“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”

By Caitlin Kelly

The Red Queen's race
The Red Queen’s race (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

The words are from Alice in Wonderland, spoken by the Red Queen.

Sadly, they still apply to millions of American workers, (and those in struggling economies worldwide), for whom the “economic recovery” means little. Their wages are stagnant, their costs rising.

From a recent edition of The New York Times:

For all but the most highly educated and affluent Americans, incomes have stagnated, or worse, for more than a decade. The census report found that median household income, adjusted for inflation, was $51,017 in 2012, down about 9 percent from an inflation-adjusted peak of $56,080 in 1999, mostly as a result of the longest and most damaging recession since the Depression. Most people have had no gains since the economy hit bottom in 2009.

The government’s authoritative annual report on incomes, poverty and health insurance, released Tuesday, underscores that the economic recovery has largely failed to reach the poor and the middle class, even as the unemployment rate continues to sink and growth has returned.

Government programs remain a lifeline for millions. Unemployment insurance, whose eligibility the federal government expanded in response to the downturn, kept 1.7 million people out of poverty last year. Food stamps, if counted as income, would have kept out four million.

Since the recession ended in 2009, income gains have accrued almost entirely to the top earners, the Census Bureau found. The top 5 percent of earners — households making more than about $191,000 a year — have recovered their losses and earned about as much in 2012 as they did before the recession. But those in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution are generally making considerably less than they had been,hit by high rates of unemployment and nonexistent wage growth.

New York continues to be deeply inhospitable to anyone earning  low wages, like the women profiled here, who work multiple jobs and still cannot afford housing, sleeping instead in shelters:

More than one out of four families in shelters, 28 percent, include at least one employed adult, city figures show, and 16 percent of single adults in shelters hold jobs.

Mostly female, they are engaged in a variety of low-wage jobs as security guards, bank tellers, sales clerks, computer instructors, home health aides and office support staff members. At work they present an image of adult responsibility, while in the shelter they must obey curfews and show evidence that they are actively looking for housing and saving part of their paycheck.

Advocates of affordable housing say that the employed homeless are proof of the widening gap between wages and rents — which rose in the city even during the latest recession — and, given the shortage of subsidized housing, of just how difficult it is to escape the shelter system, even for people with jobs.

In 2011, I was asked to testify to New York’s City Council.

I’d never before been part of the political process, except for voting, as some news journalists are required by their employers to avoid any such signs of partiality.

The city was considering passing a “living wage” bill, which would have required employers accepting city subsidies for development to pay their staff $10/hour.

I assure you that $10/hr, even full-time, is no living — but mere survival in a city where it’s virtually impossible to find any apartment costing less than $1,000 a month.

It was an eye-opening and depressing day as I waited six hours to give my allotted two minutes of testimony. The only people left, wearily waiting, were the councilors listening to us — and the impassioned black pastors of low-income-area churches, fighting hard for social justice in the form of economic redress.

I had written a book about low-wage retail work, the third largest industry in the U.S. and one which employs millions in wearying, poorly-paid work, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.” I’d worked for 2.5 years, part-time, for a multinational outdoor clothing brand much beloved by customers, so I’d seen that life, even briefly.

I saw there, firsthand, the frustration of selling a $600 ski jacket to a banker whisking his family off to Aspen, (whose firm had likely helped to wreck the economy in 2008), while we were earning, at most, $11/hour with no commission. As members of the 99 percent serving the 1 percent, we were just another servant class.

It was chillingly instructive.

I also saw my coworkers, several with multiple young children, desperate to flee.

The living wage bill did pass here.

But for millions of workers, still, a hard-earned income — or several — doesn’t provide a life of any ease or comfort.

English: Photo of Jared Bernstein testifying t...
English: Photo of Jared Bernstein testifying to the US Senate on May 26, 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Times:

“The good news from today’s 2012 income and poverty results is that for the first year since the Great Recession hit, things aren’t getting worse,” Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a former Obama economics official and a contributor to The New York Times’s Economix blog, wrote in his analysis of the numbers. “The bad news is that three years into an economic recovery, they’re not getting
better either.”

