The Forgotten Middle Class

Your paycheck is finally here and your mind immediately rushes to all of the monthly expenses you will have to pay: rent, utility bills, insurance, food, credit cards and last of all, the childcare bill. The shows we watch on television of struggling families that we once turned our heads to in disregard, have now become a mirror to our own lives. Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and can barely make ends meet. By default, to the government, they are deemed as the working middle class. In lieu of the recession, parents are losing their jobs, not getting raises, and run the possibility of being laid off because of budgetary issues. Parents are required to pay more, and they are receiving much less in return. Many Americans that could afford the best of childcare ten years ago, are now begging to qualify for the education vouchers that they so desperately need. Childcare has become a 'luxury' that they have had no choice but to deny, so that they are able to remain financially stable. Not to mention struggling families with college age children. With the sky rocketing cost of undergraduate education, how can these children ever receive a quality education and not be stuck paying off student loans for the next 50 years? Our financial challenges of today are making it more and more difficult for the next generation of Americans to thrive and succeed.

One problem I have noticed is that Americans are no longer satisfied with the basics and we have entered the realm of overabundance and overspending. It had become a disease that is running rapid in our country. Movies like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Food, Inc. and even Michael Moore's series shows us what went wrong. Why don't we listen? Could it be as simple as bad habits? My suspicion is yes.

Overspending beyond our means, whether it's the giant U.S. government or the housewife in Michigan, is what evil epics are based on. Americans save on average about 6.9 percent and that's the highest amount saved since 1993. China has got us by our chins and leading us straight into the brick walls of social, emotional and financial bankruptcy. While our budgets 'partied' like rock stars for the last 5 decades, our sanity and our values have been hijacked.

My solution: Cut the credit cards and use only cash. No, not debit cards. Good old-fashioned American dollars. Use it for the grocery store, gas, entertainment and shopping. Your own reaction will blow your mind. Watching real money leave your fingertips is a huge lesson in abstinence. American women are the most powerful demographic on our planet. We determine spending for each household in this country and therefore, determine what the world's factories manufacture. If the American woman would stop spending money on junk for a year, we could balance the budget and China would have to rethink their own gross national product. With layers of bad habits rooted in temptation, greed, laziness and addiction piled high on top of us like a tall French pastry, how can we ever demand a good education out of ourselves or our society as a whole for our children? Well, we can't. It's time to get America back to basics. When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, say to yourself, 'I have the power to change the world and it starts right here and now with me.' Find your way back to basics.

While overspending is a real problem affecting Americans, there are many families that are simply doing everything they can yet still not able to stay afloat and make ends meet. Sometimes the unexpected happens and families are faced with tragic accidents and unplanned medical emergencies that lead them to drown in bills. I have seen firsthand hundreds of these victims of the recession and have done everything in my power to take a stand to help those families. With their unexpected financial burdens, I have strived to provide children with the best early childhood education and care possible.

These are just some of the tragic stories I am faced with on a daily basis....

Mrs. Smith found out she had cancer in her throat and neck last August. In October, she had the lumps removed and started chemotherapy. Her husband bailed and left her and her two young daughters, Anna, 4, and Annie, 2, to fend for themselves. With the help of her parents, Mrs. Smith survived her ordeal and is now doing better. This is an American woman who had to face an unexpected medical issue and was forced to re-evaluate where money was being spent.

Mrs. Anderson had a kidney removed back in 2005. In 2008, she developed kidney cancer that was metastatic. Mr. Anderson was laid off and had severance pay until the following January. And because of this, the parents were going to need to pull their daughters from school. Families such as this are not going to receive government aid and then are forced to eliminate essential needs for their children, such as quality childcare.

Now don't get me wrong. I do think people should take responsibility for their lives and government can't fix everything. But I believe government creates the environment for change to happen. The middle class has grown smaller and smaller. There has been a disproportionate redistribution of wealth to the upper classes from the middle class, leaving them to not qualify for aid when they most desperately need it. We all know the importance of getting an undergrad education yet our universities are becoming too expensive to attend. Now what about our children?

I am an immigrant from another country. This means that fate forced me to have a different perspective than the one dimension of the American life in action. I am not here to criticize; just observe the abundance that flows into each life in the forms of opportunity to have a career if you want one, to be happy and to have a balanced life.

The darling man who wrote The Last Lecture said it best. The only way to conquer death is to live well with no regrets.... Call your mother, hug your kids and do whatever it takes to get back to basics.