Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is That a Parable or a Very Subtle Joke

I'm just going to tell you this up front - I don't know how to make this funny.

Every week, and sometimes it feels like every day, I learn of another friend or acquaintance who has lost their job.

Yesterday I drove through an area not far from here that I can only describe as the "Place of Big Ideas, Lack of Financing."  Acres and acres of weeds threaded with ribbons of smooth, black roads with light blue pipes dotting the landscape like PVC stems bearing no flowers.

"Bank Owned Property - For Sale"

What a mess.  Where are the answers?  We grasp at what?   It feels like nothing.

I'm sorry for my friends and acquaintances who find themselves unemployed in this dismal economy.  It's not easy, this recalibration.  We bail out major corporations while those of us in these teeny life boats can't plug the holes fast enough. I asked MathMan the other day if he thought maybe this tipped ship of an economy was righting itself.  Maybe the next generations won't live in a society where it takes two incomes to maintain the illusion of a middle class life.

I hope they learn from our mistakes.  But as so many of them are already indenturing themselves through student loans and will be entering an unstable, uncertain and worker-unfriendly workplace, my confidence in their ability to do better shrinks with each bit of bad news.

Home sales are down.  Another bank in Georgia closes.

We know who to blame.  Or at least we have a pretty good idea. We just can't stop digging.  We'd rather fight over religion.

I'm not a believer, but I know plenty of people who are.  They pray.  I hope it helps.  No matter what, we all must draw together to weather this mess.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Don't be afraid to offer it.

This song is in my head. Maybe because it reminds me of happier times.  Times when I still had more of a future ahead of me.  Or maybe because it reminds me of how we all want answers.  From somewhere.

Still waiting...

Tell me your news.


  1. "Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to offer it."

    That's the bottom line, at this point.

    We were stopped at a light the other day and a young-ish woman was begging for change. She looked tired and her shirt looked really dirty. We passed her, and then my partner wheeled the car around and said to me "Get that $5 bill out of my wallet."

    Bottom line: It could have been any of us, with job loss, a few missed payments, and no one there to help. We have to help each other, however we can.

  2. "Is that a parable or a very subtle joke?"

    Are those our only choices?

  3. Oh, Lisa ... I just don't know. Every week that brings in a paycheque is a gift, that's for sure.

    I'm giving more of what I have (which isn't a lot, in material terms) to people who have less ... There was a time when I was "that far" from being on the street myself. I'm often amazed at how much gratitude people express when I give them some cash ... Not long ago I instinctively gave $10 to a young man who was standing at the end of a highway off-ramp on a drizzly day. I shudder to think of how these folks get through a winter ...

    My husband's just been called up for jury duty ... for the week after Labour Day. I sure hope the case is a a quick one, or he is discharged somehow. My income at this moment is from a disability pension and since my husband's a hair stylist, he gets zero income when he's not at work ...

    The powers that be don't give a damn ... September could be a very lean month for us ...

  4. I'm a believer and I pray. I'm different from a lot of believers in the fact that I believe when I put a problem into GODs hands for HIM to fix... he puts it back into mine with the tools to get the job done. Then I have to go out and do it myself.

    Believer or not, many people have prayed/worked on this issue but not enough people in the right position and with the right amount of power have been able to do what needs to be done to make it work.

    I'm sure EVENTUALLY someone will make this go a way for a little while but... WHEN? And at what cost?

    In any event, I feel your pain. I was out of work for 4 months and I have a friend that is out of work right now (about to lose everything). And WHO KNOWS when he will be able to find a job. It is hitting every sector of society(though some more than others).

  5. Maybe the next generations won't live in a society where it takes two incomes to maintain the illusion of a middle class life.

    I chortled, with the faintest whiff of wheez. See, you can make misery comical, kudos!

  6. I debated whether to even leave a comment here, since I can hardly commiserate right now. It's hard not to think this that this supposed dismal economy is just something hyped by "the media" because it is so not happening here, or anywhere in my network of friends and relatives.

