Middle Class Disappearing Act

Pistol Packing DCup

 As average Americans stuggle to get by on less – because the must have items of groceries, gas, healthcare and housing are taking more of the cashflow – I get a weird kick out of watching the talking heads on television kvetch and commiserate about the stock market. Just the other night, I saw some analyst on PBS mention that she was concerned that people weren’t going to buy stocks with the money spewed from sea to shining sea as part of the proposed economic “stimulus” package.

 Buy stock? Are you kidding? I might guy groceries. Or pay one of my late payments. I might keep my phone service from being cut off. But buy stock?

 I suspect I’m not the people she’s worried about.

Lots of our blogger contemporaries have written excellent pieces about the economy in its current state. I love these bloggers for breaking it down into managable bite-sized pieces. I might not be able to keep it down, but I’ll be able to swallow it.

Take Pygaglia, for example, who breaks it down to housing, oil, deficit and sucky Republican tax policies.  This is a post Foreclosure Rowthat brings it home, even if you’re one of the 2 million people who might end up homeless.

I’ve written here before about the financial failures in my household. I admit that we’re responsible for those failures and we’re now in the process of righting our ship of state. It’s going to be a long haul and it’s going to be painful. Going to be? It is. The Spawn have heard the word “no” more in the last four or five months than they’ve heard their entire lives. They’re learning the lesson along with us.  The system sets you up to fail. If you fall for it, well, baby, you are on your own.

But we’re not. We’re in this sickening soup with a lot of other Americans and I fear that many more may be swimming in it with us before it’s over. This misery does not love company. We’re all fighting the fear that was what drove our parents’ parents and some of our parents to do crazy “Depression Baby” things. We’re not saving string, but we’re trying to figure out how stave off the bill collectors. How to screen our calls and stretch our dollars and how to wriggle by in ways that may have, in the past, been unfamiliar to us.

You send a kid to a birthday party with no gift and hope no one notices or you skimp and give something much less expensive than you would have a year or two ago. You sell kids’ clothes on ebay as soon as they’ve outgrown them (no more donating), you turn that roast into five or more meals because otherwise, you can’t afford to feed the family.  And most of you like soup, so that works.

You stop shopping for anything except the essentials. You stay in because you’re conserving gasoline. You cut back wherever you can, all the while hoping that you can maintain some veneer of middle class hope and comfort. That’s the way today’s Americans are playing the game of just getting by.

I thought it was just us, but then I shared my anxiety with my pal J. who quickly assured me that they’re straits were just as dire as ours. With both her and her husband self-employed, they’ve been especially hard hit by increased medical insurance premiums. Now they have a kid who needs braces. She could do without the braces, but her underbite is just growing worse, whatever that means.

“The only way I’m managing,” J. confided in me, “is by not paying my mortgage for the last three months.”

And the only reason why J. can not pay her mortgage without getting gigged by Georgia’s incredibly harsh foreclosure rules? Her mama is the bank. Mama, apparently, can front J. the money during tough times.

But the powers that be and their media bloodhounds know that what really matters is Wall Street. Unlike J’s Mama who’s letting her take a breather on her mortgage, Wall Street, that giant, twisted, neurotic mother who hovers luridly over the household of our nation, well, her needs smother all. The old adage rings true.

“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody gonna be happy…..”


~ by dcup on January 24, 2008.

16 Responses to “Middle Class Disappearing Act”

  1. All of this is just a short term fix. And truth be told, it has been happening over past 3 decades. Reagan and Clinton have just as much blame as the current administration – but the al rich so who care. This is an interesting perspective on this(the midas touch)

  2. I’m still not sure if my husband and I are getting a rebate check, it looks like we’re in that area that isn’t. If we do, we were going to give it to my daughter who is struggling with health care bills. I tried to talk her into moving back home with her daughter until she could get caught up with everything, but that would only be a last resort. My husband and I were talking about selling our house and moving to a smaller one when my last kid goes to college next Spring, but we changed our minds and will be staying just in case we need the extra space for our kids if things turn even worse.

