Monday, December 31, 2018

Check to Check

The reality of America is that most people live paycheck to paycheck, regardless of class, education and race.  It is as if America is on fire and we are just hoping the wind turns another direction, the fire fighters make it on time to save us and some of us end up running for our lives.  And the rich are no different, they just have assets to use to sell, to move to or simply stash if that time comes.  They are by far more paranoid as they are by far more over extended in which to prove they are the Joneses.

I am White Trash with money.  I am lucky as I have no ownership, no commitments or obligations in which requires me to ensure that all of those under my  care are provided for.  I am funding my dental reconstruction on credit, then selling Antiques to pay that off and I am just old enough that if I did default it would not harm me in ways that would affect me in a serious way.  Finally a perk of being 60.  But that is not the case for my peers as they struggle with the obligations of declining age, health and resources which they must also provide for family who are not in any better shape.

I do worry and rightfully should about finances but as I see myself as one with no obligations it frees me and how I do choose to live and it allows me to be flexible and I know how lucky and privileged I am.   When I meet most Americans they are not and it is hard to pretend they are not the Jonses nor even close but they do and I see it everywhere I have been this summer and fall.

I began in Pittsburgh and found it proudly working class in a city working forward, then to Louisville where everyone is betting on a winner but you realize there as you cross Kentucky how neglected it has been and that neglect is not being resolved in ways that clearly are fast enough nor even enough to make a difference.  But I found kind people, genuine people and with good humor that even with their faith they had no problem being open to those not like them.   The same with Cleveland and it is funny I cannot say the same for here in Nashville as the process of gentrification has thrown the city off course and they are not handling change well in the least. 

I was in New Orelans for a week.  I normally don't stay that long anywhere but recovering from being ill and getting ready to enter isolation starting next month I wanted to extend my stay and just explore and again that proved the best way to find New Orleans by accident as you turn down one street and find another that opens doors to a history and culture that always reminds you that this oldest city in America is still alive and well, well that is another story.  The gentrification is odd and the city has never restored its population pre-Katrina and the reality of corruption and race has not been resolved nor even addressed but there are some returnees that are now of an age to realize they have more power and voice then they were led to believe. The Tour Guide who despite having a degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a desire to be a Teacher decided that Charters were not an option so he takes tourists around the city and wants to be voice of change if not a reminder that the people of NOLA are more than refugees or poor souls that need guidance.  The same with my Lyft driver Franklin who was so engaging, intellectually curious that I only wanted it to be the best for him in the New Year.   Funny leaving Nashville on Christmas Eve I met the Unicorn here, the educated, travelled intelligent individual and wait for it - Gay.  He stays here and he and his Brazillian boyfriend remain with the idea that they can be models to teach others about how they are not a threat and are normal but he is here driving Lyft and yet I felt he was the best Christmas gift I could have ever received. And here in Nashville this is a rare gift.

But here I am talking to Lyft drivers to get a sense of place and finally a young couple, transplants for New York (he is originally from NOLA) have moved there as they got an opportunity for better work.  He was highly educated, well traveled and uber sophisticated and she was charming and intelligent they were a well matched pair but their insight and observations about what was transpiring in NOLA enabled me to compare it to what is transpiring here in Nashville and the rise is always followed by a fall and I truly feel it is coming.  It is no Katrina but it is not good.

My discussion with Franklin centered on the rise of interest rates, the tax cuts that failed to raise wages across the board although some companies did share they followed it with layoffs. Can you hear me Verizon?  GM?  The idea that much of the money seems to be out of state and in turn when the payoffs don't arrive or the interest rates rise further and in turn return on investment is delayed this is 2008 only less residential more commercial which is not a good thing.  There is something in the air and that is not the delightful taste of a quality roux.

Nashville has endless money pouring in and yet salaries are not in line with costs and that is a problem that will not change in this red state.   GE promised major jobs in NOLA that may never pan out and they are finding the same with Harrah's casino.   The same goes for Amazon, Alliance Bernstein and the rest here in Nashville.  We don't have the educated trained populace and could not in the time required (two years) in which to do so.  And in turn I have never believed the job numbers nor the salary range so out of proportion to the median that exists, so it is all absurd.  And the new Google office, the Amazon offices, the Apple offices are all being located in areas that are coastal and well established cities with infrastructure that exists and is expanding to meet demand.  Housing costs are off the chain but in reality the costs in Nashville and NOLA are parallel so go figure.  I pay the same rent for less here than I did in Seattle and the couple from New York pay the same living in NOLA.  Less for more I call it.

And let me frank Americans on average are not well educated.  The reality is that with or without college, Americans are highly uniformed and confuse the bullshit on social media as information and fact.  Not.  The young man I met getting coffee one day in NOLA had lived in Seattle briefly and lived in his car for a small period till he got a job and then was a desk clerk at a shitty Day's Inn. He did make $20/Hr which is 3 times what he makes no.  Then he lived in a cell pod at $800/month and felt the culture shock was too much so he came home.  I know how he feels in reverse.  And he expressed a desire to move to Ventura California.  Really?  The region hit by severe floods and fires and a housing shortage? That Ventura.  He said the Manager there told him there was tons of cheap housing and jobs so he should do it.  Really? Then why is he there then?  The lad said he wanted to change places and I then I showed him an article from the New York Times where it negated that version of events.  He was shocked and while I think it is great to want to move try somewhere less away, try Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Kansas City where the jobs are the same but the place is different.  He was truly dumb.  He did not know their major newspaper was published only three days a week and had never read a newspaper.  Okay then.    He also called himself privileged as he was only displaced during Katrina to a family home in Alabama and their home was not flooded.   Meeting the young men displaced his story is rare.  Franklin did not return until two years ago and the same with the tour guide.  They are America's refugees and some of them are angry as shit.  The Bartender at Balise was perhaps the one asshole I met in NOLA and he was in the same peer group but he clearly has never recovered and his rage showed.  I will never set foot in that restaurant again he should move to Nashville he would fit right it.  Our flood was only 10 years ago and no one ever talks about it so he should think about it. 

And many Americans as I stood in line at the airport had no idea that TSA and Airport Traffic Control are federal employees and that after January 1st they are working with no paychecks so while the line may be long think about it if they were not here.  People were shocked and admitted they had not thought about it.  Of course many could not manage the line leading a Southwest employee to explain how to expedite it.  I laughed and said out loud, "This is the South" leading the man in front of me to reprimand me and said I should do his job as everyone could hear me.  I said, "Really as you seem to be the only one who turned around and clearly I need to project louder as I have lost my touch as both a Teacher and New Yorker."  He then said well that explains it and he had never been to New York.  I told him to not bother as we could not offer the same hospitality as Southerners extend and all the women are Bitches like me.... he turned away.  Ah that honor code is something I have found in Southwest lines consistently exhibited by men in the South. Same airport same line last year when a man felt compelled to scream at me for moving ahead of him in the line (I honestly did not see them and thought they were just standing there is that weird Southern way they do here) then he went and got a Southwest employee to remove me.  I just went outside to the curb check checked my bag an waved at him going through TSA pre check as he waited in the longer line.  I have never met any men like Southern men who are such assholes.  So much for hospitality. 

Americans are not making it work tell that to Tim Gunn.  Income is not raising and costs are rising despite the fed's efforts to offset inflation hence the rise in interest is doing nothing more than rising our interest rates on credit cards and mortgages, which is how the great unwashed live.

Living paycheck to paycheck is disturbingly common: ‘I see no way out.’
The struggle is everywhere.

By Danielle Paquette
The Washington Post
December 29 2018


“It's a constant stressor.”

“I see no way out.”

What do professors, real estate agents, farmers, business executives, computer programmers and store clerks have in common?

They’re not immune to the harsh reality of living paycheck to paycheck, according to dozens of people who responded to a Washington Post inquiry on Twitter.

