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Posted at 3:34 PM ET, 12/14/2010

Build-a-Story: Falling out of the middle class

By Annys Shin

The Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, but in its wake, it left tens of thousands of families struggling to adjust to new circumstances, often a rung or two lower on the socioeconomic ladder. As part of a larger effort to delve into how people are adjusting to the “new normal,” I’m looking to talk to individuals and families who long considered themselves solidly middle class, but because of changing economic conditions are now navigating for the first time the bureaucracy of public assistance, trying to secure services they never thought they'd ever need, such as unemployment benefits, emergency housing, and food stamps. The agencies that provide these services have their own challenges: they are grappling with increased caseloads at a time of shrinking budgets.

I am interested in learning more about how the experience of dealing with public assistance bureaucracies for first-timers compares to their lives before the recession, especially for folks who have only known an existence of relative efficiency and attentive service. How has the daily routine and pace of life changed? Which took longer, getting a cup of coffee at Starbucks during the morning rush, or getting the attention of the right case worker to help you fill out a food stamp application?

To share your experiences, you can write me at Shina AT washpost.com or fill in the form below. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

Submit here:

Click here to load this Caspio Online Database app.

By Annys Shin  | December 14, 2010; 3:34 PM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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Comments

The GOP stole the 2000 election with Jeb Bush's help, 9-11 happened and Dub-ya cut taxes for the rich. The middle class collapsed, and the wealthy lived happily ever after. For everyone else it was The End.

Posted by: BurfordHolly | December 15, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

The "middle class" died under the Reagan administration in 1986, when they passed the 1986 Tax Act, which disallowed the income tax deduction for auto loans and credit card interest. What we have now is the powerful and the powerless...


Posted by: demtse | December 16, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Everyone seems to like to bash Republicans...personally I blame the Democrats and their unions for the downfall of American industry. Democrats put regulations, taxes, and union laws, over the bottom line of business. If we didn't have such stringent work laws we'd still be building ships, and cars, and trains here instead of importing them. Democrats love taxes, work laws, unions and anything else that hinders American business. Not to mention other odorous contemporary laws that ensure that the American creed of the "best person for the job" is not followed in the interest of political correctness.

Posted by: steven7753 | December 16, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Shin:

Hats off to you and your Post colleagues who seem lately to be making a real effort to personalize this recession. I hope you show how we are indeed, as John Edwards put it, becoming two Americas.

Steven7753, to blame unions or civil rights legislation for the recession is ludicrous, but when you have no argument at all, I guess a stupid one is what you gotta use.

Posted by: bob16 | December 16, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Everyone seems to like to bash Republicans...personally I blame the Democrats and their unions for the downfall of American industry. Democrats put regulations, taxes, and union laws, over the bottom line of business. If we didn't have such stringent work laws we'd still be building ships, and cars, and trains here instead of importing them. Democrats love taxes, work laws, unions and anything else that hinders American business. Not to mention other odorous contemporary laws that ensure that the American creed of the "best person for the job" is not followed in the interest of political correctness.

Posted by: steven7753 | December 16, 2010 12:31 PM

===========================================

Great post and the truth.

Posted by: COOLCHILLY | December 19, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

It seems I wonder more and more why my ancestors moved to this country. Their country has done very well. Guess they swallowed that propaganda of the streets being paved with gold or something. Well the one constant thing is that lying propaganda.

George Bush sold it in his speeches when he kept associating Saddam Hussein with 911. The sell on weapons of mass destruction. We got a lot of countries to fight if that is the reason to go to war. Like N. Korea and Iran for starters.

Now its like the unveiling took place and we see a lot of bickering and people lining up to vote that haven't for years. Yet still I bet no American can tell you who voted against going to Iraq when the vote came up in the House. Too many Americans want to turn the republicans and democrats into a football game of win and lose when its only "the people" who win or lose not the representatives who do. So people are really still too blinded about a political party to realize they may be working against their self.

Posted by: mac7 | December 19, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

".......personally I blame the Democrats and their unions for the downfall of American industry....Democrats put regulations, taxes, and union laws, over the bottom line of business...... Not to mention other odorous contemporary laws that ensure that the American creed of the "best person for the job" is not followed in the interest of political correctness...."

Unions? Check.
Democrats? Check.
Minorities? Check.

Any of you swine who buy this need only google

"Chapter 10: Causes of the Collapse"

Posted by: BurfordHolly | December 19, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Shin, you seem to only want stories from locals. Head into the heartland, you know, fly-over country- you can't throw a rock in a downtown there without hitting someone who's fallen a rung or two or quite a few down the ladder. Try any major city in John Boehner's state of Ohio, e.g.- it had a net loss of *250,000 jobs* during the Bush years. This is now something of a hollowed-out country and economy, it seems to me- pseudo-prosperity on the coasts and near-devastation in-between. The unemployment rate, e.g., masks the fact that the number is around 5% for the college-educated and around 15% for those without a degree. Do you think you're going to find many non-college-educated people in the DC area? Sure, there's some suffering here but if you want to see it bigtime, head inland. Sign of the times- more and more Whole Foods stores have armed guards. I was shocked to see them for the first time at the store nearest downtown Columbus Ohio the last time I visited (October this year). The store in Silver Spring now has them also, I noticed last week. Keep in mind too the numbers re the out-of-work and available job openings. Yes I hear it's gone down a bit but is still something like four or five people per opening. Sure, that's an average but still it suggests that the downward mobility you allude to could be around for quite a while.

bulgarskitanci@hotmail.com

Posted by: hairguy01 | December 19, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

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