It’s not news that to a lot of folks, the problems of “the economy” have been an issue for much longer than 14 months, or a couple of weeks. But still, conversations about our personal finances and financial struggles are the last great taboo in America (much more so than conversations about sex these days) so when I saw this piece, below, it felt like a way to open a conversation about all these policy problems and policy solutions and how that’s affecting a wider and wider swath of folks, and how hard a lot of people that are or generally have been considered “middle class” are struggling. (This is not to drive conversation away from conversations about the poor and working poor in our country, but to note that the definition of “working poor” or at least “working struggling” seems to have expanded beyond what we usually think of.) This is from the LiveJournal of a friend of a friend of a friend. The full post is here.
As a bonus, this is an interesting proposal on the bailout thing from US Senator Bernie Sanders, and Sarah Lefton’s suggestion about tithing should be noted as well. (And for those of you wanting some history of How We Got Here, DailyKos offers a concise summary.)
In any case, R. writes,
I have to say, I think that a huge part of the frustration and anger on the part of so many Americans at the entire notion of a bailout is that we’re being told that the government HAS to do this to “protect us”…. the kicker, the part of this bitter pill that is so goddamn hard to swallow is that WE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE SO DESPERATE FOR BAILOUT OURSELVES.
On the news last night, it was mentioned that 25% of Americans are struggling to pay their bills every month.
Let me raise my hand and say hello, I am one of those Americans. And my actual debt is a miniscule fraction of this bailout…but it is a very real, very day to day emotionally and psychologically draining financial struggle.
I’m gonna lay it out here, my friends. This is where I am at.
My husband and I both went to college. Heck, I even got a graduate degree. We have good jobs making good money. We do not live in the most expensive urban market–not by a long shot. In fact we live in an area that has seen a huge swell of relocation from the Northeast specifically because of the affordable housing.
My husband on his own qualified for and bought a home he could afford to pay for on his salary. A few years back, we got married. We had some debt, but it was small and seemed manageable.
And then we had a kid. I took four months off of work to be home with him. We had saved up some money to cover our expenses during this time, included the $800 a month co-pay I had to make for Cobra for the last month when my FMLA leave ended. It was not enough. We went a bit more into debt. I went back to work, paying basically 1/2 of my salary now for childcare, upping my insurance copay to cover my son, and starting to pay for life insurance.
And then a year and a half later we got pregnant again, and had another kid. I took four months again. We went further into debt again. I went back to work, because even after taxes and health insurance and dental insurance and life insurance and social security and daycare, I was still bringing home $300 a month. And if I stopped working and we went on my husband’s insurance, his co-pay would be raised by $400 a month. We would effectively have $700 less a month to get by.
As it is, after we pay our mortgage and child care and debt and car loan and equity loan and bills every month, we have about $200 to live on. FOR EVERYTHING ELSE.
What is everything else? Food, gas, medical co-pays, dentist bills, car taxes, anything at all unexpected like your dryer breaking, your dishwasher breaking, your laundry machine breaking (it has not been a good year for our ancient appliances), or three trees falling in your yard while you are out of town, being out of town to begin with and taking any kind of vacation, clothes and shoes, a car breaking down, a hockey season for your kid…EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE THINGS PUSHES US PAST WHAT WE CAN AFFORD. Even in a month where NOT A SINGLE “EXTRA” expense like a car tax or a dentist visit occurs–we end up putting gas and groceries on a credit card by the end of the month to be able to feed our family and get to work.
EVERY SINGLE MONTH WE GO DEEPER INTO DEBT. And every month the amount of our minimum payment to cover this debt increases.
Full post here.