Thursday’s Thoughts ~ Are We Better Off?

How well I remember the care-free days of my youth!  Back in those days I rarely watched the news or even cared about who was running for president.  I didn’t know anything about monetizing debt, labor unions, hyperinflation, or lobbyists.  I never worried about tomorrow, because tomorrow would take care of itself (or so I thought).

I woke up a few years ago, and realized that Ed and I are old–and getting older by the minute.  Tomorrow hadn’t taken care of itself, and our time was quickly running out.  It was way past time to get out of debt and get ready for Ed’s impending retirement.  This realization hit me hard, but once I set my mind to something, I’m determined.  I stopped spending, and started paying more on our debts!

As I began to stop spending, and pay off our debts, I began to take notice of the national debt, and what a mess our country is in!  I began to learn about politics and quickly realized that some crazy things have been–and still are–going on.  Our country simply can’t continue to travel in the direction it’s  going, and survive.   It’s time to stop the madness!

Ed and I watch the news together now, and discuss what’s happening in the world, and here at home.  We both know our country is in trouble, and we’ve tried hard to get ready to face whatever lies ahead.  When I say that Ed and I watch the news, I mean we really watch the news. We watch mainstream media, conservative news, and more recently, The Blaze tv.  It’s amazing how much difference there is in what we see on the different channels!   Folks, if you’re only watching the mainstream media for news, you are not getting the entire story of what’s really going on in our country!

The question is being asked, “Are we better off than we were four years ago?”  I don’t know about you, but my answer is a resounding “NO”!  My husband hasn’t had a cost of living raise in three years.  (Actually he hasn’t had a raise of ANY kind in three years, due to poor economic conditions.)  Unfortunately, the cost of living is not the same as it was three years ago!  Of course, we’ve taken it all in stride, and been thankful that he has a job, when so many others don’t.  However, “taking it all in stride” doesn’t help pay our ever-increasing grocery bill or fill our tanks with that high-priced gasoline!  We’ve had to tighten our belts substantially.

Next take the issue of health care!  It’s so disgusting, I hate to even go there.  Four years ago, our insurance paid for me to see necessary “specialists”, and covered all of my required medications, except for a small co-pay.  These days I can no longer afford to see “specialists” because our insurance no longer pays for them, and several of my medications aren’t  covered at all by our insurance.  I’m currently under the care of a local doctor (general practice), and our out-of-pocket expenses for medications run about $150 dollars a month.  Oh, and our health insurance policy costs us more than ever before–about 25% more!

Our youngest son, a high school honor graduate, worked and went to school to earn a bachelor’s degree.  He was a responsible young man who lived at home, worked days, and attended classes at night.  He used his salary to pay his own way through college, but guess what?!  Since he graduated from college, several years ago, he’s been unable to find a job in his field of study–and he’s not alone, many others have suffered the same fate.  

When I look all around me, it saddens me to see all of the empty buildings where businesses once thrived.   This summer, two new businesses opened in our small town.  They’ve both already closed. I’ve also watched surviving businesses continue to reduce their inventories.  Even the “ever popular” Wal-mart has greatly reduced their inventory from what it was just a few years ago.  Our dollar stores have become stocked with more groceries than anything else, because that’s all most people can afford!

What about “Fast and Furious”?  How about the recent attack on our ambassador to Libya?  The secret service prostitution scandal?  So many lies, so much cover-up!   I hope eventually the truth will come out.

In closing, I’d like to share these recent statistics, which really caught my attention.

(1) Middle class income has decreased $3, 960 since 2008.  (2) Gas prices have risen 107%  since 2008!  (3) Home values are down 11%  (4) The cost of health insurance is up 23% since 2008.  (5) College tuition is up 25% since 2008.  (6) The number of Americans on food stamps has changed from 32 million to 47 million, since 2008–a rise of 46%!  (7) Our federal debt has risen 51% under our current administration, and perhaps worst of all, (8) our rate of competitiveness in the world has dropped from #1 down to #7.

Need I say more?  No!  In my opinion, there is absolutely, positively no way we are better off than we were four years ago.

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Published in: on September 20, 2012 at 11:01 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. You do a good job of describing the pain that a lot of Americans are experiencing right now. I think the problems you describe have been brewing a long time. I recommend anyone to take a look at the US personal and household income statistics for the last 30-40 years that can be found on Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_income_in_the_United_States
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States

    The most interesting chart is the “Over time, by race and sex” chart on the personal income page.