And, once more from the Times, from Robert Reich:

Put simply, most people are on a downward escalator. Although jobs are slowly returning, pay is not. Most jobs created since the start of the recovery, in 2009, pay less than the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession. This means many people are working harder than ever, but still getting nowhere. They’re increasingly pessimistic about their chances of ever doing better.

As their wages and benefits shrink, though, they see corporate executives and Wall Street bankers doing far better than ever before. And they are keenly aware of bailouts and special subsidies for agribusinesses, pharma, oil and gas, military contractors, finance and every other well-connected industry.

Alice in Wonderland eventually awoke from her visions. It was just, all of it — the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum — a very odd dream.

Not for the rest of us.

How are you doing economically these days?

Better? Worse? The same?

Do you feel hopeful that things will improve for you — or others?

53 thoughts on ““It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”

  1. I noted on the news tonight that WalMart is going to be hiring several thousand part-time workers for the holidays but they are also going to be moving people up from part-time to full time positions. I think they see the writing on the wall. I have thought for a long time that corporate top echelon executives are getting paid more than any human being is actually worth. We are (or at least my husband) is retired but we are very careful with our savings and investments. We do not indulge in many luxuries and count ourselves lucky that we were not in the crowd of so many middle-class Americans who lost their jobs and homes. We have an income aristocracy here; something is terribly wrong with this picture.

    1. That was interesting indeed. I would be very curious indeed to see the hard numbers of how many (and what percent of their enormous workforce) will go from PT to FT and at what wages; a FT job at $10/hr. is still a crummy job.

      Income aristocracy…aka plutocracy. So true.

  2. I ask questions at the end of some of my blogs too. Sometimes people answer them, and sometimes they don’t. I’m doing much worse financially than ever before. I have COPD and another incurable condition. Because of all the medicine I’ve been on, I’ve been unable to concentrate much on my writing. And now I’m on Social Security disability, which barely provides a living. I hope to start writing and editing soon; I fear I may lose my home if I don’t. However, I am every hopeful that things will get better for all of us feeling the pinch of hard times. One never knows when an opportunity may come along. I hope you’ll visit my blog as well. I definitely intend to come back and visit yours again!

  3. My husband retired this year after 25 years at the same company. This company used the
    9-11 panic to cut their worker’s benefits and wages in a supposed “shared sacrifice” with management. Management never took a cut, not even that first year, and in addition, they continued to receive humongous stock options and huge bonuses. At one time, this company had over 50 vice presidents.
    Over a third of my husband’s pay and benefits were taken away and never returned. He was told by his union that he was lucky to have a job. Sadly, that was true.
    I think the action that hurt us the most, financially, is that they took away retiree’s medical coverage. Call me confused but how does the government get away with forcing people to buy health insurance while allowing corporate America to cut health insurance for workers and retirees?
    They are now trying to take away his retirement checks too. Meanwhile, stockholders and management reap the rewards, millions of dollars in profits are on the books, pocketed by the stock holders and management as this big company files bankruptcy to “restructure.”
    I am sixty-years old and I have never seen the level of poverty among working people that I see today. I never thought I’d see a politician steal millions of dollars from Medicare, stay in office and even be re-elected.
    Martha Stewart must have made someone really mad because she went to jail for something that goes on in the corporate world every day.
    Are things better? Hell, no. I have never seen such a divide between rich and poor.
    Money we were forced to save for our old age has been “borrowed” and is now called an “entitlement.” Hospitals who “over-treat” Medicare patients will pay huge penalties, especially if the treatment is for people over sixty.
    Banks lending far beyond the value of homes and getting bailed out while the home owners got thrown out. The city of Detroit is selling homes for as little as a dollar.
    Yes, we are on a “downward escalator” and it is getting worse everyday.
    I feel blessed that my husband and I have as much as we do and my heart aches for the working people who have lost so much more.

