The Face of Poverty in Obama’s America

CAN THE AMERICAN DREAM SURVIVE?

by Sharon Rondeau

Painting by Dorothea Lange entitled "Migrant Mother," depicting mother of seven Florence Owens Thompson of California in 1936

(Oct. 16, 2011) — Almost two years ago, The Post & Email had received a personal story regarding the impact of the real estate collapse on her family.  She and her husband had been involved in apartment rentals and had managed all of their property themselves.

As early as February 2009, some analysts were labeling the economic downturn a depression rather than a recession, including Paul Krugman of The New York Times.   The fall of the stock market during that year prompted others to agree.  Advice was offered on how to survive an economic “slump,” including stocking up on storable food products, maintaining one’s physical and emotional health to weather the storm, placing funds into passive income-producing vehicles, and repaying debt quickly.  Others attempted to sell their products and advice to those entrepreneurs wishing to prepare for a downturn and advocated revamping current business plans to cut expenses.

But what happens when a business disintegrates completely in a short period of time?  What happens if those involved are not able to work traditional jobs for various reasons?  If all income disappears, what becomes of those people?  What became of them in the Great Depression of the 1930s?

Many Americans can no longer make their mortgage payments, and some have been defrauded by dishonest lenders and brokers.  Some transgressors have gone to prison or will face prison time if convicted.  Others are suffering from both the poor economy and natural disasters such as hurricanes and subsequent flooding.

The Post & Email is aware of the pain being endured by many of its readers who are unemployed, underemployed, disabled or who have lost businesses during the economic meltdown beginning in 2008.  Many of our unemployed readers possess advanced degrees with notable résumés.  Since October 6, protesters have vented their anger at “Wall Street” and the “brutal failure of government” leading to high unemployment, the demise of the middle class, and “economic collapse.”

After millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes and businesses, one report states that the economy is now improving, while another suggests simply that “the U.S. economy is not falling back into recession.”

The following is an update from the guest writer referenced above.

Since my husband and I married in 1988, we have always renovated houses.  As I noted in my previous story, we had also refurbished apartment buildings which provided us with the income to work on each home as we lived in it as it appreciated in value.  Because all three of us are disabled in some way, we are not able to work a traditional 9:00-5:00 p.m. job.  The apartments provided the necessary income for us to repair residential properties a little at a time until they were finished, when at that point we would begin looking for the next project and place our current home on the market to realize the return on our investment, sacrifice and hard work.  We didn’t mind the inconvenience of working on a home while we occupied it.

During the last 23 years, we have lived in almost every kind of home imaginable due to our business which was born from a love of acquiring something old and discarded and giving it new life.  We have lived in a Victorian, a ranch, a bungalow on the lake, a Cape Cod, and a contemporary solar home built from the ground up.  We even lived in a motor home initially while repairing our last home, which was an old, abandoned farmhouse colonial.

We didn’t live in everything we bought; some were “flips,” bought at very low prices because of the work involved and sold at a modest profit.  Altogether, we have refurbished 19 properties throughout our state, including two condos and two pieces of land which we improved.  On average, we moved every five years when the market was right.

Following the 2009 collapse of our business, we sold one building at a great loss while turning the other two back to the bank, which had been all too willing to repossess them after only two missed payments.  We proceeded into bankruptcy with everything ultimately being discharged.  It was much quicker than I had expected, and I bore no shame.  We had been honest brokers, maintained our properties and fulfilled our obligations to our tenants.   However, our newly-found status left our own house, the farmhouse colonial, in limbo.

It was situated at the bottom of a hill on a busy state road.  Back in 2005, I had thought that my husband was crazy to have even looked at it because it needed so much work, much more than anything we had ever bought previously.   Seven months of work transpired before we moved to the address, and even then, we had to live in a motor home until the house was more amenable to human occupation.

In the early days, there was a convoluted string of lights which my husband had assembled, and only one switch worked to turn on all of the others.  Once on in the early morning hours, it felt almost eerie to see the 1750-vintage windows, buckled flooring, ceilings and floors with way too many layers, and the insulation hanging out of the walls.

