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I don’t usually get political, but ’tis the season.
I am tired of watching hard-working, honest people lose their jobs, remain unemployed and fight to save the things they have worked for all their lives.
When the decision to seek medical care or pay the mortgage becomes a reality, it is time to stop and question what is going on. Many of these are the same people who eight years ago were considered middle to upper-middle class. Many just can’t hang on anymore. They have already robbed Peter to pay Paul and now there is nothing left. Many have sold everything they can to make an extra dime. They need to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I don’t think the lower middle class exists anymore. They are barely scraping by, often working two and three jobs just to keep the power on in their homes.
They don’t qualify for food stamps or other government assistance because they make too much money. But the reality is, there just isn’t enough money to go around. How can they continue to make ends meet? I have heard too many people say they can make more money by not working.
The cost of everything has gone up except people’s incomes. In many instances wages have declined as businesses mandated furloughs, layoffs and other cost-saving actions that directly affect their employees’ pocketbooks.
I grew up hearing about the American Dream, but as far as I can tell the only American Dream left is to get out of this country and start over.
Retirement plans? What are those? My last job took those away six months after I started. So unless I planned to live out my senior years on the six months retirement I accrued what was the point of staying on and retiring from the company? Not long after that, they put all of their employees on furlough. This resulted in a 30 percent pay reduction.
The bosses said it’s going to be tough, but do like we are doing in our families and cut out unnecessary expenses like lowering your cable package, cutting off your Internet, reducing your cell phone plan or cutting out a second phone line.
They said if we did these things, we could make it.
I laughed, right before I cried.
I didn’t and still don’t have cable or Internet at home. I didn’t have a second phone line. My cell phone plan was as basic as it could go. Where was this 30 percent loss of money supposed to come from? And in the meantime what about the issue of the cost of gas going up or the fact groceries cost more and more every day.
I survived the best I knew how. My cut expenses meant reducing the grocery bill, a.k.a. shopping the clearance racks and finding free lunches wherever I could, not traveling to see my family, staying home on my days off and more.
I was devastated. I reviewed my finances and there was nothing left to cut. I was already living hand to mouth. And the kicker was I was still supposed to produce the same amount of work if not more as a result of layoffs.
I had to make some tough choices. Things I never wanted to do, but I did and I reduced my budget enough to get by.
I swallowed a lot of pride. My credit hasn’t recovered and maybe never will, but at the end of the day, I remind myself there are others out there who are in a worse position than I was in.
My heart breaks for them because I know the stress of financial woes. I can’t even imagine trying to support a family in this economy. I keep hearing tales that it’s recovering, but if you ask those whose backs have been broken under the pressure, they don’t see the light yet. In fact, I think most would tell you it’s worse now than it was before for them. They’ve drained their emergency resources.
I am happy I have an income to depend on. As meager as times may be in my household, I get by. And every time an unexpected bill has popped up or a disaster has struck, somehow, some way God has provided.
I am tired of watching this happen to people all around me. My own personal hero searches every day for a job. The discouragement I hear in his voice after four years of fruitless searching cuts to my core. He is an American hero, a Vietnam Veteran, and he is struggling.
He worked hard his entire life, but apparently he is too qualified to hire. He, like so many others, was laid off when the economy collapsed.
Something has to give. I don’t have the answers, but I’ve been living the collapsed economy. It’s been up close and personal.
This election season, I am not basing my votes on people playing the blame game. The time for blaming someone else is over. The only thing that matters is the present and the future. The past is the past.
I want to know who is going to bring a much-needed turnaround to our economy. Who is going to implement change that will trickle down to those of us clawing to hang onto the bottom rung? The ship is sinking, and those of us at the bottom are drowning.
I don’t want to drown on a bunch of empty promises or lies. This election season my vote belongs to those I believe will take action. We need action more now than ever before—lives depend on it.
Rachel Johnsonis a columnist and a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.