Sunday, February 03, 2008

where are the safety nets for the middle class?

I was making a few phone calls around last week, talking to old friends, alumni of Chanel High School, chatting, catching up, casually asking what they thought of the school's new promotional idea of having a  Corn Hole Tournament (but that's a whole other story), and I happened to talk to a guy who has owned a title company for years, with whom I have a lot of people in common. The subject got around to one of our older friends, a Realtor, an insurance broker, a former CTS bus driver whom everybody knew and liked, a real connector. I hadn't seen him professionally for a few years, and I wondered how he was doing. He's 25 years older than I am, which puts him in his middle 80s. I heard a horror story.

The Realtor/broker/driver/connector had lived in his Cleveland Heights home (a newer one, in 44121) since at least the middle 1970s. He lost it last year at sheriff's sale. He had experienced back problems, had an operation that compounded and worsened the problem (I am told), suffered a loss of income, became encumbered with insurmountable debt, and last year lost his home of over 30 years, when he was 84 years old. Today, we have no idea where to find him. We understand he's alive and in poor health.

Somehow, it just doesn't seem right, it doesn't wash. Who stood up for him, to protect his interests when he got old? What about medical insurance? The plaintiff's bar? Mercy? Clemency? A compassionate life estate in his home?

I probably need to know a lot more, but on the surface, I just don't get it.


  1. You wonder why no one was there to protect your friend’s interests - why medical insurance, the plaintiff's bar, mercy, clemency were all conspicuously absent. I was moved to comment, not just because the story is horrific, but because it is ubiquitous.

    The simple answer is that no one notices. It only takes one incident to start a downward spiral and it happens every day. You may get hurt and not be able to work, or, more likely you may lose you job. First you fall behind, then the late charges and overdraft fees put you in financial peril. More than likely your credit rating suffers and, if you are lucky enough to get a loan, the interest rates are through the roof. If you have pledged your home as collateral you can bet that when you are unable to pay, you will face foreclosure.

    And all this happens behind closed doors because poverty is the ultimate shame these days. Loose your job, you lose status; creditors will call your neighbors and, once they know you are having "issues" they will avoid you.

    It has been a long time since we Americans lived in true community, and by that I mean, where we truly believed our well being was dependent on the well being of our neighbors. Corporate charity may help people get by in the short term, but rarely offers the compassion and support necessary to rebuild a life. And that is what we are talking about - rebuilding lives.

    The plaintiff’s bar can’t solve this issue. Many lawyers barely get by - I know - I am one of them. Taking on the behemoth banking/healthcare/lending industry is a formidable task. And it takes money to fight money. Our legislators, state and national, must wake up to the economic plight of the working class. lack of manufacturing jobs, usurious banking practices, predatory lending and an out of control insurance industry contribute to a lose/lose situation.

    We need jobs, revamped credit practices, fair banking and insurance fees, now.


  2. Interesting, and thanks, Judy. Such good content and commentary begs for your placing your last name on things, so people know precisely whom to appreciate.

    There's a disturbing phenomenon of people--even family--backing away from people when they're under assault by the banks or by the IRS. As a community, we have to fix that fast. It's not about "them" or "those people;" it's about all of us. To the extent we're silent or inactive, we're complicit with the bad guys.

  3. Tim,

    I am sorry I did not leave my full name, especially since I just read your post on anonymous comments. Count me red faced.
    Judy Carlin

  4. Judy--did your family grow up next to the McShanes in Cleveland?
    Fàilte Mhoire