News and Tribune

March 5, 2014

ANDERSON: Is hope out of reach?

Local guest columnist

— Hope is something bred deep within us and often we live our lives daily, plodding along, not even thinking of hope.

We get up in the morning, we go to work or school, we fix dinner, we go out with friends, we go to church, and we cling to the belief that life is something we can do.

I listened to a BBC broadcast this week and I heard the announcer speak of the economy and how puzzled the president and the administration are about the state of the economy. There are more jobs, unemployment is lower than in many years, but they aren’t spending. Everybody is so confused. Congress can’t understand it, but then exactly what does Congress understand?

Does Congress understand that people are tired and that jobs mean nothing to us if we have to go to bed on a concrete pillow? Maybe they understand the typical American is tired of being “told” how to feel, how to work or how to live.

For instance, in Kentucky two senators rant and rave about health care to hundreds of thousands of people who have signed up for the health care they are being told just isn’t good for them and how outrageous the president is for having such a plan. The total disconnect with reality is unbelievable.

I listened as the broadcasters interviewed people who said “why aren’t they spending, what is up with that, everything says the economy should be booming but it is sluggish, way too sluggish?”

They aren’t spending because they are scared — get a clue. The typical American has been placed at the brink of destruction; many have lost their homes, their cars, their jobs and their sense of faith, and yes, their hope.

Having the American dream used to mean you could envision a better tomorrow, a white frame house with a picket fence and a future. Today it means survival.

So many face the fact that for the first time in our lifetimes, our children do not have the ability to do better than we did because the middle class has diminished to the point where it is hardly noticeable. We have to question every expenditure, we fix our cars as opposed to going out and buying a new one; we fix everything for the fourth time because a new washer and dryer are a little more than we can afford now. We get angry at a health care plan that will not jeopardize us because we need to believe it has to be someone else’s fault that this is happening.

It has been coming for a long time. A minimum wage does not promote a healthy economy, it keeps a whole group of people down. Spending and the “trickle” out effect cannot take place while a large group of people don’t make enough money to even pay the rent. How can they spend?

All I could think of as the broadcaster spoke was “this isn’t rocket science, people will spend when they have the freedom to do so, when every penny isn’t occupied with the necessity of living, when they don’t have to choose between heart medicine and the mortgage.”

Just this past week, a woman needed help with an astronomical heating bill ($340 for one month). She earned money by working daily; she just had to pay the rent on the first of the month, the light bill, the sewer bill and think a little bit about putting whatever food on the table she could. She ended up in the emergency room because of the stress, so yet one more bill will be added to the pile. Good people in this community stepped up to help — a big shout out to Bob Rogge for the compassion given — but how could she ever envision spending on a new TV, a car, or even extra groceries?

The answer to both Congress and the president is simple — there is no money to spend and what little is left has to be planned. We have to help our families and our churches may want us to tithe again at the old rate, not the new adjusted “when I can afford too” rate.

Our children may need us to pay the rent because even though they are living on their own, their student loan payments are as high or higher than their car payments. Also they can’t afford health insurance themselves and in our state, they don’t have the option to sign up as they do in Kentucky, so they pay high prices for high deductibles that do little, so we might have to buy their medicine.

Hope is having a tough time these days. It is hard to hope about tomorrow when today seems barely something we can get through.

If we want to restore the economy, we have to restore a sense of hope in this country. We have to restore trust in our leadership and a hope that we can be the strongest power in the world and still provide for our own people.

We have to help people see they can still own a home, live on a safe street, feed their kids and sleep without worry. Hope is something we can’t live without; it is something intangible that keeps us moving forward, the hope that this, too, will end and there will be a brighter day.

Hope is about tomorrow. For many Americans, tomorrow is out of reach.

— Barbara Anderson, Jeffersonville, is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Reach her by email at