Middle Class Disappearing Act
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 that 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…..”