Saturday, June 07, 2008

Letters of Despair from American Families Who Suffer and Hunger in Cold Silence by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"

Since the current (Bush) Administration has been in office, 5 million Americans have slipped into poverty, 8 million have lost their health insurance and 3 million have lost their pensions. Yes, in the last seven years median household income for working-age Americans has declined by $2,500. Our country, for the first time since the Great Depression, now has a zero personal savings rate and, all across the nation, emergency food shelves are being flooded with working families whose inadequate wages prevent them from feeding their families.

In his concern for the collapse of the American middle class, and in order to try and break through the complacency and isolation inside the Washington Beltway, United States Senator, Bernie Sanders from Vermont, read e-mails he had received from throughout America on the floor of the Senate. They describe the decline of the American middle class from the perspective of those people who are living that decline.

They speak about families who, not long ago, thought they were economically secure, but now find themselves sinking into desperation and hopelessness. They tell the stories of working families unable to keep their homes warm in winter; workers worried about whether they’ll be able to fill their gas tank to get to their jobs; and seniors, who spent their entire lives working, now wondering how they’ll survive in old age. They describe the pain and disappointments that parents feel as they are unable to save money for their kids’ college education, and the dread of people who live without health insurance.

We have at times had to choose between baby food and heating fuel.

"We have two small children (a baby and a toddler) and felt fortunate to own our own house and land but due to the increasing fuel prices we have at times had to choose between baby food/diapers and heating fuel. We've run out of heating fuel three times so far and the baby has ended up in the hospital with pneumonia two of the times. We try to keep the kids warm with an electric space heater on those nights, but that just doesn't do the trick."

By February we ran out of wood and I burned my mother's dining room furniture.

"I am a single mother with a 9 year old boy. We lived this past winter without any heat at all. Fortunately someone gave me an old wood stove. I had to hook it up to an old/unused chimney we had in the kitchen. I couldn't even afford a chimney liner (the price of liners went up with the price of fuel). To stay warm at night my son and I would pull off all the pillows from the couch and pile them on the kitchen floor. I'd hang a blanket from the kitchen doorway and we'd sleep right there on the floor. By February we ran out of wood and I burned my mother's dining room furniture. I have no oil for hot water. We boil our water on the stove and pour it in the tub. I'd like to order one of your flags and hang it upside down at the capital building...we are certainly a country in distress."

We also only eat two meals a day to conserve.

"My husband and I are retired and 65. We would have liked to have worked longer but because of injuries caused at work and the closing of our factory to go to Canada, we chose to retire earlier. Now with oil prices the way they are we cannot afford to heat our home unless my husband cuts and splits wood, which is a real hardship as he has had his back fused and should not be working most of the day to keep up with the wood. Not only that he has to get up two or three times each night to keep the fire going. We only drive to get groceries or go to the doctor or to visit my mother in the nursing home three miles away. It now costs us $80.00 a month to go nowhere. I have Medicare but I can't afford prescription coverage unless I take my money out of an annuity, which is supposed to cover the house payment when my husband’s pension is gone. We also only eat two meals a day to conserve."

The pennies have all but dried up….Today I am sad, broken, and very discouraged.

"I, too, have been struggling to overcome the increasing costs of gas, heating oil, food, taxes, etc. I have to say that this is the toughest year, financially, that I have ever experienced in my 41 years on this earth. I have what used to be considered a decent job, I work hard, pinch my pennies, but the pennies have all but dried up. I am thankful that my employer understands that many of us cannot afford to drive to work 5 days a week. Instead, I work three 15 hour days. I have taken odd jobs to try to make ends meet. This winter, after keeping the heat just high enough to keep my pipes from bursting (the bedrooms are not heated and never got above 30 degrees) I began selling off my woodworking tools, snowblower, (pennies on the dollar) and furniture that had been handed down in my family from the early 1800s, just to keep the heat on. Today I am sad, broken, and very discouraged. I am thankful that the winter cold is behind us for a while, but now gas prices are rising yet again. I just can't keep up."

I don't go to church many Sundays, because the gasoline is too expensive to drive there.

