So I totally get the idea of shared sacrifice. I don't have a problem doing my part to get the economy back on track. I actually vote for policies that help people that need it, and don't mind paying my part to put them in place. But lately I've been feeling like I've already given enough and maybe I might be giving more than an average amount of this so-called shared sacrifice.
I know there are millions of others around like me, and it feels like we've taken the brunt of the hits in the downturn, so I guess that technically makes it a shared sacrifice, but it feels to me like not everybody has had to do as much actual you know, sacrificing. I keep reading about the rich getting richer, and record corporate profits, and although many businesses in my town have closed in the past few years, the only ones opening are banks. So it doesn't really seem fair to me.
So just to set the record straight, here's what I've already "shared" since the meltdown of the economy...
I've taken pay cuts in each of the past three years in the form of furlough days (eight days, five days, and five days again this year). Even though prices have continued to go up, my pay has been going backwards. My husband, who is also a teacher, took a $7000 pay cut three years ago, and pay freezes the last two years.
I'm a teacher and my pension lost about a third of its value several years back when they supposedly "fixed" PERS in the state of Oregon, but it looks like they need to fix it again. It's all over the papers that something more has to be done, and soon. So it's a pretty safe bet I'm going to "sacrifice" even more of my pension.
My class sizes have gone up from the 20's to 30's in the past few years, so I'm doing a third more work for less pay. Resources have been drastically cut at my school, so I'm having to supplement school supplies with my own money (even more than usual) for kids who can't afford them. Otherwise I have to try to teach kids without the needed supplies, and then I'll be held accountable for their lack of progress. Either way I lose.
The value of my house (the major source of my family's wealth) went down drastically (35%) and has yet to recover. Since I've owned the house for twenty years, and my mortgage isn't quite underwater, there's no talk of any kind of plan to help me recover my loss. It just means I'll have to work longer to build up my resources in order to be able to even think of retiring, which I probably won't be able to do now until I'm 67 if they "tweak" entitlements like they are talking about. By then I'll have been teaching for 46 years!
I've had to have my son and his wife and two kids live with us for three and a half years because he couldn't get a job that makes enough to live on his own even with two college degrees. The job he has now has no health insurance, and no sick days, and pays mostly on commission. I'm also helping my daughter out because she's single and has trouble making ends meet even with a masters degree.
The fees at my father-in-law's retirement home go up every year in spite of the fact that his pension and Social Security haven't, so we've been helping him out as much as we can too. I probably should retire now in order not to lose even more of my pension when they "fix" PERS again, but I probably can't because I can't afford my bills and the cost of medical insurance in the interim before I can sign up for Medicare.
I've worked my entire life since I was fifteen, and I have a good and happy life with a great family. I know we are so much better off than many people in this economy. I'm lucky I wasn't laid off and I didn't lose my pension. I feel lucky to have a decent job, which is kind of ironic, because for the first twenty years that I taught, nobody considered it a well-paying job, and now suddenly we teachers have become greedy money grubbers with extravagant pensions and benefits.
My lifestyle doesn't feel so extravagant to me, in fact, my husband and I are stretched pretty thin trying to help our other family members who really don't have enough. It frustrates me because we did everything right, worked hard all our lives, made it into the middle class, only to bear the brunt of so many problems.
My pension, if not my teacher's union is the total cause of the devastation of education if you read the local paper lately. Last year my school district went on strike, and the local media had a field day calling me and my colleagues greedy and self-serving. The going narrative is that cost of PERS is the only cause in the rise of class sizes and the lack of resources, and all of us avaricious teachers should be ashamed of ourselves and give back more.
I'm a baby boomer too, so that makes me a double whammy; I'm also the cause of the ruination of Social Security and the lack of sustainability in Medicare too. Everywhere I look I'm being blamed for the devastation of the economy. Funny thing though, all I ever did was work hard, live responsibly, and pay my bills on time. I don't remember ever being wild and crazy with my money and causing so much debt. If I'd have known I'd be blamed for the country's economic woes, I could have had so much more fun actually being irresponsible with my money.
Every time I see John Boehner on my television set talking about how we can't raise tax rates on the "job creators" or as he always calls them "small businesses," it makes me crazy. Every time I hear how this has to be a "balanced" approach I want to scream because so far it hasn't seemed very balanced to me. I have a feeling there are many people out there just like me ready to throw something at their television set. I'm so sick of people who are at the top and in charge of fixing things, who have no concept of how most of us live. I'm tired of them telling us that we all have to do our part to solve this, while they're trying their hardest to not actually solve anything except keeping themselves at the top. I wonder if it will ever change and what it would take to do so.