Bootstraps All the Way Down

Losing Hope: Dark Days for America

Close up of very worn work boot
Close up of very worn work boot
Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

Many Americans are rapidly losing hope. They are losing hope for the job market, for their finances, for their future and their children’s futures. They have lost hope in the United States government and its ability to lead the country. It will surely take tremendous, intentional efforts to restore this hope.

The bottom 50% of the population in particular, are suffering in myriad ways, stemming mostly from financial insecurity, and know this situation isn’t going to right itself — their individual efforts will simply not be enough. They can’t work themselves out of this without jobs.

The people look out and they don’t see any good jobs with decent pay or stability, let alone both. They see their neighbors struggling as well, and they have no real reason to think that jobs are just over the horizon.

It scarcely matters to the majority of them that we’re in a pandemic; many of them will not have jobs to go back to regardless, and they don’t expect their financial situation. At least with the benefits, many of them finally had some room to breathe, taking in the equivalent of somewhere between $30–45k for a few brief weeks meant they could pay their bills without constantly checking their bank balance. They could buy the groceries needed, and maybe have a few bucks left over for some clothing, or to get a toy for their kids.

What kind of hope would they possibly have, even if they go back to a job making 20k per year, knowing that they cannot take the time to go to college, nor could they afford it, to attempt to move up in the career ladder to a brighter plateau?

The level of inequality is reprehensible. Regardless of your opinions about higher taxes on the wealthy or other forms of redistribution, the fact is that most of the gains, including through the pandemic, are going to the top — and the people plainly see that it means less for them. They have little reason to have hope.

Crime will continue to get worse, even if it’s not bad in many places right now, wait and see; there is a correlation between people struggling financially and crime. Crimes of opportunity, or even people just so angry and frustrated inside that they have no patience in a moment of road rage, or in an argument with a spouse.

I haven’t even mentioned our country’s significant addiction problem yet. Increased drug and alcohol usage, extreme stress, depression, and suicide are all, unfortunately, obvious side-effects of the economic situation we’re in.

Yet most of this will not directly affect higher-income earners, assuming they live in a safe neighborhood and have the financial bedrock that it takes today to have a stable life in America— health insurance, disability and long-term unemployment, full auto insurance coverage, and more. Basic for them, but fast becoming unattainable for many.

Something must be done or there will be a tremendous amount of suffering still ahead for the bottom 50%. There is an astounding percentage of people who have considered suicide in just the past 30 days as of this writing, and many were between 18–24 years of age — an age when, arguably, you’d have a bit more hope than those of us in our 40’s and 50’s who already see their best jobs and earning years in the rearview mirror.

Many of those afflicted may not like the direction the country is headed; they may not want Trump for another four years, and they may be lukewarm about Joe Biden too, because frankly the problems seem like they’re getting too big to fix with conventional means. The problems appear endemic, so people just want a leader that will be able to take real action.

A V-shaped recovery won’t help them, because their lives sucked before; even if they don’t want additional government benefits but could use them, benefits likely aren’t coming due to the way the government is being tight-fisted with fiscal policy, and busy arguing with itself.

This is a subset of the population that was used to helping when one of them was a little ahead; now as they turn to their neighbor, they see everyone is struggling; they can’t even help one another.

This is not the 1950’s — people cannot simply relocate to where the jobs are. Many likely don’t have a car they would trust to drive across the state, let alone the country. Soon, many won’t have transportation at all.

Even if all was left behind, and they were given free rent somewhere, their skill level and the local labor force are still going to dictate nearly everything. They do not have the time or the money for a university degree at this point, which, increasingly, seems to be of questionable value.

There is nowhere for them to go to escape. The chances of both their credit being intact at this point, and having cash available to facilitate a move, is highly unlikely. Add an eviction, and they’d better hope they have family nearby with an extra room.

They feel stuck, and helpless, because they are. Short of finding a vein of gold on their property, or inventing the next hula hoop, they don’t have many options. This is evident in so many ways, and it won’t resolve until either the cost-of-living comes down significantly, or their incomes improve substantially, and they at least obtain a stable job for several consecutive years.

There is a chasm of disconnect between our leaders and the bottom 50%. It seems quite obvious to most of us that our leaders are literally ignoring these gigantic problems, and hoping they will magically go away. They will not. Protests and riots would be happening soon enough regardless of the law enforcement issues. There could be protests and riots for jobs, for food, for rental protection and more standard, basic things.

There’s no reason for anyone to stop protesting right now.

When despair happens on such a widespread scale, being such a fundamentally human thing, a tremendous amount of effort is needed for healing. The unfairness is palpable, and even if everyone in need suddenly had a $30 an hour job tomorrow, and were forgiven their rent or mortgage, and their bills for the month, it would not resolve the underlying problems in the long-term.

It is important though, to keep perspective. In this country we are not worried about our child walking over a landmine, our sibling disappearing, or our spouse going down in a hail of cartel gunfire. Thankfully we are relatively safe compared to much of the world. For a country with as many resources, as much talent, and so much promise that many citizens of other countries would do anything to come here, we are falling behind, and we are failing.

The promise of a better life for many of us remains unfulfilled.

America has a lot of work to do. It is not doing it, and it is making no real effort or even statements to address it in the future. It’s bootstraps all the way down, and it is quite a long way down.

Someone needs to tell our leaders that they don’t make bootstraps that long.

Stay safe.

Written by

I write about Economics and Social issues that affect us all, because my country, America, has problems and change is needed now.

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