I'm going to toss politics aside for this post, and focus more on the average citizen.
As I'm sure is the case for many of you, discussion about economic hardships has been a major topic of conversation with most of the people I know. Given my base of friends, I'm fortunate in that I have friends from all ages and walks of life. My friends range in age from 16 to 74. Their careers range from student to burger flipper to IT professional to lawyers and doctors to CEO. Income levels among my friends range from less than $15,000/year up to well over $200,000/year. Times seem to be tough for all of them. I have a few stories that have stuck in my mind.
From a co-worker: Cash is tough right now. You know that I have my own business in addition to working here. Even with both incomes, I'm having trouble. The cost of gas, food... (opening his paycheck) Damn! $640 in federal taxes! That's more than most people's paychecks! They're raping me. You know, last week, I was just trying to get caught up on my bills, one check bounced. My bank charged me multiple times for overdrafts. When all was said and done, between covering overdrafts and fees, I paid them $400! I'm completely broke - even with this check. It's barely enough to cover food and bills.
From a friend: I think I'm going to have to quit my job. I can't afford the gas to get there. I need to find something I can walk to. I can't feed my kid after I buy gas to get to work. I've already canceled my cable and internet. I still can't make ends meet.
From my father: I own my own company. (he's a small business owner, with a good income) Do you know how much I pay for health insurance for myself and your step-mother? Over $20,000 a year! Between that, two investment properties I can't sell, and my own double mortgage, It's getting tough to afford anything extra. Do you realize I've had to remortgage my house twice in the past year? I just got it paid off! I need a new car, but I can't afford it with as expensive as everything else has become.
From another friend of mine - he's a lawyer in NYC: We had to move to the Bronx because we simply can't afford Manhattan anymore. At least I don't have to own a car. You think you have it bad here, try living in New York in this economy.
It's tough across the board for everyone. I'm sure everyone reading this has heard a story like one of these, and many probably have their own story like this.
My one political comment on this post: Whoever you vote for, make damn sure that it's a candidate that will care about the average person - and every average person.