    1. Thanks for your perspective — it is shocking (although not really, even if it should be) to hear stories like your husband’s. There really seems no end to the corporate greed, only slightly worse than the tired excuse for every worker-harming cost-cutting “saving” of “protecting shareholder value”…when the only shareholders they care about are the institutional investors of Wall Street, not the millions of civilians who also invest in mutual funds, bonds or stock.

      I wonder when, where and if there will truly be a revolution against this. I see anger, resignation and fear — but very little (re) action.

  4. An impassioned piece Caitlin. It distresses me that though things are starting to turn round, the stories I hear from the US are still of bankers who wrecked the economy getting fat wages and bonuses while their victims are on the breadline. I’d hoped for a little justice before now with banking pay being held back while others have the chance to catch up. From now on any bank that requires a Government bail out should be owned by the people and the Directors dismissed as incompetent or even criminal.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    1. The revolving door — from private sector to public service — will make sure that none of the miscreant millionaires will ever be really punished. They’ll just run the banking system from within the government.

  5. misslapepita

    This is not just happening in the USA, but Germany and England suffer from the same syndrome. In Germany they don’t even have a minimum wage…
    While the middle class has disappeared, people are either pushed into low earning jobs, or high earning jobs. We are becoming a society of stark contrasts. A society, however, functions better when everyone is in the middle, because people can relate to one another better as everyone has similar incomes etc. and feels more equal and relatable to.

      1. misslapepita

        No, that was a big issue in the latest elections a few days ago. Yet even the minimum wage they think about introducing is not even enough to pay for everything like your retirement fund.

      2. misslapepita

        Some people do, some don’t, but if you worked for 40 years and payed tax you should be secured your retirement money.

  6. Steve

    Yes, the system is broken. We need to get back to a market driven economy where a business fails or succeeds on its own merit and profitability instead of how much influence and kickbacks it can obtain from a corrupt, influence for sale government. No business can remain so ‘top heavy’ and remain in business if they had to compete in a free market economy. Workers would compete for the best high pay jobs. We now have an economic system that guarantees those at the top profitability if they can afford to pay the appropriate politician enough campaign funds through their lobbyist. Those at the bottom have figured out they can vote themselves a living with their vote and everybody in the middle that has no voice or enough votes is left holding the bag for everything and everybody. I’m sure ill be getting negative feedback for my opinion because everybody thinks capitalism is the problem. It isn’t. Government is the problem! Everything government touches turns to @$&%. Capitalism and free enterprise has made America the greatest economic engine the world has ever seen. Ask yourself what has changed? Bigger government comes with a price tag…LESS freedom for you and me and that means higher taxes, more regulations, more corruption and fewer good paying jobs. It really isn’t rocket science. If the government is giving something to someone or something, they must first TAKE it from someone else. That someone else is YOU if you are trying to work and make a living. Look GROSS amount is what you earned, the NET is what the government allows you to keep. Make a list of all the taxes you pay and ask yourself, where’s the money?

    1. I figured you’d weigh in, and have a different view.

      I never see it quite as starkly. Capitalism can create value for some, but *unbridled* capitalism (with no social safety nets of value for those who struggle) is deeply damaging millions of people who JUST want a bloody job at a wage that will allow them to live decently. I find it an obscenity when major corporations like Walmart pay their workers so little they are on food stamps to survive — let’s talk about corporate welfare! Corporations are today sitting on record profits but whine they can’t “afford” to hire. Really? I say BS.

      One reason you and I see the role of government very differently is my having grown up in Canada (to 30), where the “nanny state” is much more evident. There is good and bad in it.

  7. Steve

    Exactly! Walmart is the perfect example. Why shouldn’t they be able to pay their employees whatever wage they will work for? By doing exactly that they can off THEIR CUSTOMERS the lowest possible product for the lowest possible cost. I choose not to buy most items that I use at Walmart because I like a product a little higher quality AND when I seek to buy some items I want better service so I choose to go somewhere else that pays their workers a higher wage and better (for lack of a better word) employeee. That’s what is so great about capitalism, the BUYER sets the standards NOT the government. Nobody is forcing you to buy at Walmart, go to another store if you want better quality and better service. If on the other hand, the OTHER store tries to give you Walmart quality and service at a Macey’s price tag, the market will deal with that businessman appropriately buy not buying their product, unless of course OTHER COMPANY’S lobbyist buys off a politician in Washington to pass a law requiring us to buy our products from OTHER COMPANY. Get it?

