Economic Struggle - Your Stories - Part I

---- Posted 5/05/08

My husband and I are in our 30's with 2 young children. My disabled mother also lives with us. My husband and I both work and we own our home (with a mortgage of coarse). We live paycheck to paycheck to try and pay the bills, but fall behind often. We still owe the oil company a lot for this past winter's oil. We have a woodstove, but can't afford to have the stovepipe for it installed properly ($2000!). Food has become something we can't afford enough of so we've planted a huge garden to try and keep that cost down. We have no health insurance and just hope that we don't get sick, or the car dosn't break down, or the house dosn't need a repair because we have no savings.

Dear Sir,
Besides for college my husband and I have lived in Vermont our whole lives we have two small children (a baby and a toddler) and felt fortunate to own our own house and land but due to the increasing fuel prices we have at times had to choose between baby food/diapers and heating fuel, we've run out of heating fuel 3 times so far and the baby has ended up in the hospital with pnemonia 2 of the times we try to keep the kids warm with an electric space heater on those nights but just doesn't do the trick. My husband does what he can just to scrape enough money for car fuel each week and we've gone from 3 vehicles to 1 just to try and get by without going further into debt. we were going to sell the house and rent but the rent around here is higher than what we pay for our monthly mortgage and property taxes combind. So if prices continue its looking like we will have to sell and move south where its warmer and less need for heating fuel, better paying jobs and closer to work tearing us and our children from our both our families. As we are watching many of our friends do the same just to try and make it. We love Vermont but unless you are rich doesn't seem possible without quitting your jobs and going on state assistance which we've also seen people doing more increasingly over the past year. Please help

We are a family of four living in Enosburg Falls. My husband and I are in our 50's, our sons are college students. While we have always been poor, we have our home, food to eat, one car and each other. This year we ran out of propane in January. Unable to pay the bill, we've been without central heat, hot water and a way to cook. Literally camping out in our home. We apparently don't qualify for any help because our monthly gross is a couple hundred dollars too high. We tried to get money from our 401k so we could pay our gas bill. We learned that we are unable to get any funds there. We are not experiencing a hardship according to the rules of the plan. That was our last avenue of hope. It's hard when one tries so hard to do the RIGHT THING and still can't make it. I feel like the Red Queen and I must run twice as fast to merely stay where I am.

My husband and I are middle aged. We have a daughter in college and a son in high school. I work part-time as a mail carrier. The gas prices are horrible! When I first started delivering mail, it cost about $5.00 a day to deliver the 16 mile aux route daily. Now at my new aux route, which is also 16 miles, it now costs me about $16.00 a day. And if, the gas prices go up to 5.00 I may not be able to afford to do my job.

The milage/ travel allowance we are given to do our jobs does not even come close to covering our gas expenses as carriers. There has been no talk of increasing it.

We travel as little as possbile and try to do all of our errands in one trip. I even try to find the shortest routes to drive to places we need to go and always use my husband's economy car to do long driving trips.

Meanwhile, my husband and I work to basically pay for and drive vehicles. We can't afford to pay for anything else. We are constantly late on our bills. My husband heats our house by filling plastic gas cans with kerosene and hand syphoning it into our fuel tank. We pay our electic bill with our income tax money and it is the only time we can afford to pay it. I grocery shop as cheaply as possible. We have no retirement savings. We cannot save any money.

We would like to sell our house and move closer as to save on gas and driving, but it doesn't seem possible. Our house won't sell and almost all of the houses that are in the Burlington area are out of our price range.

?I have two daughters in college, another daughter who is a sophomore in high school, and a 4 year son who is in child care while my husband and I work full time.

We have borrowed close to $48,000.00 to send out daugthers through their first two years of college. We borrowed 12% more this year than last year, at that rate we would be in debt in parent plus loans over $100,000.00, with two more children to go. We have decided that we will not be able to borrow any additional funds to help them in their last two years so that we can help our next child go to college in 2010. That will mean that our oldest children will be in debt for over $60,000.00 for four years of college.
Home heating fuel has reached outrageous rates. I just had a fill-up and paid $4.20 a gallon. Thankfully, that will last the summer. We lowered the temperature in our house to 65 degrees all winter. (please remember we have a 4 year old and he plays on the floor a lot). Gas prices are at $3.50 a gallon and I must tell my daughter that plays field hockey, softball, and swimming that I am unable to attend any away games because I can't afford to purchase gas to go to games, so that I can have enough gas to get to the grocery store. Due to tax credits we got a tax refund, which we sent to the fuel company to pre-buy fuel for next year, and I still must send $300.00 a month to the fuel company to make sure that I can cover additional rises in the cost of home heating fuel.
We have reduced our grocery budget for 6 people to less than $100.00 a week, and even that won't go as far as it once did.
My husband and I make good money, but he works for a private company that can only give so much in raises and I work for a public high school and the same is true there also. I am not certain how we can be expected to live on the income we have when prices are going up all around. I am afraid that we may have to move out of Vermont and go someplace where the income potential is better. Vermont is a wonderful place to live. We were both born in Vermont and choose to raise our family here. It would be a shame to have to leave because of the cost of living going up and salaries do not go up as much.

