should not be mistaken for social science, was nonetheless struck by the disjuncture between the appearance of the interviewees and their answers. In the s, we have managed to democratize financial insecurity.

If you ask economists to explain this state of affairs, they are likely to finger credit-card debt as a main culprit. Long before the Great Recession, many say, Americans got themselves into credit trouble. Of course, this figure factors in all the households with a balance of zero. In recent years, while the number of people holding credit-card debt has been decreasing, the average debt for those households carrying a balance has been on the rise. William R. Emmons, an assistant vice president and economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of St.

First of Omaha Service Corp. The Court ruled that state usury laws, which put limits on credit-card interest, did not apply to nationally chartered banks doing business in those states. That effectively let big national banks issue credit cards everywhere at whatever interest rates they wanted to charge, and it gave the banks a huge incentive to target vulnerable consumers just the way, Emmons believes, vulnerable homeowners were targeted by subprime-mortgage lenders years later. What followed was the so-called Great Moderation, a generation-long period during which recessions were rare and mild, and the risks of carrying all that debt seemed low.


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Both developments affected savings. And put simply, when debt goes up, savings go down. They were using credit as a life raft. The personal savings rate peaked at As of last year, the figure stood at 5. So who is at fault? Some economists say that although banks may have been pushing credit, people nonetheless chose to run up debt; to save too little; to leave no cushion for emergencies, much less retirement. It is ironic that as financial products have become increasingly sophisticated, theoretically giving individuals more options to smooth out the bumps in their lives, something like the opposite seems to have happened, at least for many.

Lusardi argues that as the financial world has grown more complex, our knowledge of finances has not kept pace. A study she and a colleague conducted measuring knowledge of fundamental financial principles compound interest, risk diversification, and the effects of inflation found that 65 percent of Americans ages 25 to 65 were financial illiterates. Choice, often in the face of ignorance, is certainly part of the story. Take me. I plead guilty. I am a financial illiterate, or worse—an ignoramus.

I chose to become a writer, which is a financially perilous profession, rather than do something more lucrative. I chose to live in New York rather than in a place with a lower cost of living. I chose to have two children. I chose to write long books that required years of work, even though my advances would be stretched to the breaking point and, it turned out, beyond. We all make those sorts of choices, and they obviously affect, even determine, our bottom line.

But, without getting too metaphysical about it, these are the choices that define who we are.

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We make them with our lives in mind. The alternative is to be another person. But even having made those choices, which involved revolving credit, for the better part of my life I was not drowning in debt maybe treading in it … okay, barely treading. In retrospect, of course, my problem was simple: too little income, too many expenses. Credit enabled me to forestall this problem for a time—and also to make it progressively worse—but the root of the problem was deeper.

Few of us do. I went to college; got a graduate degree; taught for a while; got a book contract; moved to a small, inexpensive, rent-controlled apartment in Little Italy to write; got married; and bumped along until I landed a job on television those of you with elephant memories may remember that for three years, I was one of the replacements for Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on the PBS movie-review show Sneak Previews.

My wife continued to work, and we managed to scrape by, though child care and then private schools crimped our finances. I never wanted to keep up with the Joneses.

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All right, I wanted them to be winners. In our case—and I have a feeling in the case of just about every American—there were unforeseen circumstances. The housing market in New York soured, and I eventually sold the apartment for a steep loss, because I had no choice. I suppose I could have slashed the price sooner to bring in more would-be buyers—in retrospect, that would have been the wisest choice—but I wanted to cover what I owed the bank.

Or at least I felt better thinking it was true. I still had my books, but they took longer to write than I had calculated, and cutting corners to turn them out faster, I knew, would be cutting off my career. I tell the M. In any case, with my antediluvian masculine pride at stake, I told her that I could provide for us without her help—another instance of hiding my financial impotence, even from my wife.

I kept the books; I kept her in the dark. And then, on top of it all, came the biggest shock, though one not unanticipated: college. Because I made too much money for the girls to get more than meager scholarships, but too little money to afford to pay for their educations in full, and because—another choice—we believed they had earned the right to attend good universities, universities of their choice, we found ourselves in a financial vortex.

I am not saying that universities are extortionists, but … universities are extortionists. There was worse to come. Because I lived largely off the advances my publisher paid me when I commenced research on a book, the bulk of my earnings were lumped into a single year, even though the advance had to be amortized to last the years it would take to write the book. That meant I was hit by a huge tax bill that first year that I could not pay in full without cannibalizing what I needed to finish the book.