    That’s why OTHER COMPANY’S CEO can make huge profits and Bonuses, the government guarantees then $$$

  8. I think I can feel the economy, but so far my “norm” is thankfully enough above the level of homelessness and hunger that what that means is, maybe I can’t buy a new iPhone or any of a fairly long list of non-essentials that I would still like to have. It’s easy to see how that snowballs–not that I’m worried about Apple, but certainly a lot of retail must be suffering, which can only help these huge chains like Target, say, or Walmart.

    I am optimistic simply because of the vast scale of our economy, but 1.) I’m certainly no economy expert, and b.) we have to expect more at the lower section of the economy, where a lot of us live, and with help from a growing consciousness of (and blog posts about) certain inequities, point the finger at the top 1% and say, we see that, and hold them accountable. Without that, they are free to do what they want which by default is, rake in more money.

  9. mylifeinfocusblog

    I used to do my shopping at Wal Mart. Now? I can’t even afford Wal Mart anymore. I go to Dollar Stores. I haven’t shopped retail in 5 years. I buy both my husband and myself stuff from either Goodwill, thrift shops, yard sales or consignment stores. This includes, clothes, kitchen stuff, furniture, whatever. For the first time ever in my life, our monthly car gas bill is HIGHER than our food bill. I’ve had to cut down on the quality of food in order to afford gas in the car so my husband can continue to work. I had to start collecting Social Security at age 62, despite all the warnings from every single financial adviser, because we just don’t have the money to keep paying our bills on time. I’m grateful for it because we’re managing to keep our dignity somehow. I try to make the best of it. I refuse to ever show our struggling. Whenever I complain, I’m called names or told it’s MY fault I am having such difficulties in my life. Because I didn’t plan well or some other lame excuse, all of which are false. So, I’ve stopped talking about it. Truthfully, no body knows the oftentime days we have to go through without being able to buy fresh foods. My husband used to have a fresh salad each and every day. Sadly, we’ve gone without, for the first time ever, for five days. This was unheard of a year ago. NO! I will NOT get food stamps. Save them for someone who truly needs it. We’ll be fine. We will make it. I’ll cut whatever we must in order to stay afloat. But, we have gone from a $55K+ annual salary to $31K (if we’re lucky). If it weren’t for the insight to have downsized, without debt, in 2001 I have no idea how DH and I would be surviving today. We just paid our NY property taxes and had $3.92 left over in our checking account, $25 in our emergency fund and desperate for gas money, I actually took out $50 bucks from my retirement fund (a no-no!) just to put gas in DH’s car so he could keep on working till my SS money came through last Wednesday. I used to sell my gold jewelery at times like these, but it’s mostly gone now. I only have a few core pieces I can’t part with unless blood is involved, as in a hospital emergency. UGH. That’s all I have to say……U G H!

    1. Steve

      So who are you going to blame? The rich guy at the top? Doesn’t at least SOME of the blame lie at the feet of this President who refuses to allow companies to drill for oil here or even natural gas in some instances, is systematically shutting down our coal industry, is against pipelines, wants to burden corporations with always more and more regulations and costs, higher taxes and regulations? Where do you think these jobs come from? Especially good paying jobs? The ripple effect from these policies is devastating to our economy. Take just for example the coal industry. It isn’t just those guys that dig the coal, it’s about companies like TEREX that builds those giant dump trucks and those that manufacture drill bits and shovels and work clothes and on and on. Thousands of jobs and they’re all going away. This is not a zero sum game. These are real people that have bills to pay, your friends and families and mine. Government is the reason these companies are leaving the US. Not to even mention Obamacare. You think its bad now, just wait and see. Life is about choices and for too long the American people have been making the wrong ones. We need to realize that NOTHING IS FREE. If you want good paying jobs government needs to get out of the way and let those that know how produce. These guys don’t have a clue. None of them have ever worked a day in their live s and couldn’t run a lemonade stand if their lives depended on it and unfortunately ours does!

