By David Glenn Cox
Some words seem to hold a power greater than their vowels and consonants alone. They hold the ability to injure, like a punch in the stomach, obscuring their real meaning with a stronger and more hateful submerged meaning. These words are often thrown around as mass generalizations and usually accompanied by other generalizations.
How convenient, bricked up in an ivory tower of generalizations, never to be scorched by the hot sun of truth or the cold wind of reality, protected from the hard rain falling all around. Deadbeat is one of those words, anyone unable to pay their bills are called deadbeats. Guilty without trial or without even investigation because if you can’t pay your bills, you’re a deadbeat.
I first met Marta in Minneapolis; she was a Haitian woman who’d come to this country when she was twelve years old. She worked through high school and worked through college to earn her degree. She saved her money and bought a twelve unit apartment building, living in one unit herself, while working a full- time job. After five years, she bought herself a small house, the way deadbeats often do. When the Depression began back in 2008, half of Marta’s tenants could no longer pay their rent. Marta struggled to pay her own mortgage as well as the mortgage on the apartment building. Within a year, her savings exhausted; she lost her house and the apartment building. She was so busy being a deadbeat; she also lost her job and began living in a homeless shelter.
Ken was a painter, a printer and a jack of all trades; I met at the library in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Like me, Ken was in his fifties. He had two strikes against him, before becoming a deadbeat. While in his early twenties, he had been caught photo coping dollars bills and was convicted of felony forgery. Thirty years later, he still wears a ball and chain on employment applications. Because of this, he began working as a house painter. He worked buying the tools and a van and eventually began to do commercial painting jobs.
Before he chucked it all to become a deadbeat, he had three vans and a dozen employees. When the Depression began, like Marta and me, Ken lost everything and when I knew him, lived under a bridge and washed his clothes in a creek. It’s not as easy as it looks; being a deadbeat, there is a fear that takes over your life. A paralyzing fear, of a deer in the headlights as you’ve never been a deadbeat before.
Anne had worked in the legal profession, paid her bills and worked hard for over two decades, raising her children alone. A job layoff pushed her into the temp field, first working four days a week then three, with each job paying less than the job before. Under financial pressure, she took out a payday loan for $300 paying back $900 and still owing more; she gave up and became a deadbeat. Still searching for work, she applied at a local convenience store as a cashier. Apologetic the store couldn’t hire her because of her bad debts, they just couldn’t justify hiring a deadbeat.
Perhaps being a deadbeat is a virus or something in our water, Florida and Nevada once led the nation in deadbeat home foreclosures and now has moved on to New York and New Jersey. Foreclosure filings surged 30% in New York City last year and sheriff’s sales in New Jersey are the highest since the new Great Depression began.
Since 2001, 42,400 American factories have shut their doors, directly eliminating 5.5 million American jobs. Each lost manufacturing job leads to the loss of other jobs. When the factory shuts down they no longer need forklifts or shop towels or uniforms, they no longer need delivery trucks or snacks for the break room. They no longer need drill bits or machine tools, office equipment or administrative assistants.
Then the restaurants begin closing along with other places where discretionary incomes are spent. New car lots suffer as few can afford new cars, the price of used cars rise. As fewer can afford used cars, those lots begin shutting down as well. As the snowball rolls down hill growing in size and speed, tax revenue to government falls. In response, government begins shedding employees in a logic which says, what a starving man really needs, is less to eat.
Wall Street banks were bailed out as homeowners were called irresponsible. The banks were given new money by the Federal Reserve at near Zero percent interest then allowed to buy Treasury bonds paying 3% interest. The President’s mortgage rescue package has a 50% failure rate and has rescued fewer homes than Franklin Roosevelt’s Homeowner’s Loan Corporation did in the last Great Depression. The difference between the two programs is clear, FDR cut the banks out, Obama’s program cuts them in. In Obama’s program the banks are allowed to pick and choose, which houses and in which neighborhoods to rescue.
It means whole neighborhoods are abandoned while others are rescued. If you happen to be current on your mortgage in the wrong neighborhood, well, that’s too bad for you. Wall Street profits soar on free money printed at your expense.
A nation filled with an epidemic of deadbeats, millions of Americans who just one day woke up and traded prosperity for poverty. Living beyond their means, never saving for a rainy day or anticipating, that one day their government would sell them out.
There are deadbeats among us, most live in Washington D.C. some work at the Capitol Building others in a big White House. As millions of Americans suffer in the new Great Depression, they do nothing or even less than nothing. The President in his State of the Union Address chose immigration and tax reform as our biggest challenges. I suppose it’s easy to think like that when you’re eating regularly and sleeping in a warm bed on someone else’s dime, it’s easy to think like that when you’re a deadbeat.