    First I should say I work for the federal government, under the golden era of Obama's stimulus. I got a promotion, and my agency has hired more (okay, temporary seasonal - but that's normal in my field) employees than ever, at least in the 15 years I've worked there. We finally have a staff!! Morale is high. We are all pumping our $$ into local businesses in this NW Washington County where we have been preparing for his downturn for years by educating ourselves about local networks and supporting local businesses. I have donated significant (for me)amounts to charity the last 2 years for the first time and got out of credit card debt. We would love to buy a house but prices are too high and won't seem to drop. Of course I have no health insurance or retirement or savings so this luxury could all go away anytime, not to mention my husband is self employed (but he has more work than he can handle.)

    Lisa, you are the only person I know who has lost her job. But you are also my only friend in the southeast. I guess some regions are weathering this shit a lot better than others.

    Hang in there, you've dealt with these setbacks with remarkable good humor.

  7. Lisa, back before Obama won the Democratic nomination, I predicted that fully repairing the damage Republican policies have done to our economy will take up to 50 years, provided we can keep them out of power the whole time.

    Our economy has fundamentally changed. The rich no longer need our labor or our spending. Now they just want to squeeze the last pittance from the poor and sustenance from the middle class.

    Long term, we need to fundamentally change the way we distribute our society's resources.

  8. I know that our families have been leaning on us heavily of late and thank goodness, or rather thank the goddess, that we are in a position to help them out--otherwise, who knows what could happen to them.

  9. It gets harder every day to even begin to think about 'what next?'

  10. King's X and praying isn't fixing anything.

    We've had decades of bad government management, especially from greed mongering Republican presidents, and the hole is getting deeper and deeper.

    When I was a kid studying ancient history I remember asking, "Why did the Romans allow their society to decay?" I never heard a good answer.

    Maybe what we are experiencing is the first big slide downward for the country. And maybe it's inevitable when greed, profiteering, excessive spending on the military and imperialist policies dominate a government's actions.

    Faced with critical problems, Americans tend to grump and stomp their feet, some become activists, others reach out a lending hand ... and the lunatic fringe goes even further rightwing.

    I have no answers but one process which might reverse the stupidity of our politics is to break up the two party system and have a multi-party system. It's obvious there's too much incompetence to today's Senate and House of Reps.

    But for the rest of us, we hang on and hope for survival.

  11. While we have read a couple of his other books - 'When Corporations Rule the World' was an excellent foreshadowing of what was to come more than a decade ago - we haven't yet read David Korten's 'Agenda For A New Economy' but it's on our list. You can check out his blog for free and may be able to get the book from the library. They are all great and best of all provide helpful suggestions of how to go about de-fanging the corporatists who actually rule the country.

  12. Things were also really bad in the seventies, and they weren't that great during the eighties -- I had contract positions throughout the eighties with no benefits. I think things will get better, but the economic landscape has fundamentally changed. The idea of a stable job that lasts for eons is gone.

  13. Sue J. - Well said. And good for you for helping out. Every little bit does count.

    Gine - LOL and I hope not.

    Jaliya - I hope your husband gets released from duty. When you're already on the edge, you certainly don't need the added stress.

    Que - It is a widespread issue and I think we're going to have to see some radical changes in order to see the end of these troubles. My faith in our fellow humans wavers. I worry that so many of us are either consumed with basic survival while the other quarter is consumed with consuming. There I go again.

    Randal - Okay, you caught my one tiny joke.

    beatgirl - I really do think it's worse in some regions. Funnily enough, the same people who dream of a free market theocracy live in the regions hit the hardest. I'm glad you commented. Thank you.

    Tomcat - You're right. This is for the long term. When will we ever figure out that if concentrate wealth, we fail.

    Bibliophilia in Black - I'm glad you've been there to help your family. I know a lot of people are pulling together that way. Thank goddess.