    I think this recession is going to be a lot deeper and longer than the experts are saying. I never thought I’d say these words, but sometimes deeper and longer isn’t a good thing. 😉

  3. But once we’re all out of a job, think of all that free time we’ll have to find out just how deep the long things can go!

    Now if you will all excuse me, I have to go take stock of my stock of chicken stock. And start figuring out what stocks to buy with my fat refund check. AT&T, perhaps, those rascally patriots!

  4. We’re all “tightening our belts” around the Marsh House too. Even the kitties are having to eat Friskies instead of Royal Canin. And I never thought I’d be happy that we only have one car between The Kat and me; I don’t know how we’d afford another one. (I ride along with someone to and from work most days)

    I’m guessing that both The Kat and I will get small rebates–the one time that the anti-gay-marriage laws help us out!

  5. ps – thanks 4 the drive by. responded to your comment and would u mind if i blog rolled u, u striper par intellect LOL

  6. Okay, you guys are not going to like me for this, but I have to say it. Being the child of depression era parents, I have a different perspective on financial matters than you young’uns. I grew up poor, and saw what happened if you charged stuff you couldn’t afford. It got repossessed! See how good you feel about trying to “keep up with the Joneses” when the Joneses watch, as the furniture guys carry your living room furniture back out to their truck. The lesson was not wasted on me. When I grew up, I resolved never to buy anything on credit unless it was a matter of life and death. Ex and I lived in cheap rentals until we could afford to buy a house. We read the contract carefully. We furnished it with second hand stuff, until I got a job and the kids were older. But now, newlyweds think they’re supposed to buy a house right away, furnish it grandly, have two nice cars and eat out regularly. “It’s our god-given right, goddamnit!!” Sorry, kids. You’ve got to work hard, save your money, and pay cash (except for the house of course). Cook your own meals! It’s better for your health, as well as your wallet. When you’ve saved up enough for a down payment on a house, go for it. But don’t buy one you can’t afford. If home prices are boiling over, as they did in the last few years, just wait a while. They’ll come down.

    Yeah, yeah. I know. I’m an old fuddy-duddy.

  7. God Bless the American Dream! What a Fucking Ride!

    Raw- I added you to our list as well. Thanks for visiting, and come again anytime.

    If the lights are off don’t be alarmed, it probably means I spent the Electric money on weed.

  8. Raw – I agree. This is a problem that comes from both sides of the aisle. So many of them are in public office for the riches it delivers.

    M.E. – Yeah, I’m wondering where all this will lead. We might just be seeing the head of this thing. We might not know what’s it us until it’s buried to the hilt. Not in a good way.

    Randal – Invest in AT&T? You are the man with a plan!

    dguzman – That belt tightening seems to be the order of the day. I don’t mind being frugal. I get that part, it’s the inability to dig ourselves out that trouble me.

    Raw – Thanks, man! I’m adding you to ‘Tits, too!

    Z – I hate it for you that you learned through no fault of your own the hard lessons of living on credit. We’re not at that point, but my kids are learning the lesson of no in a significant way these days.

    However, I caution you to keep an open mind about how people get into debt in the first place. You offer good advice. I wish I’d lived by it much, much sooner, but there are a couple of things you must remember when considering credit as a problem.

    (1) College loans. We are still paying back MathMan’s student loans. As a teacher, he doesn’t make much scratch. He takes on extra work where he can, but his degree is still a bad investment considering how much we’re going to pay over the long haul for that fucking piece of paper. Do we really want no one to go to school to become a teacher because they won’t ever be able to recoup their investment in their education? That goes for a lot of career paths that still cost a lot to finance. And have you checked out college costs lately? Yowza. I’m so desperate for my oldest to not go into debt that I’ve suggested repeatedly that she strip through school, if necessary.

