I am very fortunate. I realize that each and every day. I have a job to go to and so does my husband. I don't have students loans to pay. That is because I didn't complete college. I would like to- but not if it means incurring tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I don't own a credit card. I know better. We are not particularly good with managing our money in general- and we know that with credit cards in hand- it would be too easy to get further into debt. That doesn't mean that we are debt free. We have auto and personal loans in the amount of about....$18,000-$20,000. While we don't live above our means, we do live paycheck to paycheck. Medical bills for my RA make it difficult to save any amount of money even though we do have health insurance. We also put off some appointments (routine physicals etc) because we don't want to add to our medical debt. Yet we are fortunate and we know it. I have kept an eye on the Occupy Wall Street movement and I can absolutely see where they are coming from as I have personal experience with their situations.
I have a "child" who is an adult. He has been out of work long enough that his unemployment benefits ran out at the end of October. He is holding on by his fingertips but if he doesn't find a job soon, he will be forced to give up on living where he wants to live and moving out here with us. He is smart, loyal and hardworking but because of his own past mistakes- when applying for a job he is more than likely shuffled to the bottom of the pile. And what a pile there is. It's easy to say "if they really wanted to work, they would work at McDonalds" but the reality is, there are so many good people out there looking for work and so few jobs that this is not an answer. A good example is our local GE plant. They announced that they would be hiring over 400 people. They received 6000 applications in less than 2 hours. That makes it very easy for employers to be very choosy. That is reality. The fact that is the reality makes it even more obvious that the "1%" are out of touch with reality when they dumped dozens of McDonalds applications on the Occupy Chicago group from the Chicago Board of Trade last week. It also makes it obvious that the folks who did that just don't care about the folks who are out there, freezing their butts off to get their point across and the millions who are affected by this economy.
I have always been a hard worker. It's ingrained in my personality and it is how I was raised. For many, many years I worked two and sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. I cannot do that any longer. It's not because of my health (though believe me, that is a factor of doing it long term) but because I cannot, in all good conscience take a regular part time job when there is someone out there struggling to keep a roof over their heads that could do the job as well if not better than I could. I do have an "occasional" job. It's maybe 5 hours a month, 6 mos out of the year thing where I administer tests. That kind of thing falls into the same situations as my "temp" jobs that I hire for each semester. What is interesting is that though we hire 10-12 people as temps- I interview many people CAN'T take our jobs because it would jeopardize their unemployment benefits.
This economy is in the toilet. Jobs going overseas, highly qualified people being under employed, people losing their homes and jobs and the lives that they have worked so hard for through no fault of their own and entry level jobs being taken by those overqualified folks leaving no jobs for the true entry-level employee. Even those of us who are very fortunate are just one emergency (health, accident- what have you) away from financial ruin and we are also concerned about our futures. My personal 401k has tanked so hard that it set me back years in terms of saving for retirement and who knows if the Social Security that I have paid into for 31 years will be there when I am of retirement age. When you combine that kind of financial stress with a chronic illness- it's just inviting a flare. It's a wonder that all of us who live with these kind of illnesses are not flat on our backs. It's a vicious circle because if we end up flat on our backs- we will have to begin disability which will put further stress on our already bulging social security system. Just thinking about it is depressing.
Lucky, blessed, fortunate or whatever you want to call it- as I look at the core of the OWS movement, I know that I am of the 99%. I feel that what these folks are doing, standing up to the constant corporate bailouts (that allow the CEO's to keep their huge salaries and bonuses) and not holding the banks and corporations responsible for their fiscal mismanagement while so many of our people suffer is worthy of applause. I do wish they were a little more organized, but the message is valid in my eyes.
What do you think? Do you agree with the protesters or do you feel they are (as the media has portrayed them) way off base and just a product of the "entitlement generation". I would love to hear other perspectives on this movement that shows no signs of going away.
Have a great Monday!