---- Posted 4/30/08

Dear Bernie, Thank you for your work. As a former GOP activist, I applaud your work!!!! We face impossible circumstances here in Barre. Day after day, we see more and more people with no health care, no food, no car, no heat, no hearing aids, glasses, dentures, and less and less dignity. Our church can no longer afford to help with housing, because of the enormous demand for food resources and gas vouchers. We put $70k out every year in community assistance, and it is never enough. Energency food shelves and meal sites are no longer for emergencies---they are for survival of working Vermonters. I pray that more will listen to you and change the government attitude, while we still can. Barre, VT

Dear Bernie,
I am writing in hopes that the more stories you recieive the better chance we have that something will change. I work full time at the largest hospital in Vermont. I make what would have been called a livable wage years past. Even though I am a single mother, I have always taken pride in the example I have set for my children. I have always worked for what I want. Now in a time in my life where I should be able to be at least financially stable, buy extra gifts for my children, save for their college education, buy a home and perhaps a car that has seen fewer years then my children, I am far from that. I am in more debt now then I was 10 years ago as a single mother going full time to college and waitressing to make ends meet. When is something going to be done to lower gas prices which has expodentially raised the cost of everything! I would love to just tell my children, "yes we can go out to the movies and not have it break the bank"!
Thank you for your support! Burlington, VT

i make less than 35,000 a year and work hard to earn that. I am trying to get by with rising cost of fuel. I have a wife and four kids that I love dearly and am trying to do the best I can for them. We do recieve help from the state but I would like to be able to make it without that help. With the cost of gas pushing $4/gal and the price of heating oil up over $4/gal it is hard to make ends meet. On top of that the furnace that heats the house and keeps my kids warm died today and while it will not need to run much longer this winter the nights are still too cold for a three year old and I have next winter to look forward to. I am not sure how I am going to pay for the repairs, but my oil provider is fixing the furnace as I type this. I never thought I would be classified as poor having grown up in an uper middle class family but that is where am I now. I don't know what we need to do but I know we need to do something before the middle class is a thing of the past in !

Thanks, Bennington, VT


Dear Bernie,

I have always been a very frugul person and enjoyed hunting for a bargain. It is no longer a game. I am a teacher with 20 years of experience and a MS ED and all but thesis on another masters degree. As a single parent, I am stuggling everyday to put food on the table. Our clothes all come from thrift stores. I have a five year-old car that needs work. My son is gifted and talented and the doctor said that he needed a school with a gifted and talented program. I tried to sell my house to enroll him in a school that had curriculum available for his special needs. After 2 years on the market, my house never sold. The property taxes have nearly doubled in 10 years and the oil to heat it is prohibitive. To meet the needs of my son, I have left the house sit and moved into an apartment near his high school. I don't go to church many sundays, because the gasoline is too expensive to drive there. Every thought of an activity is dependent on the cost. I can only purchase food from dented can stores. I don't know how I can continue this way for two more years of my son's high school, yet I am trying to meet his academic and psychological needs. I know that I will never be able to retire on a teacher's retirement with no insurance. I started teaching in another state and won't be able to get 30 years into the VT system to be elligible for insurance. I am stretched to the breaking point with no help in sight. If I could sell my house, everything would ease up, but that doesn't seem likely at any price. Thanks for listening even though, I don't know what you could do to help.
Sincerely, Londonderry VT

My wife and I were talking yesterday, that given the economic situation that we are in, it seems highly unlikely that we will be able to retire. Our saving is being wiped out, and there doesn't seem to be any relief. Our taxes have grown geometrically, and the projections seems to suggest they will continue to grow. The cost of necessities have surged beyond our capacity to pay for them with our wages (therefore our savings are used). We have one child in college, and another preparing to go in 2 years, and at this rate, we think we're going to have to go into debt (student loan). On paper, it would appear that we have earned a decent living, but realistically, we are not getting ahead, but rather we are getting behind. Congressman, we are a family that believes in hard work, and paying our way--but now I'm believing that we have a government who uses us to fund a beauracracy that is out of control. Large corporations make outrageous profit margins; a war is being funded with a credit card, and the cost of living is too high, compared with wage. At this rate, my wife and I calculated that if this trend continues we will be wiped out financially in about 2 years. I just cannot believe this is possible given how hard we work, and how modestly we live, but it's true, my family is on pace to loose everything. This, in my view is a frightening example of the disconnect between our realities and the myriad of political agendas that seem to take precedent.

Thank you for having this forum.

All the best!

Brandon, VT

I am a single mother of 4, each day the struggle becomes more difficult. Thank goodness for spring, my last oil delivery was $500. I spend over $200 a month on gas just driving back and forth to work (approximately 300 miles a week). We have cut our budget again and again, there is little left to cut. Spring and summer brings a respite from the fuel bills of winter, but I worry what next winter will bring. I will have to dig into my small 401k to make some home repairs this summer, money that had been set aside went to fuel, an electric bill that increased by 14%, and food.

Is there no relief in sight? Enosburg Falls, VT

Three years ago, our family lived a relatively comfortable lifestyle. We paid all of our bills, carried no credit card debt beyond 30 days and were able to enjoy an occasional vacation and put away a bit of savings. We are very responsible financially. We felt incredibly fortunate and decided to share our good fortune by adopting another child.
Within a year, after committing 20k in adoption expenses, we found ourselves in a financial quandary. My employer lost their contract, and with it, my job. I found another job at about 1/2 the salary with an 8- mile a day commute. My husband suffered a spinal injury which resulted in 6 months of disability. Savings was exhausted, gas prices soared. Suddenly, we found ourselves over-extended with a new child. We are in our mid forties, and have NEVER felt so pressured financially.
Our oldest daughter hit college this past year. She is a bright and amazing young woman (a VT Scholar, top 5% of her class), she was accepted into great schools. However, her options were severely limited by finances. There simply is no help for the vast middle class who suddenly find themselves financially strained. Our income has dropped over 20%, our savings has diminished, our credit card debt is embarrassing.
I put myself through college as a single parent a few years ago. I graduated with a 3.87 GPA. I worked like hell to be certain that I would never be in this kind of financial situation; yet here I am. It's frightening.

I am not certain this will make any difference but thank you for letting me rant a bit. Milton, VT?

