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A Week of Painful Lessons

Jul 11, 2008

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Reported by

Michel Martin

I was on my way home last night when something caught my eye. There was something blowing across the road. It turned out to be clothes rolling across the street like tumbleweeds in an old western movie. I knew right away. I looked to the sidewalk and saw what I expected — bare mattresses piled up, chests of drawers thrown here and there. There were two cream-colored leather couches and some clothes. I was relieved not see any kids' clothes and toys, but who knows? Maybe they had already been picked over, maybe the family had been able to pack them in time, maybe there were no kids. Either way, somebody's pain was out on the street for the rain to wash over and the neighbors to pick through.

Somebody had been evicted.

This has never happened to me, but I know people to whom it has. Setting aside the people who haven't paid their bills because they are just trifling or, those who have tragically died unnoticed and had no one to notify the appropriate people, few things seem worse to me, especially for kids. Where do you go? How do you start over? How do you keep your things from disappearing into the backs of other people's cars and pick-up trucks? How can it not feel like a punch in the gut to have everything you've worked for put out on the street.

There's a dispute over whether we are in recession or not. It's a statistical question — whether we have had x number of quarters of negative economic growth. The answer is no. But we have a record number of home foreclosures, the housing sector is in the doldrums, the stock market is down, and many people are anxious and angry.

I know we have a lot of fun with shopping segments on this program and I don't apologize for that; I think fun is important and few people walk around naked in this country, so if you're going to wear clothes (or shoes ... or whatever), you might as well have some fun getting them and thinking about them.

But at a time when people are struggling just to hold onto their homes and health insurance, it seemed wrong to us to ignore the obvious. We have been following the policy and economic aspects of the story all along, as you know, especially the mortgage/foreclosure issue. But we decided to get personal next week and spend some time talking about how to cut costs, how to deal with the emotion of having to cut back, how to talk to the kids about having to cut back or deal with economic hardship ... and that and whatever else we can come up with. We're calling it Cheapskate Week, and yes, we do hope to have some fun with it.

... And, who was not having fun this week? The Rev. Jesse Jackson.

By now, you probably heard he apologized for saying something nasty about Sen. Barack Obama (in a conversation he thought was off-mic) that involved cutting off a body part.

Who else is not having fun? All the anchors trying to figure out how to tell you exactly what Jackson said ...

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