"As a single parent, I am struggling everyday to put food on the table. Our clothes all come from thrift stores. I have a five-year-old car that needs work. My son is gifted and talented. I tried to sell my house to enroll him in a school that had curriculum available for his special needs. After two years on the market, my house never sold. The property taxes have nearly doubled in 10 years and the oil to heat it is prohibitive. To meet the needs of my son, I have left the house sit and moved into an apartment near his high school. I don't go to church many Sundays, because the gasoline is too expensive to drive there. Every thought of an activity is dependent on the cost. I can only purchase food from dented can stores… I am stretched to the breaking point with no help in sight."

At the rate we are going we will be destitute in just a few years.

"Due to illness my ability to work has been severely limited. I am making $10 an hour and if I am lucky I get 35 hours a week of work. At this time I am only getting 20 hours as it is "off season" in Stowe. It does not take a mathematician to do the figures. How are my wife and I supposed to live on a monthly take-home income of less than $800 dollars? We do it by spending our hard earned retirement savings. I am 50 and my wife is 49. At the rate we are going we will be destitute in just a few years. The situation is so dire that it is all I can think about. Soon I will have to start walking to work, an eight-mile round trip because the price of energy is so high it is that or go without heat. As bad as our situation is, I know many in worse shape. We try to donate food when we do our weekly shopping but now we are not able to even afford to help our neighbors eat. What has this country come to?"

I am just tired….I work 12 to 14 hours daily and it just doesn't help.

"I am 55 years old and worse off than my adult children. I have worked since age 16. I don't live from paycheck to paycheck, I live day to day. I can only afford to fill my gas tank on my payday thereafter, I put $5, $10 whatever that I can. I cannot afford to buy the food items that I would. I am riding around daily to and from work with a quarter of a tank of gas. This is very scary as I can see myself working until the day that I die. I do not have a savings, no credit cards and my only resources are thru my employment. I have to drive to work as there are no buses from my residence to work. I don't know how much longer I can do this…. I am concerned as gas prices climb daily. I am just tired, the harder that I work the harder it gets, I work 12 to 14 hours daily and it just doesn't help."

Some nights we eat cereal and toast for dinner because that's all I have.

"I am a working mother of two young children. I currently pay on average around $80.00 a week for gas so that I can go to work. I see the effects of the gas increase at the grocery stores and at the department stores. On average I spend around $150.00 per week at the grocery store and trust me when I say I don't buy prime rib- I buy just enough to get us through the week and I can't afford to make sure we have seven wholesome meals to eat every night of the week - some nights we eat cereal and toast for dinner because that's all I have. My family has had to cancel our annual trip to the zoo, and we make less trips to see our families in another town due to the increase of gas. The price of gas has created a hardship for most average Americans. We have less money to pay to living expenses which have also increased. It seems as if it's just a rippling effect. I am really scared of what the future holds for me and my kids because I just simply cannot afford to live from day to day. I am getting further and further in credit card debt just trying to stay afloat."

I am now living out of my car.

"As a student and a part time employee working for just above minimum wage I have found it more and more difficult to survive under these conditions. The drive to school and work require me to use roughly 30 percent of my paycheck just to go where I need to, to make it through my day. When school is in session I am lucky to get about 170 dollars a week and with gas prices at their current all time high I am continually finding myself under hardships because of it. Recently I had to vacate my apartment because I could not afford to pay rent and I am now living out of my car. This too seems like it may not be able to last that much longerbecause I am encountering difficulties in making my car payment. I can remember when gas prices were a little over a dollar and I dream about life taking that turn once more. Because of the gas prices I have found nothing but an extremely low budget for food, I was forced out of my home and now I might lose the one thing that is allowing me to continue my schooling and keep going to work – my car. I am struggling to understand why prices continue to rise and I see no end in sight."

My mortgage is behind, we are at risk for foreclosure, and I can't keep up with my car payments.