I am a single mother with a 9 year old boy. We lived this past winter without any heat at all. fortunately someone gave me an old wood stove. I had to hook it up to an old/unused chimney we had in the kitchen. I couldn't even afford a chimney liner (the price of liners went up with the price of fuel). To stay warm at night my son and I would pull off all the pillows from the couch and pile them on the kitchen floor. I'd hang a blanket from the kitchen doorway and we'd sleep right there on the floor. By February we ran out of wood and I burned my mother's dining room furniture. I have no oil for hot water. We boil our water on the stove and pour it in the tub. I'd like to order one of your flags and hang it upside down at the capital building...we are certainly a country in distress. Brattleboro, VT

---- Posted 4/22/08

My wife and I live in rural Vt. We own a home and make about 75k a year combined. we own 2 vehicles and travel about 74 miles a day round trip to get to our jobs. Not only is the price of gas killing us, I have been displaced from 2 jobs in the last 9 years due to the exportation of jobs overseas. My current job is in jeopardy of being downsized due to the economy. Every job I have had since I moved here in 1999 has paid less with less benefits. My wife works for the State of Vermont and her job is secure, but she is looking at about a 1% raise this year. Her unemployed children have moved in with us. We are spending our life savings just to make ends meet.If thing continue the way they are we will have to sell our home and move. There is a depression here and I think the politicians are bought off by big business and just don't care. How about a big tax on imports and bring good jobs back to America? West Topsham, VT

Our middle class story relates to our daughter beginning college next year, and the inability to get any funding from most, nor sufficient funding from a couple, of the eleven schools she applied to. She will be in debt, and we (her parents) will be in substantial debt until we retire EVEN with her attending an "inexpensive" school at $30,000 per year. We will not be traveling or spending as in the past with such debt. Although many colleges are providing for low income, the middle class are being either squeezed out of college, or students' debt (and parents) I feel is a sleeping giant waiting to further cripple our economy in years to come. At the very least perhaps the limits to the Stafford loans could be raised over their current 1992 levels to keep up with the exponential rise in college costs. Perhaps the FAFSA could be changed to also consider current debt load and not just income. Thanks for anything you and Congress can do to help.

Milton, VT

I am paying $750 a month for health insurance through CIGNA for a program with a deductible of $2500 per person in our family of 4. I am self-employed and I have been hoping that Catamount would be expanded for the self-employed. We are so frustrated with the system. My daughter broke her arm last year when we had a higher deductible plan and we are still paying off the $5000 bill. Please continue to fight for health care.

Sincerely, Newfane, VT

Dear Bernie -
... In 1989 I was a 40 something father of 3 getting by at slightly above median income with 2 adults working in professional positions. Since then, my wife has had to go on disability and I have had to go further and further afield for work in order to maintain our "middle class life style". That "lifestyle" has diminished year after year with more and more debt required to "make ends meet". We have been fortunate not to have bought into the "borrow and spend" but like many of your correspondents still find ourselves reaching for the credit card in the food store because all the available cash went to paying bills, nearly nothing to the savings we also have to dip into on a monthly basis. So now - nearing 60 - I am the grandfather of 4 whose parents, at the good end, are in the same position we were 20 years ago (2 adults working long hours in professional jobs to "maintain") at the less good end, a single parent who has finally found stable employment after 10 years of corporate downsizing and finally a 20 something aunt still living with "Woopa & Nanny" for lack of sufficient employment. With a spouse and mother already on social security and Medicaid, albeit both still doing what they can to bring in "extra" money within the limitations of social security and their age (mom is 97) and disability, I don't see "retirement" in my future let alone light at the end of the abyss.
Thanks for all you do, especially the recent focus on the economy and examination of how other systems are prospering while we go down the tube. I regret not being able to attend your recent events here in state but do keep them up.

All the Best, Graniteville, VT

Each month my husband and I say---how can we keep going on like this? Even after cutting down to the bare minimum, our bills are beginning to bury us. We had a savings at one point that has dwindled down to nothing....due to the fact that we have had to dip into it every month for the past year or two. We are trying to raise our daughter in the best way we know how....but putting healthy food on the table is getting more and more difficult. We feel the family structure is the most important stability in a child's life. We would prefer for one of us to stay home to raise our children instead of using daycare...but the ecnomy does not allow us that choice. Tell me, how is it that two well educated young people (a Bachelor's and a Master's degree--over 10 years of higher education between us) with decent jobs can barely afford to feed their family? Our country is in a crisis. South Burlington, VT

My husband and I are 50 years old and make a good salary between the two of us. He's a blue collar worker and I'm an RN; we both work and have worked for our 27 years of marriage, full time. We have had some unexpected expenses as everyone does requiring us to use credit cards, however, we are now at the point of having to use credit cards to help with college bills, as well as every day expenses. Any vacations are simply to get a child to college. I took out a loan from my retirement to help pay our heating bills and car expenses this winter. We have borrowed almost the entire equity in our home, owe $80,000 to VSAC for two kids going to college, and $70,000 to credit cards. I pay 2 of my 4 credit card bills with checks from credit cards. My son wanted to complete his college with alternative loans for himself, in addition to the small student loans allowed him, but my husband and I were turned down as co-signers since we owe so much money. We've never been late with a bill, but I'm getting worried that this will be the next problem we face. Westford, VT

I make less than 35,000 a year and work hard to earn that. I am trying to get by with rising cost of fuel. I have a wife and four kids that I love dearly and am trying to do the best I can for them. We do recieve help from the state but I would like to be able to make it without that help. With the cost of gas pushing $4/gal and the price of heating oil up over $4/gal it is hard to make ends meet. On top of that the furnace that heats the house and keeps my kids warm died today and while it will not need to run much longer this winter the nights are still too cold for a three year old and I have next winter to look forward to. I am not sure how I am going to pay for the repairs, but my oil provider is fixing the furnace as I type this. I never thought I would be classified as poor having grown up in an uper middle class family but that is where am I now. I don't know what we need to do but I know we need to do something before the middle class is a thing of the past in America. Thanks- Bennington, VT

