Escalating medical costs.
High interest credit crunch.
And that’s just January 2010.
While times are admittedly tough for everyone—with the poor getting poorer and even the recently rich and famous falling on hard times—a truly unique phenomenon of the recent global recession and continual economic downturn is how catastrophic it’s been for our country’s middle class, driving many in the majority further and “further from the American Dream” and, in some cases, “directly into poverty.”
As The Huffington Post reported this week in Laura Bassett’s insightful article “Middle Class No More, Families Struggle to Fight off Homelessness,” those in power are not blind to the desperate bind of average Americans: “President Obama, in his remarks to Senate Democrats on [February 3], pointed out that the middle class was hurting even before the recession. ‘Part of the reason people are feeling anxious right now, it's not just because of this current crisis -- they've been going through this for 10 years. They've been working and not seeing a raise. Their costs have been going up, their spouses going to the workforce -- they work as hard as they can. They're barely keeping their heads above water. They're trying to figure out how to retire. They're seeing more and more of their costs on health care dumped in their lap. College tuition skyrockets….They are more and more vulnerable, and they have been for the last decade, treading water.’”
As part of Huff Post’s Bearing Witness 2.0 project, the online aggregator has culled a host of local stories of formerly middle-class folks who are now “struggling to stay afloat.” If you or someone you know is similarly situated, you’re encouraged to e-mail your story.
One such troubling tale is that of construction worker Troy Renault who, along with his wife and five children, has been forced from their 1900 square foot home in Lebanon, Tennesse into a donated 215 square foot trailer nestled in a local campgrounds. The cause of their “slide into homelessness?” Renault lost his job two years ago and the family was forced to make difficult choices. As Renault told Mike Osborne for Voice of America News, "You wind up starting to think to yourself, 'Okay. Do we go ahead and make the house payment and keep a roof over our head but have no lights and no water, or do you go ahead and keep those utilities on and forego the house payment, and hope that you can get it caught up?' And it just kept going where it got further and further behind until we wound up losing the home." Osborne writes: “Tammy Renault says her family is getting a crash course in what it means, socially, to be labeled homeless. ‘It's being called names. It's being ridiculed. It's running into people that have seen you in your highest and are not even speaking to you anymore because they're too afraid for where you are and don't know what to say.’
Stories like the Renault’s are made more difficult with the onset of winter, as many former middle class citizens, and now, newly disenfranchised, are forced to make decisions of life or death. As Steve Neavling reports in the Detroit Free Press, Michigan area middle classers can barely afford heating bills that would keep their families warm in another brutal Midwest winter. “Unemployed and unable to find work, 42-year-old Jim Lowe received a shutoff notice at his home last week and says he's unable to pay the $174 that's overdue. ‘It's definitely a wake-up call,’ Lowe told Neavling. ‘We're three months behind on all of our bills. I just pray this gets better soon.’ State and local agencies estimate an unprecedented 150,000 metro Detroiters are at risk of having their heat shut off if they don't receive help paying their bills. The number of people seeking state assistance so far this winter jumped 30% over last year at this time, according to the state Department of Human Services.”
And yet while unemployment, arrears in a mortgage, and other unexpected challenges for members of the middle class may be life-altering, they need not be life-threatening. Bankruptcy provides, in the form of Chapter 13 and Chapter 7, an undeniable array of options for those with mounting debt and facing foreclosure.
The key is knowing who can help. A qualified bankruptcy attorney can assist proud, but struggling, citizens to conquer their fears of losing it all. Specifically, the bankruptcy attorneys at the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt offer a totally FREE debt consultation and now, more than ever, it’s time to take them up on their offer. Just call toll free to 1-888-234-4181, or during the off hours, you can make your own appointment right online at www.billsbills.com. Simply click on the yellow “FREE Consultation Now” button. We’re here to help.