Have you ever laid in bed awake at night with a knot in your stomach because you didn’t know how your family was possibly going to make it through the next month financially? Have you ever felt the desperation of not being able to provide the basic necessities for your family even though you tried as hard as you could? All over America tonight, there are millions of desperate families that are being ripped apart by this economy. There aren’t nearly enough jobs, and millions of Americans that actually do have jobs aren’t making enough to even provide the basics for their families. When you have tried everything that you can think of and nothing works, it can be absolutely soul crushing. Today, one of my regular readers explained that he was not going to be online for a while because his power had been turned off. He has been out of work for quite a while, and eventually the money runs out. Have you ever been there? If you have ever experienced that moment, you know that it stays with you for the rest of your life. If you are single that is bad enough, but when you have to look into the eyes of your children and explain to them why there won’t be any dinner tonight or why they have to move into a homeless shelter it can feel like someone has driven a stake into your heart. In this article you will find a lot of very shocking economic statistics. But please remember that behind each statistic are the tragic stories of millions of desperately hurting American families.
Over the past decade, things have steadily gotten worse for American families no matter what our politicians have tried. Poverty and government dependence continue to rise. The cost of living continues to go up and incomes continue to go down. It is truly frightening to think about what this country is going to look like if current trends continue.
The following are 37 facts that show how cruel this economy has been to millions of desperate American families…
1. One recent survey discovered that 40 percent of all Americans have $500 or less in savings.
2. A different recent survey found that 28 percent of all Americans do not have a single penny saved for emergencies.
3. In the United States today, there are close to 10 million households that do not have a single bank account. That number has increased by about a million since 2009.
4. Family homelessness in the Washington D.C. region (one of the wealthiest regions in the entire country) has risen 23 percent since the last recession began.
5. The number of Americans living in poverty has increased by about 6 million over the past four years.
6. Median household income has fallen for four years in a row. Overall, it has declined by more than $4000 over the past four years.
7. 62 percent of middle class Americans say that they have had to reduce household spending over the past year.
8. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of middle class Americans say that it is more difficult to maintain a middle class standard of living today than it was 10 years ago.
9. In the United States today, 77 percent of all Americans are living to paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time.
10. In the United States today, more than 41 percent of all working age Americans are not working.
11. Since January 2009, the “labor force” in the United States has increased by 827,000, but “those not in the labor force” has increased by 8,208,000. This is how they have gotten the unemployment numbers to “come down”.
13. Today, about one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the federal poverty level.
14. Right now, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.
15. At this point, less than 25 percent of all jobs in the United States are “good jobs”, and that number continues to shrink.
16. There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.
17. According to USA Today, many Americans have actually seen their water bills triple over the past 12 years.
18. Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.
21. According to one recent survey, approximately 10 percent of all employers in the United States plan to drop health coverage when key provisions of the new health care law kick in less than two years from now.
22. Back in 1983, the bottom 95 percent of all income earners had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned. By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.
23. Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.
24. Total consumer debt in the United States has risen by 1700 percent since 1971.
25. Recently it was announced that total student loan debt in the United States has passed the one trillion dollar mark.
26. According to one recent survey, approximately one-third of all Americans are not paying their bills on time at this point.
27. Right now, approximately 25 million American adults are living at home with their parents.
28. The percentage of Americans that find that they are able to retire when they reach retirement age continues to decline. According to one new survey, 70 percent of middle class Americans plan to work during retirement and 30 percent plan to work until they are at least 80 years old.
29. The U.S. economy lost more than 220,000 small businesses during the recent recession.
30. In 2010, the number of jobs created at new businesses in the United States was less than half of what it was back in the year 2000.
32. Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.
33. In the United States today, somewhere around 100 million Americans are considered to be either “poor” or “near poor”.
34. In October 2008, 30.8 million Americans were on food stamps. Today, 46.7 million Americans are on food stamps.
35. Approximately one-fourth of all children in the United States are enrolled in the food stamp program.
36. Right now, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government. And that does not even count Social Security or Medicare.
37. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives financial assistance from the federal government. Back in 1983, that number was less than 30 percent.