When I began writing a biography of Walt Disney, as my two daughters headed toward college, I decided to pay whatever portion of my taxes I could, then pay the remainder, albeit with penalties added, when the book was published and I received my final payment. The problem is that the penalty meter keeps running, which means that the arrears continue to grow, which means that I continue to have to pay them—I cannot, as it happens, pay them in full.


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I suppose that was a choice, too: pay my taxes in full, or hold back enough to write the book and pay my mortgage and buy groceries. I did the latter. Perhaps none of this would have happened if my income had steadily grown the way incomes used to grow in America. There was a good year here or there—another television job, a new book contract, that movie sale. But mostly my wages remained steady, which meant that, when adjusted for inflation, their buying power dipped.

Abraxas, holding a grudge of his own for Mary's trapping him, offers Nick answers if he kills Mary slow and bloody.

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As Nick moves to do so, he is interrupted by the Winchesters who tracked Nick through his stolen van with Donna's help. Desperate to get answers, Nick uses his angel blade to break the devil's trap, releasing Abraxas who immediately slams everyone to the floor with telekinesis.

Turning to a shocked Nick, Abraxas reveals that he murdered Nick's family on Lucifer's orders. Abraxas explains that Nick was chosen, but he's not special as "we threw a dart at the phone book" to choose who to target. Dean begins an exorcism that Abraxas stops, but Nick takes advantage of the distraction, shoves Abraxas to his knees from behind and stabs the demon in the chest with his angel blade, killing Abraxas and finally avenging his family.

With Abraxas dead, the Winchesters surround Nick who tries to strike at Mary with his angel blade. However, Donna shoots Nick in the leg, allowing Mary to knock him unconscious. In the aftermath, Nick is arrested for his murder spree by Donna. When confronted by Sam before Donna takes him away, Nick is unrepentant, believing that he did what he had to do to get revenge for his family and that Sam would've done the same thing. Nick tells Sam that Sam couldn't help him as he isn't broken, but Sam feels that Nick is wrong about that.

Sam tells Nick that he doesn't feel sorry for Nick but for Nick's victims who will haunt Nick for the rest of his life and that Nick can burn. During Prophet and Loss , Nick is taken to the hospital for his injuries and is told four different jurisdictions that want to prosecute him for his crime spree. Nick secretly works to free himself and after receiving taunts from an officer, he broke free and overpowered the latter before killing him. With the officer dead, Nick gathered his items and escaped the hospital. Nick returns to his old house only to find it long abandoned, he is soon greeted by Sarah as a ghost , who he initially mistakes for Lucifer until realizing otherwise.

Sarah explains that she is trapped on Earth as a ghost by unfinished business: her and Teddy's unsolved murders. Nick tells Sarah that it was Abraxas possessing Frank Kellogg and he got her revenge by killing the demon and the man, but Sarah tells him that her unfinished business isn't just Abraxas or Lucifer, its Nick himself.

Sarah explains that she was present the night that Nick became possessed and witnessed Nick say " yes. Nick denies this as Sarah demands that Nick prove her wrong by rejecting Lucifer which will allow her to finally move on and find peace. However, Nick can't and departs to continue his search for Lucifer, leaving Sarah trapped in their house. Nick is supplied with angelic grace and attacks the home of the Prophet Donatello Redfield. Injecting Donatello with the grace, he contacts the essence of Lucifer who is still awake in The Empty.

Lucifer tells Nick to resurrect him, a sample of his blood is needed and Nick needs to get it from Lucifer's son Jack. Nick decides to have Donatello taken in the hopes of drawing Sam and Dean to him, as he knew that was the best way to get close to Jack. When the Winchesters find out that Donatello has been kidnapped by demons; and set out to rescue him. Nick allows himself to be captured and misleads the Winchesters into thinking he poisoned Donatello and won't give up the location. Nick is taken to the bunker where he is attacked by Sam, until Dean holds him off.

Placed in the dungeon, he antagonizes the group enough to allow him to speak with Jack. Though reluctant, they let Jack speak with him. Nick taunts Jack and insults him for turning on his father, as he tells him that he felt Lucifer truly loved him and head-butts him when he gets in his face.

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Nick only did so to get a sample of Jack's blood and is scared when Jack uses his power to intimidate him, causing him to gives up the information. He is taken by the Winchesters to the area and Dean goes off to rescue Donatello however, Nick breaks free and reveals to Sam that he orchestrated the whole thing because both him and the demons want Lucifer back. He further reveals how he intends to bring him back from the empty. Nick smashes Sam over the head with a rock, disabling him, and flees to an abandoned house.

