Tag Archives: “American Dream”

Poverty in America

According to the Census Bureau, 43.6 million Americans live in poverty. This is the highest it has been since the 1960’s. The recent recession has put millions of Americans out of work, starting a cycle that has led to a series of climbing poverty rates.

As many have lost their jobs, they have lost their employer-provided health care benefits as well which leads to mounting medical bills and prescription costs. After a long battle, congress passed a health overhaul bill which has already made some improvements for seniors, students and those with pre-existing conditions but many of the main provisions of the bill will not go into effect until 2014.

Often times, when money is not coming in and bills need to be paid, people will turn to their credit cards. Medical bills, utility payments and even mortgage payments were being paid on credit cards as a short term solution to a long term problem.

However, the credit card companies themselves had been a nightmare for many consumers and there seemed to be no solution to a problem that was driving many Americans further in debt at a very critical time.

Now, to back up a bit, there’s a bigger picture here to look at before the recession and before the economy started showing signs of falling apart. The picture is this. Many households had taken on more credit, more payments and more cost than in reality was needed or realistically could be paid had anything come up or gone wrong. The rule of thumb to follow is this,“If something can go wrong, it will.” Another is, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

 

Of course everyone dreams big and wants more for their children than they had. Most people want the “American Dream.”   Maybe it’s time to adjust the dream.

 

Right now though, sights need to be set on the 43.6 million people living in poverty. What is really being done to help the situation for those people? That number grew from 39.8 million people in 2008.

Are the companies who received bailouts hiring employees? Loaning money to small businesses? Are bailed out companies still giving multi-million dollar bonuses to people receiving multi-million dollar salaries?

 

Are companies hiring those in need of jobs and are people in need of jobs still pursuing businesses in their communities?
The Credit CARD Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Obama on May 22, 2009 to help protect consumers and force credit card companies to be more fair and transparent.
As Americans have been forced to look at their credit responsibilities, many have seen just how wrongly credit card companies had been treating them but also realized there was little they could do aside from cancelling their account.
With this new Credit CARD Act of 2009, the Health Care Overhaul, Americans taking a long hard look at what is being spent compared to what they are making and a more vast amount of Americans wanting to hold their state and national leaders more responsible, will this make a difference for the 43.6 million individuals that need to see change NOW?

 

Programs that have been signed into law and are going into effect will make some differences. Health care costs cause many families to lose everything or claim bankruptcy. Health care will now start seeing improvements for many. Job losses could have been much worse had the stimulus or tax incentives not gone out. The idea is to focus on what is working and keep growing on new ideas and make sure they get passed and not stalled in the House or Congress.
Poverty is not picky. It can choose anybody at anytime. It does not only affect third world countries or people of a certain educational level or certain backgrounds. It is here in America and it can be affecting someone you know and you can’t tell. There are 43.6 million people in the U.S. living in poverty. 

 

That number doesn’t need to increase.

 

 

Is the "American Dream" still possible?

Sure, there are those that have opportunity made available either by family means due to inheritance or acquaintances, people that have opportunities come to them because of their looks (i.e. models or actors that are just approached at some point) and of course those very rare occurrences of a lottery win or hitting the jackpot! Who doesn’t have that dream?

However, the belief has always been that if a person had set goals, studied and worked hard they could accomplish the “American Dream.” Many people have grown up and done just that and have lived to tell their own version of the “American Dream” and many people have come to the United States from every other country for that reason and have accomplished their dreams as well.

Although the dream may be different for each individual, basically the idea was being able to get an education, find a career, buy a home, have a family and work toward a decent retirement at an age a person could still enjoy a retirement.

Between a retirement plan at a person’s job and social security, a person could plan on retiring as long as they had worked along the lines of saving towards their goals. The “American Dream” seemed to be within reach more and more through the years. Even when times were hard through the 80’s and 90’s, people continued to work hard and focus on what lied ahead because that is what they had been taught to do and it still seemed promising, enough.