Dear Senator Sanders,

While I'm lucky enough to work in a relatively stable environment (IBM BTV), as days go by, I feel less and less confident that I'll be able to afford the Quality of life I've worked so hard to achieve. I don't feel secure about IBM staying in Vermont. I don't feel secure about being able to pay my bills. And, I don't feel confident that our Government is taking the right actions to bring this economy, and, especially, this Executive Office, in line with what's right for the American people.
My family is taking cost preventative measures to try to stay ahead of the game. But, with rising gasoline and fuel costs, rising food costs, rising building costs, rising everything costs, we find that it gets harder and harder every week to do the things we deserve to do.
I recognize that this may sound a little sanctimonious given that I'm not poverty stricken. I'm not $$$K's of dollars in Credit Card debt. I'm not on Government programs to feed my family. But, I can't save for my kids college at this time. I've taken down the level of input to my retirement significantly in order to continue to stay out of debt. I can't plan deserved family vacations outside of camping and in state activities. Sure, some will say "Oh, poor boy" (Sarcasm.........). But, the point is, I've worked hard to acheive what I now can't afford.
This Presidency if focused on one thing only. It's opportunity to acheive a world oil power benefitting the President and Vice-President. We let our Manufacturing base slip away leaving only the service jobs. We let the High tech. service jobs slip away leaving only the lower end service jobs paying not much more than minimum wage.
Day to day, week to week, month to month, this country goes further into the divide of upper class vs. lower class. When a Corporate CEO retires and get $400M in compensation, the economy of scales is grotesque. When a manufacturing operation shuts it's doors and moves to another country, the only benefit goes to the board of directors for that company. The person getting released from that job goes further unnoticed and further into debt and despair.
Shame on this country!! Shame on our Corporate leaders!! Shame on our Government for letting this country go to hell!!! Jericho, VT

My neighbor was on disability because she suffers from parkinson disease and her husband was a truck driver and sadly they lost their house. I feel we are not far behind with the price gas keep going up and up its rediculous how much the oil companies are making and the whole rest of America is struggling. We have got to do something to stop this and Fast. We have credit card debt we can't pay off. Our vehicles keep breaking down and just can't seem to catch a break. I have tried to sell things to make extra money but nobody has money so its futile. Please help america middle class survive. I am scared and fustrated. Williamstown, VT

Dear Senator Sanders, first, let me thank you for all of the support and rallying behind the middle class you have done. I, too, have been struggling to overcome the increasing costs of gas, heating oil, food, taxes, etc. I have to say that this is the toughest year, financially, that I have ever experienced in my 41 years on this earth. I have what used to be considered a decent job, I work hard, pinch my pennies, but the pennies have all but dried up. I am thankful that my employer understands that many of us cannot afford to drive to work 5 days a week. Instead, I work three 15 hour days. I have taken odd jobs to try to make ends meet. This winter, after keeping the heat just high enough to keep my pipes from bursting (the bedrooms are not heated and never got above 30 degrees) I began selling off my woodworking tools, snowblower, (pennies on the dollar) and furniture that had been handed down in my family from the early 1800s, just to keep the heat on. Today I am sad, broken, and very discouraged. I am thankful that the winter cold is behind us for a while, but now gas prices are rising yet again. I just can't keep up.

I never thought the day would come when I wouldn't be able to afford to have my work clothes dry cleaned at least once during the winter, nor that while I was wearing a (dirty)suit to work, I'd find myself collecting aluminum cans for gas money (and picking them out of my co-worker's trash at the end of the day).

The other thing that has crushed me financially is the change in the credit card rules that went into place in 2005. Due to lack of health insurance I accumulated about $20,000 in credit card debit. Emergency home repairs and a family tragedy brought the total to nearly $50,000. And yet I never missed a payment, defaulted, or asked for more time. I always paid on time. My rates were in the 6% range and although my debt was significant, I was plugging along paying everything off as quickly as possible. My credit report is immaculate, not one blemish. Then the changes came and my rates went from 6% to nearly 29% and the minimum due doubled. I had two choices, default and file for bankruptsy, or get assistance through a credit counseling firm. I chose the latter. Today I have paid off nearly $30,000, but I have at least a year to go. The thing that really bugs me is that I was a really good customer and exceptionally responsible. The credit card companies took advantage of me, perhaps know that I would rather die than not pay. Again, corporate greed that is dragging this country down and down.

I hope that my story, perhaps one of tens of thousands of Vermonters (and millions of Americans) will give you just a bit of insight as to what it means to be "former" middle class.

East Corinth, VT

Dear Bernie,
I am writing in hopes that the more stories you recieive the better chance we have that something will change. I work full time at the largest hospital in Vermont. I make what would have been called a livable wage years past. Even though I am a single mother, I have always taken pride in the example I have set for my children. I have always worked for what I want. Now in a time in my life where I should be able to be at least financially stable, buy extra gifts for my children, save for their college education, buy a home and perhaps a car that has seen fewer years then my children, I am far from that. I am in more debt now then I was 10 years ago as a single mother going full time to college and waitressing to make ends meet. When is something going to be done to lower gas prices which has expodentially raised the cost of everything! I would love to just tell my children, "yes we can go out to the movies and not have it break the bank"!
Thank you for your support!

Burlington, VT

Dear Sir

Due to illness my ability to work has been severely limited. I am making $10 an hour and if I am lucky I get 35 hours a week of work. At this time I am only getting 20 hours as it is "off season" in Stowe. It does not take a mathematician to do the figures. How are my wife and I supposed to live on a monthly take home income of less than $800 dollars? We do it by spending our hard earned retirement savings. I am 50 and my wife is 49. At the rate we are going we will be destitute in just a few years. The situation is so dire that it is all I can think about. Soon I will have to start walking to work, an 8 mile round trip because the price of energy is so high it is that or go without heat.