What makes all of this even more frightening is that many homeless shelters and food banks around the nation are so overloaded at this point that they are already over capacity. Just consider this example…
When Janice Coe, a homeless advocate in Loudoun County, learned through her prayer group that a young woman was sleeping in the New Carrollton Metro station with a toddler and a 2-month-old, she sprang into action.
Coe contacted the young woman and arranged for her to take the train to Virginia, where she put the little family up in a Comfort Suites hotel. Then Coe began calling shelters to see who could take them.
Despite several phone calls, she came up empty. Coe was shocked to learn that many of the local shelters that cater to families were full, including Good Shepherd Alliance, where Coe was once director of social services.
“I don’t know why nobody will take this girl in,” Coe said. “The baby still had a hospital bracelet on her wrist.”
Keep in mind that Loudoun Country is smack dab in the middle of one of the wealthiest areas of Virginia.
So if things are that bad in the wealthy areas, exactly how bad are things getting in many of the poorer areas?
Unfortunately, things continue to get worse for this economy. DuPont has just announced plans to eliminate 1,500 jobs. There are more major layoff announcements almost every single day. So how bad will things get when our crumbling economic system finally collapses? When kind of chaos will be unleashed all over the nation when millions upon millions of Americans finally lose all hope?
In the introduction to this article, I mentioned that one of my regular readers has had his lights turned off. The following is how he described his situation…
No gas, no water, no electricity at my house. Couldn’t pay the bills. I’m broke. Desperately searching for any means of income, or at least enough cash to get the juice (electricity) restored.
Typing this missive in a dark house using the battery on my laptop. Feels like I’m camping out at home. Hope to get this situation fixed tomorrow… somehow. Needless to say, I *…. hate this.
I was ready for this, but it is still a major league inconvenience. For those of you who DO have power, etc. – and are not ready… oh brother. You need to get ready. Seriously, you do. Because what I’m going through is just an inconvenience. It may someday be a normal occurence. Ugh. (expletives deleted)
Hopefully a way can be found to get his situation turned around, but the truth is that there are tens of millions of other similar stories out there in America today.
What about you? What are things like in your neck of the woods? Please feel free to share your thoughts below…
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Desperate Greeks flee to the countryside to escape crisis
Deepa Babington and Lefteris Papadimas, Reuters Jun 8, 2012
KONITSA, Greece – Thirteen years after abandoning rural Greece for a career in graphic design, Spiridoula Lakka finds herself in the last place she expected to end up — watering a patch of lettuce and herbs in her sleepy village.
As Greece sank into its worst economic crisis since the Second World War, Lakka had already given up her dream of becoming a web designer. Even waitressing seemed impossible. She faced a simple choice: be stranded without money in Athens, or return to the geriatric village where she grew up plotting to escape.
‘Those who have returned are desperate. They aren’t coming back because they wanted to’
At age 32, Lakka, an office clerk who also juggled odd jobs, joined a growing number of Greeks returning to the countryside in the hope of living off the land. It’s a reversal of the journey their parents and grandparents made in the 1960s and ’70s.
Data is scarce on how many people have made the trek, but as people angered by austerity head to the polls on June 17, anecdotal evidence and interviews with officials suggest the trend is gaining momentum. In a survey of nearly 1,300 Greeks by Kapa Research in March, over 68% said they had considered moving to the countryside, with most citing cheaper and higher quality life. Most expected to move permanently.
“A year ago, I couldn’t imagine myself holding a garden hoe, or doing any farming,” said Lakka, as she watered the herbs she grows in the village of Konitsa, which nestles among snow-capped peaks near the Albanian border.
“I’ve always wanted to leave the village. I never imagined I would actually spend my whole life here.”
Her experience has been far from idyllic. The arrival of young, city-dwelling Greeks is being watched with a mix of pity and hope by those who never left.
“Those who have returned are desperate. They aren’t coming back because they wanted to,” said Stefanou Vaggelis, a 50-year-old distillery owner as he threw back tsipouro — a strong spirit favored by locals — with friends in the village centre dotted with taverns.
This summer, judging from the queries he has received from city-dwellers on vacation, Vaggelis predicts as many as 60 people will move to Konitsa, where over half of the population of about 3,000 is aged 60 or over.