There, he summons Lucifer, pleading to be possessed. However, since Jack's blood was needed this caused him to be affected by the ritual and determined his location. Jack appeared on the scene with Mary and Nick watches as Jack banishes Lucifer back to his prison, as Nick is annoyed by this. However, this turns to fear as Jack then burns Nick alive, killing him. During Absence , Nick's corpse is found by Sam who was shocked to see him and relayed this to Dean.


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  7. Sam later remarked on how he wanted Nick dead. Due to the loss of his family, Nick has become a bitter and grief-ridden man. Lucifer was able to exploit this by showing Nick several hallucinations resembling his family's death, causing him to break down. Eventually, although Nick at first coldly told the Devil to stop bothering him, he quickly began to be convinced by Lucifer's condemnation of God and eventually agreed to be his vessel after Lucifer promised he could get him justice. After being resurrected and freed from Lucifer's control, Nick feels a great deal of remorse for what his body was used by Lucifer for, looking tormented as visions of Lucifer's kills haunt him.

    He is initially confused by how Lucifer could get him to say " yes ," but after realizing what happened, Nick is ashamed of how easily he was manipulated by Lucifer. Upon interacting with Castiel , Nick seemed distraught at how awkward Castiel was to him but after learning of how Castiel used Jimmy Novak , he was disgusted by what Castiel did, scornfully replying he is no better than Lucifer, although he genuinely reconsidered it after Castiel told him what happened to the Novaks was his greatest regret. However, his long-time hosting of Lucifer has negatively affected Nick. He becomes more determined than ever to find justice for his family, even going as far as to brutally kill his neighbor who turned out to see the killer but did express horror at his act.

    He was frustrated at how his family's murder was never considered important enough to be solved by the police. Very soon, Nick killed others to get information on the crime but stopped himself from killing a random woman. When finding out a demon killed his family, Nick acknowledged while the human vessel was innocent of the act, his hands were still dirty and killed him.

    He also showed some of Lucifer's tendencies when angered, angrily snapping his fingers in a heated moment with Castiel as if trying to kill him in the same way that Lucifer killed those who angered him, though Nick didn't remember doing it. After killing so many people, Nick prayed to the deceased Lucifer and begged to be possessed again to take away the pain he felt, unknowingly awakening him in the process. Nick's desire to be reunited with Lucifer is so strong that he chose to forsake his wife, who is trapped in their home as a ghost and cannot pass on until Nick severs his connection with Lucifer.

    By the end of his revenge quest, Nick was willing to go to any means to find answers and avenge his family, even kidnapping an innocent man to be Abraxas ' vessel so that he could talk to the demon and kill him. However, Nick still maintained at least some morals, knocking Sheriff Donna Hanscum unconscious when she got in his way and discovered his true identity, but otherwise leaving her unharmed instead of killing Donna. Nick also claimed that he would release Mary Winchester once he was finished. However, when Abraxas offered Nick answers in exchange for him killing Mary slow and bloody for Abraxas' own revenge, Nick didn't hesitate to turn on her and do what Abraxas asked of him.

    After killing Abraxas, Nick showed no remorse for his murder spree, stating that it was necessary to get answers and revenge for his family and didn't believe that he was broken. Sam suggests that despite Nick's attitude, the faces of his victims will haunt him for the rest of his life, with Nick being unable to look Sam in the face as he says this, possibly feeling some remorse at this harsh reminder of what he has done.

    Slapping a swagger stick along his leg, he quickly loaded the two journalists who had accepted his invitation, myself and UPI reporter Leon Daniel, into a Jeep and barreled into the town. At first, we thought it was deserted. Then slowly, and one by one, South Vietnamese troopers began to stick their heads out of foxholes they had dug in the streets. Dao yelled that they were prepared to fight the enemy, come what may.

    However, we noted with more than a little trepidation that none of them were budging from their holes as Dao led us down the dusty street. Suddenly, a mortar shell landed in the dust no more than 10 feet from us. It was followed by a barrage of incoming automatic weapon and artillery rounds.