As bad as our situation is I know many in worse shape. We try to donate food when we do our weekly shopping but now we are not able to even afford to help our neighbors eat. What has this country come to? Morrisville, VT

I am 52 my husband is 72. We both work 7 days a week. We only receive one day off per year unless we pay someone out of our pocket to substitute. I have not had a day off in years except for Xmas.)

My husband receives Social Security which is his retirement for when or if he is unable to work. A self employed fence builder as well as having a wood cutting business (as well as paper routes for 25-30 years) for most of his life leaves him w/little SS income and obviously no pension. He is solvent except for our mortgage. I have student loan debt as well as a home equity loan which was used to pay off my credit card debt, and some small credit card debts which I am trying to pay off asap.

Our house is in dire need of repairs. We hesitate to embark upon any projects which would drain his bank accounts and leave us on shaky financial footing. Taxes, heating oil, water bill, utilities are all rising while our income remains the same

We are the 'working poor'. Not eligible for any assistance or 'programs' but barely eking out a living. I do not have health insurance. He is a veteran and goes to the VA for health care. Neither of us have dental and our teeth are falling apart. Were one of us to be unable to work our lives would come to a screeching halt and VERY tough decisions would have to be made.

In spite of these challenges, I am thankful we are able to work, have jobs and are in reasonably good health and have each other. I try to remain optomistic choosing to see the glass as half full.

God bless you. Chester, VT

My husband and I followed all the rules. He grew up in urban projects and went into the military with Vietnam service so he could get GI Bill benefits and go to college. I grew up picking strawberries as a migrant worker, but had a mother who so pressed education that I was able to go to college on scholarship and by working full time nights in a mental hospital. My husband and I worked hard to buy a home, maintain good credit, even taking government jobs because we truly wanted to help others. I became disabled and unable to work, but we managed to live a middle class life on one salary. Slowly, though, we have sunk back to the 'poor' days. Our heating oil bill, gas prices, food prices - well, you know the story. Even a pizza is a splurge now. The interest on our meager savings doesn't seem worth keeping the money in the bank. We're so much more fortunate than many others, since we can still meet our bills, but we're scared that we'll drop beneath that level soon. It doesn't seem right that after working hard and following all the rules for our lives, now, at 60, we're tumbling down. Plainfield, VT

---- Posted 4/4/08

I am a veteran teacher with 25+ years of experience. I don't even make $60,000/year with an advanced degree and a quarter of a century of experience! Two years ago, I purchased my first home. I have no credit cards. I am considering TRYING to sell my home, because I cannot afford the oil bills. My last bill was almost $900! My son is in college. I took out a parent loan that has gone into default, because I cannot afford to pay it! I am also concerned about the debt load that my son will graduate from college with. His school costs about $45,000 a year! I don't buy food- I pretty much live on cereal. My bills add up to more than my income, and I don't spend ANY money on myself- these are just costs of mortgage, utilities, loans, etc.
I am tired of the constant knot in my stomach, sleepless nights, and depression. I have NO SAVINGS and I have no idea how I will be able to retire- EVER.
Life is looking pretty bleak.

I don't know where to begin. There is just so much.

I am a single mom of 3 teenagers. One is in college, the other 2 live with their dad. I travel 100 miles a day round trip for my job. The rising cost of gasoline has made me seriously think about leaving a job that I love.

The prices on most food have risen quite a bit, so I don't buy as much as I used to. I never entertain because who can afford it? I never eat out.

There are lots and lots of fun things to do in Vermont, but I don't do them because they cost money. I see all the out-of-staters come here and enjoy our amenities, while we all are working 2 and 3 jobs just to pay our bills. Vermonters can't even enjoy our own state.

I didn't pre-buy oil this year because I couldn't afford the monthly payment. Last year I took a bank loan out but that only made my monthly payment higher. Out of desperation, I decided to "punt" this year and as you might guess, it wasn't the best decision, but I pay as much as I can and because I am a loyal customer for over 25 years, my oil company keeps delivering.

I can't afford to help my children go to college so they are on their own.

As soon as I sell my house, I am moving south. I can't afford Vermont anymore.

My story is a success story because I have a UNION job. I still get a pretty good wage, pension and benefits.So far we are able to weather this current down turn of the economy. I am doing better than most because of the sacrifice that our parents and grandparents made years ago for the right to unionize. It still amazes me that unions are still vilified by companies and that they have convinced workers that they are better of with out them. Some people live poor but vote rich. How else could the Republicans get elected?
Thank you for your time

Where to start? How about September 11, 2001....when my life was turned upside down. Of course this happened to many others, but I'm sure there are just a handful of Vermonter's who experienced it first hand, as an airline employee.
As a Flight Attendant, my family and I have suffered tremendously. 7 years ago I took almost a 40% cut in pay and benefits, which I doubt will ever be recooped. All the while the upper management continues to rape it's front line employees by excepting millions of dollars in bonuses, while I struggle to put gas in my car to get to work, yet I continue to smile so those selfish mongers can a make a buck! I can barely put food on the table for a family of 3, not to mention, my not being able to even buy a $3.99 scholastic book for my 5 year old, with out worrying...will I bounce a check!

