Mary Beth Writes

 I have been reading about the people who attacked our nation’s capital on January 6th.

These two articles are good.  From The Atlantic (Read here )  and from The Lowdown, a blog by Jonathon Low  (Read here) 

These articles ask and partially answer the question - Who were those people? The FBI has been arresting and charging them. This gives reporters the names they need to investigate these individuals. By the Atlantic publication date of February 2, 235 persons of the 800 who mobbed into the capitol had been charged.

What did the Atlantic researchers discover? (These stats could and probably have changed since 2/2.)

  1. The attack on the Capitol was an act of political violence, not a disorderly protest that spiraled out of control. 
  2. 89% of those arrested had no apparent affiliation with militant organizations.
  3. The average age of the arrestees is 40.
  4. 40% are business owners or hold white-collar jobs.
  5. Only 9% are unemployed.
  6. More than half came from counties that Biden won; 1/6th came from counties Trump won with less than 60 percent of the vote. Which indicates these people were not from deep, red, Trump-supporting counties and cities.

From the Lowdown blog:

“60% of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riot showed signs of prior money troubles, including bankruptcies, notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes over the past two decades. The group’s bankruptcy rate, 18%, was twice as high as that of the American public. A quarter of them had been sued for money owed to a creditor. And 1 in 5 of them faced losing their home.”

I have these thoughts.

The American media – TV, movies, books, computer games (I bet) have done a mediocre job of addressing the American stress of working people with low income and big debt. Talking with Franc earlier today, we agreed that Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered is the only novel we can think of where chronic grinding financial stress is the problem around which a story unfolds.  I’m sure there are others – but what have you read or watched lately that seemed realistic - and the thing the middle-class people were trying to get past was not having enough middle-class income?

Yet consider your life or that of your friends.  How many folks do you know who struggle to have enough resources to live their life? 

I don’t mean families living through gambling, drug addiction, alcoholism (though boy, is that real). I mean people who are working and yet cannot get out from under a mountain of debt?

Poverty caused by the pandemic and resulting economic freefall is real.

So are these situations.

1. Educations loans: 1 in 4 Americans have student loan debt - which is 45 million people. Average student loan debt amount is $37,000. Average student loan payment is $393 per month.         https://www.nitrocollege.com/research/average-student-loan-debt

2. A family with someone who has a chronic medical/mental health issue. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2019 found that 66.5% of bankruptcies in the U.S. were due to medical issues such as being unable to pay high bills or due to time lost from work.

3. People who lost much of their equity in the Great Recession. We bought our house for nearly $50,000 less than the previous owners paid pre-2008. Read Nomadland by Jessica Bruder. I’m interested to see the movie when it comes out this week.

​​​4. Job loss. How little have you read or heard about people in their 50’s and 60’s not being able to get a job after being laid off?

5. Divorce crumbling whatever financial stability the couple may have had.

6. Unexpected disaster such theft or graft or the aftermath of climate change fire, floods, and  weather.

There is a dangerous myth that owing money happens to people who buy too many lattes. That’s crap. We need politicians who are not insulated by their wealth. We need solutions that work for Walmart workers, not for Walmart.  We need people who will tell us in all the ways there are to tell – that working fulltime and not being able to afford rent, food, and life – is not an individual's failure. 

We need sitcoms, police dramas, mysteries, songs, novels, and comic books that present stories we can recognize.

So let me ratchet this up a degree.  What if you started your own business?  What if, after working 50-80 hours a week, you own huge amounts of Social Security, taxes, and health insurance premiums for your employees – and you put this off and then you put it off a little more. Because small things happen, and you float that debt thinking you can catch up next quarter. 

And then the day happens when the IRS locks your accounts because you owe tens of thousands of dollars.  You still have a pretty nice home that is underwater, but your family doesn’t know that. Your family and friends and clients think you are middle class.

You are not sleeping. You are drinking too much. You are on edge and angry and way too high and way too low. And now some politicians and pundits talk about how much money immigrants or people needing “welfare” are “cheating” the system. 

I’m not excusing the rioters.  But if we want some insight into what’s going on, I think we need to look hard at how difficult it is to be a go-getter American.

Get health insurance off the backs of business owners. Make a tax system people can understand. Let it be 50% for everyone, and then let the government pay for health care and provide excellent education and daycare (I didn’t talk about the cost of daycare, did I?).  

We have created this system where schools do all the social work and businesses fund health care and the already rich get to buy their politicians and judges ... and people are crazy stressed. 

 

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Comments

Hi Mary Beth - Thanks for your insight on the people involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol attacks. Financial stress as a contributing factor was not on my insurrectionist bingo card. It does make sense, though. As usual, money makes the world go ‘round, or makes it grind to a screeching halt. I’m looking forward to the day when we can discuss this (or anything, really) in person. Fondly, Carol
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks for responding. You and i are are both secure now - and we both know that financial security isn't a side note in anybody's story. I can't wait to talk with people again. I think it will be sooner rather than later - a benefit of being on the far side of 65. Which you are not, you young thing, you...

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