Selling the shirt off your back to fill the gas tank

Online and brick-and-mortar second-hand stores have seen large increases in people selling their belongings to raise cash for bills and to fill the gas tank. As reported by Anne D’Innocenzio of the AP:

Struggling with mounting debt and rising prices, faced with the toughest economic times since the early 1990s, Americans are selling prized possessions online and at flea markets at alarming rates.

To meet higher gas, food and prescription drug bills, they are selling off grandmother’s dishes and their own belongings. Some of the household purging has been extremely painful — families forced to part with heirlooms.

We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn of our lives. It’s the result of bad Federal Reserve policies of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, rampant borrowing by the Federal government to pay for wars of conquest, predatory lending by unscrupulous bankers, and by poor decisions by millions of Americans chasing the dream of owning a home and keeping up with the Jone’s. And it’s only just begun.

Our leaders hope to see some sort of bounce in the second half of 2008, mostly from the economic stimulus package that is set to be delivered to tax-payers in the next few weeks. But the ability of that package to help the American economy is in doubt. And the housing downturn and credit crisis will continue until at least into 2009, and likely into 2010.

At the heart of everything is the decline of the American worker. Our leaders would deny this, saying it is a liquidity problem, a credit problem, increased competition for resources from China and India, the decline of the dollar, or some other issue. Make no mistake, it is an employment and wages issue.

Globalization has placed blue-collar Americans with a high cost of living in direct competition with socialist and communist nations that simply do not pay their people as much, and subsidize many aspects of their lives. This outsourcing/off-shoring has been supported by an American government that extolled sending American jobs to China, India, and anywhere else they would be accepted. Gregory Mankiw, Bush’s economic adviser claimed outsourcing actually increased American jobs!

The trend is now moving into off-shoring the white-collar jobs of management, finance, and engineering. There appears to be no stopping it. We’ll all be McWorkers in the next 10 years.

We also allow thousands of visa immigrants to migrate to the USA each year, and millions of undocumented workers surge over our poorly protected borders in hopes of a job and free tax-payer supported health care. This puts downward pressure on the earnings of every wage-earning American.

Wages have not kept up with inflation. Our fathers in the 60’s and 70’s had roughly 20% to 30% more in buying power than those of us trying to make ends meet today.

Unemployment is high, and going higher. If you ignore the current government numbers which stop counting the unemployed after 6 months, the actual US unemployment rate is estimated to be over 10%.

Even millionaires are saying they are feeling the pinch. These are people that make upwards of $250,000 per year. So how could the average family that reins in $41,000 per year be expected to keep up?

We of Generation X/Y will be the first generation of American’s in 50 years to have it worse than our parents. I fear for my sons and their future. No one is talking about this. So long as the idiot box continues to glow, we remain glued to our couches blissfully unaware of just how poor we are becoming. That is, until we have to sell the shirt off our backs to pay for another drop of fuel just to take us to work to make less than we did the year before.