WE’VE COME A LONG WAY SINCE THEN

I went looking in my files for a story — which I didn’t find. Maybe it’s on one of my backup drives. I’ll have to look. Meanwhile, I found this unfinished bit. I wrote it in 2006. Life is much better now. It is interesting seeing how far we have come in a decade and how, despite my pessimism and a lot of setbacks … we’re still here. These days, instead of dunning us for money, the banks want to give us more credit cards and keep raising our credit limits.

The message is SPEND, SPEND! My answer is NO, NO! But thanks for thinking of us. Please send cash, not credit.


SUNDAY MORNING, LATE JUNE 2006


My first call this morning was from Discover card, to which entity I owe some thousands of dollars.
You can always tell it’s a creditor. The calls have a hollow sound, probably caused by the speaker phone.

“Good morning. May I speak with Marilyn Armstrong.”

“Speaking.” Sigh. Here we go again.

“I was wondering if you were intending to make a payment this month.” Note that today is June 30th, and it’s a Sunday. One can only wonder to which month she is referring.

“No. I have no money. My unemployment has run out and I have an income of zero.”

“Well, have you considered returning to work?”

I paused for a long moment, pondering the hundreds of resumes I’ve sent, the dozens of phone calls, the days and weeks poring through employment websites.

72-Hedge-Roses-Garden-080816_01

“Actually,” I said, “I have decided I don’t feel like working. You see, ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be poor. Not merely a little short of money. Oh no. I wanted to be so poor that I can only shop at the Salvation Army on half price days. I want to be awakened in the early hours of my weekend by creditors dunning me for money. I want to make choices, like ‘do I eat or do I buy my medication? Do I keep the telephone or pay the electric bill?’ You know, miss … what was your name? I didn’t catch it …”

“Tracy …” she replied.

“Well Tracy, even when things were going really well, I was always yearning for the day when I wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor because I have no medical insurance.  So I plotted and schemed until I found a company that was sure to go bankrupt while I worked there owing me three or four months back salary … oh and I also arranged for my husband to be abruptly jobless and for economy to tank… and voilà! I got what I wanted.

“I’m dead broke and I get to have conversations with people such as you first thing on Sunday morning. It’s better than church. ” And I clicked off.

72-fuchsia-deck-082916_007

I’m sure my wit was lost on her, but at least recounting it to Garry made him smile. Everyone keeps telling us that it’s going to get better because it has to. Call me a skeptic. I bet that’s what they told the homeless families as the sheriff evicted them.

Being poor in America is actually considered a sin. If you are poor, people assume you are also lazy, stupid, and uneducated … unless they are liberals, in which case they assume that you come from a deprived background where your mother was a prostitute and your father is doing 25 to life for murder.

People like us, who used to be among the top wage earners who lived the American Dream until it turned into the American Nightmare, scare the pants off fellow citizens. Our ill fortune might be contagious. What has happened to us could happen to them. It might rub off. In America the Beautiful, they could face complete ruin because the economy faltered, they had some bad luck, got sick … or worst of all … got old.

72-Home-071015_27

People can’t afford to be sympathetic. It’s too close. Lots of people are living barely a paycheck from financial disaster. In their dreams, they see the glittering eyes of the predators (whoops, I meant creditors) watching from the shadows. So everyone circles the wagons and throws another log on the fire and huddles together against the dark.

We’ve gone way past that. No wagons to circle and out of firewood.

I have more of a sense of humor about this some days than others. Generally speaking, the first caller of the day gets the sharp edge of my tongue. I just hang up on the rest.

Oh … then there are the automated messages. “Please hold,” says a robotic voice, “for an important message.” How dumb do they think we are? Even before we fell into poverty, I never held on so someone could sell me something or pressure me for money. Good grief. Is anyone that naïve?


Although we are in better shape than we were, many others are not. That’s how come there are so many angry people. The dream of America promises they can have a new car or two, a nice house … and a job that pays a living way. That if they do the right stuff, they will have the good life.

When the good life failed, when America failed them, it had to be someone else’s fault. Those people. Black people. Hispanic people. Islāmic people. They stole their dreams.

Someone stole their dreams … but it wasn’t those people. It was the people who sent the jobs to other countries, hired the illegal immigrants to work for sub-minimum wages in sweat shops. It’s always the people who have the most who prey on those who have less. Always, throughout history.

