“Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings and leaders, upon our priests and prophets, upon our fathers and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong. Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them. Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways. “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress…
For decades, most Americans have enjoyed an extremely high standard of living. In fact, most of us have been “enjoying the high life” and “living the dream” for so long that we have assumed that it is just always going to be that way. But now a rapidly growing percentage of Americans is getting the chance to experience some very serious economic pain. Today, over 40 million Americans are on food stamps and over 20 million U.S. children are living in poverty. Tens of millions of Americans are unemployed, and personal bankruptcies and foreclosures continue to set all-time records. For many people, all of this economic turmoil was completely unexpected. Millions of people now can’t sleep at night because they are constantly stressed about finances. More couples than ever are being torn about by arguments over money. Unprecedented numbers of Americans have experienced a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs upon the realization that they are going to lose the homes that they have been raising their families in. Money may not buy happiness, but as tens of millions of Americans are finding out, the lack of it can bring a whole lot of pain.
Now, the truth is that there have always been a small percentage of Americans that have struggled to get by, but today we are seeing more Americans who are “down on their luck” than at any other time in recent memory. According to one shocking new survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.
It seems like almost everyone has a family member or a close friend who is looking for a job. The truth is that there are not enough jobs for everyone, and there certainly are not nearly enough good jobs.
A recent Pew Research survey found that 55 percent of the U.S. labor force has experienced either unemployment, a pay decrease, a reduction in hours or an involuntary move to part-time work since the recession began.
That is incredible.
That means that over half of all American workers have been unemployed or have been forced to take a reduction in pay since the recession started.
Things are getting really tough out there.
Millions of Americans are wondering why their husbands or wives suddenly can’t find jobs.
In fact, the average duration of unemployment in the United States has risen to an all-time high. The declining economy has created a new class of chronically unemployed Americans who would love to work but can’t seem to find anyone to hire them.
Millions of Americans have been forced to turn to part-time work. In fact, one recent survey found that approximately 8.6 million American workers are working part time because they can’t get full-time jobs.
In this economic environment, there is significant competition for even the lowest paying jobs.
You never know – this holiday season the friendly gentleman greeting you down at the local Wal-Mart may actually have several advanced degrees but just cannot find anyone else who will hire him.
As the economic situation continues to deteriorate, record numbers of Americans are going bankrupt and are losing their homes. In fact, banks repossessed a record number of U.S. homes during the second quarter of 2010.
So it is really no wonder why so many Americans are feeling so negative about the economy.
According to one new survey, U.S. consumer sentiment weakened in early July to its lowest in 11 months. In addition, one recent poll found that 76 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy is still in a recession.
But sometimes what gets lost in all the numbers are the individual stories of the very real pain that so many Americans are going through. Today, I thought that I would share just a few of the stories of economic pain that my readers have been sharing with me.
A reader of my column on The American Dream blog named Kate recently graduated from college but now finds that she can’t even get a retail job….
I just graduated college in May… Moved to a new state and am now living with my boyfriend who should not and cannot continue to have to pay everything because i just plain can’t get a job.
I’m over qualified for retail survivor jobs… so I lie on my application. But then retail stores just plain don’t hire full time. So even if I could get a job as a cashier someplace… I’d only work enough hours to maybe pay for my car payment/ car insurance/ gas…. and my half of rent/electric and such is out of the question… not to mention charged to the limit credit cards from being unemployed and student loans that will hit in just a matter of months.
Any other jobs either don’t exist or they just ALL want 5 years professional experience…. which is impossible for someone who just graduated and has been working part time retail jobs since high school.
AND internships are unpaid or only for college students so thats out of the question….
But the fact of the matter is that jobs don’t care about education in the least bit if you don’t have the real professional work experience to back it up.
A reader of this column named David ended up taking a very low paying job overseas because he simply couldn’t find anything here in the United States….
I have been looking for a job since June 2009. I am a prior Army officer who knows four foreign languages and has lived around the world. I have sent out over 100 resumes over the past year. Finally, I got a job offer to teach English in Russia for $720 per month. Yes, $720 per month. Luckily my housing is paid for. So, I took my tax return and left for Russia to teach English. The American economy is broken and it will get worse. We are in the early stages of a total meltdown in America. Yes, if you are an American, you better prepare yourself for the worst is still to come.
But even those who do have jobs are facing some very difficult circumstances as one of my readers named Ana recently described….
I am a cop’s wife. My husband currently works for a Sheriff’s office who is extremely understaffed and the county wastes money like there is no tomorrow. They threaten the Sheriff with more layoffs if they don’t write more tickets on the highway. My husband has often had to patrol the entire county by himself for a full 12 hour shift. It is a bad situation for everyone.
The truth is that there are millions of stories like the ones above. Economic pain is everywhere, and the American people are becoming increasingly frustrated. Most Americans don’t understand why the economy is suddenly in the toilet – all most of them know is that things are broken and they desperately want someone to fix things.
A lot of this frustration is coming out as anger towards the government. People are waking up and are starting to realize that the American ruling class has been doing an incredibly bad job of running things. The American people are hungry for a real change. In fact, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 23% of voters nationwide believe that the U.S. government has the consent of the governed.
But will we start to see some real changes in the years ahead?
Unfortunately, that is quite doubtful. The reality is that the American ruling class has a stranglehold on both political parties, and they are not going to release their grip easily.
Meanwhile, our leaders continue to perpetuate the same failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place. But unless some fundamental changes are made soon, the economic pain that Americans are experiencing is going to continue to get even worse.
So do you have a story of economic pain to share? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below….
