A Recurring Nightmare

Let’s suppose a woman named Jackie has worked at a greeting card company for many years. She’s married to Bert, and they have two children, both under the age of 10. Bert drives a truck and is paid well, but Jackie’s job secures the family medical benefits, including dental, vision and a decent life-insurance program.

But Jackie was laid off Monday morning, along with 299 of her peers. The severance package is reasonable, and her employer did all he could to soften the blow, but suddenly losing a large piece of the family income is a shock. She knows she will receive about 85 percent of her pay from unemployment for the next six months, but what then?

Jackie had come up through the ranks and been promoted due to her hard-working ethic. She was unable to afford college and does not have a degree–other than the one from the school of hard knocks. But her image within the company was extremely positive, but all of that time and reputation cannot be put on a resume. Employers want to see that degree, which validates one’s level of experience and ability. Perhaps one in ten of the people laid off with Jackie will gain employment at the same level, but most will likely earn half or maybe three-quarters of their previous pay.

Real Problems

Let’s assume that Jackie and Bert are typical Americans, with a mortgage balance of more than $100,000 and $15,000 to $20,000 in credit-card debt. This total came from food, fuel and bills that could not be paid readily, like car repairs. When the government sat back and watched fuel prices go through the roof and ”tsk, tsked” those mean people overseas, Jackie and Bert put $4.50 per gallon of gas in their tank so they could get to work. They charged it–they had no choice–and spent more in that stretch than they had in the two prior Christmases. Their government really gave them no choice.

Now let’s suppose this situation is happening all over the country. Personally, I think the real wave of problems is still six months away. Those once earning $40,000 per year with full benefits will be making $20,000 and paying into a secondary medical-benefit operation made available through their former employer and the state. This sounds pretty shaky, right? A strong signal for these rough waters ahead would be unemployment offices running out of money before the real crisis even hits. As of January 2009, that’s already happening.

The Domino Effect

Now let’s suppose Jackie’s physician and the children’s pediatrician are not part of the new medical program. The problems are increasing, especially when. Bert learns that he will receive only half the drives he previously did, and his reimbursement package has been minimized as well. He’ll be sleeping in the truck, packing food from home, and making a variety of different choices. He has high blood pressure and eats a very controlled diet, but he can’t worry about that now. Hopefully, his newly assigned doctor will be able to authorize the same prescriptions that keep his cholesterol in check, but he’ll probably pay more in this new program. He’s willing to cut back and so is Jackie; they’ll do what they have to do to make it work. Is it completely fair? No, not really, but these are the jobs they have, the lives they lead, and no job is guaranteed forever. But tell me, America, are folks like Bert and Jackie–and let’s suppose some of us, the mature ones who don’t blame anyone for their problems–going a little easy on those they expected to keep the playing field level?

Looking For Life Lines

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