Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Good American

The buyin' power of the proletariat's gone down
Money's gettin' shallow and weak

--Working Man's Blues #2
, Bob Dylan

People who don't know how to keep themselves healthy

ought to have the decency to get themselves buried,

and not waste time about it

--Henrik Ibsen


This is the story of a small interaction while I was checking out in the cosmetics department in a drugstore.

I'll call her Margie, and she is a 50-ish manager of this large-chain store. As she rung up my orange juice she commented, "I can't afford to buy this item anymore." As I too feel the pain of weekly rising grocery prices, I said, "I don't understand how people do it."

This well-spoken women launched into a heartfelt litany of the difficulties in her life, and those of her fellows. Interrupting us was a younger co-worker going out to bring back lunch. Margie ordered a burger and Coke from, as she put it, McGrunge's.

"The Obama's tell us to eat well, but I can't afford to buy good food. Who has the time to raise a garden?" I commiserated.

I asked if she thought our legislators had any idea how the people live. "No -- they have chauffeurs and cooks; they have no worries. My car stalled on the side of the road last night. I am here because my children are driving me. I don't know how I'll afford to fix it."

I told her to inform her local representatives and she assured me she did. Her daughter works in another city in the office of an elected official and has three children. Margie said she asks her how she feeds them. I said that I didn't know what will happen in our country in the upcoming weeks and months.

She said, "I hear there's an economic recovery, but I've never heard of a jobless recovery." She said she was grateful to have a job, but couldn't recall a more difficult time. We both agreed that Obama's focus on his health care initiative was wrong-headed in a time when we need radical job creation.

We touched on the section 8 Housing Program, which provides rental subsidies to people with low incomes. The program helps offset housing costs for people who often pay 50% or more of their income on their housing needs.

However, in our area the program is currently working on rolls from three years ago (2007), and doesn't anticipate opening up for new applicants any time soon. When they do open, the news gets out in a sketchy manner, and spaces are filled in days. They then close for another few years due to the backlog and lack of funds.

The saddest thing she said was simply in passing, but very seriously:

"I think people are getting very depressed.
I think they will commit suicide when they get desperate enough."

There were now two customers in line behind me. I told her it was a pleasure to meet another person who cared about politics and the direction of her country.

With the same equanimity she had maintained throughout our conversation, she said, 'Thank you, darlin'. Come see me anytime -- I'm almost always here."

[Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog]

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Anonymous barcalounger said...

No, I don't think people are going to commit suicide. We're the most heavily armed nation on the planet. People with no jobs, no housing, no food, no future but plenty of guns and ammo are not going to off themselves. They'll lash out against the upper classes and government. I think it's going to get ugly, really ugly.

Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 12:57:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


It's pretty to think so, but that pioneer spirit may be have been squelched by generations of passivity.

Not everyone has guns, nor can they afford ammo. The most despondent are often weakened or ill, already at the behest of the system. The most heartless would say, "Good riddance", and I don't conjecture that response lightly.

Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 1:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who needs to buy guns when you can make your own pipe bombs?


Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 1:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

"the decency to get buried"

These days that's damn near expensive as staying healthy. And reminds me I really need to make arrangements with the VA for a plot at the local VA cemetery. Have held off thus far because of uncertainty whether I might be in another area when the need arises.

And one of the damned saddest things I ever witnessed was when i was in NC and working at an H&R Block office and a couple whose 20 year old son had died that year weren't allowed to at least claim the funeral expense on their schedule A itemized deductions. That's just down right sick. You can write off the loss you experience because of something happening to your car or home that insurance doesn't cover but not the financial loss associated with the loss of a child. That's just WRONG.

Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 2:29:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep and the truely sad thing is this is only the beginning. We'll continue the side into the darkness during this year to never return what some of us we thought was normal. Sad, well I need to keep working on the garden. Fava beans about month away from harvest and then move on to the next round.

Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 5:36:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Sven Ortmann said...

The economic problem is basically that a part of the wealth was mere illusion.
The financial markets crisis is a mere symptom that triggered a partial correction of the imbalance.


The latest reported monthly U.S. trade deficit (Dec 09) was about USD 40 billion. That's the value of the goods the U.S. still consumed beyond its true wealth.
Btw - that is almost the sum spent on the military per month.

Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 6:28:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


That is very sad.


Do you take them with a nice Chianti?

Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 6:59:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Amberturtle said...

From the Soap lady,
Jim you are the Keeper of stories..
The lessons taught in these stores are needed in this times.
This is one has been around for a time.

Great Spirit,
give us hearts to understand;
Never to take from creation's beauty more than we give;
Never to destroy want only for the furtherance of greed;
Never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth's beauty;
Never to take from her what we cannot use.

Give us hearts to understand
That to destroy earth's music is to create confusion;
That to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty;
That to callously pollute her fragrance is to make a house of stench;
That as we care for her she will care for us.

We have forgotten who we are.
We have sought only our own security.
We have exploited simply for our own ends.
We have distorted our knowledge.
We have abused our power.

Great Spirit, whose dry lands thirst,
help us to find the way to refresh your lands.

Great Spirit, whose waters are choked with debris and pollution,
help us to find the way to cleanse your waters.

Great Spirit, whose beautiful earth grows ugly with mis-use,
help us to find the way to restore beauty to your handiwork.

Great Spirit, whose creatures are being destroyed,
help us to find a way to replenish them.

Great Spirit, whose gifts to us are being lost
in selfishness and corruption,
help us to find the way to restore our humanity

Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 7:05:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Glad you liked my story,


Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 7:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I'm happy that you came to visit, regardless of who wrote this article.

Friday, April 9, 2010 at 8:35:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous RangerHazen said...

You remind of one of my favorite authors Lisa, Barbara Ehrenreich.


She is one of the most important authors and in my syllabus and her books were partly responsible for me rethinking my political beliefs to better coincide with my values of helping the poor and less fortunate. Your piece "A Good American" could have come straight out of her book "Nickel and Dimed." She spent a year trying to do what more and more Americans have to do everyday...Slave Wages...

Many years ago when FDR was president and then again when Clinton won the first time I can recall Some rich conservative dude would vow to 'take it all back." This kind of class warfare has been going on since the Southern Landowners and Gilded Age Industrialists have exploited everybody else in the name of profit and "free" markets. So after the New Deal and the War here we are again. they have mostly succeeded in taking it all back, and almost destroyed the country as a result.
We have our work cut out for us but what the hell The next generation deserves a shot at making a decent living with a future don't they...:)

"I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!" Howard Beale "Network."

Friday, April 9, 2010 at 10:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


That is kind praise -- I am well-familiar with Ms. Ehrenreich, and Nickle and Dimed was an important book, when our politicians don't know the cost of a gallon of milk or gas.

What are you studying?

Friday, April 9, 2010 at 11:26:00 AM GMT-5  

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