But we were to fix all of those things.  By the time we moved in, the sunroom, which had collapsed years ago from neglect, had been rebuilt with huge new sliding windows, the largest I’d ever seen, and a source of warmth on cool spring and fall days when the sun shone its brightest but the air was crisp.  At those times, we used to open the 1750-vintage door with the old-fashioned latch and let in the built-up warmth to the main part of the house for the evening hours.  The sunroom overlooked a vast overgrowth of wild grapevines and roses, and to the west was a spare lot with pear and apple trees growing wild, without cultivation.  Last fall I found enough of the pears on the ground to steam and can them with some fresh cinnamon, which made a wonderful snack on a cold winter evening.

Over a period of six years, we replaced all of the flooring, ceilings and windows on the main floor as well as the windows on the upper floor, which was deceivingly small from outside but contained four bedrooms and the potential for a full bath which had been present at one time.  There were also two “cubby-hole” rooms where perhaps servants had slept.  We discovered that the house had belonged to a wealthy family after someone stopped in unexpectedly to give us some photos found in his attic.  The pictures showed a well-dressed family with four or five children during the 1920s in a beautiful Phaeton-like car with whitewall tires.  We were told that the town banker had lived there, so perhaps that was he with his family.  Another photo showed the family against a rock wall which has long been gone, but in the background is the gazebo, now collapsed from the weight of last winter’s unusually heavy snow.  Yet a third photo showed the house before the front porch or upper floor had been added with some children holding an old American flag with many fewer than 50 stars.  The girls had big bows in their hair, and the women had long dark dresses and wore their hair in a bun.

The red barn was an old New England structure like thousands dotting the landscape of the region, many of which have been restored or modernized.  Some farmhouses were converted to popular “Bed and Breakfasts” (B&Bs) but have gone fallow due to the poor economy.

Our barn had once housed horses, and we found some rusty horseshoes both inside and outside around the property.  I had wondered at the time if finding those horseshoes meant good luck.  The outlines of the stalls were still there, but we never did find out when horses had last been quartered within.  The barn was in need of serious repair to prevent its collapse, but of course, the house came first.

A new, state-of-the-art furnace went in which kept us snug in the winter and later, provided central air conditioning in the summer.  Three years ago, we added a wood stove which drastically reduced our heating costs and blended in exceptionally well with our woodsy setting.  A new well had been drilled before we had moved in, and a double filtering system made it the best drinking water anywhere.  The hot water heater was replaced, and the illegal outside drain which the last owner had been using disappeared, to be replaced by a brand-new kitchen with custom-made countertops and eating area.  I had picked out the countertop design myself at a time when my husband and I found ourselves talking about retiring there rather than selling the house and moving on, as we normally did.

We removed the old servants’ stairway in what was once the workshop, closing it off, and that became the kitchen.  It was a long “ell,” or addition to the main house, and had once been connected to the barn before a fire severed it sometime in the 1960s, from what people had told us.  We removed two old sliding barn doors which were eaten away at the bottom from moisture, having been stuck in the ground for perhaps many years, and replaced them with a regular door and new windows. We put in a beautiful sliding glass door to the rear of the property which later became a spacious deck leading down to the back yard and garden.

Altogether, we had 2.3 acres which abutted the state forest where a stream could be heard gurgling, especially during the spring thaw.  There were deer and an annoying woodchuck which came to visit, and on occasion, wild turkeys would strut through the grass.  One summer there were six rabbits, and once, when using the lawn mower, my husband inadvertently disturbed an entire nest of baby rabbits who bounded away, trembling with fear, one to the front corner of the house. They were so tiny and helpless and had had their nest just underneath one of the bushes on the front lawn.

Our old farmhouse from a side-rear view, summer 2011. Seeing this photo has brought fresh tears.

The house was in such a lovely, private place, yet close to time-saving conveniences.  Every spring, peonies of a bright magenta hue would rise up from the once-cold ground to open their flowers and welcome warmer weather.  There were three trees which stood like sentinels in a row which grew lush and green and provided lovely shade during the summer (pictured left).

A relative gave us a lovely rose bush which we planted in the front near the road.  At first it faltered, then flourished, blooming each spring and again in the fall.  Last weekend, it was again bearing flowers for most likely the final time this year.

