While many argue that what is happening to the "great middle" (the 25 to 75th percentile) is transitory in nature and "everything will be fine once we get out of this temporary recession" I've made my thoughts known on what I see as some massive structural issues facing the country. Back in 07 and 08 I called it "the pooring of America". [Dec 8, 2007: Do the Bottom 80% of Americans Stand a Chance?] Unfortunately for these 4 couples, each seems to work in the private sector ... hence, are fully exposed to what is happening in the economy. They also appear to be paying their mortgages ... hence are part of the 'sucker class' as defined by new paradigm governmental policy.
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Many Americans feel something is amiss but other than worrying that their children might not have the same standard of living they do, can't quite put their finger on it. I don't blame there - there are so many cross currents and distortions being offered by those in power. Unfortunately the only response to these very real threats are masking them via easy money policies that create bubbles of the stock or real estate kind, creating temporary paper wealth via brokerage account or house ATM. [May 19, 2009: Paper Printing Prosperity Defined] (or the current version, the government ATM). [May 25, 2010: 1 in 5.5 Dollars of Income Now Via Government; All Time High] [Jun 5, 2009: 1 in 6 Dollars of Income Now Via Government; Highest Since 1929] Certainly there are solutions to the issues but acting in a pragmatic, long sighted, comprehensive manner which caters to the greater good of society (that's so 1950s) is something that seems to be a lost art. Not to mention any such national plans similar to what the Germans employ (or heck what the U.S. employed in the space race), would be called 'socialist' in the political climate we have. So I expect us to continue lurching from crisis to crisis only fighting the fire on the couch we are sitting on while the rest of the home (or our oceans) smolders.
- No matter where the numbers go next, the recession has redefined goals for millions of Americans, prompting CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor to revisit four American families living on one suburban street. Jen Singer and her neighbors have waited patiently for life to get back on track. "This recession has really rattled us," she said. "I always assumed like every American generation that we would do better than our parents did before us, and now I'm not so sure."
- In an affluent New Jersey community, the specter of downward mobility is unnerving. "We're not out of the woods by a long shot, either in the economy or our own personal lives," said Bob Schrot, Singer's next-door neighbor.
- But the mention of college, for the Davins and their neighbors, is suddenly a sobering thought. Because of the recession, Grace Davin has redefined her expectations for the future. "When we sold that Cape house, that house was our college fund, and we're dipping into it now, and we have to," she said.
- "The amount of money just to get a diploma and then there are no jobs, that's pretty frustrating," he said. He and his wife and Eisha Locascio are both working, but with local taxes going up and no raises in sight, they're just hanging on.
- "This downward recession is very upsetting, and it's definitely becoming more of a permanent thing," Eisha Locascio said.
- One thing's for certain. No one is spending more than they have to. Jen Singer's home renovation stopped at the deck in 2008 and forget that new car. "I've got a minivan that has 130,000 miles on it, and it smells like eight years of sippy cups and shin guards, and I'm hoping that we can hang onto it till it has 200,000 miles or more," she said.
Speaking of greater societal issues - the U.S. also has a higher education bubble... when the average person comes out of college with 5 figure debt, one wonders where it stops. When $80K annual tuition is the norm ? $100K? It is now reaching the point where all the years of paying down college debt will no longer be offset by the higher annual salary. What will it look like in 5 years? 10?
Again this piece is not about "middle class folk"... this is the top 10 percentile, if not top 5. The type of people who have income to invest and an interest in blogs such as this. These are families who once bought a vacation home in Cape Cod. But had to sell as reality bit. If this is their new reality you can imagine the stresses as you drop down the ladder to the 60th percentile... or 40th. This is the world outside the Matrix while the CNBC carnival barkers clap like seals that a few trillion of government/central bank spending/handouts can make our economic figures "recover". (can you only imagine GDP or retail sales if government handed out $8 trillion?)
Inside the Matrix ? Green shoots all around.