      Incidently, it sounds as if you are facing some trying times in your life. How do you feel about those that are too lazy to accept responsibility and have no problem cashing in on all the freebies while you do without? Who is responsible for that? The 1%?

      1. mylifeinfocusblog

        Steve, I blame Obama 100% for the mess we are all in. Thanks to Obamacare our health insurance is going UP 67%. Because of this hubby and I are having every single thing done health wise before January 1st. BUT, as I said, if I dare mention the name ‘Obama’ or voice any of my complaints, the NY liberals jump down my throat and call me all sorts of names. I give up. *shrug* Let the others go down and meet their own demise. I have no concern for others at this time in my life. I just worry about myself, my husband and my children. My only advice if you want to survive these trying times is #1 do NOT take on any debt because you may not be able to pay it back #2 get an education that teaches you a trade that can’t be done by a computer (such as plumbing, electrical, service oriented #3 you don’t need an IVY league education, learn that trade and pay for it with either lifelong savings or part/full time work (my kids worked as waitresses throughout college) #4, do NOT work for a company that is publicaly owned. you are then at the hands of the stockowners, not a compassionate boss #5 learn to live on less, eat less, re-cycle and re-use.I have an iPhone but just bought it recently from AT&T for only ninety nine cents (.99) It’s a 4. You don’t need the latest and greatest but you still need to learn new technologies. I kept my TV for 19 years till it finally died. THEN and only then did I get a newer flat screen TV. #6 live bi-generational. Respect your elders. In Europe, homes are passed down from generation to generation. Where is it written that newlyweds must buy a new home for themselves??? Also, in Europe, Asia & Japan for instance, elders are respected. Learn from them. Learn from the Great Depression. Obama won’t be in office forever. Once he is out, perhaps our lives will come to some sort of sense. In the interim, hold on as long as you can. Blame is worthless. It doesn’t do anyone any good. Learning from our mistakes is a better way.
        Our whole system now is destined to collapse. Let it collapse. Perhaps then people may learn a very valuable lesson. It’s called survival. The ability for people to live on their own. Without a crutch. I learned it a long, long time ago and that, and only that is the reason why DH and I can stand and make it through another day.
        Good luck to everyone.

      2. You and I tend to disagree quite profoundly on these issues, so I won’t engage a lot deeper as I doubt we’ll change one another’s mind.

        I’m fine.

        As for those who abuse social services, that’s between them and their conscience. I have a blog post coming up on this.

  10. this raises a lot of interesting questions. i think we each hope that things will get easier if we work hard and keep going, but it doesn’t always work out that way. i feel fortunate that finally i am at a place in life where i can work just one job that i love, and support myself. for many years, as a single mother, i worked multiple jobs, as i put myself through school, supported my daughters and hoped for an easier way to live. it took a long time, but it is finally a reality.

  11. Steve

    I most strongly disagree. those that ‘abuse social services’ is not between them and their conscience because they are stealing from ME and every other person that works and struggles to live like so many of those that have posted here on your blog. Those that ‘abuse’ as you call it are not stealing from some make believe entity, they are taking limited resources that were earned and paid for by someone else. remember my previous statement that if the government gives to someone that it must first take it from someone else? Guess who that is? You previously stated that Capitalism doesn’t provide a safety net for those that are unfortunate. I say BS!! You tell me where on earth anybody does more for its less fortunate than THIS country? The very poorest amongst us have cell phones, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, most have cars! Some two, healthcare, dental care, prescriptions, etc. What do you do to people when you give them everything and make someone else pay for it with no accountability. It must stop! We no longer can afford to help the ones that truly need our help. The frauds and bums have taken over and you still don’t want to hold them accountable.

