Two years after the financial collapse, some are in a recovery, others are stuck in a rut. So, what are you seeing in your own life and in your community?
Explore the map below to see the stories fellow It's A Free Country readers are submitting. Or explore the story archive, videos, slideshow, and more. Want to only see results from a particular category? Filter them using the drop down menu.
>> And if you want to add your story to the Rut/Recovery project, do so here.
- My New Normal
- How's Business
- Government Services
My New Normal
In 2007 the non-profit art organization that I'd founded and ran for over 10 years closed because of the economy. I learned so much and helped so many artists. I am taking that experience and now starting a practice as an artists career coach. I have to work part-time answering phones for a local restaurant and get help from my mother but more and more I am getting out there and bringing in money. I'd like to give up the restaurant job and bring my experience to a company or non-profit full time but until then I am grateful for what I have.
For nearly 18 months I have received a weekly phone call from the Labor Department asking me to report on my # of employees. When it started I was told that I am NOT required by law to answer the questions but that they would call weekly anyway.
-I have repeatedly expressed what a waste of tax dollars this process is
-Through our payroll service a detailed summary is sent to the state and federal government for review but they find it necessary to continually call for weekly updates
-They also USPS mail a weekly reminder that they will call
-I have NEVER given them an accurate count because I think it is a waste of my time, their time and tax payer money. I have told them repeatedly that I am making up numbers...but they keep calling.
So, although I already send them the information (in detail) via my ADP payroll service...they waste money on postage, waste money on having someone call me and then they undoubtedly waste money creating inaccurate statistical outlines with the incorrect information that I have provide them. What's wrong with this picture? I thought we were trying to reduce overhead?
Morristown, New Jersey
My husband and I not only lost a lot of our nestegg, but the money it was supposed to earn. He has been unemployed for two years, I work parttime. He was amanagement consultant which was supposed to be coming back by now. We made it to medicare and SS just in time but it's not enough to finish paying for our house and live in this area.
ramsey avenue, ramsey, n.j.
The View from the Soup Kitchen
My New Normal
Our church's Soup Kitchen used to feed 40 to 80 guests. Lately, we have been averaging 150 – 175. There is an air of desperation that wasn’t there before. White, black, Hispanic, old, young, and entirely too many children come to eat and get groceries at our Food Pantry. Unemployed formerly middleclass professionals sit with the poor, handicapped, addicted, mentally retarded, and illiterate. There’s no recovery in sight for any of these folks.
The Stock Market posted solid gains for 2010 and the Holiday shopping was apparently “back on track” but each time we have a recession, more people from the middle class slide into poverty while fewer and fewer people control more and more of the wealth.
A half a dozen financial institutions that brought the world to the brink of disaster escape prosecution and receive bail outs while Republican senators refuse to grant citizenship to young immigrants who are willing to die for this country. Following the mid-term elections, the new “class of 2011” will drastically cut social programs. Our Food Pantry will receive even less help than it currently gets. The level of desperation will increase.
What happened to JFK’s:”When the tide comes in, all the boats rise?”
309 St. Pauls Ave, Stapleton, Staten Island, NY 10304
Governor Guarantees More of Rut
NJ's Governor is on a mission to wipe out the working class and to gain as much notoriety as a republican with brass balls ( not). He wants to destroy labor unions and public employee benefits and pension plans. Though the state (starting with Republican Gov. Whitman) has pilfered the public employees pension funds in order to pay for services after they "cut taxes" ..they now want to blame the public employess for their thievery...He tells us he wants us to share in the sacrifice. Share what, exactly? For the stealing that people like Christie approved and committed? Which of the former legislators are sharing in the sacrifice for the crimes they committed? none. They are still in office or are collecting their own life long benfits. Shouldnt we raid their pensions and take back what they took from the public employee pensions?No, the public employees are easy targets since the state and local gvt is our employer.
We are asked to sacrifice salaries..take pay freezes and pay more of our salaries into a robbed pension fund. Public Employees have paid into that fund with each pay check for decades. It was not a mutual fund.It was a savings account that would have been solvent if they had not stolen money out of it. We didnt gamble our funds away.For me, it has been 30 years of payments every month. My employer paid in also for 30 years.. The legislators not only only didnt pay the state's share, as promised,they robbed the pension blind.