They’re millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers. They work in big cities and rural towns. They’ve tried to save — but rent, child care, student loans and medical bills get in the way.

National data on the paycheck-to-paycheck experience is flimsy, but a recent report from the Federal Reserve spotlights the prevalence of extra-tight budgets: Four in 10 adults say they couldn’t produce $400 in an emergency without sliding into debt or selling something, according to the 2017 figures.

The partial government shutdown, which began last Friday and is temporarily halting pay for some 800,000 federal workers, has touched off a heated discussion on Twitter about what it means to get by in the United States. (President Trump warned this closure could “last a very long time” if Congress doesn’t meet his demands for billions of dollars for a border wall.)

Even brief income lapses can spell disaster for some households.

“My husband is a Park Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and he had to sign his furlough papers,” one woman tweeted. ”We have a 4 yr. old and a 4-month-old, and we don’t know when his next check will come. Mortgage is due, Christmas 2 days away.”

“Broke my lease to accept new fed job for which I have to attend 7 months of training in another state,” another Twitter user said. (He later deleted the tweet). “Training canceled with shutdown. Homeless. Can’t afford short(?)-term housing/have to work full-time for no pay/returning Christmas presents.”

These and other #ShutdownStories took off online after U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) suggested last week that a gap in wages wouldn’t be so bad.

“Who’s living that they’re not going to make it to the next paycheck?” he asked reporters, adding that most of those impacted would qualify for back pay.

According to economists: A lot of people.

“It’s astronomical what people need just to make it month to month,” said Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist at the Department of Labor who now studies how middle-class families spend their wages at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that is funded by foundations and unions. “Given the high cost of transportation, housing, health care … There is often no wiggle room."

About 2,000 custodians, security guards, housekeepers and other federal building workers are losing money this holiday season because of the shutdown, according to 32BJ SEIU, an East Coast labor union — and because such staffers are employed by contractors, they won’t be eligible for makeup checks.

“My supervisor told me we won’t be getting paid,” one State Department cleaner told The Post last week, “so my bills won’t be getting paid.”

Beyond the federal labor sphere, workers across a variety of professions struggle to make ends meet.

Sol Smith, chair of liberal arts at a Southern California college, said he landed his job after earning three degrees. But with four daughters and mounting health care costs, he said, saving just isn’t possible.

“I see no way out,” he wrote in an email to The Post. “I am 40, have built a strong career, have 17 years experience, and if something were to happen to me, my wife and kids would be homeless within a year when my life insurance ran out.”

Lani Harrison, 43, said she and her software engineer husband have trouble buying groceries after paying the $2,249 rent on their two-bedroom Los Angeles apartment. They’re raising three young kids and rely on her husband’s income, she said. Her work as a certified car seat installer earns her $40 per appointment, but the work isn’t steady.

“Each month, we have to stretch his paycheck to make things work,” she said. “We really don’t have any savings. Many months we go under.”

Sometimes, she confides in trusted friends.

“I’m often surprised that their stories are so similar to ours,” she said.

Dillon Holt, a housekeeping assistant at a Nashville hotel, said he’s down to one piece of chicken in his freezer. His checking account often hovers around zero, and he is unable to put away any money for the future or an emergency.

“I make $12.50, work 40-50 hours a week,” he said. “I still don’t have a savings account.”

Emily Webb, 38, said she works full time as an arts administrator in Columbus, Ohio, and waits tables on the side. Staying afloat each month, she said, is a precarious dance.

“It’s a scramble at the end of a paycheck to deposit my tips and make sure none of my automatic payments bounce,” said Webb, who has master’s degree but cannot make her student loan payments.

She’s grateful to work in her field, though, and loves her job. One big financial boost, she said, awaits her at the end of 2019.

“I can finally pay off my 9-year-old car,” Webb said. “The plastic part of the back bumper was slowly sliding off the back of it. I got rear-ended by an uninsured driver 2 years ago, so I reattached it with zip ties.”

No comments:

Post a Comment