There was a time when mercy was shown for those facing economic hardship. Even the Internal Revenue Service would reduce debt if a family could show they were in “trouble.” Hospitals would often gift part of an extensive medical bill, if not all, due to unforeseen circumstances that caught a family off guard. In sum, economic hardship was a situation out of someone’s control. Some calamity befell these poor souls, and even the greediest of organizations often showed empathy, understanding the painful, dire circumstances an individual or family was facing, feeling grateful they weren’t in the same economic turmoil.
When modern America, complete with corporate greed, was running full speed ahead, families were enjoying endless credit card offers for “emergencies.” Loans were being given out, like candy on Halloween, for new cars and large homes. Students, certain that once they left college they would have a plethora of income to pay down student loans, continued borrowing at alarming rates. Money seemed to be everywhere and the middle class grew quickly, complete with strip malls.
Those who would encounter a life-altering event, such as losing a job, getting ill, losing a spouse or a second income, were looked to with compassion. These families were encountering economic hardship and even the greediest had difficulty denying them leeway. A tearful call to even a credit card company often resulted in some measure of grace. Everyone believed they were thriving, and felt sorry for those who had an unexpected turn of events. These folks were the exception to the rule, and it was difficult to not lend a helping hand, being relieved such events had not impacted their own daily lives.
With the collapsing of the U.S. economy, however, a startling percentage of Americans are now facing “economic hardship.” Unemployment is everywhere, prices for basic needs are rising drastically, as wages remain the same (if fortunate enough to keep a job). A biased media may post the ups and downs of current unemployment rates, but aside from actual job loss, how can anyone survive on minimum wage? Those who still have a job are conveniently left out of the data – as if all is “ok.” But all is not okay because even a couple holding two jobs at minimum wage will have difficulty paying for rent, utilities, gasoline, food and medical bills. We are becoming a country of economic hardship.
As individual citizens in the United States start to face financial turmoil, so do the companies that enjoyed them as their customers. We sit and watch as major chains start to close their doors, such as Circuit City and Borders, to name just a few. Many smaller businesses can no longer afford to offer health care to their employees, leaving individuals left to pay unethical amounts in health insurance premiums for their families and, in some cases, finding private insurance which takes a substantial amount of their paychecks. Those who commute to work are losing a large portion of their paychecks just getting to and from work each day on gas prices. Grocery shopping is becoming a time of extreme stress, hoping that the final amount due during checkout won’t lead to writing a bad check. People are flocking to places like Dollar Tree, to stretch their dollars as far as possible.
What is happening in America now is that many are enduring economic hardship. The sympathetic ear, grace period and empathy are all but disappearing, because there are too many stories to tend to. Businesses are facing their own financial crisis and cannot make that one exception for a family in dire need. The USA is becoming full of citizens who, even if they are employed, cannot possibly make enough to put food on the table, provide shelter, pay bills, save for retirement and put some money away for a rainy day – every day is becoming a rainy day.
Where does one turn when they work hard to support their family, but it isn’t enough? When they give their homes back to the bank, surrender a car back to the lender? People are returning what little they have to its original source, to reduce expenses. At the same time, basic necessities still need to be paid for and even after such drastic measures such as bankruptcy, the high cost of living cannot be met on minimum wage. We are becoming a country where the majority of its citizens are facing economic hardship.