So now, the workers, who were underpaid all along in order to maintain benefits, are being told to sacrifice again..the workers...NOT the politicians.
They play a smooth game...But the people are the ones who get duped and made to pay. This Governor is a scam artist with high aspirations..None of those aspirations have to do with helping th people of New Jersey..and everyhting to do with making a name for himself with the Reublican party. He is the new poster boy for the party.
I graduated from college in 2009 with a degree in religious studies and the hopes of becoming a writer. Although probably not the best plan for success, I did have an internship at an online religion magazine for the last two years of my college career that I was banking on turning into a full time job. I did not anticipate that the magazine would fold (thanks, recession) and to graduate at square one. Since then I have been in and out of employment (mostly out) with stints of being paid by the hour and/or word (or not at all), and almost none of these jobs were found by answering job wanted ads. I’ve been told I’m overqualified for entry-level work and underqualified for anything else. I’ve received rejection letters that inappropriately sing my praises. I had an unpaid internship at a certain organization for a year, and was a finalist for a job there when one finally opened up, only to lose out to a relative of someone on the board. The steadiest source of income for me has been through winning trivia quizzes at local bars. I stay sane by blogging humorously about my experiences at theboomerangblog.wordpress.com.
Westchester County, NY
To Tracy and Dale
Oh, I can't tell you how I relate! Please see my entry, just posted. Any interest in talking or communicating, at least, perhaps, for some support? See also Dale's entry, and Dale, the same offer to you.
Please - where is the end to this?
I am an RN, and no, an emphatic NO, jobs are not plentiful in this area. So many hospitals have closed, others are, by their own admission or in practice, are establishing hiring freezes. Recruiters have many times told me that this is a period when they can "custom-design the RN they want," and they always have a roomful of hopefuls waiting outside. This has been almost two years and I am just cobbling together per diem work, the huge drawback being that in this country, health care insurance is an awful, panic-inducing worry. This all must be hard for others to believe, but it is true and I am desperate. I will probably have to move, but don't forget if I look at another state, I have to get a license for that state and that costs money and time and the prospective employer may not wait.I can't even begin to tell you.....
If one more person says he heard there was a nursing shortage, I'll scream. I am a 50 year old new grad RN and cannot find a hospital (the classic new grad training ground) willing to take me on. I entered the university's front door with high hopes of a sure-bet 2nd career supported by BLS stats, then left through the back door with a magna cum laude BSN and a big fat "good luck" from the nursing school (NO post-grad career support). I joined the Accelerated cohort to leave tuition hell sooner but screwed up the overall timing of applying to new grad residencies and a saturated job market. So the misconception of a nursing shortage (at least in NY/NJ) plus my lack of prospects makes me look and feel doubly undesireable. 3 months of constant search/apply = zero interviews.
233 Highwood Ave, Ridgewood, NJ
My New Normal
My husband and I are in mid-forties with 12 year old son; We live on 35% of income compared to 18 months ago; I left my job being unable to balance work and family, over-worked and over-stressed; This year my husband was laid off twice; Our savings cushion is gone; We always lived modestly, worked hard for what we have Now we live in constant uncertainty;
Middle Village NY
Not sure how hard it is to find work, but salaries are really low.
brooklyn, ny, 11211
The Score So Far
It seems that the score so far is:
. Recovery 7 votes, 14%;
. Complicated 19 votes, 37%;
. Rut 25 votes, 49%.
Regarding the "recovery" voters:
. One ackowledges having taken a pay cut.
. One acknowledges living partly off savings.
. One is training less people to teach English in China. (Maybe the Chinese don't think English is all that important anymore)?
You three people may be optomisitic and that is good. But I think the first two are more accurately in the "rut" camp and the third in the "complicated" camp, which would make the score: Recovery 8%, Complicated 39%, Rut 53%.
Note also, that two of the "Complicated" voters say that they work in the financial services industry and are aware that large parts of the general population are not sharing in the recovery.
My understanding is that the characters down in Washington DC have borrowed thousands of thousands of millions of dollars, (how much is that anyway ?); from us, our children and our grandchildren to give to that industry. So of course that industry is doing well -- for now.