    (2) Medical debt. Our first real debt problems began when we put some expensive dental work on a credit card. The dentist’s office insisted that the work needed to be done immediately. We assumed we’d pay it off, but then I got pregnant and had to go on bed rest, losing my income. Things snowballed from there.

    It can be a very simple thing that leads people into these messes.

    I could go on, but I’ll refrain. I get what you’re saying, but you must remember that not everyone is in serious debt because they purchased homes or whatever beyond their means. That’s what the media will tell you, of course, and we all know plenty of people who’ve done just that, but if memory serves, when the debate was going on a couple of years ago about revamping the bankruptcy laws, I heard a statistic along the lines of 45 percent of families in bankruptcy were in it due to devastating medical costs.

    Fairlane – Dude. Pay the electric bill. I can grow the weed on the grounds of ‘Tits HQ. Out here in the sticks, who’s gonna notice? (And maybe I can sell the surplus to help pay down my debt!)

  9. The worst thing that ever happened was supermarkets letting you charge food! I used to go to the supermarket with real money and if I didn’t have enough I’d have to put stuff back! Now I just buy it all…But at least I don’t use my Visa card, I use American Express which forces you to pay it every month in full. My mom, who is now 89, was using Visa to buy food, and she couldn’t pay it off. She had to declare bankruptcy about 2 years ago due to a lot of medical bills incurred from my father. Luckily she is OK in a senior citizen apartment building now and all is well. But it was hard for her.

  10. The policy of the GOP and its money masters for ever has been to make sure most of us feel financially insecure so that wages remain depressed and we don’t become active in government. Mission accomplished.

  11. I’m with fairlane on the bills thing.

    Seriously- my greatgrandmother and many other old folks who aren’t around now used to pay for their shit
    with cash. They were actually a bit leery of credit.
    Now lifestyles can easily spiral into a highwire act where any unexpected event can send the whole thing to hell.
    Car breaks down, braces, vasectomy.
    I heard someone mention the term stagflation on a different blog.
    Higher fuel cost.
    cigarrettes cost more
    the higher electric bill makes homegrown pot more expensive.
    higher interest rates.
    zero or very little economic growth
    I’m gonna sell Amway

  12. oh dcup

    you (as always) so nailed it…..

    what i dont get is there are SO many people in your position (or worse) that continue to vote for men of god like Bush — and they sink further and further down this abyss — but god is on their side.

    one little medical maladay and zap — years of hard work and savings are GONE baby gone……

    but Nancy, Harry and George — who dont pay a nickel for health care — well they can work it out for us

    maybe the fact bush has trashed the consitituion could be good — we should start ALL over

  13. Dcup, you do a great job of taking current “hot” issues and making them real by sharing your own personal experiences. I love that.

    I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I am paranoid about credit. Other than college and my house, I’ve never borrowed money for anything. If I don’t have the money, I don’t get it. But I’m weird. My parents got into a BAD debt situation and it freaked me out. But I don’t have kids. I don’t know how any family could get by without using A LOT of credit. I got my first credit card at the age of 29 and I always pay the balance in full every month. I don’t think I could handle the financial stress of children, let alone the just the normal stress of having children. As I’ve said before, dcup, I really admire what you’re able to do as a parent.

  14. The ONLY thing we (ex and I) ever did right was buy this small house with a VA loan at a fixed rate. I remember loan officers trying to get us to go for a house that cost twice as much with an ARM. I’m lucky ex is letting me keep this loan until I can get it refinanced.

    If I get a rebate check, I’m going to make my house payment.

  15. Now, you’ve gone and inspired a post.

  16. Great post, Dcup, as always. Zelda made a point in that a lot of people fell for the HGTV myth that says that you’re a failure if you don’t have the right house with the right furnishings, but I don’t personally know any of those people. I DO know people who are struggling financially because of medical expenses, tuition costs, and through-no-fault-of-their-own job loss. How unfair is it that you suffer financially because of pregnancy complications? And teachers should get significant government-funded relief of tuition debt in exchange for agreeing to teach for a specified length of time.

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