Company to close at least 100 Sears, Kmart stores
Sears, Kmart closures spark speculation about whether famous retailer can avoid death spiral
By Christina Rexrode 27 Dec 2011
NEW YORK (AP) — After a disastrous holiday shopping season, the parent company of Sears and Kmart will close at least 100 stores to raise cash — a move that sparked speculation about whether the 125-year-old retailer can avoid a death spiral fed by declining sales and deteriorating stores.
Sears Holdings Corp., a pillar of American retailing that famously began with a mail-order catalog in the 1880s, declared Tuesday that it would no longer prop up “marginally performing” locations. The company pledged to refocus its efforts on stores that make money.
Sears’ stock quickly plunged, dropping 27 percent.
The closings are the latest and most visible move by Eddie Lampert, the hands-on chairman who has struggled to reverse the company’s fortunes.
As rivals Wal-Mart and Target Corp. spruced up stores in recent years, Sears Holdings confronted falling sales and perceptions of dowdy merchandise.
Some analysts wondered if it was already too late, questioning whether the retailer can afford to upgrade stores as it burns through its cash reserves.
The sales weakness “begins and some would argue ends with Sears’ reluctance to invest in stores and service,” Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter wrote in a note to clients.
“There’s no reason to go to Sears,” added New York-based independent retail analyst Brian Sozzi. “It offers a depressing shopping experience and uncompetitive prices.”
Spokesman Chris Brathwaite said no one had determined which stores would close or how many jobs might be cut. He disputed doubts about the company’s survival, noting it still has $2.9 billion available under its credit lines.
“While our operating performance has not met our expectations, we have significant assets,” including inventory, real estate and valuable proprietary brands such as Kenmore and Craftsman, Brathwaite said.
Sears and Kmart were both retail pioneers. Sears’ catalog and department stores were fixtures of American life stretching back to the 19th century before being hurt in recent years by competition from steep discounters and by missteps that included forays into financial services and the decision to sell off a lucrative credit card business.
Kmart helped create the discount-store format that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. came to dominate.
Some customers complained that they have a hard time connecting with the Kmart and Sears of today.
Preschool teacher Sara Kriz, picking up hair conditioner at a Kmart on Tuesday in Manhattan, said she used to shop at Kmart often but now goes there only once every few months: “Only when I have to,” she said.
“It seems easier to go to Target and Wal-Mart to get the same thing at the same price,” Kriz added. “The stores are cleaner, and they’re better stocked.”
Sears Holdings has watched its cash and short-term investments plummet by nearly half since Jan. 31, from about $1.3 billion to about $700 million.
The projected closings represent only about 3 percent of Sears Holdings’ U.S. stores. And the company has actually added stores since the Sears-Kmart merger in 2005. It has about 3,560 stores in the U.S., up from 3,500 right after the merger, thanks to the addition of more small stores.
But the company hinted that more closings could be on the horizon as it focuses on honing the better-performing stores.
The closings announced Tuesday were expected to generate $140 million to $170 million in cash as the company sells those stores’ inventory. Selling or subleasing the properties could generate more money.
In addition to the closings, the company announced that revenue at stores open at least a year fell 5.2 percent for the eight weeks ended Dec. 25, a crucial time because of the holiday shopping season.
Kmart’s layaway program, meant to help cash-strapped customers buy presents by paying for them a little at a time, faltered as Wal-Mart brought back layaway for the holiday season after getting rid of the program in 2006. Sears stores reported softer sales of home appliances, usually a strength.
The company predicted that fourth-quarter adjusted earnings will be less than half the $933 million reported for the same quarter last year. It also expects a non-cash charge of $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion in the quarter to write off the value of carried-over tax deductions it now doesn’t expect to be profitable enough to use.
Part of Sears Holdings’ problem is the weak economy that is hurting virtually all retailers that cater to low- and middle-income shoppers, who are being forced to cut back on spending.
But both Lampert and Lou D’Ambrosio, who was named CEO in February, have said the company needs to keep up with the changing retail landscape, where shoppers are going online for convenience and finding better prices on their smartphones even once they’re in the store.
Andrew Jassin, co-founder at retail management consultancy Jassin Consulting Group, said his fashion supplier clients that sell to Sears aren’t limiting orders, but they’re watching to see what steps the company will take next.
“People are generally questioning the survivability long-term,” Jassin said.
Hedge fund manager Lampert engineered the combination of Sears and Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy. Skeptics criticized the combination as the marriage of two weak companies that would only hurt each other.
But both stores were once giants.
Sears, which started with a lone Minnesota watch seller in 1886, helped define the mail-order catalog industry, selling shoes, clothes, guns and even ready-to-assemble homes to farmers across the country.
Kmart, which started as a five-and-dime in Detroit in 1899, once commanded a retail empire that included Waldenbooks, Borders, OfficeMax and Sports Authority before spinning them off. A long sales decline and an ill-advised price war against Wal-Mart led to its 2003 bankruptcy filing, which let Lampert gain control of the company.
Analysts and investors were initially enthused by speculation that Lampert was combining the companies to unlock the value of their real estate. But years passed without a big move to do that — and commercial real estate values took a painful hit in the Great Recession.
Lynn Crosbie, shopping at a Sears store in Portland, Ore., said she wasn’t surprised by news of the closings.
Crosbie said she goes to Kmart for stocking stuffers and was disappointed this year by messy, understaffed stores.
“The quality has gone downhill,” she said, looking around the nearly empty store. “Even the cashiers aren’t as happy or friendly.”
Associated Press Writers Anne D’Innocenzio in New York and Sarah Skidmore in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.
II Chronicles 7:14
… if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land…