Note: In the interest of confidentiality, I’ve changed the names of an acquaintance and a friend who are quoted in the following post.
With all the spin emanating from the Axelrod PR machine on the Obama stimulus plan and the counter spin from congressional leaders, you’d think the American people were lying supine in their beds awaiting rescue by our national heroes, um, I mean leaders.
Encounters in my daily life this week with a couple of representatives of the fabled middle class tell a different story.
As I was carrying my groceries in the other day, I stopped to chat with Mike, a member of the maintenance team at my apartment building. Mike is always on the run, and it’s a rare occasion when he’ll pause to answer a question with more than a brief yes or no. Today, he looked up only once or twice from his work to commiserate with me on the high cost of food: I’d just paid $84.00 for a couple of bags of groceries.
“Remember the excuse when supermarket prices started to go up?” I asked. They blamed it all on the price of gas. Last time I checked, gas was selling for $1.49 a gallon.”
“Yeah,” Mike said, “But once they raise the price of groceries, they never go down again.”
A family man in his mid-forties, Mike explained how he and his wife are meeting the challenge. He said, “We go grocery shopping about every three months for whatever we can buy in bulk. We make trips in between for milk and stuff like that. That way we save quite a bit of money.”
He went on to say he and a friend were each going to buy half a cow to put meat in the freezer for the coming months. He said they might also buy a hog.
“That’s what ya gotta do to survive these days,” he said.
I’ve no doubt that Mike and his wife and kids will survive the recession, depression, or whatever you want to call it.
In another heartening exchange, I got an email from my friend Fred, who is about the same age as Mike. Fred is also married but he and Joanne have no children.
“This year I think will be a challenge. We've been taking stock of all
of our assets & debt and trying to work up a survival plan. It's a lot of work but necessary, we should be able to weather the downturn ok though. Hopefully things will turn around despite the financial experts and politicians.”
Well said: “Hopefully things will turn around despite the financial experts and politicians.”
Although Fred and Joanne have not been threatened by foreclosure on their mortgage, Fred is taking a leadership role in their neighborhood to assist others less fortunate. He writes:
“Tomorrow I have a meeting with a Community Organizer. I've been tossing around an idea about how to deal with some of the foreclosed properties in our neighborhood. Eventually our next-door neighbor suggested I contact an individual that they have worked with. I emailed her and she was very interested in my ideas. They have a program that recruits and promotes neighborhood leaders that might be an option but she wanted to talk in person before heading down that road. So we'll see tomorrow where it goes. They’d have to have some pretty hefty resources if my plan is to work but it could be a good thing for everyone if it works.”
In light of the above, let me be the first to admit that community organizers have their place.
There’s no question that we desperately need a stimulus plan for the sake of all those who are already unemployed or who have lost their homes during this downturn. Hopefully, it will stop the hemorrhaging of jobs, create new jobs, and rebuild the infrastructure as promised.
In the meantime, I’m sure there are many Americans like Mike and Fred who are using common sense and wisdom to weather the crisis - despite the financial experts and politicians.