As part of our ongoing series featuring middle class Americans expressing their concerns about the hot button issues this election season we're getting their questions and bringing them to the candidates. Below is an opinion piece by Michael Bindner from Alexandria, Virginia who is among the nation's long term unemployed.
"PEOPLE DON'T REALLY WORRY ABOUT FALLING OUT OF THE MIDDLE CLASS – THEY CARE ABOUT THEIR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES"
In the United States, practically everyone is in the middle class – from highly paid professionals making over $150,000 a year to factory workers in a union job making considerably less. So many people are included that class consciousness is not a big deal here. People don’t really worry about falling out of the middle class – they care about their own circumstances. They care about whether they can pay their own mortgages, keep their jobs or get new ones when unemployed. These are essentially the challenges facing our family.
Last year, both Moira and I lost our jobs. Moira lost hers first and, just as her severance was running out, I lost my job at Graduate School USA due to government austerity measures (the first thing that gets cut in austerity is training and the first people let go are temporary employees). Given my personal experience, calls for even more austerity as a solution to our economic crisis leave me cold, especially as my best chance for getting a new job is in the federal sector, either as a government employee or a contractor, since the other thing that doesn’t happen during a climate of austerity is hiring.
Moira got a new job at about the time her basic unemployment ran out – however due to state austerity measures, her start date had been delayed by three months. She had located the job during her severance period but had to wait for budget considerations with the Virginia Department of Transportation to actually begin work – and the job is as a contractor rather than an employee, so there are no benefits. Austerity is not helping her much either.
Now that she is working again, we have begun to pay back our debts on payment plans, although our mortgage is still in forbearance while I am seeking employment. Luckily, our mortgage is with the Virginia Housing Authority, so we can do this. Had we borrowed with a bank, we would likely be on the street today. We are making payments again, but are far behind on our primary mortgage. Once I go back to work, we are eligible for mortgage principal forbearance, but not forgiveness. This means if either of us finds a job where we have to relocate, our only option is selling short or simply foreclosure, leading back to bankruptcy.
The thought of going into bankruptcy does not leave us warm and fuzzy, or else we would have done so by now. We have enough class consciousness not to want to take this step, although the Republican nominee seems to talk like quick foreclosure and bankruptcy are the best options for us. He may be right, although the austere Ryan budget he is proposing does not give us confidence in the future, especially regarding the possibilities of re-employment in the public or contracting sector. We don’t see President Obama offering much more, however. Both candidates seem to be standing with the people who hold our debt rather than with us, given where they get their campaign contributions.