For decades, most Americans have enjoyed an extremely high standard of living. In fact, most of us have been "enjoying the high life" and "living the dream" for so long that we have assumed that it is just always going to be that way. But now a rapidly growing percentage of Americans is getting the chance to experience some very serious economic pain. Today, over 40 million Americans are on food stamps and over 20 million U.S. children are living in poverty. Tens of millions of Americans are unemployed, and personal bankruptcies and foreclosures continue to set all-time records. For many people, all of this economic turmoil was completely unexpected. Millions of people now can't sleep at night because they are constantly stressed about finances. More couples than ever are being torn about by arguments over money. Unprecedented numbers of Americans have experienced a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs upon the realization that they are going to lose the homes that they have been raising their families in. Money may not buy happiness, but as tens of millions of Americans are finding out, the lack of it can bring a whole lot of pain.
Now, the truth is that there have always been a small percentage of Americans that have struggled to get by, but today we are seeing more Americans who are "down on their luck" than at any other time in recent memory. According to one shocking new survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.
It seems like almost everyone has a family member or a close friend who is looking for a job. The truth is that there are not enough jobs for everyone, and there certainly are not nearly enough good jobs.
A recent Pew Research survey found that 55 percent of the U.S. labor force has experienced either unemployment, a pay decrease, a reduction in hours or an involuntary move to part-time work since the recession began.
That is incredible.
That means that over half of all American workers have been unemployed or have been forced to take a reduction in pay since the recession started.
Things are getting really tough out there.
Millions of Americans are wondering why their husbands or wives suddenly can't find jobs.
In fact, the average duration of unemployment in the United States has risen to an all-time high. The declining economy has created a new class of chronically unemployed Americans who would love to work but can't seem to find anyone to hire them.
Millions of Americans have been forced to turn to part-time work. In fact, one recent survey found that approximately 8.6 million American workers are working part time because they can't get full-time jobs.
In this economic environment, there is significant competition for even the lowest paying jobs.
You never know - this holiday season the friendly gentleman greeting you down at the local Wal-Mart may actually have several advanced degrees but just cannot find anyone else who will hire him.
As the economic situation continues to deteriorate, record numbers of Americans are going bankrupt and are losing their homes. In fact, banks repossessed a record number of U.S. homes during the second quarter of 2010.
So it is really no wonder why so many Americans are feeling so negative about the economy.
According to one new survey, U.S. consumer sentiment weakened in early July to its lowest in 11 months. In addition, one recent poll found that 76 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy is still in a recession.
But sometimes what gets lost in all the numbers are the individual stories of the very real pain that so many Americans are going through. Today, I thought that I would share just a few of the stories of economic pain that my readers have been sharing with me.
A reader of my column on The American Dream blog named Kate recently graduated from college but now finds that she can't even get a retail job....
I just graduated college in May… Moved to a new state and am now living with my boyfriend who should not and cannot continue to have to pay everything because i just plain can’t get a job.
I’m over qualified for retail survivor jobs… so I lie on my application. But then retail stores just plain don’t hire full time. So even if I could get a job as a cashier someplace… I’d only work enough hours to maybe pay for my car payment/ car insurance/ gas…. and my half of rent/electric and such is out of the question… not to mention charged to the limit credit cards from being unemployed and student loans that will hit in just a matter of months.
Any other jobs either don’t exist or they just ALL want 5 years professional experience…. which is impossible for someone who just graduated and has been working part time retail jobs since high school.
AND internships are unpaid or only for college students so thats out of the question….
But the fact of the matter is that jobs don’t care about education in the least bit if you don’t have the real professional work experience to back it up.
A reader of this column named David ended up taking a very low paying job overseas because he simply couldn't find anything here in the United States....
I have been looking for a job since June 2009. I am a prior Army officer who knows four foreign languages and has lived around the world. I have sent out over 100 resumes over the past year. Finally, I got a job offer to teach English in Russia for $720 per month. Yes, $720 per month. Luckily my housing is paid for. So, I took my tax return and left for Russia to teach English. The American economy is broken and it will get worse. We are in the early stages of a total meltdown in America. Yes, if you are an American, you better prepare yourself for the worst is still to come.
But even those who do have jobs are facing some very difficult circumstances as one of my readers named Ana recently described....
I am a cop’s wife. My husband currently works for a Sheriff’s office who is extremely understaffed and the county wastes money like there is no tomorrow. They threaten the Sheriff with more layoffs if they don’t write more tickets on the highway. My husband has often had to patrol the entire county by himself for a full 12 hour shift. It is a bad situation for everyone.
The truth is that there are millions of stories like the ones above. Economic pain is everywhere, and the American people are becoming increasingly frustrated. Most Americans don't understand why the economy is suddenly in the toilet - all most of them know is that things are broken and they desperately want someone to fix things.
A lot of this frustration is coming out as anger towards the government. People are waking up and are starting to realize that the American ruling class has been doing an incredibly bad job of running things. The American people are hungry for a real change. In fact, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 23% of voters nationwide believe that the U.S. government has the consent of the governed.
But will we start to see some real changes in the years ahead?
Unfortunately, that is quite doubtful. The reality is that the American ruling class has a stranglehold on both political parties, and they are not going to release their grip easily.
Meanwhile, our leaders continue to perpetuate the same failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place. But unless some fundamental changes are made soon, the economic pain that Americans are experiencing is going to continue to get even worse.
So do you have a story of economic pain to share? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below....