CNN's week-end "money" show did a story on how the recession is affecting people in California. They interviewed an 84 year old waitress. That's right, an 84 year old waitress:
Professor Michael Shires: Right now it comes down to fear...
Thelma Guttierez: Fear for people like Mildred Copeland, who's 84 and still waiting tables after 34 years.
Shires: Unlike the recession in the early 90s that was driven by the collapse in aerospace, employees from all sectors of the economy feel like they're at risk of losing their jobs.
Guttierez: Already tens of thousands have lost their jobs this year. In February, unemployment in California reached 10.5 percent and going up.
Shires: most of the projections get us up somehwere around 12 percent between now and this time next year.
Guttierez: That translates to loss of nearly a million jobs in the golden state, according to economic forecasts.
84 year old Mildred Copeland (video) : Would you like hash browns or home fries?
Guttierez: Bad news for Mildred. She's eager to hold on to her job.
Mildred: You get to a time in your life where you say well, I can sit back and relax a little bit and not have to worry, but it's not like that.
Guttierez: Especially for California homeowners. The state has the third highest foreclosure rate in the nation, with 1 in every one hundred and sixty five homes in foreclosure. But that's not something Mildred has to worry about. Her home is paid for.
Mildred: I thank God every day.
Guttierez: for what?
Mildred: For my job and a home that's paid for. That's one thing I don't have to worry about.
It's shocking that in the richest most powerful nation in the world, an 84 year old woman has to be grateful that she still has a job and a paid-for roof over her head. The CNN correspondents must have been shocked, as I was, to see this woman, bent over with osteoporosis, carrying plates and taking orders ar her age andwondered what had gone wrong in our society that such a thing could be necessary, right?
Well, not exactly:
Ali Velshi: That woman who you had in your story, the woman who'd been a waitress, I almost wonder whether people who live close to the edge, but don't carry a lot of debt are not as affected by this recession. They've sort of been living in that state for a while. There's not a lot of room they've had to fall.
Guttierez: Ali, you're absolutely right. I think that's the lesson here. You look at somebody like Mildred, she's 84 years old. She's still waiting tables, but she's doing it to supplement her social security income. The most important thing here is that she has no mortgage..
Ali: right ..
Guttierez: She doesn't have the monkey on her back that we all have and so she doesn't have to worry. She feels that she can move through this crisis because she lives simply, she was able to pay off her house, and she doesn't have the big worry so many people out there have, which is mortgage.
Velshi: We hear a lot of people talking about their grandparents who experienced the recession, or the depression and how they learned the value of a dollar. That might be the silver lining to this thing. We might have a new generation who knows how to stretch a dollar and how to stay clear of as much debt as we've gotten ourselves into.
Guttierez: Absolutely. And that's Mildred's point. You have to learn from this crisis. You have to take it to the future, you have to learn to live within your means, and make sure that you pay off that house and that you buy a house you can afford. She says that that's really the way that she's able to sleep at night.
Lucky, lucky Mildred. After all, she could be out of a job and then where would she be? I guess if we all play our cards right we too can be waiting tables when we're 84. As long as we live prudently, of course, and make sure we don't have any housing expenses at that age. Otherwise, it could get dicey --- and we'd only have ourselves to blame.
Meanwhile, we learned that the most fortunate people in this recession are those who had nothing to begin with because they didn't have so far to fall. (The real victims of the recession are Thelma and Ali who have jobs and the "monkey on the back" of mortgage payments.) These people at the low end of the economic scale like Mildred are used to being "close to the edge" and are actually much better off than everyone else because being poor is acceptable for them. They can sleep at night. Lucky duckies all.
Ali Velshi, by the way, was wearing what appeared to be at least a five thousand dollar suit as he piously lectured America about learning the value of a dollar.