    1. We continue to disagree, and we will.

      I grew up in a nation where healthcare is provided to every single person — unemployed, under-employed, never employed — from cradle to grave. It is one of the nation’s proudest achievements because Canadians (like the French, English, Germans — every OTHER democracy except the United States) fully understand, and politically support, the idea that the right moral, economic and financial choice is to make sure that everyone in the country is as healthy as they can be. A nation filled with morbidly obese diabetics dying of premature (undiagnosed) cancers, which is what we have here for the poorest among us, is not a nation that can be proud of itself nor achieve its best outcomes.

      So while you are furious about “frauds and bums” stealing “your” hard-earned taxes, I am equally angry and frustrated by corporate greed — CEOs earn 280 times the pay of the average workers but they still “can’t afford” to hire more people. I am angry at wasted billions of my taxes on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      No one wants to see our hard-won dollars wasted. You and I see very different culprits here.

      1. Steve

        No, I don’t think we disagree as much as you think. I am certainly NOT for what you call corporate greed either especially where that’s what is actually happening. My beef is that almost everyone from the left paints anybody in this country that runs a business as some sort of evil scoundrel that is making millions of dollars while playing Ebeneezer scrooge to his employees. What I am telling you is that is not the case. this will be necessarily brief because of the format we are limited to here on your blog but I would love to sit down over a beer sometime and chat further. You are correct about quite a bit of your assertion concerning corporate greed and I’m with you but probably for different reasons. From where i sit, I see two different models. On one hand you have very large Fortune 500 companies the likes of Exxon, GM, GE. Lockheed and pretty much ALL your large banks. For the most part, all of them have now changed their business model to hire lobbyists, mostly all of them former politicians and the like, insiders if you will, to pay for political favors in the form of contracts, favorable regulations and programs in exchange for political contributions to keep those in power and thus perpetuate the cycle. Those guys are making BILLIONS of dollars at the expense of us who work and pay their exorbitant salaries AND buy the businesses product at an inflated price because they have the power to buy influence. Guys like Jeffery Imalt at GE who greased the current President with millions and then ends up taking his companies jobs to China, look at the profits of this countries bankers, who gave it to them? the ones you guys keep electing are the biggest crooks that ever lived and they convinced you that its the Republicans doing it to you. It’s both of them, there’s no difference, its whoever is in power at the moment. The system is corrupt. I would like to throw them all in jail. The biggest problem we have is there is no longer any journalists in this country that will investigate and TELL THE TRUTH to the American people no matter where it leads or what their political agenda is. Until that happens these guys will continue to get away with their fleecing of the taxpayers. I am not for them one bit. Throw them ALL in jail.

        The other group of business people are those that worked unbelievable hours and did without sometimes for years, gambled every dime they had for an idea to make something better. Most employees have absolutely NO IDEA what it takes to grow and run a business. They only see the boss driving to work every day in his Mercedes while they figure they are doing ALL the work for $10 an hour. Truth be told, if all they are making is $10 an hour, that’s because all they are worth is $10/hr. A businessman can get hundreds of people to do what they are capable of doing. Salary is nothing more than a measurement of what someone’s TIME is worth. Some people’s time is just flat out worth more than others. An hour to a nuclear physicist is far more valuable than a guy that digs ditches. The guy that digs ditches can go to school or whatever to learn better skills if he chooses and thus his “time” will be better rewarded accordingly. That’s the way things are done in the US, or at least they used to. The government’s job used to be to guarantee that every citizen had the opportunity to educate himself to whatever degree he so chose or had the ability to arise to. You know that “pursuit of happiness” thing from the Constitution. The pursuit means it guarantees you the opportunity, NOT the result of having everything you want. That is NOT freedom, that is government backed tyranny! You cannot regulate results, they must be produced. Your socialism experiments have FAILED everywhere they have been tried and they will fail here too. You are seeing the results now of an out of control government that wants to pick the winners and losers. Capitalism isn’t perfect, but it’s a damn site better than where we’ve been going for the last 100 years. I hope I explained myself.

      2. Knowing — and respecting the hell out of — the fact you are self-employed (and run a business and hire and manage and pay others), I get it.

        I disagree entirely that socialism has failed; when there is a socialist tinge to democracy, the weak(er) and poor(er) are not left to die in a ditch or — yes — a military veteran and his wife and dog now living in their car, thanks to Hurricane Sandy…

        That is an obscenity.

