The spiraling economy has been a hot topic for several years. We all know that we are in the worst economic crisis since the “not-so” Great Depression. As politicians continue to bicker back and forth, families are sliding down a slippery cliff struggling to hold onto whatever they can. How did the American Dream instead become a desperate dream for survival?
Only a few minutes into Our America with Lisa Ling, I sent out a silent prayer hoping that politicians would flip the dial and stumble upon this true economic reality show as it played out on OWN. Throughout the night Lisa Ling introduced us to different individuals who are hanging onto their own economic cliff. She began with 56 year-old Bob who had recently lost his job. Following a promotion, his company paid for his family to relocate to a wealthy suburb neighborhood where many of the 1% lived. Making a comfortable 6-figure income, Bob thought life was on an upturn. unfortunately, the layoffs came and Bob’s position was eliminated. Four years later he is still looking for full-time work. Taking what he can and working as a custodian for a church, he and his family are falling apart. With up to 400 applications for some jobs, Bob realized how difficult it would be to find any job…but he was trying despite the odds. To make it worse, his wife has battled breast cancer for 5 years. All of the stress is overwhelming and his in-laws (who are helping to support them) are upset. After unemployment benefits ran out, the only other help they received was through food stamps. “Like Bob, one-in-six people in America don’t always know where their next meal is coming from,” Lisa shared. It can be hard to get one’s own pride. No one wants to rely on the kindness of others. So much has changed in only a few short years. Listening to his children speak, you can tell how hard this has been on them. As Bob’s 12-year-old son softly cried over being evicted from their home as movers threw their belongings onto the front lawn. Talking about the stress of seeing a bill that was due, it was hard to fight back tears for his lost childhood.
The cameras then introduced Teresa, a 47-year-old woman who was let go after a paper factory closed in her town. Like many of us, she didn’t have a huge savings and instead took the vacations and bought the cars. After watching what little she did have disappear, she wished she would have been smarter with her money. However, that wasn’t her reality. Now living in the basement of a home and sharing a room with her son who is a senior in highschool, everything was different. Although she was getting a little help from unemployment, just as Bob had, it only lasts so long and then nothing the check stops coming. Sadly her story was not unique. Companies have been closing their factories and sending our money to other countries who barely pay their employees. It makes sense for them. They make a lot more money. But at what cost? Even America’s Olympic uniforms were created in a communist country. Some people seemed outraged, but shouldn’t we be outraged every day? Instead of American companies helping to put food on the tables of their neighbors, they are choosing to strengthen the most powerful places that threaten our own democracy. In fact, this would be a great topic for Our America.
Our America then tackled a huge issue that is happening in our society now. Annette, a 25-year-old college grad, who has hit the wall that so many graduates are banging their head against. The American Dream…getting a law degree and heading into a six-figure job. However the world has changed. At what should be the happiest and brightest part of her life, Annette was drowning in student loans and debt. She had done everything correctly, yet nothing seemed to be going right. She was competing for internships with unemployed, veteran lawyers. With more people entering the workforce, jobs continue to decline and be shipped overseas. It really is time for us to reverse that cycle and bring jobs back home. It is time to cut the benefits to companies for shipping jobs overseas and instead give them out to those who are employing Americans. Something has to change.
However, Our America ended with a little hope. Cameras panned out over a farm in southern Oregon only to land on Barb and Tink, two retirees and lifelong partners. Barb had worked as a Folsom prison guard and invested all she had into 20 acres of land where they now lived. Tink retired a union man with close to $3.500 a month…more than enough to live comfortably on the farm. Unfortunately when the stock market crashed, so did his pension. There were now both of them are struggling on $950 a month. Lisa Ling asked them about the hard choices they had to make including almost losing their farm and living without food. They pulled together and got back to nature and “complete self sufficiency” which they felt was the key. Growing vegetables and fruit, making homemade bread and mayonnaise, bartering with neighbors and relying on chickens for daily eggs…Barb and Tink had a plan and it was working. Maybe they are on to something. We don’t have to be without before start saving. It may be time to learn to bake some bread!
Once again OWN and Lisa Ling touched on a topic that was so spot-on with our culture today. Still uncertain if the worst has yet to come, many Americans are either trapped in denial or survival. In all honesty, many Americans would find themselves homeless or dependant on family once their unemployment benefits ran out. I have friends who have gone from six-figures to losing their homes. Hiding behind the fake smiles tucked away in their homes, people are struggling to hold it all together. In such a prideful society, we have learned to wear our masks in public.
somewhere along the way the American Dream changed. Whereas we grew up being told we could be anything and as long as we worked hard we would be alright. That is no longer true today. With jobs being outsourced and graduates unable to even pay off the cost of school, where is the incentive for our youth today? Something needs to change in order to ensure a better future for all Americans. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for my family having a roof over our heads, food on our table and our health. “The Lost American Dream” has reminded me that I need to reach beyond my own doors and slip past the plastered smiles to be sure that my friends and neighbors are okay as well. I may not have money to lend, but I have an arm to wrap around them and hands to lift them up. Sometimes just being there can make all the difference.