Thoughts from my Echo Chamber

Like many people in the U.S., I’m caught up in the aftermath of the 2016 election results. Normally, I write about my observations about life from an every day, non-controversial point of view. This is the first time in almost six years that I have felt compelled to share my thoughts about any topic surrounded by a polarizing minefield of thoughts and opinions – the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election.

I don’t know that there’s ever been an election in my country that has affected so many people on such a deeply personal level. As I’ve been trying to understand my own reaction to the outcome, it’s occurred to me, that in many ways it’s as much about business as it is about political agendas.

I could be wrong, but I believe that one of the reasons PET won the election was his ability to ignite the fear and promise hope within the hearts of working class Americans who are struggling to put food on the table. Although I don’t, and never have held a blue color job, my story has more than a few parallels than one might expect. Our political and business landscape has adversely affected more than the grass roots laborers of the country, and it’s been happening for a long time.

Thoughts from My Echo-Chamber

I know it’s dangerous to form opinions from within our own personal bubble, but we all do it to one degree or another. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that my own personal experiences have had a very common thread; it’s upon this common thread that I base my opinions and share my thoughts.

I deeply care about our environment, education and human rights. I’m far more liberal than I am conservative – but at the end of the day, if I’m not able to put food on my table or provide for my family, the larger issues move into second place. That doesn’t make me selfish, uncaring or uninformed, it just makes me human.

The “American Dream”

Here’s the thing, the “American Dream” of providing a better life for future generations started dying on the vine a long time ago. As a point of reference,  I began my career during the Reagan administration and at that time, I was already part of the first generation who would never make more than their parents.

It wasn’t easy, but I eventually landed a good job with a small, family owned printing company in Omaha Nebraska. They paid me a fair and equitable salary, offered training opportunities that to this day are unparalleled in my experience, as well as the way they invested in their employees and advancing technology on a regular basis. That was until, they were acquired by a British holding holding company.

Raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.” Morale plummeted, growth slowed and the only people who were experiencing financial prosperity were the board members of the holding company.

History Repeats Itself

Eventually my loyalty to the original owner of the company ran out. After a couple of years without a raise, increasing demands to work longer hours and the  realization that I was missing out on my children’s lives, I moved on.

My next job was also with a local, family owned business. I found balance, an opportunity to learn and grow, my pay increased at a rapid pace and I found myself trapped in the land of “golden handcuffs.” Earning more than what my position was worth was a huge conundrum, and one that I knew would catch up with me eventually.

It did, we were acquired by a U.S. based holding company. After the announcement and the obligatory, “nothing will change,” comments, people were still nervous. They sought me out for counsel because I’d been through it before. I assured them, and I believed, that life would go on as normal.

“My last experience was with a British holding company, this is a U.S. one, so I’m sure it will be a much different, they really sounded like they care about employees and customers.”

Ha! And my apologies to my friends in the U.K.

Shortly after new “leadership” took over, raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.” Sound familiar? In addition, we started to experience the loveliness of “right-sizing, “salary aligning” and “process transformation.”

Translation – people who had been there a long time were laid off, “salary aligned,” and outsourced. Holy buckets, when I think about all of the consulting fees that were paid out to make those changes happen….

The Writing was on the Wall

I’m no dummy, I saw it coming so I started looking for a new job long before the actual mass layoffs began. I was thrilled to land a position with a company in PA. There was some hesitation on my part, because they were owned by a private holding company, but took the risk because of assurances that they were financially stable. Two months after I started, they filed for Chapter 11. So once again, raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.”

In spite of the Chapter 11, I put my house in Omaha on the market and moved my family to PA – in 2008, toward the end of the housing bubble. Long story short, I ended up losing both my house and all of my savings trying to avoid going into foreclosure.

As I do, I tried to make the best of things, but after four years of no raises, no bonuses and a less than ideal working environment, I took the route that many have tried before me; I started my own business.

It’s Not as Easy as it Sounds

To be honest, starting my own business wasn’t my first choice, it was my only choice. I didn’t want to uproot my youngest son and there were no jobs available in the area. There’s so much that I could share about this topic, but I’ll save that for another time.

In October of 2014 I thought the best of two worlds had collided and I accepted a full-time position with a company in California. I was able to work remotely and maintain my steady freelance work in order to make ends meet.

Health insurance and other benefits were among the multiple reasons the position was appealing. I’ll be honest, insurance through the marketplace isn’t exactly cheap if you are making a “decent” income as a self-employed individual.

Here’s where the common thread continues, the company was owned by a private holding firm. Based on my experience, I should have known better. Soon after I started, new “leadership” was brought in, and raises stopped, investments stopped, the mantra became – “do more with less.”

On April 29th, 2016 I received Fed Ex delivery which contained a check for two weeks severance pay and the notification that my position had been eliminated in order to provide better customer service. Truth is, my position was outsourced – not overseas, but to an agency.

Health insurance you ask?

The company was very “generous” and extended me the opportunity to continue my health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). They had to. The cost to me was $950 a month.

Thank goodness for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

It’s not just Politics, it’s Life and Livelihood

I’ve been through more than a few ups and downs in my life, we all have.

My guess is that Donald Trump, nor any of the individuals that he’s nominated to lead key government agencies, have ever experienced the shame associated with the realization that your child is wearing shoes with holes in them  – simply because they don’t want to add to your financial burden, and “it’s not that cold out.”

I’d be surprised if any of their children witnessed their mother being served papers by a Sheriff because she had to proceed down the path of foreclosure on their beautiful home.

I also doubt that any of them have experienced the absolute humiliation of being interviewed for private insurance, only to be denied. Let me share a glimpse of what it’s like.

If you want private insurance, outside of the health care marketplace, you must meet certain criteria. So, a stranger from an insurance company calls and grills you about every aspect of your health history.

My experience went something like this:

An hour (yes an hour) into the interview, I was asked, “what was the last reason you went to the doctor?”

A reasonable question, to which I replied, “I had a couple of warts removed from my leg.”

“So, you have a history of genital warts?”

“No! The warts were on my leg, specifically my calf.”

This spun off into a line of questioning that was too invasive and humiliating to write about.

My denial of coverage letter included some nonsense about being predisposed to genital warts in addition to just the normal life/health conditions that come along with being a woman over the age of 45.

Thank goodness for the affordable health care act.

I Understand Why Trump Won the Election

He promised people he would “fix it.”

So, to that end, he’s assembling the richest administration in history and putting the future of the working class into the hands of people who have never come close to experiencing their pain?

I don’t get how anyone can think this is a good thing.

As I watch the deck stack in favor of the business models that led to the housing crisis and in my mind are behind the widening gap between the elite and the struggling, I’m disheartened beyond words.

I do believe we can join together as human beings to address many issues around the environment and human rights, in spite of PET – I’m not so sure we can have the same influence when it comes to business and our ability to earn a living and maintain affordable health care.

I hope we do, I’m just not sure how to go about influencing change in that arena.

We’re on the Same Side

Let’s not forget, that we’re all on the same side. We love our families and we want the best for them.

I don’t know how this is all going to turn out, but as an eternal optimist, I look at this time in history as an opportunity for good outcomes in the end. As a realist, I can’t help but think it will be a painful journey.

Let’s all join together, in whatever way we can to move forward in a positive fashion. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of all the shouting.

Thanks for listening, after getting this off my chest,  maybe now I can get back to regular programming.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts from my Echo Chamber

  1. Your experience counts. It should be told. If we heard everyone’s story we probably wouldn’t be in such a mess. Trouble is, everyone thinks their story is THE story but they are just paragraphs in a chapter on human rights in a capital world. People don’t think the same. Blue collar workers (that would have been me for the most part) think the rich are out to screw them. White collar workers learn that the blue collar workers are right and that they too are being screwed by the wealthy elite. So why the heck did they vote for the wealthy elite? They all had different hopes. In my own family, one sister voted against abortion, my brother who is in the house building trade of Hawaii voted for less EPA standards and another sister voted for “the wall” feeling like she’s inundated in her town with illegals (I’ll bet they are legal but they aren’t white and it was at one time a largely white city). Each said they thought he was a good guy and I just need to give him a chance. He’s better than Hillary right? They know I was for Hillary. Because she’s perfect? No. Because she’s going to fix everything? No. I was for Hillary because she is down to earth, knows and deals with reality which entails bargaining and cooperation. I was for Hillary because she is well liked globally if not in her own country and yes, because the cherry on top was she was also a woman. My sibs thought I was crazy but they didn’t like Obama either. Some staunch Republicans in my family. I’ve been worried about Putin for a while. The guy is a smart version of Trump. He’s making himself rich off his position and also trying to make Russia what it used to be. He’s a dangerous man and with ISIL on the loose, Syria and other areas of the world in such upheaval I really wanted someone with some experience there. Well, I think we are in trouble. We’ll see how it goes.

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