        The U.S. you (?) idealize just doesn’t exist. Maybe it did before I moved here in 1989…? A place where no one gets sick (without insurance) and everyone can actually AFFORD to attend some sort of vocational training and then get a job that actually pays them a living wage…

        Just because retail clerks are paid crap ($7-11/hr) only reflects a corporate mindset that devalues them…when every single metric has shown that the customer interaction (not the ads or social media or cool clothes or CEO millions) makes or BREAKS the brand and its success. That’s tired, weak thinking and a new MIT prof’s book will soon come out proving it.

        I think (?) you believe in a strong work ethic. So do I!

        But I also believe that when someone’s labor and skill (soft skills and technical) are adding value to your company (profit), then they must be rewarded for that contribution. Far too often, they are not. If they were, would 70% of American workers say they hate their jobs? Probably not.
        Some expect far too much. But others are utterly fed UP enriching the 1% and they are never, ever getting ahead themselves.


        “Business journalism” today is far too often a big fat sloppy kiss. I agree with you.

  12. I really enjoyed reading this. I’m about to start my MA over here in England, which is pretty pricey (although not as pricey as it would be if I was doing it in the US). I have the good fortune to be living in a city (Leicester) where living costs are relatively cheap, and I have ferreted out bursaries etc. to put towards my tuition fees – but it’s still going to be difficult to avoid the situation of having absolutely nothing left at the end of it. However, I’m actually feeling hopeful about my financial prospects – I have a part-time job during term-time which is paid very well indeed for the sector, and I’m able to do temp work during the holidays, and overall am very aware that I am extremely fortunate compared to a lot of other 22 year olds in this country at the moment.
    I have also read with interest the comments on this post, particularly those which address abuses of social services, and am once again struck by the profound differences between the British and American experience.

    1. Welcome!

      It’s so helpful to hear all these different perspectives, which is why I write Broadside — to hear others’ ideas and experiences, especially globally.

      Congrats on being so well-prepared for your studies and I wish you the best with them.

      The mood here in the States is filthy — as you can see here! It is a dog-eat-dog, elbow-in-the-eye place, and this has gotten MUCH much worse in the past few years since 2008 when the economy fell off a cliff, and for millions of desperate people, simply never recovered. The wealthy are scooping up the vast majority of income gains and the rest of us are scrambling harder and harder.

      I moved from Canada to the U.S. in 1989. Gas cost 89 cents a gallon then. It now costs, in my NY town, $3.89 a gallon — i.e. has more than quadrupled in price. Yet incomes are stagnant, stuck at where they were in 1989….so the frustration and fear are very, very real and we see no solutions at all. You either do whatever you humanly can to earn more money (not always easy) while cutting your costs to the bone, and hope for the best. Government could care less (they just CUT food stamps, nice); corporations could care less and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It’s very Darwinian here now.

      I knew it would be difficult here, but this is becoming absurd.

  13. Steve

    You really need to move out of The People’s Republic of New York and experience the ‘REAL” America where people care about their friends and family and neighbors. We don’t have bars on our windows, crud in our streets and five locks on our doors. We aren’t shooting each other in the streets. Your socialist utopia there in the cities where the government takes care of every want you have isn’t working. We believe in freedom and personal responsibility. We work hard and play hard and take care of our own because that is the right thing to do and that’s the only reason we need. When one of ours is down on his luck and needs help, we help him, we don’t go running to big daddy government to do it for us. You are right, what you are doing is absurd. We aren’t the damn French, we’re Americans!! Why do you guys insist on us becoming the French?

  14. Steve

    You really need to get out of the city, you’ve become quite jaded. Most of America is STILL America, full of good people. I travel all over this country and I am telling you it is VERY different in what you guys call “fly over country”. You know, where we are “clinging to our guns and Bible” . Get in the car and take a trip and see for yourself why this country does still exist. It’s your perspective. You are blaming the wrong people.

    “I looked at the enemy and saw that it was us”

      1. Steve

        Really? I was under the impression from your posts that you were renovating a small apartment in New York. I had no idea you lived in small town USA, probably a small cabin in Iowa, eh?