The house was almost 2,000 square feet on the first floor alone.  There we removed some walls, enjoining the rooms to each other to create an airy, spacious feeling, as we had done in our last home.  We put in two full but compact bathrooms with grab bars and new fixtures.  Closets were built, and the washer and dryer were placed in a central location which would one day have a folding door to discreetly conceal them.  I didn’t care that the sheetrock wasn’t covered; it was fast becoming a place that had everything we needed.

When we had first moved in, the back yard was nothing but a trash heap full of scrap metal, old bottles and cans, outdated farm machinery, a discarded hot water heater, rolls of insulation, and every type of nail and color of glass you could imagine.  My husband used his backhoe, now long ago sold off, to clear the yard with the vision that someday there would be green grass in place of the debris.  After the refuse was cleared, the three of us spent that summer picking up rocks and stones in preparation for grass seeding.

I hadn’t believed the grass would take root, but it did, and it became one of the most beautiful lawns I have ever seen, which is saying quite a lot since I am allergic to grass.  It grew in thick and very green, rendering it almost impossible to recall the ugly refuse pile which had been there not long before.   In 2007, my husband built a deck which led gracefully down to the yard and the raspberry and blueberry bushes we planted.

During the summer of 2008, when things were still going well, my husband and I painted the entire exterior of the house ourselves despite our injuries and his mild heart attack in May of that year.  With the new windows, new roof, and a brand-new look, the old farmhouse was starting to take on new life following its many years of sad neglect.  I painted the sides of all of the dormers sitting at an odd, precarious angle, and once when working alone, a caulking gun fell on my head, necessitating a trip to the emergency room and several stitches.

When we would be out working in front, residents of the town would drive up the road and wave, honking their horns and cheering, because the house had been the town eyesore for a very long time.  Everyone was glad that “that house” had finally found owners who deemed it worthy of repair and were willing to do the work.  Suddenly the clerks at the town hall knew who we were and commended us on our progress.  However, five years after our work had begun, we were rewarded with property taxes which had quadrupled based on the building permits we had obtained.

Once when he was cleaning out a room in the attic, my husband found a loose board.  Like an old adventure story, it looked as if the board were loose for a reason, and, sure enough, he found that it was removed from its place rather easily.  Calling me upstairs breathlessly, thinking that perhaps we had found some type of rare treasure, he reached down and pulled out something which, to our dismay, turned out to be only an old can of drab yellow dry paint.  Why it had been buried below the floorboard will forever remain a mystery.

Up until that time, we had found a couple of coins from the early 1900s and some vintage clothing which we had sold to some eager area antique dealers, but the legend which claimed that a bag of Morgan silver dollars had been buried on the property had not come to fruition.

The Syringa, or lilac bush, is a member of the olive family which can grow over 30 feet tall with fragrant blossoms

The longer we stayed, the more I loved the house with its now-open floor plan, new doors and soundproof windows, and the prettiest lilacs in town for which people would stop and pay us to be able to cut a few branches in the spring.  There were three shades of them:  light purple, or lavender; a dark purple, and white.  We talked about putting a pool in the back and planted a wonderful vegetable garden which gave us a bumper crop of tomatoes, corn, and beans in the summer of 2010.  Although the house had two floors plus the basement, we used it as a ranch, like our last home, which made everything easy for these rapidly-approaching-arthritic New England knees.

In 2009, as the economic situation became worse and after we lost our apartment business, we were forced to evaluate whether or not we could afford to keep the house.  With the attic, main floor and full basement, it had so much wonderful, open space craved by a claustrophobic like me.  The room with the formerly buckled flooring became an office, and with the huge lilac bushes just outside, a place to escape from the rigors of the world for a little while.  It also became home to my cyclamen plant which still blooms today, although now in a different place.  This past spring, a robin built her next there, and we watched the tiny new birds hatch, crow noisily for food frequently each day, and then one day they were gone.

Last winter, a cardinal began visiting us in the strangest way:  he would throw himself up against the window over and over again as if trying to get in or perhaps seeing his reflection as another bird of the opposite gender.  My son began calling him “That crazy cardinal,” and we all wondered when the poor bird would stop castigating himself for some unknown transgression.  He kept it up for months and months, and then suddenly he was gone.  We have not seen him since.

