Thursday, September 3, 2009

The New "Poor"

The face of our country's poor has changed.

Remember when poor people were crack babies born to moms that were welfare suckers in the ghetto?

Remember when poor people lived in trailers, drove camaros and got high on meth everyday while wearing fuzzy slippers and rollers at all hours?

See, those were the good ol' days. Our country was mostly rolling in dough, and if you didn't have any, you either were too lazy to work, couldn't sell high-class drugs and you were ghetto/trailer trash. We all know that this stands for "black" and "white" poor people in subtext, but that's another discussion.

But with this recession and the war, the face of the poor has changed. And THAT is why there is higher talk of health care reform and more fervent town hall people who are 90% shouting about nothing.

Poor #1 is MBA guy. He worked for a corporation. He lived a 2-hour commute from the big city, made $400,000 a year and it wasn't enough. He worked for a good company and commuted because it was cheaper to live out in the sub sub suburbs, even though he rarely saw his family b/c he was always at work. He figures in 5 years the sacrifices will be worth it.

The recession hits, and his company, albeit a successful start up, folds. Why? Because the bank they borrowed money from stopped their line of credit.Why? Because they loaned out a lot of money for home loans to people who couldn't afford them. Those loans were chopped up and sold as stock, which is now worthless. So the bank folds. The job folds. MBA man is now jobless. For six months he looks, but the former competition has also closed up shop.
He's now in unemployment, or living with his parents with entire family in tow.

Poor #2 is the hard wage earner who never owned a home. In 2005 he's told that his $8 an hour can get him a nice home for less than normal payments. They'll go up in 4 years, but in 2 years he can refinance to a lower-interest loan, therefore skirting the payments. He's sure to move up in earnings by then anyway! His house will go up a third in value within a year, so why not take out a loan and live a little?
2007 rolls around and for some reason every bank denies the re-fi. Why? They can't risk it; too many loans are defaulting. In 2008 wage-earner is let go from his small-business company because they were the first in line to lose LOCs at the bank. 2009 rolls around and wage-earner has no job and his payments are going from "barely makin it" to "we absolutely can't make it". He, too, is now living with his parents, with family in tow.

Poor #3 is Good Neighbor. He's worked 15 years for the same company. He never took out more than he could afford in loans. His home rose in value, but he refused to get a HELOC or sell it and get a bigger place. He's holding out on saving the HELOC for his kids' education. His kids are good, smart ones that will likely get partial scholarships to college. But he loses his job because the company has folded in the recession. He maintains his house payment, but dollars are getting tight. He gets another job, but it pays considerably less and stretches the dollars more. He dreams of still sending his kids off to school, but he now can't afford to send them b/c he can't get a HELOC loan from any bank. The kids are still at home and they can't go to school. His health takes a turn for the worse from the stress, and now his savings are sucked up from health care costs.

These are the new faces of poor. Perhaps you know some of them. Some made bad choices, some did not. Regardless, they aren't ghetto rats or trailer trash. They are your neighbors. So the next time you want to complain about having to pay for other people's mistakes and supporting the poor....

Don't think about them.

Think about their children.

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