    MommyLisa - Agreed. Most days I try to just deal with right now.

    Will - Yes. I wonder to about whether this is the beginning of the end. Survival. That's the word.

    susan - I don't know if someone said it here or on Black Magpie Theory, but it does seem that we're all in trouble since the super wealthy and corporations no longer need a middle class America. I'm going to look at Korten's blog. One of our friends reminds me occasionally that Naomi Klein also predicted this Shock Doctrine.

  14. Susan Tiner - You make an excellent point. There have been other bleak times. And yes, the days of working for one company all your life are over. For most people at least.

  15. Well you know my story so I won't repeat it. We're still struggling. We could use a little stimulus around here.

  16. What I'm seeing in my little world are lots of entrepreneurial projects and businesses popping up left and right.

    I think people are going to mix it up, i.e., employment and/or self-employment. I see people using entrepreneurial efforts to stay up-to-date and position themselves competitively when the job market picks up.

    I think increasingly people will be networking among friends and community to promote their services and products. A little bit like the the farmers markets. It will be more personal.

    I think it's a good idea to think about what services/products you might sell. In your case, what about using your social network platform to promote yourself as an editorial consultant?


  17. I was trying to define the word "despondency" for my daughter earlier tonight. If you are going to thank God for anything I think it should be your well-developed sense of humor.

  18. And they keep saying it's getting better...what do they know? We both are still working but barely making it. I talked to the lady at the heating oil company and she said they predict oil will be $4.00+ this winter. Scares the hell out of me. I don't know the answers but they need to stop playing party partisan politics and get down to the real issues like Jobs, keeping our air, water and foods safe and all the other things we need govt to do. I'm sick of the hate, the name calling, the bickering...but you know what I mean. Sorry to go on like this...just frustrated.

    Love you girl, hang in there.

  19. Yeah, no spin can make this a funny topic.

    We (husband and I) are fortunate, and not having money problems, but I see it all around us. Plenty of bank owned homes sitting empty, plenty of empty storefronts, layoffs announced on local news etc. It's heartbreaking. But, also a lesson. I do think as Americans we (myself included) do get caught up in consumerism and fancy toys.

    I try to buy American no matter how much more it costs, I try to buy organic and be a good steward, I NEVER shop at Walmart, we've been vacationing in America the last few years, we don't live beyond our means, and we donate a substantial amount to charity every year. Still, I wish I could do more.

    I'm so glad you won my contest! You deserve it...and I hope it cheers you up when it arrives. :)


  20. yeah, things are really bad. On my street alone only TWO people are employed. My father and the cop who lives on the corner. Every one else on my block is looking for work. And, it's very sad.

  21. The oligarchy and Faux News have whipped their conservative base into a frenzy with their constant fear-mongering. They keep us arguing among ourselves while they rob you blind. You are pinching pennies and having social services cut, while they tell you that you need to worry about the "budget deficit".

    What is happening in the U.S. shows how corrupt the government has become. Instead of fretting about Muslims or gay marriage or immigration, I wish more people would tell Obama to stop the Bush tax breaks for millionaires. Wall Street nearly destroyed the world. If only America would remember to hold a grudge and not get distracted so easily.

  22. Great post. Thing is, most honest, thinking people know what needs to be done now--hell 1 1/2 years ago--to get things back on track: W's tax cuts should have been repealed in January 2009; get the fuck out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and I mean really out, not pretend out where you leave 50,000 troops behind; a new WPA/jobs act targeting money to building/maintaining infrastructure, with a strong preference for using American made equipment and materials; etc. There's much more, but it's all so fucking obvious. So how come this White House doesn't see it? I think it's deliberate, not due incompetence. If I'm right, that does not bode well for the next two years. Unless, that is, they want to win reelection and relunctantly do the right thing to motivate what's left of their base. Maybe.

  23. Hey Lisa~ It's bleak out there. Your comment about the 2 income families is not lookin' good for the future.
    Each time they slap the ass of a new born babe, that little of bundle of oy would have to pay $43000 as their share of the Ntl Debt!

