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President Biden recently boasted about the “historic economic recovery” filled with Americans getting back to work and the lowest unemployment claims in 50 years.
Of course, the national and state-level Democratic Party apparatus then push this message along with their allies in corporate media journalists whose bar for economic strength is the stock market and how busy aisles at Whole Foods are.
But underneath this booming economy mirage lies, in reality, an economic hunger games with working class people of all ages fighting to keep a roof over their head, food on their table, gas in their car, and enough money to afford skyrocketing healthcare costs.
“I’m considering suicide,” Susan Winstead, a senior citizen whose facing homelessness in a month told Status Coup in an interview. Winstead, who has lived right outside Chapel Hill North Carolina for ten years, has been priced out with her rent going up $800. “I’m laughing but it’s black laughter. You realize there’s really nothing that people in my situation can do. You can’t remake the housing market.”
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Beyond the 40 percent rent increase, Winstead is also victim of the the double-edged age sword: she worked in aerospace engineering for over 20 years, owned her own company for another 20 years, and has an MBA degree. Yet she gets passed over job after job she applies for.
“When people who are older go after them they’re very very nice to you all the way through when it goes to HR and then all of a sudden you don’t hear anything again,” Winstead said. “There’s a tremendous amount of discrimination against the elderly and trust me you can be the elderly if you’re 40 or 50. So if you’re really elderly, you’re kind of dead in the market even though you might have a great resume.”
How does someone like Susan’s rent go from $1,200 a month to over $2,000 in the blink of an eye?
Wall Street and real estate developers—who both buy off local politicians who in turn give them the keys to the local kingdom—are coming in to buy up properties like her building, renovating it, and then jacking up prices 30 to 50 percent.
“Anything that’s sold generally has competing bids because everyone’s in the market bidding it up because they all assume that once they come in and make a few changes it will be a million dollars—that’s a pretty hard housing market to get a decent apartment or house,” Susan said.
Susan noted “this great economy that we’re hearing about all the time” is really a fantasy; great for the young, extremely well-qualified recent graduates and those with family connections (i.e. winning life’s lottery).
And it is family that makes Winstead’s situation even more dire—and heartbreaking. She lost her daughter and mother within the last year as well as her brother and sister being diagnosed with cancer.
“Essentially there’s no family there anymore; I don’t really have much of a support system anymore,” Winstead said, noting she has nowhere to go after losing her daughter and mother.
Susan’s situation is not an exception; it’s becoming the norm in a “historic economic recovery” that’s historically great for wealthy donors, upper middle class professionals making well over six figures, and the special interest hyenas who’ve swallowed our government hole over the last forty years.
The problem, as Winstead pointed out, is we live in a country with extremist Republicans trying to cut the minimal social programs we have while pushing culture war nonsense and a Democratic Party intentionally abandoning working class folks like Susan in favor of the suburban upper middle class.
“For people like me, I’m a very left-wing Democrat,” Susan said before criticizing President Biden for “not thinking clearly about who your voters are and what they are thinking from what you’re saying.”
And then there’s the knee-jerk reaction from economic elites and out-of-touch neoliberals asking people like Susan “well why don’t you just move.”
The answer is simple: good luck finding cheaper.
Winstead has looked in small towns in South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland to find “exactly the same situation” of skyrocketing housing costs.
“It’s a huge economic decline that nobody is seriously reporting on yet,” Winstead said, criticizing overpaid journalists too disconnected to see the economic wreck they’re routinely passing by.
Winstead concluded that “something has to happen” and journalists need to start reporting on the actual conditions for all the people—not just the people who have been “skating through on easy money.”
Her story is just one of many Status Coup will be spotlighting in our new ECONOMIC HUNGER GAMES series. SUPPORT Status Coup’s independent reporting on the real economy the corporate media COVERS UP. Become a SC member for $5-10 bucks a month and get great perks!