"I am a 31 year old wife, mother of two. How has this affected me? My husband drives 35 miles to work, that is a one-way trip. He is putting an average of $80 a week into his gas tank. No, he doesn't drive an SUV or a half-ton work truck. It's a small pickup truck that he needs as he builds houses. The kicker is that he never puts more than half a tank in, because we can't afford to fill it. I drive 15 miles one way, and put about $40 a week into my 30-miles-to-the-gallon car. Again, I never fill the tank - ever! We have even contemplated having my husband quit his job because he isn't making much more money weekly than he spends on gas! We could move to an area that is closer to our jobs, but because of the market, we cannot sell our house fast enough, or for a fair price. Meanwhile, my mortgage is behind, we are at risk for foreclosure, and I can't keep up with my car payments. My parents, both in their 60's, are back to work so that they can make ends meet, and struggle to come up with enough gas money so they can get to doctor's appointments. They are opting to close their house up for the winter, and stay with my uncle so they don't have to put oil in their furnace. I can't tell you how many times we had to fill our little gas tanks with kerosene or diesel because we ran out of oil and couldn't afford the $380 it would cost us to put a mere 100 gallons in. Needless to say, we are way behind on all of our bills, we are still playing catch up with our winter expenses. People that I know that have never struggled with money, are now frequenting our local food shelf so they can feed their families staple foods!"

We are barely staying afloat.

"My family has been hit so hard by this economy, we are barely staying afloat. We have remortgaged the house 4 times in the last three years to pay credit card debt. Now we are trying to tap into our annuity to pay more credit card debt. The debts on the credit cards are all for bills. Mostly grocery, oil and the mere cost of living. My husband is a union carpenter and they just changed our fantastic insurance plan to a terrible one with barely any coverage. I have none of my doctors on it and I suffer from painful nerve damage. I am not eligible for social security disability and I am unable to work. We had a dream to own our own home, and that dream came true seven years ago. I am afraid our dream is slipping through our fingers and it won’t be long before we lose our home, the way things are going."

Does anybody have a solution? Does anybody in Washington care?

"We are retired, 70 and 65 and living on Social Security and some savings. We use wood to offset the price of being warm. Our last oil fill up was nearly $700. How can we continue to make ends meet? My gasoline cost $239 last month. Food and everything else we buy is going up every week because of gouging from oil companies. We are worried about the national debt and the trade deficit. What can be done to bring them down? Does anybody have a solution? Does anybody in Washington care?"


Anonymous said...

Some of these situations do show the economy sucks but the rest of it is their "fault" and in fact no ones fault.

If you buy a home and you can't afford the payments then maybe you should have gotten a trailer or a roomate. If you can't afford the fuel prices maybe you shouldn't be driving an SUV or ride a bike to work. I don't see Mexicans bitching about the economy. Who the fuck are these people that feel entitled to work some bullshit job that a monkey can do and be paid the same as an Engineer or a Surgeon? Are people really relying on others (social security to let them live in luxury for the rest of their 34 year retirement?) We are being objective here right? 6 billion person global economy and we expect everyone to be "middle class?" I believe that goes against everything capitalism stands for....some fall behind while others get ahead...this isn't communism. The marketplace IS self correcting..what you are seeing now is people getting paid for what their skill level is..I'm sorry you and your kids can't live in a giant big house with 4 SUV's in the parking lot when you are doing a job someone is willing to do for far less.

To put things in perspective 90% of Africans probably live below our middle class's not because they aren't working as hard as's because the work they are doing isn't skilled labor.

The economy is also becoming more global...we aren't the only dance in town. Jobs are going to the best, and cheapest workers. Try to convince me to use expensive labor out of patriotism and any business man will laugh in your face. It's a market correction and a paradigm shift to skilled labor that you can access globally...we aren't doing anything wrong on our end. People just have to realize owning a home isn't a right, and neither is driving. If it was we would be issued homes at age 18 along with a stipend for fuel - reality shows people are tricked by the "American Dream" of owning a giant overpriced home that is nothing more than some wood and concrete. Don't buy into the hype that the sky is falling...candles still exist, go outside and chop a tree for firewood, and ride a bike to work, and come home to your trailer where you are not living in debt and living within your means.

I don't think it is mean spirited to tell people to live within their means, or live with multiple family members if they choose to live above their means. Should we look at this problem as we need to help everyone, or look at it from an objective point of view and realize the idea of owning a home is blown way out of proportion to its value? Hell, I want a whole bunch of shit others have, but I refuse to live above my means..and you won't hear me or anyone who understands the world bitching about losing it.

donald said...

