From the Marx and Coca-Cola blog.
It’s not often you hear a politician in America talk about class, especially about the working class. So I was surprised to learn that senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had asked his constituents to send him their stories about being caught in the "middle-class squeeze". He received over 360 responses, which is pretty good for a tiny state like Vermont. For those of you who don’t know much about Bernie, he was elected to the senate in 2006 after a about 10 years in the House. He describes himself as a democratic socialist (he has a picture of Eugene Debs in his office, he never combs his hair, loves Scandinavia, etc.). Despite (Because of?) his "European" politics he does quite well in the electoral arena (he beat the riches man in Vermont by 33% the last election). He’s probably the only politician who would actually care if anyone is having trouble making ends meet.
Before I post some of these stories I should say a few words about the term "middle class". There is no such thing. What we think of as the "middle class" is actually a section of the working class that has either attained a high level of education, or income, or both. So professionals, paper pushers, managers, as well as some union and skilled jobs are considered "middle class". These jobs are thought of as secure from the economic turmoils that affects the working class. But as these people testify that is not actually the case:
"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 who works outside the state of Vermont 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 a painful burning nerve damage, due to a hysterectomy that I had four years ago. I am not eligible for social security disability and I am unable to work.
We had a dream to live in Vermont (we are originally from Long Island) and to own our own home, that dream came true seven years ago. I am afraid our dream is slipping through our fingers and it wont be long before we lose our home, the way things are going."
Most of the stories mention either the increase in either oil or food prices.
"As a couple with one child, earning about $55000/year, we have been able to eat out a bit, buy groceries and health insurance, contribute to our retirement funds and live a relatively comfortable life financially. We’ve never accumulated a lot of savings, but our bills were always paid on time and never any interest on our credit card. Over the last year, even though we’ve tightened our belts (not eating out much, watching purchases at the grocery store, not buying "extras" like a new TV, repairing the washer instead of buying a new one...), we find ourselves with over $7000 of credit card debt and trying to figure out how to pay for braces for our son! I work 50 hours per week to help earn extra money to catch up, but that also takes a toll on the family life--not spending those 10 hours at home with my husband and son makes a big difference for all of us. My husband hasn’t had a raise in 3 years, and his employer is looking to cut out any extra benefits they can to lower their expenses, which will increase ours!"
"I cannot afford the middle class. I live on Social Security Disability Income and live in subsidized housing.
Between the cuts in Medicare, increased prescription costs and escalating food prices, I have cut my expenses to the bare bone. Not even my food stamp allotment is enough. By the way, whenever a Food stamp recipient turns 65 as I did in February, we are no longer eligible for food stamps. Instead, we receive a cash allotment through our EBT cards.
When I grocery shop, I buy generic brands and whenever possible, I buy in bulk, thereby saving more than I would shopping either White Market of Price Chopper.
I know people who are choosing between buying gas so they can get to work; paying for medical care/prescriptions; and/or buying food. Too often they can no longer afford child care.
Thank you, Bernie, for caring about us."
"Wife of 50 years and I retired after 50 years of work. We had what we believed was enough to let us live frugally but ok. The last 3 years have been tough. We live on $1593.00 a month plus a income of $2200. a month from rental of our spare rooms. Our mortgage alone is $3300.00 a month This is our fault some what due to the ease of borrowing money. We have stopped paying all cards and bills. The first of June we will be forced to file a petition of Bankruptcy.
We will lose our home we built out of a old barn. And has been our home for 30+ years. We do not know what to do next.We have attempted to consolidate our bills.We have been turned down by even those who loaned us money originally. We do not want to loose our home. What can we do? If a bank or other institution will only listen. I believe we could weather this period."
You can read the rest of them here. I recommend you do, it’s not often you here the experiences of regular people. And feel free to leave your own in my comment section.