    Are you sure you want out of the womb dear , sweet baby?

    Families will need to have 3 jobs to keep afloat.

    the measly laughable 401k I have at work lost more money..

    Hey who can't get by on less than a years basic expenses in their golden retirement years???

    I'll just invest in bootstraps!

    I looked @ the classifieds. Bloody Hell.
    Window washer 5 years experience.
    That & I am not a good candidate to be a long haul trucker.... I take diuretics & piss like a race horse- it would never work out.

  24. And our children will continue to pay & pay & pay. Frightening.

  25. I can sympathize, though I am much, much luckier than some. I narrowly avoided a layoff this year when a plant closed. Just keeping my fingers crossed that things don't get worse for all of us.

  26. Personally, I don't give a damn about long-term Federal debt. too many people are hurting in this country, now. Worrying about what the Federal debt will be in 2020 or 2040 is like seeing you house start to burn and wondering what paint colors your grandchildren will use in their homes.

  27. I put the blame stamp squarely on the head of senile, dead Ronald Reagan and the glamorization of credit. Easy credit for WORKERS made 'products the norm' (bad--when we all 'need' to keep up with the Joneses) but WORSE, it made workers stop fighting for fair wages.

    Honestly, there has only EVER been one generation that could have only one working parent--the parents of the boomers--the war generation--and THAT generation sewed their own clothes and canned their own food, so they DID sort of work. This 'norm' has always been a myth. But that aside, when two full-time salaries at minimum wage can't make it, the system is broken.

    In a mobile society where our extended family are on another coast, and there is no 'grandma' to back up daycare--no safety net when someone is sick or injured... we are very very broken. I think credit made us complacent and we stopped making hard decisions. I'm as guilty as anyone--we don't live high or fancy, but probably we can't afford to own a home... we do, and so our debt situation is bad.

    I really wish things would get better, but I really don't believe they will.

  28. addendum: hubby was laid off 2 years ago. He is now taking classes, so eventually THAT is where we are putting our hopes... in a nurse who will be needed for the Baby Boomers to get old.--In Michigan, unemployment has been double digits for a decade (it is 50% in Detroit). There may be PLACES unaffected. This is not one of them.

  29. Hart Johnson is right. The Leave It To Beaver lifestyle (working dad, stay at home mom) wasn't around very long, post WWII to maybe about 1980, and then the slide began.

    And I, too, blame Reagan. He demonized poor people and made self-centered greed respectable.

  30. We're down to one income. When both of us were working we lived with little thought about what we were doing, buying, and hoping to buy and do. I think there were a lot people like us. From this view, there is grace in hardship. We value our moments better.

    But as the sole earner--with no children or parental dependents--I'm getting very well acquainted with thrift. Maintaining from month to month is now a triumph. I can't imagine the stress and anxiety that goes with keeping a family afloat. If I could, I'd line the halls of Congress with hero portraits of every parent who's taking the blows to see their children have a happy, healthy childhood.

    So I pray for this economy, but not nearly as much as I pray for the parents and grown children of parents who are fighting what seems like a never-ending battle.

  31. Lisa, sometimes we just can't be funny. Even though it comes to be expected of us. I feel your despondency through your words and it hurts. I am certainly not be one to comment. I left the country almost 2 years ago perhaps to flee my ensuing financial doom. Are things really horrible? It's not much better here in France however. Every day there are more on the streets asking for help. And this in a country that has MANY safety nets and an inordinate number of social programs. I'm afraid I've got my head in the sand and have no wish to pull it out. I can live here, if like a poor student, but divorce took all my savings, all my retirement, and my social security. The day will come when it may be me on the street. I can only survive by keeping my head firmly planted in the hole where it seems comfortable. I guess...we'll be funny tomorrow.

  32. Probably not the best idea to listen to "A Symphonic Prelude" while reading this post. >.>


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