My family has been squeezed for years now. My husband and I have two children. My husband works full time and has a degree. He works 60 miles away from home, and has tried to find a new job closer but has been unable to do so. I tried for 2 years to find a job, when I could not find a job I went back to school. I am hoping that my degree will help our family. The price of gas and oil now consumes 30% of our disposable income. We have cut back on groceries, and recently was only able to get groceries because my parents were nice enough to give us money. We are going to buy a woodstove because we are afraid we will not be able to afford oil next year. We do not qualify for LIHEAP. My husband got a raise last year that disappeared on Jan. 1st when the cost of our health insurance increased. We have to have reduced cost lunch for our children, we cannot afford to put our children on his health insurance plan, and luckily they are on Dr. Dynasaur, but now we have to pay a premium where we didn't last year. We have stopped doing any fun things. We have not been able to go out to eat in a long time, or to bring the kids to see a movie. There are no treats. I am praying that after I graduate I will be able to find a job to help my family out. Of course when I go back to work both my husband and I will have to start paying our student loans, and this payment will amount to about $500 per month. But what other option do we have? I couldn't find work. He can't find a better job closer to home. Both my husband and I have degrees, we did everything right, we are not doing better than our parents when they were our age. If it wasn't for our parents we would be worse off. Our parents have helped us with oil. My parents gave us $600 last year to pay for our oil, my husband's parents helped us with car repairs so we wouldn't go into debt. My parents have given us grocery money and bought our kids school clothes. I don't know what we would do without our parents. This is demoralizing, my husband keeps asking when will we be able to actually afford to support our own family? I'm not sure what the answer is.

Thank you for listening. I listen to you every week on Air America. I am proud you represent me.

First, let me say, I am so much more fortunate than many others. MANY MANY are in much worse shape than I. The economy? I go nowhere that is not necessary now...mostly just work and I pick up whatever I need when in town. No second trips, no going "over the mountain", no dinners out, no new clothes, very few groceries that aren't basics, still driving the old car that has over 130,00 miles on money for the dentist now, thank God I have health insurance for medical needs. My children, both married, one with two kids, NONE of them can afford health care....they just don't go to the doctor..suffer with illness, no dental care, they choose a box of milk over a loaf of bread, which is more necessary?? We live in the "richest" nation in the world....but only a few are rich....and at our tell me what's wrong? With gas well over three dollars a gallon, methinks George Bush is getting rich, but the rest of us are barely getting by...some are not even doing THAT!!!

My husband and I are retired and it is becoming more and more difficult to keep up with our bills and pay for gas, fuel oil and food.
We have some credit card debt and with all the extra fees they add on, we will never get the cards paid off. Can't something be done about this as many of us have used the credit cards to pay for necessities like food and heat.
Our son has lost his job due to the factory closing its doors. The factory is going overseas and more than 300 people are out of work in that one place. That is another issue that needs to be addressed. Many of our places of employment are going overseas or have already gone. Why can't the companies be forced to stay in the United States.
Hi Bernie.

I commute every day to work and back and the price of gasoline is definitely affecting my budget. Food prices as well seem to be skyrocketing.

A bigger issue for me, however, involves my son and his family. He and his wife bought a small home in Georgia 3 years ago where they have jobs. Now they want to move back to Vermont but are unable to sell their home. The value of their home has gone down so much that if they tried to sell it, they would lose a significant amount of money. Thousands of homes in the Georgia are under foreclosure. So they are stuck. At least they still have their jobs.

I feel that if banks are getting bailed out by the government for all the bad loans that they encouraged people to apply for, then they should turn around and cut the mortgages of their clients whose homes have been so severely devalued. In some way, the average hard-working person should get some help.

Thank you for caring, Bernie.

Dear Senator Sanders

Well the economy is affecting me BIG time.

Let me give you my facts:

I get 1307 a month from social security & retirement
I pay 96 a month for Medicare
I pay 36 a month for Plan D Rx Dugs
I pay rent 650
I pay Electric 75 a month
I pay fuel to stay warm about 100a month
I buy groceries about 125 a month
I have to do laundry each week 10
I need over the counter meds 25 a month
I need gas in my car to get around 150 a month

Prices have gone up in everything. There are NO allowances for Medicare premiums, its flat figure on your income hmmmmmmm.

So let me see I have 10 left for emergencies or to buy warm cloths and all of the figures above are estimates.

So how has the economy affected me? I might as well not be on this earth I'd come out further ahead.

Something has to be done about these high gas prices. High gas prices just leads to high cost being passed onto consumers. We are paying with nothing left at the end of the month. If I had to pay a mortgage payment I'd sink as so many has done.

We need in Vermont and on the federal level and full investigation on price gouging in the oil industry. They can say anything they want but I'm not a rocket scientist to figure this out THERE IS PRICE GOUGING in the oil industry.


There was a time when a college degree meant that an American was assured of some hope about their ability to own a home, get an education, raise their family and plan for retirement. My husband has an undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees. I have three undergraduate degrees and a master's degree. For the past four years he and I have had to work two jobs each just to live paycheck to paycheck with no savings and no hopes for retirement planning. In addition, we have not been able to set aside money for home repairs so when emergencies happen we go further into debt with credit cards and home equity loans. We have been unable to afford dental insurance and we both have serious tooth infections that we treat ourselves with hydrogen peroxide, it's not really working too well and we will probably loose a lot of teeth. We could not afford to buy fuel oil to heat our home this winter and relied on wood heat. At times major portions of our home only reached a temperature of 48 to 52 degrees. We are supposed to purchase next winter's wood but don't have any money set aside to do so because of rising cost of food, gas etc.

Also, he recently lost one of his jobs, so now we will probably lose our home. He is 53, most people won't hire someone that old. In addition, because of the current economic situation, many businesses are cutting jobs or just not hiring to fill spots vacated by retirements. Things are really looking bleak and I just don't want to loose my home... this worries us more than anything else because we worked so hard to buy it in the first place....

Thanks for listening.

The price of property taxes, gasoline (which has increased the price of food dramatically), and utilities are out of control. Housing, including property taxes, in Vermont is not comparable to our salaries. I work a full time job during the day and then a part-time job in the spring and fall (seasonal employee for 7 months of the year) to help pay for my bils. I know a lot of people that are working 2 jobs to pay their bills, not for extra spending money.

It is getting harder for the middle-class person/family to keep ahead of the increasing bills, put extra money towards bills, or have a small savings for a rainy day.

This past fall/winter I kept the thermostat in my house set at 64 degrees and now at 63 degrees to save money on fuel costs. I have cut back on using my vehicle to save on gas, and I try to buy only the food items that are on sale, as food prices have doubled this year.

