There are days when I truly wonder if anyone is paying attention to what is going on in our country. I mean, really paying attention. We all notice when gas prices go up, then down, then up again week after week. We continue to complain while our grocery bills keep going up. Most of us have heard, repeatedly, how bad the housing market is and how houses have decreased in value, yet mortgage and rental payments have not decreased. There are more people on the unemployment rolls than ever before. Even when folks are eligible to collect unemployment, it’s not nearly enough to cover all the expenses they were paying for before they lost their jobs. Many people, who cannot find jobs and therefore increase their income, eventually may lose their homes to bankruptcy or foreclosure. We’ve heard variations of the same type of predicament over the past several years, and it’s only getting worse.
The government claims, in one week, the recession is nearing an end. The following week, they inform us the recession may last a little longer than predicted. They claim the job market has improved. What they don’t tell you is that some large companies are cutting full-time employees to part-time hours, and then hiring new employees for part-time hours to cover the time originally worked by the same previous full-time workers. Yes, it does create jobs. However, it also cuts the pay for the former full-time employees, and most likely completely cuts some benefits reserved only for full-timers, like healthcare.
Gas prices have gone down from a year or so ago, which is great for our wallets. We are told gas prices go up because of a shortage, or because of supply and demand. What we don’t hear on the news is that we have a surplus of oil right now, or even if we truly had a shortage, we could negotiate with Canada, which would be less expensive than getting our supply from the Middle East. We know from the news that many banks received a government bailout, while others received government subsidies to encourage them to provide new mortgages to prospective buyers, and to restructure existing mortgages to struggling homeowners. Instead, the banks tightened the requirements for new home mortgages and turned down many struggling homeowners to restructure their existing mortgages. Some folks may wonder what the banks are doing with the money, but all you have to do is look around and see construction for new banks or bank branches. In my own small town of approximately 40,000 people, it is no more than a five- mile trip from one end of town to the other. My bank has three branches, two within one mile of each other, and that does not include a freestanding ATM machine. There are at least eight other banks in our town with at least two branches each. Speaking of banks, you can rarely find interest rates over 2% for any type of savings or money market account unless you have $10,000.00 to set aside for a specified period of time. Yet most credit card interest rates, even for people with good credit scores, are over 15%.
What prompted me to write this down was an incident that occurred this morning. I rarely go to yard sales. However, my ex-husband (with whom I maintain a friendship) is looking for some decent but inexpensive used furniture to furnish an apartment for himself. This morning, we went to several yard sales looking for a dining room set and recliner. We happened to stop at one yard sale where some items were displayed in the homeowner’s garage. While I perused the items in the garage, my ex-husband checked out some tools set up on a table in the driveway. Another customer was interested in an electric tool and asked the homeowner if he could plug it in to make sure the item worked. The homeowner, a young man around thirty-five years old, told the customer that indeed the item worked, but they couldn’t plug it in anywhere because he did not have electricity. From the number of items that were on sale, and because this young man wasn’t working on a Friday morning, it was apparent things were not going well for him and his family. At another yard sale, my ex-husband found some very expensive electric tools being sold for less than $10.00 each, while I found a collection of over one hundred of Boyd’s Bears being sold for twenty-five cents a piece. Boyd’s Bears usually cost between $12.95 and $50.00 each. Again, on a Friday morning, both husband and wife were home, not at work. The husband confided to my ex-husband that he had lost a job he had had for twenty years and is now working part-time in construction. His wife had lost her job at K-Mart when they closed the store here several years ago and is working part-time in an office while selling homemade jewelry on the side.
I wonder how the government obtains information that the economy is getting better. Do they just randomly pick affluent communities? I wonder how long it will be before our government officials decide to stop blaming the other party, stop talking about what is wrong, and actually doing something to improve the situation. I wonder what would happen if any one of our elected officials stood in that thirty-five year old man’s shoes for twenty-four hours and had to tell a customer he had no electricity, or had to tell his family they would be eating in the dark or sleeping without heat indefinitely. Perhaps our elected officials need a generous dose of reality so they can discard their rose-colored glasses.