While I agree with much of what you say I wonder why you will not use your name? I have a hard time
with folks who are afraid to identify themselves.

Donald L.Hardy
Houston, TX

Guz said...

"Anonymous" presents an interesting view. I have to agree with some of them.

I have often voiced that in our country there exists some God awful believe that everybody is entitle to everything. I have always said that not every high school graduate should be a college student -- not everyone can be a brain surgeon. We need bus drivers, plumbers, etc. Why there are some who keep insisting that every child should be admitted into a university is beyond me.

"Anonymous" is correct about his view on what capitalism is and is not. Only Communism, or far left socialism attempts to equally provide to everyone with whatever is available. And what is the end result? Mediocrity at best -- there is no need to strive for high achievement -- why should there be, when all things available are to be equally distributed?

When he states that he does not see Mexicans bitching about the economy -- surely he must be making reference to illegal immigrants from Mexico. These individuals are here to work. All they want is to earn money -- to provide for their loved ones back in Mexico. They could care less about what this country is going through. I say this not to justify their presence here, because I still consider them to be in violation of our laws. The fact that our government is to be blamed for this is not relevent in this observation. If you break a law you are a criminal to some degree or another.

If Anonymous is making a blanket statement including those of us Mexican-Americans (by the way, I do not like this title) he is off base and unfortunately shows his limitations. We are concerned with our economy! We are no different than any other US citizen providing for the family and reaching for higher opportunities in life. My interpretation of his narrative identifies him as a closet bigot with limited education, and accordingly with a lot of "street-talk" in him.

I also agree with him in that all of us should live within our means. However, the push by BIG business(es) to buy-buy-buy more often than not ensnares those of weak will -- whether they are college graduates or high school dropouts. So now we should look at the situation from a different prospective: Is BIG business undermining our economy by focusing on short-run versus long-run profits? What should the governing Administration be responsible for? In capitalism one either swims or sinks -- so, is this what we all want? Is this what is in the overall good for the country? I have my own opinions on these issues. I just wonder what "Anonymous" has to say about them.


Steve Savage "King of the Beasts" said...

October 6, 1966, my senior year at Monmouth College (now University), Dr. Martin Luther King visited our campus. He was such a contoversial figure that school President, Dr. Van Note, had reservations as to whether he would introduce him to the faculty and students in attendance. There was no scarcity of hecklers in the crowd, most of whom were in the back rows; all seats in the first ten rows, with the exception of one, were empty. Yours, Mr. Arrogant, Truly, occupied that seat with the intention of engaging King in debate. The expression "blinded by prosperity" must have been composed specifically to describe me, in particular. Having it all: new home at age 28, 4.0 student, a Nanny for my children, "fact totum," i.e., a de facto servant who did everything, new cars, etc., I, as "Mr. Big Shit" was going to take on King. For the life of me, I could not understand why the so-called down-trodden were unable to rise above their stations. I asked King why it was that Blacks were unable to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. He responded with, "It's a poor jest to ask someone to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps when they haven't any boots." Ten years later, my words and his words came back to haunt me. My Mafia Princess wife, abducted my son from our home in Los Angeles and took whatever valuables we had with her. Soon, thereafter, all of my mail stopped, no money was coming in, I was a target of investigation by the Federal Government, soon to be indicted, and basically isolated from the land of the living. It didn't take long to drop 40 pounds from not eating, lose my domicile, move into my office, and face every day, at the age of 39, hungry and homeless in L.A. This period of my life taught me a lesson, I'll never forget. No family came to my rescue, no friends, or charities. I was on my own. All that prosperity of past years was now only a myth. I had no shortage of abilities, but somehow I was unable to grasp opportunities, if there were any. That's when I realized that it's not that someone can lay claim to his abilities for successes or failures; it is only through the Grace of God and His Love that Man lives and prospers. While these comments by Anonymous, Donald, and Guz, are eloquent, and do make a great deal of sense, I am unable to form judgements as to why someone is destitute or prosperous, because I believe that it is God's Will that it be so and I have no wish to question Him. Perhaps He is observing just to see how we feel about these matters, so that we may judge ourselves.