As part of our effort to comprehensively track the effect of the recession, we are asking readers around the country for their stories. These contributors bear witness to a time in American history marked by fundamental change and unrest.
Mike Perkins from Austin, Texas lost his financial security quickly and without warning:
On June 12 my girlfriend and I went to my friend's wedding in Denver. Our plane was overbooked on the flight back so we stayed the night and we weren't able to make it back to work on Monday. In the hotel room I got a call from my employer, Cedra Clinical Research, LLC. They informed me that they were making cuts and that I had been laid off. I had worked there for over 2 years. This was the 3rd round of layoffs. What's even worse is that 13 other people were laid off the same day from this company, including my girlfriend who lives with me. Some of the people decided to go back to school. My girlfriend has since found another job. There are still a few of us, including me, that hasn't landed a job yet, and our unemployment benefits will run out by the end of the year.
Our Governor, Rick Perry, says, "What recession?" as if Texas isn't feeling it. Well, I can tell you that I'm feeling it, and my friends are feeling it, no matter what some politicians tell you. America is hurting. The worst part is having to listen to these people that we elected tell me that "its not that bad," or "the worst is over," or not addressing the situation at all.
Higher education is no longer a safe route to job security. Undergraduate students borrowed 592 percent more money for tuition in 2008 than they did a decade ago, according to the College Board, a non-profit research group. That money must be paid off, and the confluence of lower pay and high interest rates is a challenge even for those who are employed. Stephan Ewan writes:
At age 32, after too many years in poverty, I began a long and difficult journey to obtain a college education. I graduated with the highest honors in my class from a rigorous college and then a top-50 graduate school. It was impossible for me to do this without taking out around $30,000 in student loans. Seven years of education later, and so many sacrifices later, I am now an educator at a community college. In real earning power, I am advancing no more economically than when I had no college degree and mowed lawns for a living.
Americans encouraged to take out loans are often forced to prioritize their debts over basic needs like health care. Ray Barfield relayed this story:
This is from a friend who has worked two jobs for much of her adult life. I am just astounded. She wrote me an hour or so ago.
"Hello my friend. Well we just paid the last house payment we can pay. I just had to cancel my appointment with my doctor and today I feel like the world is caving in on top of me. If and when we lose this house the kids and I are moving back. I am not going to find a roof to stay under and food for them to eat when I know we can go back home. My mom and dads 40th anniversary is in two weeks and my dad is giving my mom a surprise party. I want to be there for that but I don't have the money to go back home right now and it just hurts that I am so far away. Please pray for us, for me because I feel myself sinking back in that hole and I don't want to go there again."
Mental health care, considered a luxury even in good times, is at once more necessary and less available. Keith Rocklin from Los Angeles shared his story:
I am without health insurance. I just thought I was healthy enough. But then my companion of 29 years died and I fell apart. After two months of grief, I went to a psychiatrist. He gave me an anti-depressant - and I have never believed in all these prescription drugs - but I tried it because I was so nervous, wracked with regrets and grief.
Rocklin says his partner died after ineffective treatment.
Though she was sick and apparently dying, she had Medicaid and went increasingly to the emergency room.
She would not let me consult with doctors. The one she had didn't even know she had liver disease. In the end her kidneys gave out too.
I myself have never drunk or smoked. Now I do and have no appetite for almost 6 months. But because I had Blue Cross briefly and went to a psychiatrist 8 years ago I have been turned down for "preexisting conditions."
I have no other health issues and have never gone to a doctor in 64 years. Now I have to hope I just make it to Medicare. I have depression, which I have never suffered from before. Life is hell after 20 years of a happy relationship. I took care of her in her last years never believing it would hit me like this.
The sea change today is a hard blow for many who remember their family's reasons for moving to America. Sue Shell, the granddaughter of immigrants is disillusioned by the life her ancestors thought they wanted:
My Polish grandparents and millions of other people emigrated from their homelands to the U.S. because of oppression. They came to the U.S. for freedom and democracy. And now, one hundred years later, their descendants in the U.S. have lost their democracy from the oppression of capitalism.
Consider sharing your story with us: the Huffpost is bearing witness to the tragic human cost of the corruption and greed that have brought us this financial crisis. We're asking for your stories, and the stories of your friends, families, and loved ones. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want you to help us tell the stories the aren't being told.