It is still true today. That rich guy with orange hair is NOT on your side.

Obama wins second term!

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

Elected on hope in a season of despair, President Obama won his first term by being the right guy at the right time. He won his second term making Mitt Romney the wrong guy.

Obama turned what could have been a stinging referendum on his economic stewardship into a pass-fail test on Romney’s character. A multi-million dollar media blitz casting aspersions on his extraordinary wealth and successful business career began weeks before Romney had even earned enough delegates to claim the nomination. In a campaign reminiscent of former President Bush’s takedown of John Kerry’s military record in 2004, Romney was not only stripped of his greatest asset in a race about how to stimulate economic growth, it became a liability.

“Obama won by thoroughly and completely trashing Mitt Romney and his reputation,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “It is the classic definition of winning ugly.”

But to exclusively blame the attacks from Obama and his super PAC allies for Romney’s defeat overlooks the Republican nominee’s own shortcomings. The smoothly coiffed, buttoned-down financier struggled to come across as a man of the people, a problem exacerbated by his vow to perpetuate tax breaks for the wealthy, several foot-in-mouth gaffes on the campaign trail, and a secretly recorded video of him at a tony fundraiser dismissing “47 percent” of Americans whom he said pay no income taxes and consider themselves “victims.”

The first African-American president also capitalized on an increasingly diverse electorate and used sophisticated turnout tools to make sure supporters, even casual ones, cast votes. “It’s like the demographic changes are making the old rules about unemployment sinking an incumbent obsolete,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. “The Obama campaign knew they weren’t supposed to get re-elected, so they figured out who they needed to register to vote and turn out to change that.”

Again, Romney didn’t help himself amid the changing demographics, alienating the fast-growing Hispanic community by shaking an iron fist at illegal immigrants during the GOP primaries. He would have persevered over his more conservative but politically implausible Republican rivals, anyway — though as a Mormon who had spearheaded a government-led overhaul of health care as governor of Massachusetts, Romney was ill-suited to tap into the energy of the social conservative and tea party movements. He accepted the nomination as the least popular nominee from a major party in decades. Wrong guy, wrong time.

Romney badly misread the electorate, assuming the dragging economy would automatically turn voters against the president. Yet many still blamed the recession on former President Bush and were growing accustomed to incremental economic growth. It was a pitiable recovery, but a recovery nonetheless. Offering few details about his economic agenda, Romney didn’t look like a tempting alternative.

“The Romney team was convinced it was a time when likability was a secondary factor,” said Republican strategist John Brabender, who advised Romney’s one-time GOP rival, Rick Santorum. “They forgot they had to give people a reason to vote for Romney, not just against Obama.”

While Romney was still fending off Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, Obama was quietly opening campaign offices all over the country, re-launching his vaunted ground game from 2008. Then the Obama campaign went into overdrive; from the time Romney emerged as the likely nominee in April through most of September,

Obama outgunned him on television nearly three times over with predominantly negative ads, according to Kantar Media CMAG. Republican super PACs evened the score but didn’t control the damage. The Obama campaign and its allies branded the former chief executive of Bain Capital as a tax-dodging, job-outsourcing villain who would shred the safety net holding up the elderly and the poor.

Romney also blew silver-platter opportunities, fumbling through a high-profile trip overseas and allowing a cringe-worthy bit by Clint Eastwood to overshadow an otherwise carefully choreographed convention. In contrast, Obama made hay of his accomplishments, touting the auto bailout to overcome resistance from blue-collar workers and brandishing Osama bin Laden’s death to shore up his party’s traditional vulnerabilities on national security.

Democrats also drove wedges between Romney and two influential swing voting blocs – women and Hispanics – with ads attacking his positions on abortion and immigration. The ads suggesting Romney opposed birth control and abortion even in cases of rape and incest simply weren’t true, but he, not Obama, paid the bigger price.

It wasn’t until after the convention in September that Romney got serious about investing in Spanish-language advertising, and it wasn’t until the October debates that the self-described “severely conservative” candidate narrowed the gender gap by pitching himself as a political moderate. Then came Hurricane Sandy. In the pivotal homestretch, the focus moved off of Romney’s momentum and onto Obama’s role as commander-in-chief.

In the end, the damaged wreaked by the storm on the New Jersey shore was an apt metaphor for what Obama and his allies had done to Romney’s reputation.

See on www.theatlantic.com