The basics: Divorced and remarried, 46-year-old mother with two daughters and two stepdaughters. A medical scientist, she was laid off about three years ago, held another job for a short time and was laid off again. Her second husband, an industry executive, also was laid off and never found another suitable job. He bought a store franchise and is seeing early, moderate success. Once, their combined incomes would have been more than $250,000, but last year they made about $50,000 plus about $30,000 in child support and other benefits. She is white, unemployed and looking. They bought a large house in an upscale neighborhood just before the Great Recession started to affect them.
What’s happening to the middle class? “Well, I think definitely middle-class folks have experienced a lot of job loss. Typically, I would say the very poor usually are already on government assistance and maybe haven’t experienced as much job loss as middle class.”
And the wealthy? “I know my neighbors own a very large corporation. Well, I don’t know if they own it. They are president and CEO of it, and I know that they even have experienced, I don’t know if they fall in the wealthy category or not, but they’ve experienced cutting back, they don’t take lavish vacations. They did not — like us — even take a vacation last year. They camped out in the backyard with their kids. I would assume that everyone is affected.”
How are you responding to hard times? “Well, we have old cars. We don’t drive new cars. Both of us drive cars that are 7-plus years old and have close to 100,000 miles each and our daughter who drives a really little clunker. She doesn’t drive brand-new cars like some of the kids get when they are 16. The kids have to earn all their money for clothes. That’s different than before all this happened. If they want clothes or new shoes, they have to earn it by baby-sitting. My daughters, they kind of set up, and I kinda helped them with the idea, a neighborhood pet-sitting service and baby-sitting and so they earn their own money. And our older daughter works for the store that my husband [opened].”
Whom do you blame? “I believe that the stimulus package was a big failure and he’s still trying. I think President Obama is still trying to add onto it in ways, and I think his health-care mandate is a big waste of money. And I think that his failure to balance the budget and cut spending, cut government spending, and not give tax breaks to business owners and corporations is also delaying the recovery because they are the people that create jobs.”
America Today project seeks citizen input
This project opens journalism to a two-way street. In the hope of learning what you’re thinking and getting citizens more involved in our stories, we’ve added an interactive experiment: We are offering you an opportunity to answer some of the same tough questions we are posing to citizens in the America Today series.
In addition to the traditional Ohio.com comment page, the newspaper is partnering with the Civic Commons, an online organization that encourages respectful and informed debate of tough issues from a variety of perspectives and experiences. Below are the two opportunities to express yourself on these questions:
How did we as a nation get in trouble economically?
Whom do you blame?
How do we as a nation solve our economic problems?
What are you doing differently to get through the downturn?