“They usually ask whether there are state subsidies for agriculture and for growing pomegranates, snails and aromatic herbs,” he said, recounting how a 40-year-old acquaintance had returned to tend sheep in the hills. Greece’s farmers mostly run small operations and rely on EU subsidies to survive. They complain that over the past five years subsidies have halved.
In the northern city of Thessaloniki, a school for farmers says applications for its high school program have tripled this year. Cheese-making and bee-keeping have also filled quickly at the American Farm School, founded in 1904 by an American missionary who was keen to teach practical skills. Its courses run from pre-school to adult level.
"In Athens, I worked many jobs I didn’t like but I had to compromise," said Lakka. "In the village, you have your own home and you can grow vegetables to eat."
“There is tremendous interest,” said Panos Kanellis, the school’s president. The trend, he said, is driven by both the crisis and a desire among many Greeks for a quality of life that’s impossible to find in the city.
Greek families have traditionally owned houses or plots of land in their native villages, often devoted to fragrant olive, lemon and orange groves or a mix of vibrant greens and tomatoes.
For those returning, rural life promises rent-free housing, backyard produce to fill dinner plates and support from a network of relatives and friends. The Kapa survey showed most people planned to count on family and friends to help.
“In Athens, I worked many jobs I didn’t like but I had to compromise,” said Lakka. “In the village, you have your own home and you can grow vegetables to eat.”
Five decades ago, one in two Greeks was employed in farming. The Pan-Hellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives, a farmers’ union, says employment steadily shrank in the early 2000s, but agriculture added 38,000 jobs between 2008 and 2010 as Greece slid into a recession that is now in its fifth year.
It lost jobs again in 2011 when the banking crisis squeezed lending to farmers, but people have continued to return to villages, said the union’s general manager Ioannis Tsiforos.
“We have a number of people, most of them middle-aged, entering the farming business,” he said: the trend is especially visible in Crete and the Dodecanese islands in the east.
NO PLACE TO DREAM
Until recently, the Greek countryside was largely a place young people escaped from. The lure of city jobs spurred a wave of migration to urban centres after the Second World War. In the three decades to 1981, Athens’ population more than doubled to more than 3 million people.
Today, the Greek capital is still home to about 4 million of Greece’s 11 million population, but it is no longer a magnet for the young and ambitious. At 22%, unemployment in Athens hovers just above the national average. Homeless people line the streets, the poor scavenge through bins for scrap. “For Rent” signs hang across shuttered shop windows.
Crime has surged, turning pockets of Athens into virtual no-go zones at night.
All this came as a shock to Lakka. Like almost everyone else in Konitsa, she grew up convinced the move to the big city was a rite of passage. She studied design in Thessaloniki and moved to the capital at 22. A graphic design job proved difficult to find, so she took up odd jobs. Her big break came with a temporary contract as an office clerk with a state social security fund, which she hoped would eventually turn permanent.
The pay was a paltry 640 euros (US$800) per month, so Lakka did waitressing and office work on the side.
Then the debt crisis hit, forcing Greece to take a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Lakka struggled to find extra work. Panic set in.
The final straw came last June, when she learned there was no money to renew her contract.
“At that moment I said to myself: ‘That’s it. There is no way I’m going to start begging my friends again for a new job,” she said. “I decided to return to my village.”
INSULTS AND GOSSIP
Up a wild cherry- and maple tree-lined road from Lakka’s family business — a petrol station and cafe — Konitsa’s deputy mayor Nikos Karras smiles as he ponders the unexpected homecoming of village youth. About 10 people returned last year, and the area is gearing up for many more, he says.
“It is important for the region that young people come back because until now we’ve been living through the opposite: everyone left and the only people who stayed back were the elderly,” says the 41-year-old.
“When someone loses their job in a city and has no hope of finding another, they come here as a last resort. We will be the last to starve because when you have a field or a garden, you can produce food for yourself and make sure you survive.”
But adjusting to life in the village is not easy.
Hoping to put her city skills to use, Lakka tried to transform the petrol station cafe.
Spiridoula Lakka poses in front of her parents’ cafe-restaurant.
