Sunday, February 8, 2009

Attitude Adjustment Needed

There's an article in the New York Times today on which I just HAVE to comment. Possibly quite extensively.

Titled, "In Florida, Despair and Foreclosures," I went into the article expecting a bleak picture, to be sure. And don't worry... I wasn't disappointed. So many devastating quotes to choose from: "221 families waiting for free bread at Faith Lutheran Church..." "...laid off construction workers in flannel shirts scavenged through trash bags at a home foreclosure, grabbing wires, CDs, anything that could be sold..." "homes are selling at 80 percent off their peak prices" "Only two years after there were more jobs than people to work them, fast-food restaurants are laying people off or closing." "Crime is up, school enrollment is down, and one in four residents received food stamps in December..." 

According to the article, there are a "host of troubles that follow unemployment" and hunger is chief among them. Okay... I can bite on that, I guess. Truly, though, it doesn't help that the pictures and video they show are a bunch of fat people sitting around a table. Yes, I know that chubby people get hungry, too... but it's just hard to swallow that there's a starvation epidemic out there at this point when America is still quite enlarged. But they go on to say, "The organizations offering food in Lehigh Acres have seen demand increase by as much as 75 percent in the last year. And the people being served are no longer just the chronic poor." They then go on to list some of the newer arrivals to the food line:

Fred Csifortos, 62, living on $650 per month in disability payments, was there because the free food "left more money for his medications." But, see... Fred's situation has probably not recently changed (except in that he now has access to free food where before he did not). 

Luis Oquendo, 38, has been coming for free food since last fall when his full-time construction work "disappeared." 

But the kicker is Megan Brown who was waiting in line for the free food with her two daughters, aged 2 and 4. Why was she there? Because she "feared the worst." According to her, her husband still had his job but "things are getting more and more tight." Seriously??? Her husband is still working, they still have income, but she doesn't have as much spending money so she's in the food line? Don't people have any pride anymore?

Of course, all that said the people running the food line consider themselves to be successful "not just because it has helped more families but also because organizers believe that the links they are forming will be the foundation of a tighter community." No offense, but I don't think that forming links with a bunch of freeloaders is the way to a tight community... at least not any community of which I'd care to be a part.

Team Rescue, the group organizing the food distribution, is "trying to figure out how to curb the spread of desperation." But "Most recently the group has been struggling with a growing wave of families that either visit multiple food pantries using aliases or return the food to supermarkets for money or other items." Oh, yeah. That's tight.

So now the group is blacking out the UPC symbols on cans so grocery stores won't accept them as returns. But the lady running things says that she can't be sure she wouldn't do the same thing if she were a single parent and her kids were hungry... HUH? Why in the heck, if your kids are hungry, are you going to return stuff to the grocery store to buy something else? Don't people think anymore? No pride... no common sense... scary.

Then there's a very telling paragraph: "And then there is Ms. Chilson. She lost her house partly because of the boom (if not for easy credit, she might not have refinanced her mortgage a few years ago), the bust (which led to her husband being laid off from his pest control job) and overspending (which led to more than $20,000 in credit card debt)." No this isn't good. And I guess there's a part of me that feels really bad for the lady. She gave in to her want-it-gotta-have-it feelings and now she's paying for it. It's a hard lesson to learn. 

But it tells something about the general character of America at this time. People aren't willing to suck it up and learn the lesson. They aren't willing to pay the ultimate piper right now, just as they weren't willing to pay their bills they saddled themselves with before. And everybody is out looking for some kind of handout. Yes, even people who have not yet lost their jobs -- they're in line with the rest of them because they're so worried they might need to be there later. 

What's up with that?

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