From a brief glance it would be easy to assume that the economic catastrophe of 2008 is nothing but a distant memory, a bad dream that we have all recovered from. After all, the stock market is up, business profits are up, CEO’s are taking home ginormous bonuses and it seems every man, woman and child in America is walking around the either the latest iPhone or a tablet computer. Clearly we are all basking in the joys of economic stability or maybe it’s all an illusion?
I work in social services, granted as the executive director I do a lot less working with people than I used to. But I still analyze the data and talk to professional colleagues and the one thing we all agree on is that things aren’t getting better. We are all continuing to see staggering numbers of people in need of essentials such as food, shelter and childcare. (sometimes even school supplies, coats and shoes too) The spigot was turned on in 2008 and frankly the basin is overflowing with people in need. At my agency, I am facing record growth which if I were the CEO of a profit making venture would be awesome but in my line of work, record growth means I spend a lot of time making hard decisions since record growth doesn’t mean record revenue to meet the needs of that record growth but that is an entirely different post.
What I am seeing more and more of is stories like this, national publications are actually starting to take notice of those folks that I have been talking about since 2009-the formerly middle class. Folks who might look a lot like you; they used to own the house, two cars, and a few fancy gadgets and even had a nest egg. Many of those folks are now living in ways they never dreamed of, mired in the hardscrabble new world of poverty. They often still cling to their middle class fantasies and dreams that they will turn their ships around but make no mistake, once you have entered a world of living in the pay by the week hotels and frequenting food pantries, your odds of taking the elevator back to the middle class are only slightly better than a winning Powerball ticket. Especially in this brave new world where permanent well-paying employment opportunities elude even the college educated. This brave new world is a place where we are all the captains of our fate, using fancy euphemisms to hide the fact that we lack the stability that was the norm only a generation ago. Consulting, freelancing, self-employed are all valid options but too many of us aren’t doing these things because we want to, we are doing them because they are our only opportunities for employment. After all, some money beats no money.
Funny thing is that despite this economic tsunami and its victims, we Americans are a proud lot; refusing to accept that the jobs are gone and that going out and getting a job is a lot easier said than done. Instead we turn on one another and destroy our own, lashing out at the man down the street who decides to apply for permanent disability status which will ensure him a permanent though meager paycheck, access to healthcare via the government funded Medicaid program and access to subsidized housing rather than continue to suffer the indignities of a job search that is futile.
We eat our own for lunch and feel disgust for the moochers and the scammers, eager to cut people off from the dribs and drabs of the economic safety net rather than turning our anger on the corporate overlords who truly own our asses and have made us their wage slaves. But hey who’s the moocher?