With a fading Coca-Cola sign outside and a fog of cigarette smoke hanging over wooden tables inside, the cafe offered its elderly clientele basic fare of tsipouro, coffee and sandwiches.
Lakka had other ideas. Her eyes lit up as she recounted her plans from a corner table in the cafe, her mother by her side. She wanted to allow local hunters to cook their catch on the restaurant grill; she would spice up the menu with goat stews, tripe, casseroles and pasta dishes.
“My dream was to change the shop completely,” she said.
But the tight-knit village community had other thoughts. A rival cafe owner said he hoped Lakka would shut shop and go back to Athens; others snickered behind her back.
“One woman said ‘The girl from Athens has come to change our ways, but she has to adapt to us, not the other way round,’” Lakka said.
“These things upset me. I just can’t get used to it,” she said. “They don’t say it directly to me, but to people they know will pass it on to me.”
As a single woman with no plans to marry, Lakka was also an anomaly in a deeply traditional place. “There is a lot of pressure to get married and have children, even from my own parents.”
She used to wear short skirts and bare midriff tops. She has replaced them with loose jeans.
“There is no privacy here in the village. You feel like everyone is judging and trying to control you, and there is gossip,” she said. “It’s a closed society.”
Instead, she turned to cultivating herbs. The craggy mountains encircling her village are home to more than 2,000 varieties. She also tends to a row of beehives on a dirt track near the cafe. Lakka says she hopes she can one day sell her bunches of sage, nettle and peppermint at a roadside kiosk.
There is no certainty of a happy ending. What she does know is that Athens did not leave her much choice.
“I still have second thoughts, though from what I hear from friends in Athens, I’ve made the right choice,” she said.
“Things have become too difficult there and they also want to leave.”
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Jun 09, 2012 8:52 am
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Argentine Farming emergency committee meets this week to address extreme drought
The Argentine Agriculture Ministry has summoned the Committee on Farming Emergency and anticipated it would engage in “surgical work” in order to reach “all areas of the farming sector” suffering from extreme drought.
Agriculture minister Norberto Yahuar ordered Institutional Affairs secretary Haroldo Lebed to summon the Committee for a meeting next Thursday, in order to carefully analyze every situation, since drought affects every region of Argentina in a different way.
“Our goal is to keep working after our first meeting in order to evaluate which are the best mechanisms that can be put in place right now. We will engage in surgical work and reach all the affected areas and farmers that need it the most” explained Yahuar.
“We’re facing a drought with anomalies. There’s been some heavy rain in some places, and no rain at all in others, according to INTA (National Institute for Farming Technology) reports. This means we have to work fast in order to help whoever needs it the most” Yahuar added.
The Ministry of Agriculture will be working along with the INTA in order to visit the areas affected by drought and asses the situation. “We must work together with tangible policies that support farmers,” the minister.
However a farming group has warned that the dry weather hurting soybean and corn crops in Argentina may cause more damage than the 2008-2009 drought that was the worst in 70 years.
The current spell of hot, dry weather covers more area and started earlier in the season than the previous drought, the Argentine Association of Regional Consortia for Agricultural Experimentation said in an e-mailed statement today.
That contradicts the INTA reports which are basically “optimistic” the weather situation will improve. While precipitation levels in December were “way below average,” the drought can “in no way be compared to what happened in 2008,” Carlos Casamiquela, the institute’s head, said in an e-mailed statement.
Corn and soybean crops are suffering after weeks of low rainfall in Argentina and southern Brazil because of the La Niña weather pattern. Argentina’s soybean output plunged by almost a third to 32 million tons in the 2008-2009 season from 46.2 million tons a year earlier.
Farmers were forecast to produce about 53 million tons of soybeans this season, then-Agriculture Minister Julian Dominguez said Nov. 29.
The situation is “critical” for corn in parts of Buenos Aires because of the lack of rain and lack of soil moisture, the Agriculture Ministry said in its last weekly crop report.
The corn crop is 88% planted, soybeans are 89% planted and wheat is 91% harvested, according to the report.
“The situation could improve slightly if there is significant rainfall over the next few days,” the ministry said, “though the probability of that phenomenon happening is low or none”.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:06 am
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