How has the recession affected you?

It’s such a simple question to ask people how they’ve been affected by a certain event that I’m surprised more news organizations don’t do it. We spend so much time dealing with macro issues, looking at the big picture and trying to tell a story about “the people” without actually asking any one or multiple persons how these “big things” personally affect them.

It is the underutilization of this practice that leads me to appreciate it even more when I see it done well – NPR is a good example – and for that I’m grateful for the work of the Atlantic and Derek Thompson:

The vast majority of the 5.5 million long-term unemployed have been out of work for more than a year. For this installment of “Working it Out,” we asked you if the government should enact special programs to help the long-term unemployed. We’ve received more than 100 responses. Here are some of the smartest, most heartfelt, and most provocative.

Here are two of my favorites:

As a business owner, I can tell you my challenge today is not policy uncertainty, tax liability or regulation. It’s finding customers. You’re not going to fix the consumer problem by putting bandaids on businesses.

Listen, all the things you mention are the entrance fee to playing the game, but they won’t make you any more competitive than the next guy, and they don’t help me find new products & services or customers to buy them.

Caveat: I’m a small business so I don’t get a huge benefit from corporate lobbying, etc.

I completely agree with you on the housing and especially mobility. Tough pill to swallow, but maybe we should be disincentivizing home ownership and giving more support to owners that rent their property.

And this one:

I have worked as a contractor since being laid off, but the interval between engagements has grown to an average of TEN months. My skills are current, having just completed three years of high level IT projects at one of the biggest companies. Recruiters call or email me daily, so not being hired for ANY position is a result of what part of the process? Quite objectively there are MILLIONS of over 50 workers who are going to become dependent on some type of assistance in the next Obama term unless something drastic is done. What’s that old curse? “May you live in interesting times…”

This morning I was thinking “Man, two years ago I could not have imagined sitting on a bench outside a classroom in a college hallway waiting for class to start.” Two years ago I had a blue-collar career, being relatively well-paid with prospects of eventual job advancement. Then the events of 2008 happened, and lets just say that only one of the three things I listed in the previous sentence remained true. I took a chance for a better future for myself and my family, and hopefully it works out. The point I want to make is that when I’m talking about the economy, policy, and some of these other big issues I’m trying to keep in mind that these are also people’s stories…and my story. What we’re really talking about is the collective stories of individual people and their interactions with the wider world – the micro part of these macro subjects that too often are overlooked.

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7 responses to “How has the recession affected you?

  1. I agree with you that getting the story from individuals is valuable. My life has changed in almost unimaginable ways due to the economy (I live in Greece where things are very, very dire) and when I get asked this question, I just shake my head. I don’t know where to begin. There are so many different facets to it. Do I talk about hunger, about loss of health insurance, about job loss, about disappearing public resources, about watching children pass out from malnutrition, or about any of the other myriad issues… I don’t even know anymore.

    • Probably the most widely ignored micro view on the Euro crisis by the main stream media in this country (anecdotally, at least) is exactly yours – which is to say, how is the Euro crisis viewed through the eyes of a person living in Greece? I haven’t read, or seen, this question asked. Thank you for sharing your story on your blog, and for commenting here.

      • Not to sound pitiful (because that would not be accurate) but I’m disturbed that there has been no ‘humanization’ of the Greek crisis for you (outside Europe). Here in Greece we have seen people in Cyprus collecting food, blankets, etc to send to Greeks who are starving/freezing, and we have seen people in other European countries holding gatherings in support of Greece (not sure that they can be called ‘protests’ or ‘demonstrations’, more like what Americans would think of as a ‘vigil’ I think). But they’re doing it anyway. The point is that here, as much misinformation and slander against Greece as there is in the media, at least there is also some level of humanity. Suicides are up 40%, homelessness is up 25% in 1 year. Every single one of those people has a story.

        • You certainly don’t sound pitiful, indeed, I appreciate the information. Unfortunately the most often I hear of Greece is when the Republican presidential candidates use your country as an example of government handouts and lazy, greedy, citizens who’d rather riot than work. Of course, they say the same about Occupiers in this country.

          • what???? oh my God I had no idea. Are you serious? That is so false. I can’t even type. Please believe it is completely false. Greeks work the longest hours in the entire EU and there is no welfare system in Greece, no such thing as “food stamps” or whatever. What handouts?

            • You certainly don’t have to convince me of the evidence. I remember reading those statistics some time ago. I found a segment from The O’Reilly Factor that sums up GOP rhetoric on the Greece:

              O’REILLY: Not at all. President Obama knows millions of Americans think like Mr. Beckel. The debt to them is a phantom, it has no consequences. To those folks I point to Greece.
              Over the weekend, protesters throughout that troubled country try to destroy it, why? Because the Greek government is cutting entitlements to save itself from default. There will a 22 percent cut in the Greek minimum wage and 150,000 government layoffs. Incredibly, almost 25 percent of the entire Greek workforce works for the government; paid for by the government. That’s why the country is bankrupt. They can’t afford the pensions, health care benefits and salaries it owes the public workers.

              Basically they are using Greece as a dire warning against spending on entitlements. The front-running GOP candidate Mitt Romney has a line his stump speech that warns of the US “going the way of Greece” if we don’t deal with our debt and entitlements.

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