Thank you Anthony Weiner.
You are probably wondering why I am thanking the tabloid poster boy, ex-congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate. Well, today I received some bad news; an undetected water supply line break to a the refrigerator caused a great deal of water damage in three rooms of my house. As I sat thinking about how I would deal with the repairs and expenses I drifted into despair.
As is often the case when a person faces unexpected financial challenges I began to feel sorry for myself. After calls to insurance agents and repairmen I sat down and wondered if I should just walk away, say ‘screw it’ and give up. As these thoughts raced through my head, the sound of the television caught my attention; I heard MSNBC’s Alex Wagner telling her audience about Anthony Weiner’s web video which soon was being telecast into my living room.
There was the disgraced mayoral candidate telling me and the rest who listened that he was not going to give into pressure and quit his quest for redemption and a new career as mayor of the greatest city on the planet. Anthony Weiner looked into my eyes and told me he was a New Yorker and New Yorkers don’t give up, don’t back down and “don’t roll” like that.
All of his issues aside Mr. Weiner is a fighter and, in listening to his fight song, I too realized that what happened to me just hours before would be OK. I, too, am a New Yorker through and through, and I would not give up and walk away as my distressed mind had produced; my New York instincts took over and my funk soon faded just as Anthony Weiner’s voice drifted into the atmosphere.
But what about the millions of people who cannot handle sudden financial expenses? What about the millions who cannot walk into a bank and draw on their saving or obtain a loan?
Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth, as my grandmother would say. If their car breaks down or if a family member becomes sick they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Payday lenders and other financial institutions continue to prey on the misfortunes of others.
Those who earn $7.25 per hour are often unable to handle sudden expenses no matter how small the additional expense may be. They are forced to use whatever means are available — at whatever rates — to extract themselves from financial ruin.
Years ago when I began my adult working career I was exposed to the shadier side of my Brooklyn home. It was where wise guys sat at the end of bars smoking cigarettes and drinking White Label while they doled out cash to those trying make ends meet after the cruel realities of the world reared its ugly head.
Today the loan sharks sit in boardrooms. No longer relegated to seedy bars, they work in financial institutions, wear $1,000 suits and think up new ways to extract as much money from the working poor as possible. From exorbitant student loans to shaky mortgages, the financial sector funds loans just like the guys is shark-skin suits of yesterday — but today they are called ‘bankers’.
I will be able to get over this set back. I will be able reach into my savings and make the needed repairs to my home, but that’s not the case for many Americans. I read the other day how the rich feel poor if their wealth falls below $5 million dollars. I wondered what it feel like to be so out of touch with most of the population.
Anthony Weiner is correct; New Yorkers don’t give up and they don’t back down no matter what their fate. Messenger aside, I was inspired by his message: his words told me to pick myself up an dust myself off. Many people in my situation would do the same, but for so many others the quest for the American dream is littered with landmines along the roadway of responsibility and success, making life more than what many can handle.