I would say that large parts of the population are not just being excluded from participation in the recovery, but have actually been ejected from the total social-economic structure. For example, if a few smart people in Silicon Valley invent some i-gadget -- well that's great for them. But if they build it in China or Singapore, then what are the rest of us dopes going to do to make a living?
It's Never Easy
In 2008, I got the best teaching job I could imagine. I was thrilled- fulfilled, challenged, appreciated. All was great until the crash caused the district to slash jobs. Last one hired . . . I was lucky because,though my job was eliminated, another, part-time one was created. Everyone thought it'd be just for one year. Now, I'm in my second part-time year and more cuts and "restructuring" have been announced. It's not looking good.
Katonah, New York
Two years in, and it feels like it only gets worse. My husband's architectural practice is moribund at best and every month we question how we'll get by. I'm one of the vilified state workers of NJ, and you know how that story goes. The only bright spot is that we have our health and each other, and we have learned to make due with less. A simpler life is not nothing, and I am grateful for the bounties and the help we have received, but it would be nice not to have to preface EVERY conversation with "when we get some money," and to not have to worry as much as we do.
19 mount airy road, bernardsville, nj
My New Normal
I had the perfect storm of career bad timing, family pressures, health and emotional stress. I was a pre-recession economic drop out. Have lost absolutely everything - 401K, condos, household items, savings, friends. It has taken me five years and many helping hands to come back to being employed and to find a place to live. Each day I am faced with possible homelessness and worse. Although my spiritual self has greatly improved due to this situation, it still has been a huge emotional and physical drain on me.
481 Driveway, Oceanport, NJ 07757
Can't get to the post office
I have adopted a soldier in Afghanistan and I am committed to sending him a package each month. My family packed one up just before Thanksgiving but every time I go to the post office to send the package, it is closed. I remember not too long ago they made a big deal of being open until 7pm, but with recent cuts, they now all seem to close at 5pm. This just doesn't work for a family with two working parents. The USPS is in a vicious cycle - they lose money, so they reduce services, so they lose more money. Meanwhile, my soldier waits for his skittles...
Moment to Moment
My New Normal
In 2008 my longtime job vanished in a move of the company overseas. Hundreds of resume submissions went unacknowledged, to the point I was moved to tears of gratitude when I got at least an auto-response. Pushing 60, in an industry (publishing) that was cutting back everywhere, I knew my chances were slim, but I wasn't prepared for the deafening silence that greeted my years of experience. Exhaustion of my unemployment benefits was followed a few months later by a painful decision to declare bankruptcy – I had to borrow money from a friend to pay the lawyer and fees! Finally, one of those magical “networking” doors opened up and I started getting a little freelance work, which led to more, and still more. It’s still moment to moment, and I have to watch my pennies – which is easier when you’ve got no credit to fall back on! But forget about things like healthcare, a savings account, or other “luxuries” I used to enjoy when I had a regular, fulltime job. And (speaking of rent) “retirement” as an option simply doesn’t exist for me, especially if I want to stay in this part of the country.
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY 11209
My New Normal
I don't make as much money as I used to but I've found a steady job that I love so I'm willing to take the pay cut. I'm working on not using and paying down my credit cars and also paying on my student loans.
I think we've all come to expect a life full of "stuff" so we expect to get paid much more for work that is not as hard as we'd like to think and this is what causes jobs to go overseas. We need to have a leaner way of living.
Union St, Brookyln NY 11213
On Social Security
My New Normal
Still have to work P/T and commodity or service costs aren't stable; gas, food, services, arts/entertainment are rising tho public trans is senior discounted. My Medicare Pt.D premium went up 290%,Pt.A/B monthly premium went up in 2011 & 2011; no adjustments for inflation. Locally, parks & recs costs will be rising or events dropped. Yet, because I think I was wise in saving and spending and living an agreeable life style then and now, very important, I'm able to break even lets say, yet to have to dig into savings.
179 Sussex Ave
teaching English overseas
I train adults to teach English overseas. Been doing so for almost 2 years. My last class was the smallest so far. Maybe people don't need to go to China to find work now? Sure hope so!