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Jul 29, 2008

What jobs exist for the AVERAGE reasonably competent person over 40? Part time at SCUM (WAL)-MART? Burger flipping? Cashiering somewhere? Sales work with no guaranteed base minimum?


Yes, it is so easy to slide into poverty today. Let me share my story.


Before my divorce from my first husband, we had owned one and then another home. The second was a grand colonial, 3600 square feet on 3 floors, with a walk-up attic, central air, 2-car fieldstone garage, hot tub sunk into the back yard, a slate patio and an old iron gate around the property front and sides.


After my divorce, I lived in a spacious walkup but in a lousy part of was a great place in a terrible neighborhood. Close to my work, though.


Because I got no alimony and had myself and my son to support (joint custody), I quickly got into debt with the credit cards left over from the marriage. I was overwhelmed with money problems. To give my ex credit, he helped me out financially, although under the terms of our divorce he was not obligated to do that.


In the way things seem to go when one is already behind the eight ball, I lost my good-paying management job at a university for political reasons. I retained the services of an excellent but expensive lawyer and reached a settlement with the university – I agreed not to sue them in exchange for some cash (one-third of which went to the attorney), a pink slip and COBRA. I was 49 years old and without a job or independent income.


That money from my settlement evaporated quickly. I eventually filed for bankruptcy, although working two jobs (part time nights and every weekend at a grocery store, daytime M-F as a temp with no benefits). I had to move from my apartment because the family who owned the building needed the space for a relative and the only place I could find was smaller, uglier and twice the rent.


Rick joined me in Connecticut in 2002. The landlord, who lived downstairs, had approved his moving in, but over the next months he grew hostile, refused to make repairs and eventually we moved out, again thanks to my ex who offered us the garden apartment in his house.


We were living on the bounty of my ex but eventually saved up enough to rent our own apartment.  The rent is about what a reasonable mortgage on a small house would be, but we rob Peter to pay Paul every month so there is no way to put aside any money for any kind of a down payment. My job is thanks to my ex’s wife – who was and is also a friend - who hired me as a temp.

After 3 years I was added as a permanent employee when our department had the resources to fill the position permanently. Before that, I continued to work at the grocery store nights and weekends in order to have health insurance for myself. Rick had no insurance and was using the clinic here in Middletown for his medical care, which was billed on a sliding scale according to income. Rick got a decent job, but that evaporated after 4 months when the boss hired a friend of his at a higher salary and let the last two employees, of which Rick was one, go.


We are constantly in debt as Rick is not working. He was only able to find one-part-time job since losing the one he had. He is now 50, no longer able to work as an auto mechanic (his career for 20 years) because of his arthritis. He is unemployed and has been unable to find steady work. The best thing about my job right now is the excellent health insurance for both of us. The woman who hired me has moved on and my current boss is a psychotic bitch. Now that I am a few years away from being 60, my employment prospects are pretty dim. If I should lose my job, we would be out in the street - we are a hair's breadth from poverty and homelessness.


So yes, the middle class is sinking and soon we will be a society of haves and have-nots. There will no more "kinda-having, doing okay." The well-off will have privatized as much as they can and the hell with the rest of us.


If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. I pray it doesn't happen to YOU.


© 2008 RC deWinter

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Posted: Jul 29, 2008 10:28am
Mar 3, 2006
This story is absolutely unbelievable.., yet it happened to these people and likely others we have not heard about. It's time we took back our country...will it have to be another American Revolution with blooshed and revolt against tyranny taken to the streets, or can we do it through the ballot box???

Pay too much and you could raise the alarm

The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Walter Soehnge is a retired Texas schoolteacher who traveled north with his wife, Deana, saw summer change to fall in Rhode Island and decided this was a place to stay for a while.

So the Soehnges live in Scituate now and Walter sometimes has breakfast at the Gentleman Farmer in Scituate Village, where he has passed the test and become a regular despite an accent that is definitely not local.

And it was there, at his usual table last week, that he told me that he was "madder than a panther with kerosene on his tail."

He says things like that. Texas does leave its mark on a man.

What got him so upset might seem trivial to some people who have learned to accept small infringements on their freedom as just part of the way things are in this age of terror-fed paranoia. It's that "everything changed after 9/11" thing.

But not Walter.

"We're a product of the '60s," he said. "We believe government should be way away from us in that regard."

He was referring to the recent decision by him and his wife to be responsible, to do the kind of thing that just about anyone would say makes good, solid financial sense.

They paid down some debt. The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522.

And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable.

And all they did was pay down their debt. They didn't call a suspected terrorist on their cell phone. They didn't try to sneak a machine gun through customs.

They just paid a hefty chunk of their credit card balance. And they learned how frighteningly wide the net of suspicion has been cast.

After sending in the check, they checked online to see if their account had been duly credited. They learned that the check had arrived, but the amount available for credit on their account hadn't changed.

So Deana Soehnge called the credit-card company. Then Walter called.

"When you mess with my money, I want to know why," he said.

They both learned the same astounding piece of information about the little things that can set the threat sensors to beeping and blinking.

They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted.

Walter called television stations, the American Civil Liberties Union and me. And he went on the Internet to see what he could learn. He learned about changes in something called the Bank Privacy Act.

"The more I'm on, the scarier it gets," he said. "It's scary how easily someone in Homeland Security can get permission to spy."

Eventually, his and his wife's money was freed up. The Soehnges were apparently found not to be promoting global terrorism under the guise of paying a credit-card bill. They never did learn how a large credit card payment can pose a security threat.

But the experience has been a reminder that a small piece of privacy has been surrendered. Walter Soehnge, who says he holds solid, middle-of-the-road American beliefs, worries about rights being lost.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to others," he said.

Bob Kerr is a columnist for The Providence Journal.  

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Posted: Mar 3, 2006 9:54am


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RC deWinter
, 5
Middletown, CT, USA
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