Early this year, we were still somehow able to make the payments, and the peak season for my business was yet to come, so we made plans to stay and repair the barn.  My husband had an opportunity for some part-time work which looked hopeful but ultimately fell through.

Our mortgage was small as mortgages go, actually only a home equity loan.  But as time went on and our income continued to diminish, we began to struggle.  Rather than flourishing, my home business just about dried up.  I desperately sought some type of work, applying for every position I saw in my field, despite my ten years out of the workforce due to a rear-end car accident and permanent injury.  Over the summer of 2011, I finally lost all my personal income, and my husband was collecting Social Security.  There were no apartments to rent or fix, no buildings to sell.  Notes which had been due to us were paid off, and the cost of our health insurance nearly doubled.  While we trekked outside to the wood pile every day of the winter to keep heating costs down, other expenses such as gasoline and insurance increased sharply. The cost of food seemed to go right through the new roof we had put on in 2006.  And taxes continued to rise.

We stopped buying clothing, and the towels I was using were almost reduced to rags.  In fact, I had boxes full of clothing which had been reduced to rags.  Much of my clothing had holes in it, and nothing was replaced. Every penny was counted.  There simply wasn’t any money, while three years before, such a turn of events would have been unimaginable.  When a relative came to visit unexpectedly, she told us, “Your towels are in tatters,” and promptly brought out a gorgeous set of plush towels, the feel of which I had forgotten as we made our descent from entrepreneurship into severe hardship.

We decided to sell off as many personal possessions as possible to raise whatever money we could, contact the bank which held the mortgage on the property and offer a settlement.  The offer wasn’t nearly what we owed, but we felt it was fair  given that the house was as yet unfinished and would be difficult for them to sell.  Sheetrock now covered layers of new insulation; ceilings and floors were roughed-in but not painted nor topped with tile; the house had been painted but it was beginning to peel from the horrible winter of 2010-2011.  The barn would cost $5,000 to repair, and the attic had never been improved except for new windows, so another $30,000 would be needed to complete the enormous task we had started.  However, the possibility existed of making the upstairs into an income-producing apartment without a fight from the town due to the zoning, and we could rent out the barn spaces if its structure could be repaired.  I thought if we could hold on to the house, we could protect our enormous monetary outlay while remaining on a property that I had grown to love.

I have never been emotional about any of the houses we owned and sold, never reticent to move on to the next project.  In fact, my husband and I enjoyed change and working on different types of buildings.  While he was the craftsman and very well-respected in his field, I found it exciting to look at possibilities and then take on whatever became our next mission, helping where I could.  However, with the farmhouse it was different; to me, it seemed so very vulnerable to falling into the state of disrepair which had been its sad history.  I kept thinking of how decrepit it had looked in the real estate photo we had first seen on the internet and how quickly that could again become a reality if it were left in its unfinished state, a victim to the harsh New England elements.

We sold my husband’s truck, motorcycle, backhoe, and the motor home; several cherished possessions, and some extraneous ones.  We made what we thought was a fair offer to the bank given the unfinished state and significantly reduced value given the collapse of the housing market.

However, the bank did not even respond to our written offer accompanied by proof of funds, but rather, gave us an offhanded verbal rejection a month or so later when pressed for an answer.  Nothing was ever put in writing, which seemed strange to us.  My heart sank when we got the news, as I had really wanted to stay and at least take care of the property, even if we were not able to finish it.  I loved the smell of the wood stove in the winter and the wild roses which bloomed in the summer.  Broken as it was from the snow and ice, I still imagined the small gazebo rebuilt, painted, and beckoning to us to come and sit there on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

But it was not to be.  A much-touted mortgage modification would not work for us.  My home-based business sputtered to a halt, after which we had very little monthly income and could afford no mortgage payment at all.  Besides, we had applied and been declined without a reason 18 months earlier when our financial situation had actually been much better.

