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TMFEditorsDesk (< 20)

Some Recession Perspective

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November 13, 2009 – Comments (3)

Today was a bit of a class warfare day for me. 

I started the day reading a great Newsweek column before work. In it, Julia Baird writes on "seeing dignity in poverty." She contrasts the respectful images a Depression-era photographer took of the "handsome homeless" with how "poor people appear in the mainstream media only when they are obese, sick, or sad: powerless and to be pitied."

She added another contrast, this time with the treatment of the rich:

Throughout the recession, we have remained largely obsessed with rich people; whether lauding or castigating them, our gaze has been primarily focused on the excesses and excuses of Wall Street. The well-off have not just received most of our attention, but also most of our aid, which means that those responsible for the crisis have been the least affected.  

On my way to work, I saw about a dozen men standing near the gas station I was filling up at. They were "at work" before me...standing in the cold just hoping for the opportunity to work at whatever odd job was available today. I wonder how many of their days ended in hunger. 

Finally, at work, I edited Alyce Lomax's article on bubble junkies where she referred to a WSJ article called Life on Severance: Comfort, Then Crisis. With the rest of the day as prelude, the examples of the struggles of the unemployed rich just made my blood boil. 

Well, the unemployed should-be-rich, I should say. The examples are of folks who got severed from well-paying jobs (one guy was making $200k) but failed to save before the severance and/or failed to adjust their lifestyles afterwards. It's full of stuff like:

He sold the BMWs and voluntarily turned in his beloved Silverado to avoid the repo man.

Ms. Patterson [now] sips Starbucks just once a week. She downgraded her cable TV to basic channels, saving $8 a month.  

Since losing his job, Mr. Joegriner, 44 years old, has had several offers. He's turned each down in hopes of landing a position comparable to what he held before...By Mr. Joegriner's own calculations, the family will be out of money in six months if he doesn't find work...After fruitless negotiations, he turned down the job. The reason: The position didn't include a guarantee of severance pay. Says Mr. Joegriner: "I just couldn't take the risk."  

The only thing sadder than those without opportunities are those who waste them...   

- Anand Chokkavelu (TMFBomb), who is thankful to have a job.

3 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On November 13, 2009 at 5:42 PM, outoffocus (23.96) wrote:

examples are of folks who got severed from well-paying jobs (one guy was making $200k) but failed to save before the severance and/or failed to adjust their lifestyles afterwards. It's full of stuff like:

These are what I call the "cry me a river" stories. No matter how hard the media tries to spin the story to make us feel sorry for them, somehow you don't.  Like those people who make over $200k a year but complain how they aren't that wealthy.  Boo hoo. As someone who grew up in poverty and around poverty I am actually quite offended when I hear stories like this.  And it will be these same people looking for a handout from the government.  Most of these people have never seen a hard day in their life.  I think its time for me to take violin lessons.

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#2) On November 13, 2009 at 7:28 PM, TMFEditorsDesk (< 20) wrote:

@outoffocus,

No matter how hard the media tries to spin the story to make us feel sorry for them, somehow you don't.

To be fair to the WSJ piece, it was written objectively, but I sensed an undercurrent of agreement with our point of view (i.e. make lifestyle changes and/or accept that job at a lower salary).  

-Anand (TMFBomb)

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#3) On November 14, 2009 at 9:44 AM, TMFKris (88.81) wrote:

This is also an interesting/worthy thought from the Newsweek column: Dorothea Lange's photographs "symbolized the way the architects of the New Deal analyzed the Depression, so that widespread poverty was no longer blamed on poor people but on financial mismanagement: ... Lange's subjects were poor, but also disciplined, hardworking, and upright."

That signals a respect that's lacking today.

And, as long as Mr. Joegriner isn't getting public assistance -- and never asks for any --  I don't care what jobs he turns down. Capitalism is all about money, right, so if he can wait and has a realistic chance of getting a better-paying job, that's his option, even though it might fall short of being hardworking. And it's a newspaper story written and edited to paint a picture and elicit a certain response, so we probably dont' have the whole story. Just sayin'

Kris (Motley Fool copyeditor)

 

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