Sunday, February 13, 2011
The New America
I read today where America’s wealthy are starting once again to spend like there is no tomorrow. Fifteen hundred dollar “bobbles” like Coach purses are flying out the door like crazy. On the other hand, the CEO of WalMart told shareholders, whose shoppers are of course the dregs of this economic downturn, that they are sticking to basics and actually shying away from name brands in favor of WalMart’s Great Value brand. Of course. It’s the little they can do to combat the government denied inflation on foodstuffs which is measured in +80-100% on things like wheat and sugar. Even our morning coffee now ranges 48% higher.
I have a daughter who is amazingly bright, sophisticated, beautiful, alluring, and not yet 24 years old. She’s at the top of her game. She has been on numerous interviews but has yet to land a job since moving back to Portland, OR over two months ago. The interview process is now very arduous, sometimes encompassing four different interviews with various department heads. One wrong move, one wrong sentence and you are out. After all, there are 900 others who responded to this ad which ran less than one week; all holding marketing degrees just like hers.
So I think about Marc and I and what possible chance we may hold to realistically get any kind of good jobs. Please people—remember there is still a terrible disconnect in this country between the haves and the have nots. Too many of us are still unemployed—our inquiries, our applications not even acknowledged. Interviews for people our age just don’t seem to happen. We’re now without any safety net, unemployment compensation having run out long ago. The only edge we possess is eating up my retirement, which goes month by month by the wayside. It can never be replaced. So what happens when we get old enough we can’t work and no longer have this money saved because it’s all being spent now?
I fear for us but I fear even more for the future of America. Maybe the Bible was right; Armageddon is not far off. Despite the government’s assurances that things are improving (because everyone knows the stock market is going ballistic for the wealthy) we have more people on food assistance (stamps) than we’ve ever had in the history of our country. Fully one quarter to one third of you out there who had counted on the equity in your home to provide some assistance or wealth in your old age no longer have any. You are underwater on your loans or your equity has evaporated like a ghost in the wind. They tell us this isn’t easily fixed—the current prognosis is that it will be 2013 until the depreciating values even start to level off! Then a possible further five years of bumping along a bottom. There will be no demand for so many homes, because the vast majority will have very little wealth left to buy anything. Our middle class has disappeared if you haven’t been paying attention, in just a scant five years.
I can believe this because we are living it right now. We went from a comfortable standard of living in a now defunct industry (construction), to not being able to get jobs, to now living at poverty level—all in the seemingly blink of an eye, at an age where chances are there will be no recovery. Or certainly, not on a level to which we lived before. Welcome to the new normal they tell us.