    The data show that the income of a median working individual in the US has been pretty stagnant for about 20 years after you adjust for inflation/cost of living. I wish they had data for men/women combined, but men’s income has been pretty flat since 1970!

    What I think this means is that the economic struggles of the American middle class have been going on for decades. We have managed to ignore the problem in two ways:
    1) more households now have 2 incomes instead of 1 (so the household income goes up even if the personal income is flat)
    2) households racked up a lot of consumer debt recently to keep their lifestyle improving even if their income was not
    So, the apparent improvement in our quality of life for 20-40 years is a bit of a trick.

    Eventually, these things were going to catch up with us, and the 2008 finanical crisis was the final straw. A recession is more painful when consumers have heavy debt because it makes them realize they have to pay off their debt before they can start spending again, something you describe well, I think.

    But there are more questions:
    1) Are you better off than you were 20-40 years ago?
    2) Why has the US economy been stuck for decades?
    3) If the economy overall is growing, why aren’t median earners feeling the benefits?

    You are right that workers *should* be getting cost-of-living raises, but these are just enough to keep you from falling behind. Over 20-40 years, the economy should be able to deliver more than just cost-of-living raises – it should deliver a real improvement in standard of living.

  2. Amen!!

  3. So much makes me sad for America. I am praying everyday and will most definitely be voting!!

  4. Kathy, First, I want to say I stopped myself for a few minutes before hitting the reply button to impulsely respond – first breathing, thinking, and deciding whether to get into a political discussion. I teeter between being burned out on it all, and knowing it’s important to care and to be involved in the system.

    I try to step back and not take every sound bite on TV to heart. Both political parties and all the media (from left to right and inbetween) try and sway us. It’s almost impossible to know the “REAL TRUTH” on anything anymore.

    That being said, I want to express that I don’t feel like our country is going to hell in a handbasket. Historically we have had ups and downs, finanically and socially. We had had times of almost ruin (the Great Depression) and times of too much abundance (thinking of the 80’s and the “me generation” wanting it now and being first). We will most likely always have inflation, and there will be times when job pay rates don’t escalate at the same pace. There will be times when some people in the US score big windfalls, and others pay too much into the system.

    I am sorry your son has not found a career job yet that has to do with his field of study. I don’t know what he hopes to do, but I can guess that many people have worked outside of their “school training” and have found their way in the world. It’s not meant to happen overnight, in a year, or maybe even a decade. I certainly hope he continues to work hard (I’m sure he will), and prove himself, and make a “fair” salary and live comfortably.

    The empty buildings and failed businesses make me sad too. But capitalism and free enterprise allows for the strong to prevail. I sometimes wonder if some people open a shop with unrealistic hopes and no business plan. If so, they won’t last long.

    I believe in fiscal responsiblity and social conscience. I believe in a fair playing field for everyone. I see signs of hope along with the list of disappointments you listed. The real estate market is slowly turning around after too many banks gave out mortgages to people who should not have qualified…and they had to claim bankruptcy. The threats of our world will always be there but a few of the big ones have been taken out. We can’t stop “crazy.” So, they will pop up.

    Americans may be eating some humble pie right now, but I think it’s all part of the balance.

    Sorry this is getting long. Yep, I guess I do care too – and I hope to keep myself engaged without becoming angry.

    Take care Kathy, and make every day a blessing!

  5. It’s scary. Like you and Ed we have long been frugal. We are debt free, and a few years into our marriage we adopted my parents’ practice of living below our means. We also save ahead for travel and a few other “extras.” Our strategy has been to trust God, work hard and do the best we can. Sounds simplistic but it has carried us through my stroke so far and through some other challenges.

    Early in my stroke experience I had to either panic and give up or accept that there are things beyond my control, beyond my will and beyond my strength. Trusting God was my only viable alternative. With all the dire fiscal statistics and predictions I could not have the peace to work on my recovery without the assurance of God’s faithfulness. God bless you and your family as you deal with today’s realities.

  6. Thank you for taking the time to share this information. I am very uninformed. We also don’t know about our future. One thing I know for sure is that should never ever have used our retirement money for anything. It’s our money, not theirs to use!

  7. It’s very hard to believe that this country is in the state it’s in. Hopefully things will change for the better…SOON !!!


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