This economy is so frightening! Nearly all of us are affected in some way by the situation in this country, and it is rarely in a good way.
Last night I had an eye-opening conversation with a young mother. She works in day care, and is currently job hunting. I naively thought that this was one field that would not bear the brunt of a sluggish economy, but I was wrong. When a two-parent household has one party laid off, the children no longer need day care. When both are still working, but money gets tighter, one of them will switch to nights, thus negating the need for day care. This woman must find a job where she is allowed to take her kids to work with her when school is out, because on her salary, she cannot afford day care for them.
This appears to be a true barometer of the situation, and as mentioned, one I had never considered.
I am aghast at the job market, or lack thereof. The Bush administration can spout figures about new jobs created, etc., but as always, statistics are made to be manipulated. Every wage earner who loses a one hundred thousand a year job may have to take two jobs to pay his bills. A job created! People who once earned a decent wage and had great benefits may now need a second job to afford insurance. Another new job!
More and more companies are reducing their staff to part-time positions, especially in retail. Fewer full-timers means fewer benefits. To cover a 40 hour shift, there may be 2 or even 3 employees where there was once only one. More jobs! When WalMart comes to town, they hire 300 people, and brag of jobs created. No mention that they are menial, low-paying, un-benefitted jobs.
I think this country is in deep shit, bluntly put. The divide between the wealthy and everyone else is huge, and getting larger all the time. In No. America in 2006, there were 3 million millionaires, and there were 38,400 people with a value over 30 million dollars.
Yet the median income is somewhere around $46,000. So it takes a whole lot of poor people to counteract those super-rich ones. In 2005, there were 36.5 MILLION people in the US alone below the poverty level. It is also important to note that the poverty thresholds are ridiculously low. At present, a single person must earn less than $10,400 to be considered “poor”. So the folks making $11,000 a year are not in the ranks of the poor. They don’t count. Try telling them that. Try renting an apartment in New England on double that, and you’re in trouble. If we were to calculate those living below a “decent living wage” scale, the numbers would be monumentally higher.
All of these statistics may bore you, but this is the most important issue we are facing in our society. If you remember world history, most revolutions take place because the poor uprise against the rich. In the French Revolution, the nobles were beheaded. Can you see that kind of anger brewing in this country? I can.
I am a very fortunate, middle class woman, and yet I am now very close to living on the edge. I have a decent-paying job, and own a home, but my husband lost his job last fall, and is now working part-time at not much above minimum wage. We now need all of our money to pay for the basics. That is not a great feeling while we are so close to our “golden years”.
I am afraid. Not only for myself, but for all of us baby boomers who are watching our investments dwindle, while the prices at the supermarket rise, and the cost of heating our home becomes prohibitive. And, yes, I am afraid for myself as well. I am not comfortable facing the unknown. I worry about the potential for violence in our cities and the loss of the comfortable life we have enjoyed.
For many Americans, the American Dream has died.