We knew that we had to move on with our lives, and my husband began looking for a house that we could own and which would produce some income to stop the financial bleeding.  At first, we found a property just three miles up the road.  It would have met all of our needs, with a tenant’s apartment on one side.  However, after spending $475, we found out that the title was not clear and the real estate company had no right to sell the building.  It was a Fannie Mae property.  According to our attorney, it wouldn’t have been a good risk to wait for the title to be cleared, so my husband began looking at properties some distance away in our limited price range.  The house still bears a “For Sale” sign, presumably because the title is still not clear. Our deposit was not returned to us until I threatened the broker with criminal charges for holding money on a property which she knew could not be sold.

In May he found a place which fit our criteria in a town some 25 miles away.  It was another very old building, sorely neglected, but “liveable,” by all accounts.  A couple had occupied the owner’s apartment for the last 27 years, which gave credence to my husband’s initial belief that not much work was needed.  However, the tenant’s apartment was smaller and in need of much work.  At the beginning of the summer, we purchased it with no bank involvement, and my husband began to acquire the peace of mind he needed to proceed with a new purpose.

My garden in mid-summer 2011, before the squash inexplicably died. Other gardeners reported the same trouble this past season.

Thinking that he would find some surprises, I planted my garden as I did every year and enjoyed barbecuing on the deck he had built, planning to move after the harvest.  I knew he would need time to make repairs and wanted to enjoy the summer at my farmhouse one more time.  Everything had been laid out efficiently to make life easy for us.  I noticed that already the house needed repainting, at least in some spots, as the tremendous amount of snow and gigantic icicles from the winter had peeled it right off.  I planted tomatoes, string beans, basil, squash, and corn and green peppers.  Sadly, my squash died early in the summer from some unknown malady, and the corn yielded very little, although what it gave us was wonderful and fresh.  Like the squash, the beans did poorly but rallied at the end of the summer.

The green peppers, though, were the best I’d ever grown, rivaling their store-bought counterparts, and just last week, my garden gave me my final handful of yellow and green beans and several small peppers despite the lateness of the season.

Leaves of the sugar maple, or Acer Pseudoplatanus

There was a gigantic sugar maple located at the back of the property which was majestic regardless of the time of year:  in winter, it was cloaked in snow which balanced delicately on its ancient branches; in the spring, the green buds would burst open, heralding the return of new life and hope to a frozen land; in summer, its deep green leaves would wave and blow when a seasonal storm would pass through; and in fall…oh, in the fall, its leaves would seemingly turn to pure gold as they shimmered in the bright autumn sun.  That was the most glorious time of all.

I steeled myself to enjoy the summer and not think about the autumn when we would be moving.  Transporting an occasional carload of things to the “new” property was simply a pleasant drive in the country, nothing threatening to my sense of well-being or equilibrium.  I knew we had to move, to leave the home I loved, but I didn’t have to do it yet.

My husband went to work right away on the outside of the new building, securing the shed, which threatened to cave in; having a survey done; meeting the neighbors, one of whom was the farmer in the back; and beginning the repairs to the tenant’s apartment.  We placed an advertisement in the local newspaper in both print and online but initially had no takers.  Then we got an unexpected surprise from the insurance company:  although we had satisfied all of their requests regarding lead paint, smoke detectors and the like, they canceled the policy because the building was “unoccupied.”  There had been a mandatory time period for occupation of the building of which we had been unaware, and now, without a tenant, it became necessary for us to move in order to prevent a recurrence. The deadline was October 8, and because a tenant had proven hard to find, we had to plan to be there ourselves.

Another unexpected twist came when in mid-September, a prospective tenant returned and committed to taking the smaller apartment on October 1.  That meant that we could have had more time to move, or did it?  The policy premium had been based on the building being “owner-occupied,” and having been canceled once, we couldn’t take any more chances.  So we went ahead with our plans to move in the weekend of October 8, one week after the tenant.

After our settlement offer was rejected in March, we had offered Wells Fargo a deed in lieu of foreclosure which was ignored, similar to the settlement offer.  In September they hired an attorney to initiate foreclosure, which made no sense.  When I notified the attorney that foreclosure wasn’t necessary, the paralegal on the other end of the phone didn’t know what to say.  Having communicated our October 8 move-out date to Wells Fargo both in writing and verbally, the “home preservation specialist” promised to schedule an appraisal before that time.  However, we were never contacted by anyone, nor have we heard anything since.