Thank you for your time.

The "stimulus" in President Bush's Economic Stimulus Package:
Let's see, my economic stimulus will be $1200. So let me break this down on how I will spend it:

In 2007 - 2008, the cost of my heating oil was locked in @ 2.39 per gallon. I use approximately 1000 gallons of oil per year.
In 2008 - 2009, the current delivery cost of the same heating oil is $3.79 per gallon.
If I use the same 1000 gallons that I did in 2007-2008, it will cost me and additional $1400.00.

Now, for gasoline. I drive approximately 15,000 miles to and from work. My car gets between 25-30 mpg. If I use 30 mpg, that's 500 gallons of gas. Now, since the price of gas has gone up by, lets be conservative and use only .50 per gallon, that is an additional $250.00 in gas expense.
So Mr. Bush, I will spend $1400 extra in oil, $250 extra in gas, or a total of $1650.00 Now, if you are going to send me a stimulus package of $1200, I will be at least $450.00 in the red.

Mr. Bush, I appreciate you help, but could you send me another $450.00 so I could at least break even?? The way I see it, the only economic stimulus here will be going to big oil to fatten their otherwise alredy overflowing coffers.

And, by the way, I have already stimulated the economy without your help. Last year, I spent $7,000 on a solar hot water system which works very well. Thank you at least for the tax credits for this. I have also purchased a wood pellet stove for heating next year as, even though I am fortunate enough to make a decent living, I still cannot afford the ever climbing cost of oil and still stimulate the economy in other ways.

And, I didn't even talk about the fact that my pay raise for this year wasn't even enough to cover the cost of the increase of my health insurance. At least I do have insurance although I can't afford to use it.

thank you!

My partner and are both public sector lawyers. I have been a lawyer for more than seven years, and my partner has been a lawyer for over twenty. We rent because we cannot afford to buy a house in Chittenden County. We have a very simple lifestyle and expenses. We rarely eat out or go to the movies. Each month I try to save a little bit towards buying a home, but more often than not this year, I have had to transfer funds out of our house savings account to pay for basic expenses. Every time I transfer money out of house savings, I want to cry. It takes so much effort to save every dollar, and then one heating bill or car repair at a time our dream of ever owning a home slips further away. I am over 40 years old and I'm not able to save for my retirement, and that really scares me.

Thank you for your leadership on the economy.

Between my retirement & SS, I get a grand total of $804 a month. My last oil delivery was over $600 for the month of March.

That's my story - and I'm stuck with it.

Thank you, Senator, for trying to "make it better."

I am 71, retired on social security. I have to work part time to support my wife and I since our social security alone is too little. We were homeless last year and found a rental here. Since I am a vetran I recieve health care from the VA. My wife has only her medicare, which would cost us beyond our means if she did not buy medicap insurance. We barely get by and I worry very much that one or both of us get sick or disabled. The last 7 years have been a night mare for us. We need universal, socialized medical care like in the rest of the western countries.

This is the toughest time I have seen since I was a child. My husband is a self emploted logger and has an excavation business.The way the economy is has really hit in both of his employment very hard. The price of logs have dropped drasticly and no one is building. He has extremely high blood pressure but some how we can't recieve any help. We do have catamount blue health insurance that we pay 250.00 a month for but that does not cover some of his medicine nor does it cover all hospital bills. We have exhausted any savings we had but still have a small IRA but cannot touch that with out being penalized.We have had to refinance our home of 34 years and I have just started a job but it requires me to travel 35 miles one way to work and with the price of gas it is almost a hopeless case. I'm sure there are other people in worse shape than us,but I have to wonder why the government is not helping the working person? The only thing I uess a working person has is pride. Is it worth it?????? I'm really beginning to wonder!!!

The concern is that both parents have to work in order to have a decent home and average life style. My concern as a retire parent with 8 grown children is that there are not enough decent paying jobs to keep our children her in Vermont. The "offshore" re CHINA job losses have all ready caused some to move out of state but also the high cost of living here. My wife and I are retired seniors with some health issues and we have struggled so bad this winter that we are searching for a place out of state. It does seem to be a national issue. We don't intend on being in Vermont next year and we are both natives.

My husband and I are in our mid-fifties. At this time of our lives we should be at our peak earning power, putting money away for our retirement. Two years ago, we were, but now we are making about $42,000 between us and struggling through this Vermont winter.

I was an international IT manager, making a nice salary then. I spent 14 years getting my AS, BS and then my Masters degree from Champlain College. We were comfortable, and able to go on a nice vacation every couple of years. Then the company I worked for for 18 years outsourced its entire IT operation to India. I received a layoff package, but at my age it took me a while to find a job for one third of my previous salary, and that job is not even in my field - I am an accounting technician now.

My husband was laid off from a job as an electrician's assistant and he is now working in a hardware store. He makes $3 less per hour now.

Both of our moms are near 80 and live with us. We also help to take care of our next-door neighbor, who is 83. We are struggling to keep up with our bills. Fortunately when we refinanced our home several years ago, we took a fixed rate mortgage. Even so, our heating, gas and even grocery costs are rising so quickly and our salaries are not.

When I was younger, I found it easier to regroup from a loss like this, but then everyone wanted to hire me when I was younger. I thought the government was "of the people, by the people and for the people," but it seems to me that it's mostly "of the people, by the lobbyists and for the rich." By the time we get to retirement, maybe when we're 70 at this rate, Social Security and Medicare will be gone and we'll be on our own. I feel as though our government has sold us out and even if we elect a new President who cares for the people, it will take too long to recover for us to reach a comfortable place again.

Thank you for listening Senator Sanders. We supported your election and think you are doing a fine job for the working class.