 

As the younger generations have been raised, their parents have brought them up with the understanding to get an education, work hard at your job, set money aside and you can plan toward retirement. The question of whether social security would be around for retirement for the younger generation was causing concern so people were leaning more toward investments and attaining a higher level of education to move along further in a career. “Hard work pays off”, was said to be the key to success.

 

However, is this something to plan on? How solid is long-term planning? How solid are a person’s investments? Is the “American Dream” something to even strive for anymore? Is it possible?

 

Not to sound pessimistic, but here are some recent lessons learned.

 

Many companies let their long term employees go along with their benefits and pension plans. Financially, it saves more to keep those employees with lesser benefits and lower pay doing the same job.

A big investment for an individual or family is their home. However, if that investment suddenly depreciates at the same time a person has their hours cut at their job or loses their job and they find themselves unable to pay the mortgage, that investment is suddenly the hook, line and sinker that leads them to bankruptcy. The home that was once a part of their “American Dream” is suddenly a part of a terrible nightmare.

 

Unemployment or even being cut back to part-time from full time can take a person’s health benefits or for an employer trying to keep their employees but still cut back cost, an employer might just cut healthcare across the board. Health care cost for people without insurance causes more bankruptcies than most anything else. Bankruptcy can take everything away from a person they have worked so hard to attain. That definitely isn’t part of the “American Dream” and having this happen to a person isn’t something anyone would plan on.

Many people that have been planning for retirement, saving for retirement or putting aside for that “rainy day”, have either ended up having to use that money to replace lost income, increased bills due to possible loss of benefits, or possibly helping out friends or family that are facing financial crisis. It is a good chance that everyone knows someone facing a financial crisis due to the recent recession. The economy is still in a crisis and so are families, small business and therefore America.

The “American Dream” to those that have lost a job and cannot find work is simply to hear, “you’re hired”. Ask the 99ers. These are people that have been without work 99 weeks or more. To have a group, a large group of people that have formed a name and been on several news networks now because they have not been able to acquire work for that long shows how bad the job market still is.
For those that have been able to keep their job and benefits, the concern lingers about how steady their employment is and how steady the economy is.

For those still owning their home, the concern lies with how steady the housing market is, home values, property taxes and what will happen with homeowners insurance. What is around the corner?
People are concerned, very concerned. Voters are concerned about the choices in Washington D.C. and what the consequences of those choices will be. What will be the long term effects of today’s decisions and the lack of decisions? Who are the politicians looking out for, really?
 What is today’s “American Dream”?

 

Help for America Pt. 1 – What lies ahead for small businesses?

After such a devastating blow to the Nation’s economy that not only was felt by most Americans but also by many people around the world, as one market crashed after the other, it is quite understandable why many small business owners have felt uneasy to move forward without hesitantly looking back.

This past week a bill went before the Senate that would create a $30 billion government fund to help community banks increase lending to small businesses.

“Everywhere I go, I hear from small business owners who simply cannot get the credit they need to hire and expand,” Obama said. “And we’ve been hearing from smaller community banks that they want to lend to these folks but need more capital to do it.”

Obama told Republican congressional leaders that “the provisions of this bill are things the Republican Party has said it’s supported for years: helping small businesses, cutting taxes, making credit available.”

The Small Business Jobs Act would eliminate capital gains on certain investments and increase deductions from new equipment and other expenses.

However, when the vote came to the floor, Republicans filibustered the measure by a vote of 58 (in favor of cloture) to 42 (against).

“It’s not going to die,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spokesman Don Steward noted. “We just want to have amendments considered. They made a start, allowing three…so we’re making progress.”

Across the Tampa Bay Area, businesses have had to close their doors, lay off employees, cut back on benefits, or make numerous other changes over the last years.

Vanessa Karl, a Bay Area dog groomer said, “Due to having regular customers and word of mouth referrals and also having made changes to my location, things seemed to have stabilized. However, we have also lost customers due to their own circumstances.”

Although it is said the economy is coming back and people are getting hired, are people feeling confident enough to once again expand their businesses, start a new business and once again look forward to the American Dream?





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