My husband and a helper had to turn all of their attention to the tenant’s apartment in order to have it ready.  It had needed updating, remodeling and painting, and they worked right up to October 1.  A few finishing touches were completed after that date, but the tenant and her daughter moved in, and all was well.

Our sugar maple did not turn to gold this year, but rather, the leaves changed from green to a dull yellow and then dried up.  The fall colors were not nearly as vibrant as usual for this region, most likely because of the vast amount of rain which fell from late August through the first week of October, beginning with Hurricane Irene.  Unlike other years, we didn’t see one bunny rabbit hopping around the yard, and the deer seemed to have found somewhere else to seek sustenance.

Because of the time constraints, my husband was not able to return to fixing the apartment which would be ours in time to make it functional.  However, on schedule, we moved the weekend of October 8 into a unit without running water, shower, kitchen, washing machine, counter space, table or other amenities.  The shock of going from a house which was unfinished but functional to no more than a hovel was unfathomable, but we did it.  We were not able to unpack because there was nowhere to put anything.  Simple things such as brushing one’s teeth or locating a fork became arduous chores.  We lived for five days with appliances crammed up against each other in what was to be the dining room and slept on couches downstairs amid boxes of dishes, personal items and my husband’s tools.  A circular saw and various toolboxes filled the area which was to become, unbelievably, our dining room.  Wood shavings were everywhere, and chipmunks persisted in trying to enter the house through the broken, unsafe stone steps which were somewhat attached to the deteriorating porch leading out to the decrepit shed, which was also full of tools.

Our new scenery was a 20 x 20 debris pile on the left side of our apartment and an overgrown flower garden with some ever-bearing strawberries still blooming, catching the last warmth of the sun before winter.  An overgrown field of weeds stretched in back of the house which would one day become home to my garden if all went well.  Looking beyond the debris, one could see the spare side lot, a reminder of the old farmhouse with its extra lot, perhaps bearing the promise of an agricultural endeavor some day.  There were no pear or apple trees, but perhaps, some day…

After four days, I found that I could not hold back the tears any longer.  On a trip to the bank to file a change of address, I burst into tears in front of the teller, crying uncontrollably from the pit of my stomach.  I cried for the old farmhouse which had so much potential, was almost finished and which the bank cared nothing about.  I cried for the gazebo and barn which would never be fixed and the waste of a beautiful property which had blossomed under our stewardship.  I cried for the tens of thousands of dollars which we had lost in this one building alone, and the half-million-dollar retirement package we had worked so hard to create for ourselves and lost due to the most horrendous financial collapse since 1929.  We have no pensions to claim at retirement age, which my husband has already reached.  To me, the collapse was engineered by a commandeering and meddling Congress not envisioned by the Founding Fathers as well as complicit bankers looking for easy wealth through schemes and stealth practices.

I cried for the millions of homeowners who have had to leave their homes, repossessed or otherwise, because they have become too poor to maintain them, as in our case.  I cried for the tremendous waste of my husband’s time and talent on a home which will now either be forgotten or auctioned three years from now when it could have been paid for and maintained had the bank seen reason.  They wanted it all but will now get nothing.

I cried because I hated where I am and the circumstances beyond our control which caused our descent from self-reliance into abject poverty.

On Friday, the appliances were moved into the “cave” that was to become the kitchen which contained only new timbers and some plywood.  All of the hookups had been made, but none were able to be connected.  My husband finished assembling the shower and bathtub just in time for an afternoon appointment.  Earlier that day, I had been unable to find something in the maze of boxes and belongings and burst into tears again, thinking of the home I missed.  “This is not my home,” I cried.  “I hate this place; I don’t want to be here!”  I wanted nothing more than to run away as far as possible from this horrid hovel which I saw as unfit, at least for the moment, for human habitationI thought of the call we had received about a year before about an apartment and the caller telling me that she and her husband had lost their home to foreclosure.  At that time, I had thought, “This will not happen to us because we have enough income to make the modest payments.”  But it did, and now I was walking in her shoes.