  15. To return to some facts: New York is among the 10 states that put more money INTO welfare than they take out. The idea of the “welfare queen” is a myth, and so is, I believe, the idea that the good rural folk of the “real” America are suffering because welfare recipients in the big cities are sucking up all the wealth. It sure doesn’t look like that. In fact, welfare in this country consists in big part of tons of money given to farmers in the form of subsidies, for example, (there’s nothing wrong with this, but let’s just get it straight,) and the states that TAKE the most welfare from the government include your lower southern tier, including Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, etc., also Idaho. But my point is it is easily shown that the people who really are sucking up all the wealth of our country are not poor families, but that super-wealthy one percent, which is more or less where this post started.

  16. Steve

    Roy- With all due respect brother…this COUNTRY has no wealth. It only has what it takes from the people that live here. the so called wealth doesn’t belong to the government…it belongs to YOU and me. That is the point! Our government is now operating under the premise that the wealth belongs to them and thus THEY get to determine what to spend it on. That is a false premise! They only have what they TAKE from someone else. Until we as citizens take back our RIGHTS as spelled out in our Constitution we will continue to have economic problems. Our government is NOT designed to run an economy, they suck at it as they do at everything else they try to do. What does the government do that private enterprise wouldn’t and doesn’t do better, except the military which they are supposed to do. The Post Office ? DMV maybe? What do you suppose will happen when they run healthcare? More efficient or less? Take a guess.

    1. If you actually look at the health care systems of Canada, France, Germany and the UK, to name a few, all government run, they are FAR less costly than that in the U.S. — under the magical fairy dust of private enterprise. And health outcomes are far worse. You have a very strong hatred of any form of government but millions of people do far better under a government run system than under the greed-run-rampant of private corporations out to extract maximum profit — not to help us maximize our health, which is a shared social good.

      1. Steve

        The US healthcare system is screwed up because the US has been trying to micromanage it through regulations and unfunded government mandates. Ask some of the people that actually have to deal with it. Tell me, when you go to the doctor’s office how many people are there just to do the paper work? How many forms and other BS do they have to complete? Ask your doctor how much the govt pays them for a office visit. Once again you blame the wrong people! Private enterprise is ALWAYS more efficient than the government. They have an incentive to be which means they have to compete for your dollar not just steal it from someone else. Why is it you cant seem to understand how actual free enterprise even works. You have some convoluted sense of what it is.

      2. Steve, you keep managing to confuse “government” — which you deem some big, multi-tentacled thing that is evil and unable to manage anything — with private enterprise. The United States is a free-market capitalist economy with far less government regulation than most other Western democracies. That means that private health insurance companies, (who pay their lobbyists millions, if not billions, to protect their interests in D.C.) are making out like bandits — charging insane amounts for health insurance, far above what many hard-working Americans can actually afford.

        Maybe health insurance is super-cheap in Pennsylvania, where you live; in NY, in 2003, the last time I paid for it on my own, I was paying a back-breaking $700 month, for one person. Don’t even try to tell me how terrific a deal this is. It is highway robbery, pure and simple. Competition does NOT drive down prices, not in that area.

        You also do not factor into your highly emotional debate an additional issue which is VERY American and does not affect other nations’ medical care, nor its exorbitant — the fear of lawsuits. So doctors also put us through a ton of costly tests for fear we’ll sue them if they don’t. The government has nothing to do with this.

        When you buy health insurance — NOT Medicare, Medicaid or VA care (these come from the government) — you are buying a product/service from a private company, i.e. a FOR profit entity whose sole goal is to make more money.

        The simple fact is this — millions of Americans do not have and cannot afford to buy on the open market (i.e. not heavily employer subsidized)– their health insurance. Obamacare makes it more accessible, but for many people still costly.

        I do not — unlike you — worship at the shrine of “efficiency”. I value accessibility and affordability more than you do. And when millions of Americans cannot afford to buy a product that will literally save their lives, something is very very very wrong with a system you think flawless.

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