For Most Americans, The Worst Consequences of The Economic Crisis Are Yet To Come
Dr Mark Naison
If you read the newspapers, watch the news, and search the internet for new of the economic crisis, you will get the impression that the global recession is easing and may soon "bottom out." The Obama Administration's stimulus package, coupled with a infusion of funds into the banking system by TARP and the Federal Reserve, has at least temporatily, prevented the nation's largest banks from going under and helped state governments from avoid bankruptcy
But the stabilization of key financial institutions and government actors offers little comfort to tens of millions of Americans who are watching their assest shrink, their jobs disappear, and their dreams and expectations fall by the wayside
For the poorest Americans, the crisis means an increase in hunger and homelessness; food lines are growing longer in every poor and working class neighborhood, and shantytowns resembling Hoovervilles have started to appear in some particularly hard hit cities.
But for most Americans, the crisis has brought an enormous increase in stress as they try to figure out whether they can still live the way there are accostomed to living, or pursue dreams they had spent much of their lives working for
With jobs disappearing, salaries being frozen, home values plunging, retirement accounts shriking and taxes and tolls soon to go up, millions of people, every month, worry whether they can afford to remain in the house they own or the apartment they live in while still putting food on the table and paying their gas, phone and electric bills. Many, to meet their daily expenses, will have to take in boarders or share their space with another family; others will have to move in with relatives. The privacy they once prized , and viewed as their birthright as member of the middle class, will have to be sacrificed
Those who own stores, or small enterprises, will stay up nights worrying whether declining revenues, and rising debts, will allow them to remain in business for much longer. Unable to get bank loans to tide them through the hard times, they wonder whether they should put all their personal assets up for sale to keep the business going and then face the risk of having nothing at all should the business still go under. Every time you see a store or a gas station with a "for rent" sign, think of the sweat and tears that it took to build and maintain that business and the personal pain and humiliation involved in watching that business fail. As unemployment continues to rise, and consumer demand remains stagnant, there will be a lot more of that humiliation going around
And then think of all the young people who went off to college or graduate school dreaming of the exciting careers awaiting them, only to face job markets offering no opportunities in their field. A poignant example of this is the thousands of people graduating from teachers colleges or participating in Teach for America or the New York City Teaching Fellowship Program, who will not be hired as teachers in New York City because the Department of Education just instituted a hiring freeze. In numerous other fields, the job market is equally dire. Millions of young people with advanced education will have to move into low wage
service industry positions to find employment, in the process pushing working class and immigrant youth into the ranks of the unemployed. If this economic crisis lasts for another five years, we are in danger in producing a "Lost Generation" of young people unable to find jobs in the fields they have been trained for
Some of these displaced youth will respond creatively to their misfortune and become artists, entrepreneurs and political activists, but many more are likely to become bitter and defeated, falling into a lethargy that may make economic recovery even more difficult
We are living in dangerous times. The stress people are under will make many of them snap. Alcoholism, domestic abuse, road rage and gun violence are all increasing as the economic crisis intensifies increasing.
Easing stress on individuals and families has to become a national priority, as well as a personal moral obligation. We have demand that government direct income and resources to those that need it the most, but we also have to help people in need whenever they cross our path, including co workers, family members and neighbors, who have never been in trouble before.
There are some forms of stress than no one can handle alone. It is our job to make sure they don't have to
May 13, 2009