On Saturday, my husband finished assembling the bathroom, and a bedroom was made from the remainder of the space.  A cluttered work area miraculously became a place of rest and peace.  After moving the necessary items upstairs, the living room took on a new life, gaining some much-needed space, although jagged cuts in the false walls were reminders of the repairs yet to be made.  We had hoped to have the washing machine running, but that will have to happen tomorrow or the next day.  Someday soon, I will get a kitchen sink mounted on a piece of plywood for now, just as it was at the other house before we had the countertops made.  In another two days, my dishwasher or bathroom sink might be operational.

In a month or so, a second bathroom will be built off of the new kitchen.  While nothing will be finished, it will be functional, just as it was in my spacious farmhouse.

And what will become of it?  What will become of the many properties laid to waste in this economic meltdown, unprecedented since the Great Depression?  What happens to the people who lived in those houses?  Where do they go?

And why does our government at both the state and local levels continue to hold Americans in a chokehold of repression, over-regulating banks and businesses, strangling entrepreneurship and encouraging dependence?  If government were to retreat and allow the free market, if there is one left, to correct the downturn, would the results be better than what we see now?  Has the United States already collapsed into the status of a third-world nation?

Is this what Obama intended when he spoke of “hope and change?”  How much hope do people have right now?

Is America still the Home of the Free and Land of the Brave?

The tears kept coming until I learned on Friday that a friend diagnosed with lung cancer has been in the hospital on a ventilator for the past three weeks and will undergo a tracheotomy soon.  Donna has written a book about her battle with cancer with the purpose of helping others with the disease.  She recently celebrated her 60th birthday with her children and grandchildren, but her situation is grave.  I stopped crying when I realized that I am blessed with good health to weather this storm, and my friend Donna is going in a different direction, to her Lord and Savior.

As I conclude this article, I am on the second floor of my “home,” although it does not feel like home.  I would rather be at my farmhouse on the first floor, able to look out at my yard, the wild grapevines, and the sugar maple.  Often at night, the moon would shine in, but it would not keep me awake.  It was an unexpected comfort to me over these past many months of financial crisis.  It feels strange to be on the second floor of anything, and despite the late hour, I do not feel tired.  However, the many trips up and down the stairs have confirmed the worsening arthritis in my knees, which makes me miss my farmhouse even more.

Will this ever be “home?”  Will we have enough money to finish renovating it?  Without means to produce more income, will we be stuck forever in another unfinished old building uglier and smaller than the last?

In my wildest dreams, the farmhouse will go up for auction, perhaps years from now, and we will buy it and finish the renovations when the economy has improved from better stewardship of our government by the people.

For now, the tears are gone, and perhaps each day will be better than the last.  Perhaps a new “normal” will emerge.  Perhaps when we return to the old farmhouse on the hill for the last of our things this coming week, the tears will flow for what could have been but will not be.

Perhaps the sugar maple will turn gold next fall in all its glory, and over the winter I will plan my spring planting in this new place.

Perhaps the American people will become angry enough to change the political landscape for the better so that people do not lose their homes and businesses because of actions taken by the Federal Reserve Bank and treasonous, power-hungry politicians. Perhaps we will learn that government dependence is not the answer, and we will rebuild America in that image.  Perhaps tears of grief and defeat will give way to a resurgence in the American spirit which made our nation great, as it was 235 years ago, instead of allowing ourselves to witness her complete demise.

After all, is it not up to us?

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Editor’s Note:  The Post & Email would like to hear from anyone in its readership who is undergoing economic distress.  Please share your stories of despair and loss, recovery and renewal.

Update, October 18, 2011:  The author of the article has told The Post & Email that after returning to the farmhouse to collect more personal possessions, she noted that the sugar maple has lost almost all of its leaves while most of the other trees in the yard are sporting more color than the week before.

One Response to "The Face of Poverty in Obama’s America"

  1. OPOVV   Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Well said.
    One suggestion: when mentioning the “Federal Reserve Bank and treasonist, power-hungry politicians” why don’t we, all of us, everybody, just say
    FEDERAL POLITICIAN’S BANK

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