Hi Bernie,

I have catastrophic health care coverage because I'd rather pay for my son's college tuition. I have also chosen not to have health insurance. My house will be paid off when I'm 80 years old because when I was married my ex and I refinanced and consolidated all our family's debt and put it into my mortgage. Then I got the house and that debt in my divorce settlement!
I watch my adult children deal with 25% interest on their credit cards for items that they don't even have any more. Recently one paid $250 on a payment and the total bill went down $240 was interest! Shame on credit card companies!
It's a good thing I love Vermont and that there is no fee associated with admiring Mt. Mansfield or walking along Lake Champlain. Take care.

I have no disposable income. Like many Vermonters I drive a long way to my job and consider myself lucky to have one and like most jobs in Vermont it does not pay as well as the same job in other areas of the country. My roundtrip mileage is 60 miles per day. I invested in an American made hybrid in 2004 which gets between 25 to 30 mpg. Also, the organization I work for does not reimburse me at the federal rate for the miles charged to them. I have to have more and more money each week to pay for that weeks gas and then wait to be reimbursed. It really is a tough squeeze and some of my co-workers are in tighter spots.

I was fortunate to have locked in fuel oil last Spring at $2.46/gallon for 800 gallons. This is to supplement wood burning. However, I fell on the ice in December and hurt my shoulder which makes lifting wood difficult therefore I turned the thermostat back to 60 and lived that way. Now the thermostate is back to 50 and the burner only comes on to heat hot water. I stopped using hot water to wash my clothes over a year ago and just use cold water. I don't notice a difference.

I have not had a vacation except a long weekend in years. At 57 and a widow and a woman, I can look forward to living in poverty. I am thankful for the things I have and pray that I can hold onto them. I have first hand experience that there are many, many Vermonters that have much less and are falling through the cracks. They do not have enough food to eat and are "too rich" for fuel programs.

I have a friend who is legally blind and lives on less than $800 per month. She lives in Senior housing so her rent is subsidized but she still has to pay for utilities and food. How does she buy food and clothing on this pathetic amount of money?

How can we be the richest nation in the world and allow this to happen? We are a small state so are numbers are low but can you imagine what the comperable numbers are in a state like our neighbors Massachusetts and New York?

I vote. I give to charities when I can albeit small amounts but how can I move mountains? I pray for peace and justice because I don't know what else to do and I am thankful for what I have and for what I am able to do.

I appreciate your keeping important issues before the public including Katrina and keeping residents in the Northern tier warm and the whole nation able to move about and get to work.

Thank you.

I am a 59 year old woman with late stage Lyme Disease. I have been unable to work for over two years, and am still fighting for SSI while living on $56 dollars a month from General Assistance. I am making decisions between buying toilet paper and food. I cannot afford gasoline to get to the Doctors and Specialists I must see on a regular basis. The price of food is so high that I must eat just one meal a day by the end of the month. The price of everything is so high now that each day I must live without some other necessity. My grown children are also struggling to make ends meet, with rent and utilities and gasoline far exceeding their incomes. Meanwhile, our government leaders are getting fatter on our backs. Where will it all end? We are the richest nation on earth, yet cannot take care of our citizens.

Dear Bernie, We earn good money, we can see that the money does not go as far as it did in the recent past, saving for college, retirement and a rainy day fund has grown difficult. Our income dollars are being reduced by real inflation(12-15%), which is the inflation I measure for what we buy on a daily basis(food, fuel, insurance, taxes, basic needs)-not ipods and tv's or whatever the government uses to figure that inflation has been under 3% for the past decade. Property taxes, state tax, federal tax, sales tax,new fees, electric bill taxes, phone bill taxes etc are all high and picking our dollars away along with fuel costs. The government isists on spending us into oblivion and devaluing the US dollar on everything both parties can think of to get more tax dollars into their pet progects. please help.

Dear Senator: Thank you for not forgetting the middle class. My wife and I both work full time and earn close to $100k. We have two children, one in high school and one thinking about college. When I read about the mortgage crisis I am so glad we had the foresight, or luck, to buy a small, efficient, house that is the size we need and affordable. We were able to refinance twice into shorter, low fixed rate mortgage and our house will be paid for in 10 years. We have what I think of as two relatively new cars - although they have 115,000 and 80,000 miles each. One is paid for and one has 6 payments left.

But the economy is pinching us in other ways. We buy groceries in bulk at a discount club and car pool to work with another person. Thankfully our offices are near to each other. Now that our children are both getting ready for college we don't really know how we are going to afford it. There's little chance we'll get much financial aid due to our income. We may have to tell them they can only go to community college or a state college they can live at home and commute to. It is very hard to save. We should be putting more money aside for retirement but are not sure how we can afford to right now.

I won't even get started on health insurance premiums (another double digit increase), taxes etc. etc. Our "real" income has been stagnant for about five years, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Thank you.

The price of fuels is having a major affect on my budget. I am afraid that soon I will end up losing my house.
I am a single parent,but,can't get any public assistance because they say I make too much money.
I don't know how they can feel I make too much money,I struggle to provide for my son and me.
The cost of daycare is taking a big toll on me,I've applied for day care subsidy,but,they will only pay three dollars per day.How can anyone
think that will be of any help???
As a combat veteran,I find this all to be very discouraging.I could go on and on,but,I'm sure you get my point.
Why can't something be done to the oil companies to put a stop to these outrageous prices??
Thanks for listening.

Yesterday I paid for our latest home heating fuel delivery: $1100. I also paid my $2000+ credit card balance, much of which bought gas and groceries for the month.
My husband and I are very nervous about what will happen to us when we are old. Although we have three jobs between us and participate in 403B retirement plans, we have not saved enough for a realistic post-work life if we survive to our life expectancy. As we approach the traditional retirement age, we are slowly paying off our daughter's UVM tuition loan and trying to keep our heads above water. We have always lived frugally. We buy used cars and store brand groceries, recycle everything,