Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Me and the Big Three

Big Three Automakers, Economy, job hunt

Actually, when we stop being totally US-centric, or even if we stay that way, it's Big 6 automakers, soon to be Big Mystery Number. But I digress.

The Now sites are asking how the "downturn" in the economy, aka big honking recession or worse, is affecting us. You can read (and weigh in) here.

The answers range from "I've lost my job and it's a disaster" to "the lower prices are great" to the one that makes those of us who are struggling cringe, "I live within my means; it's you greedy types who are having trouble." Needless to say, those are not exact quotes. But they get to the essence.

As someone who has always lived within her means, and modestly; avoided debt; worked hard; and played by the rules, I'd like to suggest -- without being scary -- that one or two shifts in the systems in which we operate that are entirely outside of your control can throw the whole structure of your life askew.

I'm really, really angry. I didn't create this situation or very much play into it. I want the people in positions of power who made the decisions that have led us here identified and punished. Publically. Dramatically. They've claimed huge rewards to pay for their decisions, and they should pay for the bad gambles and deceit, not me. I'm amazed that people aren't rioting in the streets about who's really paying the price.

But maybe not enough of us are out of work and out of prospects. Yet.

Still, today my notions are shifting about bailing out the last-week-arrogant, this-week-a bit-more-humble, lords of Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Applying the bandaid-bailout seems like a bad idea, except for the bottom line: jobs. When American people have jobs, we do okay. So save the companies to save more of the jobs and save our families and communities.

I know about all the problems with huge pension and healthcare burdens, poor decisions about the business, on and on. But sales -- and income -- for the companies are down an average of 35%. I'm living on unemployment right now, which means my income is down more than 60%. I know what that means for my household, an enterprise that was running very lean to start. That's not subjective: I visited a budget counselor who shook her head and said "The only thing you can cut is food."

Bottom line, you can't function without sufficient income to cover your fixed expenses.

Anyway, despite even greater income loss than the big boys, I have relatively greater cash reserves. Part of that's because I never spent money unless forced to. And part of that's because of a fluke. I dragged my heels on investing a small chunk of money (but big to me), and when the bottom fell out of the market I was holding cash, not stock. That's why I'm still surviving after five months of job hunting. Go figure.

So bail them out, if only to slow down the evaporation of jobs. Not just for the million auto workers and their families, but for the other people whose jobs their income supports -- pretty much all of us. Require (and enforce) major changes, but toss the money now. And hurry to create a single payer health insurance system to help control the obscene costs on that end: that's another key.

Family supporting jobs provided the financial fuel that built the auto industry, and they are still the key to keeping our economy vital.

If I find one of those jobs, I'll even buy a car (used, but that's something) to help the rest of you out. The one I have (and own) is running on STP and prayer. Come to think of it, so am I. Minus the STP, that is.

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