As Digby pointed out yesterday on CNN's Your Money, Ari Velshi decided to let everyone know just how "lucky" an 84 year old woman was who is still waiting tables. I'll let Digby take it from here.
It's shocking that in the richest most powerful nation in the world, an 84 year old woman has to be grateful that she still has a job and a paid-for roof over her head. The CNN correspondents must have been shocked, as I was, to see this woman, bent over with osteoporosis, carrying plates and taking orders ar her age and wondered what had gone wrong in our society that such a thing could be necessary, right?
Well, not exactly:
Ali Velshi: That woman who you had in your story, the woman who'd been a waitress, I almost wonder whether people who live close to the edge, but don't carry a lot of debt are not as affected by this recession. They've sort of been living in that state for a while. There's not a lot of room they've had to fall.
Guttierez: Ali, you're absolutely right. I think that's the lesson here. You look at somebody like Mildred, she's 84 years old. She's still waiting tables, but she's doing it to supplement her social security income. The most important thing here is that she has no mortgage..
Ali: right ..
Guttierez: She doesn't have the monkey on her back that we all have and so she doesn't have to worry. She feels that she can move through this crisis because she lives simply, she was able to pay off her house, and she doesn't have the big worry so many people out there have, which is mortgage.
Velshi: We hear a lot of people talking about their grandparents who experienced the recession, or the depression and how they learned the value of a dollar. That might be the silver lining to this thing. We might have a new generation who knows how to stretch a dollar and how to stay clear of as much debt as we've gotten ourselves into.
Guttierez: Absolutely. And that's Mildred's point. You have to learn from this crisis. You have to take it to the future, you have to learn to live within your means, and make sure that you pay off that house and that you buy a house you can afford. She says that that's really the way that she's able to sleep at night.
Lucky, lucky Mildred. After all, she could be out of a job and then where would she be? I guess if we all play our cards right we too can be waiting tables when we're 84. As long as we live prudently, of course, and make sure we don't have any housing expenses at that age. Otherwise, it could get dicey --- and we'd only have ourselves to blame.
Meanwhile, we learned that the most fortunate people in this recession are those who had nothing to begin with because they didn't have so far to fall. (The real victims of the recession are Thelma and Ali who have jobs and the "monkey on the back" of mortgage payments.) These people at the low end of the economic scale like Mildred are used to being "close to the edge" and are actually much better off than everyone else because being poor is acceptable for them. They can sleep at night. Lucky duckies all.
Ali Velshi, by the way, was wearing what appeared to be at least a five thousand dollar suit as he piously lectured America about learning the value of a dollar.
Full transcript below the fold.
VELSHI: Welcome back to YOUR MONEY. I'm Ali Velshi, and I'm here in Los Angeles, California. From the housing market to job loss, to the fight for a state budget, California has been a case study for America's struggling economy.
CNN's Thelma Gutierrez spoke to Californians who are trying to explain the problem and some who are affected by it every day.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California, the eighth largest economy in the world, cracking under pressure, with unemployment steadily climbing, the housing market in decline and a state budget that falls billions of dollars short of what it needs to stay afloat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now it's coming down to fear.
GUTIERREZ: Fear for people like Mildred Copeland (ph), who is 84 and still waiting tables after 34 years.
PROF. MICHAEL SHIRES, PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY: Unlike the recession in the early '90s, which was driven by the collapse of aerospace in California, employees in all sectors of the economy feel like they're at risk for their jobs.
GUTIERREZ: Already tens of thousands have lost their jobs this year. In February, unemployment in California reached 10.5 percent and going up.
SHIRES: Most of the projections get us up to somewhere around 12 percent between now and this time next year.
GUTIERREZ: That translates to a loss of nearly one million jobs in the Golden State, according to several economic forecasts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like hash browns or home fries?
GUTIERREZ: Bad news for Mildred. She's eager to hold on to her job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get to a time in your life when you can say I can sit back, relax a little bit and not have to worry. But it's not like that.
GUTIERREZ: Especially for California homeowners. The state has the third highest foreclosure rate in the nation, with one in every 165 homes in foreclosure. But that's not something Mildred has to worry about. Her home is paid for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thank god every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For a job, for my home that's paid for, and I don't have to worry. That's one thing I don't have to worry about.
GUTIERREZ: A good thing in a state that's in a constant state of crisis. It took a record three months for legislators to pass a budget. The stalemate brought California to the brink of financial collapse. Mildred says she doesn't like the way it's being run.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: California used to be a great place to live.
GUTIERREZ: Mildred says she's optimistic the state will make a comeback. Economic forecasts predict it will, but not before 2012.
GUTIERREZ: Experts say, the main thing driving California's economic crisis is the way our tax structure is based. Half of our general fund revenues come from personal tax income. So when people at the top tier start to hurt because of the stock market crash or the collapse in values of high-end real estate, the state fund revenues suffer as well -- Ali?
VELSHI: That woman who you had in your story, the woman who had been a waitress; I almost wonder whether people who live close to the edge, but don't carry a lot of debt are not as affected by this recession. They've sort of been living in that state for a while. There's not a room where they've had to fall.
GUTIERREZ: Ali, you're absolutely right. Maybe that's the lesson here. You look at someone like Mildred, she's 84-years-old. She's still waiting tables, but she's doing it to supplement her Social Security income. The most important thing here is that she has no mortgage. She doesn't have the monkey on her back that we all have.
GUTIERREZ: So she doesn't have to worry. She feels like she'll be able to move through this crisis because she lives simply. She was able to pay off her house. And she doesn't have the big worries that so many people out there have, which is mortgage.
VELSHI: We hear a lot of people telling us about their grandparents, who experienced the recession or the Depression, and how they learned the value of a dollar. That might be the silver lining to this thing, that we're going to have a new generation of people that understand how to stretch their money, and how to stay clear of as much debt as we've gotten ourselves into.
GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. I think that's Mildred's point. She says you have to learn from this crisis. You have to take it into the future and learn to live within your means and make sure that you pay off that house, so that you buy a house you can afford. She says that's really the way that she's able to sleep at night.
VELSHI: Thelma, you have a great way of taking these very complicated stories and finding people who can tell them for our audience. Thank you for that, Thelma Gutierrez.