HBO Documentary: American Winter

Posted on March 20, 2013. Filed under: Economy, Welfare | Tags: , |

My wife and I sat down last night and started to watch the new HBO documentary American Winter.

The story follows eight families in Portland, Oregon as they struggle through the “Great Recession”. It was filmed during the winter of 2011 – 2012, at a time when we were constantly told that the economy was recovering.

It was a very sad, moving film, seeing people struggling to keep their lights or water on (and failing).

I’m going to break down some specific instances that we watched last night.

One family couldn’t pay their electric bill. Portland General Electric told the family to go get a doctor’s note saying that their children were at risk without heat. They did this, returned to PGE, and were told that since their electricity was already off, they didn’t qualify for that program. $577 please. Their neighbor kindly allowed them to siphon off some of his power from his garage.

A single mother with a daughter was out of work for two or three months. As a result, her health insurance lapsed. During that time, her daughter got sick, and had to go to the hospital. When she found work and had insurance again, the insurance company told her that since it lapsed, they weren’t responsible for it. $49,000 please.

I wondered aloud why we don’t have some sort of charity, or program that will help with these issues. For the most part, I am against expanding government programs, but when people run into trouble like this through no fault of their own, there should be someone there to help, if not paying some of it, helping negotiate a payment plan, or negotiating a reduction. One also has to wonder why she didn’t sign up for Medicaid to make sure at least her daughter was covered.

Another family had fallen behind on their mortgage. When the mortgage company was contacted, they said they could modify the loan, but they weren’t 90 days behind, so they couldn’t do anything at the moment. When they called back after 90 days, they were informed they didn’t qualify for any of the programs. $17,000 please.

Seventeen thousand dollars after 90 days? What was their mortgage payment?

It is hard to feel sympathetic for people who got into these loans where the payment was so high.

Then came the anger.

Nick Fish, Portland City Councilman suggest the reason that so many people were struggling to get by is that we don’t pay enough in taxes.


I lost my job because I don’t pay enough to the government?

Here’s a novel idea. What if the government were to let us keep more of our money, and reward us for saving money rather than penalizing us?

The film claims that the social safety nets were devastated by budget cuts.

Well, how about instead of cutting the safety nets, we stop subsidizing the militarys of  foreign countries? How about we stop subsidizing illegal immigrants and concentrate on helping our own citizens?

How about we stop studying why lesbians are fat?

Then the film claimed that during the recession, from 2009 on, companies were making record profits while laying people off.

What companies were making record profits, and if this were true, why didn’t the stock market respond to it? Stocks respond to profits, and manipulation by the Federal Reserve. The stock market is at a record high through Fed manipulation, not profits, and the stock market is not indicative of the state of the economy.

I had to stop watching it after awhile. I felt for these people. I really did. Some were doing whatever it took to try to get by, including collecting scrap metal. One guy said he went through the phone book, calling every company in the yellow pages asking if they were hiring.

That’s dedication.

It’s on HBO right now, if you have HBO. The DVD will be released soon, if you are interested.

Like  I said, I had to stop watching after awhile, because I was saddened, but angered at the likes of Nick Fish. I just wanted to slap him through my TV.


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