Affected By The Lost Decade
Thursday night I watched the Republican National Convention. Senator Rubio preceded Mr. Romney. He should have provided a hint of what was to come. He should have set the stage for Mr. Romney, by telling the American people why they should cast their vote for the Republican candidate as the next President of the United States.
Instead, Senator Rubio recounted a story about how his bartender father worked in the back of the reception halls serving drinks so that one day Senator Rubio would be in the front of the room at a podium introducing the “next American President.”
Senator Rubio and the majority of the people at the Convention seemed to be under the illusion that this sort of thing happens all the time in American – all you have to do is want it badly enough. I find this to be a frightening misconception of reality.
I am a lifetime Democrat searching for a reason not to vote for President Obama to have four more years. The reality is that very few people can skyrocket to success like Senator Rubio. My story is much more typical of the average American. I worked very hard in high school and subsequently, in college. I went to college in the early ‘70s, Columbia University. Upon graduation, I got a good job, not a great job, as a foreign currency broker. I got married, had a son, and bought a house. I worked long, hard hours at my job. I contributed money to my 401k plan, just like I was supposed to. This was going to insure that when I reached retirement age I would be well provided for.
Unfortunately, the European countries banded together, deciding to use one common currency, the Euro. American banks consolidated. Fewer customers meant fewer foreign currency brokers were needed. I was downsized, lost my job. For this and other reasons, we divorced, sold the house. I need not tell you how my 401k turned out, but I will. For me and many of my contemporaries, the years 2000-2010 turned into the lost decade. The gross amount of my 401k was less in 2010 than it had been in 2000. This isn’t even taking inflation into account.
I did my best to pick up the pieces. I have just completed my twelfth year as a teacher in the New York City Public School System. I work hard, as do most of my colleagues. Teachers belong to a union. We receive benefits and a modest salary. Teaching used to be a well respected profession. However, current perception has the teacher one rung below the slug on the ladder of success.
I am fifty-six years old. As many of my generation can attest, hard work and “doing the right thing” does not necessarily lead to success. Many of my contemporaries are facing what they thought would be their “golden years,” the years where they would be able to retire and enjoy the fruits of a lifetime of labor, with trepidation. For many, the American Dream has been perverted through no fault of their own.
Folks, unfortunately, this portrait I paint is way too common in this, the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” Listening to Senator Rubio and the resounding applause at the Republican National Convention, I am not sure that those present there are aware of the reality of the situation.