    Dao wisely called an end to his press tour. We tore back to a landing zone that we had arrived at less than an hour later. Dao called in a helicopter to evacuate us, but suddenly, the ARVN troops who had been seated alongside the road broke and ran for the incoming helos. In less time than it takes to tell, the panicked soldiers swarmed into the helicopter, which was to be our only way out. Crewmen tried to turn them back, but the helicopter lurched into the air with two soldiers hanging from the skids.

    At that moment, Leon and I had a sinking feeling that we were going to be part of the fall of Xuan Loc. For us, the war looked like it was about to be over. However, Dao had one more trick up his sleeve, and he called in his personal helicopter behind his headquarters. Joe Galloway. At the moment I hit the button I did not recognize the GI who was dashing across the clearing to load the body of a comrade aboard the waiting Huey helicopter.

    Later I realized that I had shot a photo, in the heat of battle, of my childhood friend from the little town of Refugio, Texas. Vince Cantu and I went through school together right to graduation with the Refugio High School Class of — a total of 55 of us. The next time I saw Vince was on that terrible bloody ground in the la Drang. Each of us was terribly afraid that the other was going to be killed in the next minutes. His bosses read the papers and discovered they had a real hero pushing one of their buses.

    So they made Vince a Supervisor and all he did from then to retirement was stand in the door with a clipboard checking buses in and out. Larry Burrows. The fraction of a second captured in most photographs is just that: a snapshot of a moment in time. Sometimes, even in war, that moment can tell a whole story with clarity, but it can be ambiguous too. Purdie was being restrained from turning back to aid his CO. The scene is as wretched as the other. Purdie, wounded for the third time in the war, was about to be flown to a hospital ship off the Vietnamese coast and leave that country for his last time.

    The composition of the photograph has been compared to the work of the old masters, but some see it more cinematically: as if you could run a film backwards and forwards to view more of the story. Exhibiting museums have found in it Christian iconography. And at least one psychiatrist treating war veterans has used it in his practice. Unknowable then was also the life Purdie would live after his 20 years in the Marine Corps, or how important to him faith would become.

    David Hume Kennerly. Long-forgotten photographs sometimes leap out at me and I am stunned by certain moments that I documented that were so routine when I made them, but are now infused with new emotion and meaning. This picture of a haunted-looking young American GI taking refuge under a poncho from monsoon rains in the jungles outside of Da Nang while on patrol in is one of them.

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    Many had that intense blaze of realization when a comrade was suddenly, violently, unexpectedly gone, and marveled at still being left intact. What was his next act, and what happened after he returned from Vietnam? Paul Schutzer. Paul got carried away with all the emotions that happen in war, and he was right in there with the soldiers in battles. There was one photo of prisoners being guarded by an American soldier about 18 years old. The captives were young children and old women and one woman is nursing her baby. Unfortunately the young soldier was later killed but this image conveyed the senselessness and horror of how the human condition was playing out.

    The soldiers were very sympathetic to the civilians and one medic befriended them. It was the first time that Americans saw and learned that we were using napalm. David Burnett. David Burnett—Contact Press Images. In Vietnam in the early s, the only real limitation was finding a ride. But nearly until the end of the U. It was by choice. That said, it was often a world of anonymous photographers spending time with anonymous soldiers. So while we would talk with the troops about what was happening that day, there were many moments where in the course of making photographs, I would just keep moving along.

    I usually knew the unit but looking back now, so much I wish I had noted was simply never written down. It was forever a search for a picture, and you never knew, sometimes for weeks, whether you had that picture or not. My film had to make it all the way to New York before it could be processed and edited. One morning near the end of the unsuccessful Laos invasion of early an attempt to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail , I wandered into a group of young soldiers who were tasked with fixing tanks and track vehicles which were regularly being rocketed by North Vietnamese troops just down the road.

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    This soldier and I exchanged pleasantries the way you would in the dusty heat. He went back to work after reading a letter from home, and I moved on to another unit. Catherine Leroy. Catherine Leroy—Dotation Catherine Leroy. There is something both surreal and strikingly sad in this photograph by Catherine Leroy. An empty helmet — is its owner still alive? It is photographed as if forming the center of a broken compass, one without arms, pointing nowhere.

    The violent spectacle has temporarily receded, and the reader, in this previously unpublished photograph, is given its remains, both the sacred and the partly absurd. She managed to get accredited by the Associated Press, covered numerous battles, was seriously wounded by shrapnel that would remain in her body, parachuted into combat small and thin, she was weighed down so as not to be blown away , was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese which she used as an opportunity to produce a cover story for LIFE Magazine , and remained obsessed by the war until her death in