Category - Strategies for Coping With Recession

Why Poverty Happens to Good People

Lesson to learn — it’s usually not their fault. Case in point:

Donald Cardin became a firefighter at age 20 in Central Falls, R.I., a town just north of Providence that filed for bankruptcy in 2011. He was making $60,000 a year as a fire chief before retiring at age 42 in 2007 to take care of his wife Lana, diagnosed with thymic carcinoma, a rare cancer with extremely low survival rates.

The couple relied on Cardin’s health insurance, which required no copay, to cover Lana’s $8,000-a-month treatment. Cardin worked a part-time contracting job to make up the difference between his $34,000-a-year pension and his former salary.

But that all changed in 2011 when Cardin, and his fellow firefighters and policemen, were called to a meeting at the local high school, where state-appointed receiver Robert Flanders warned them that the city would not have enough money to survive if pensions were not cut. Weeks later the city would file for bankruptcy.

“After a lifetime of service, with the stroke of a pen, Judge Flanders changes the rest of our lives and doesn’t care,” said Cardin.

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A Sensible Reform To Social Security

In the wake of the fiscal bump in the road, much was left undone in fixing the economy while paying down some of the outstanding debt.
A lot of trial balloons are being floated, and I want to focus on one for now: Social Security.

Nobody Asked Me, But…

The Year In Review
(stories you may have missed because you were out snorting blow and banging hookers)
1) Along with the alleged fiscal cliff comes a real financial cliff. The farm bill also expires at December 31, and failure to pass a new one will drive dairy prices into the stratosphere.
Good government advocates (like myself) believe the farm bill needs to be all but abolished. There is no reason for corn prices to be subsidized. There is no real reason for dairy prices to be subsidized, either, except for helping families afford milk for their kids. Milk prices could double (probably even higher, given how corn is such an integral part of feed prices) and put a real crimp in working families’ budgets.
2) The number of journalists jailed worldwide broke a record this year. In a world where democracy seems to be taking greater root, this is an unhealthy development.
3) The Antarctic is warming three times faster than expected. Hurricane Sandy was just a prelude.
4) 2012 was the worst year on record for mass shootings in the United States.
5) If you were hoping for a breakthrough in Middle East peace next year, don’t count on it. Believe it or not, there’s a conservative crazier than Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel who could impact the elections next year and win the prime ministership.
6) Crack and blow your mind away with the 100 best photos from space of 2012.
7) Nearly a thousand species have gone extinct since man started exploring the planet in the 17th century. Here’s a tribute to them.
8) As healthcare prices have soared over the past ten years, people are taking less and less care of themselves. Exhibit A.
9) This will happen more and more as global temperatures rise and droughts extend: The Mississippi River is closing.
10) Finally, you will own a robot before the decade is out.

Hit by crisis, Greek society in free-fall

AP, By Elena Becatoros

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A sign taped to a wall in an Athens hospital appealed for civility from patients. “The doctors on duty have been unpaid since May,” it read, “Please respect their work.”

Patients and their relatives glanced up briefly and moved on, hardened to such messages of gloom. In a country where about 1,000 people lose their jobs each day, legions more are still employed but haven’t seen a paycheck in months. What used to be an anomaly has become commonplace, and those who have jobs that pay on time consider themselves the exception to the rule.

To the casual observer, all might appear well in Athens. Traffic still hums by, restaurants and bars are open, people sip iced coffees at sunny sidewalk cafes. But scratch the surface and you find a society in free-fall, ripped apart by the most vicious financial crisis the country has seen in half a century.

It has been three years since Greece’s government informed its fellow members in the 17-country group that uses the euro that its deficit was far higher than originally reported. It was the fuse that sparked financial turmoil still weighing heavily on eurozone countries. Countless rounds of negotiations ensued as European countries and the International Monetary Fund struggled to determine how best to put a lid on the crisis and stop it spreading.

The result: Greece had to introduce stringent austerity measures in return for two international rescue loan packages worth a total of (EURO)240 billion ($312.84 billion), slashing salaries and pensions and hiking taxes.

The reforms have been painful, and the country faces a sixth year of recession.

Life in Athens is often punctuated by demonstrations big and small, sometimes on a daily basis. Rows of shuttered shops stand between the restaurants that have managed to stay open. Vigilantes roam inner city neighborhoods, vowing to “clean up” what they claim the demoralized police have failed to do. Right-wing extremists beat migrants, anarchists beat the right-wing thugs and desperate local residents quietly cheer one side or the other as society grows increasingly polarized.

“Our society is on a razor’s edge,” Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said recently, after striking shipyard workers broke into the grounds of the Defense Ministry. “If we can’t contain ourselves, if we can’t maintain our social cohesion, if we can’t continue to act within the rules … I fear we will end up being a jungle.”

More at the link

One-third of Americans say they need to work into their 80s

Salon, By Natasha Lennard

Nearly one-third of Americans say they plan to work into their 80s since they can’t afford to retire earlier, according to a Harris Institute survey.

As Bonnie Kavoussi noted in the Huffington Post, “Retirement is becoming an unaffordable luxury for a growing number of middle-class Americans.” She attributes the increasing inability to retire at 65 and live decently to the middle-class squeeze of recent decades — a mixture of  inflation, productivity increases and stagnating wages: