At the turn of the 21st century, the construction business was booming. The Clinton economy saw an upturn in the housing and renovation markets unparalleled since the end of WWII. Unfortunately, that economy came at a cost. To achieve a balanced budget, Clinton made concessions to repeal portions of the Glass-Steagall Act that kept Wall Street off of Main Street, allowing banks to purchase security firms and gamble with depositor money.
That was the beginning of the inevitable housing bubble burst and a major contributor to the Great Recession. When the housing bubble burst, construction slowed to a near halt, and millions of people found themselves suddenly out of work and unable to pay their bills. I was one of those people.
At the time of the burst my family and I were doing well. Years of consistent work allowed us to live a decent life, spoil our two children a bit and start saving for a home of our own. That all changed virtually overnight.
As a subcontractor, I had nothing to fall back on. No unemployment insurance, and no prospects for work. Within three months, I had sold off all of my tools, and my wife had taken a minimum wage job so we could scrape by. Before long, our options had run out, and with our tails between our legs, we went to Family Services to apply for Food Stamps.
The first thing we noticed was the waiting room. It wasn’t full of drug dealers who drove up in Escalades wearing expensive jewelry and talking on iPhones, it was full of people from all walks of life who were in need of assistance. Almost everyone there had at least one child with them.
Our case worker was very kind. When I told her how I never thought I’d need to rely on anyone other than myself, she told me it wasn’t my fault, reminded me that I had paid taxes all my life, and said that my circumstances were the most common reason people applied for benefits.
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