Monday, June 13, 2016

HOW THE DECK IS STACKED - Today's U.S. Economy

"In today's economy, even two-income families struggle to make ends meet" PBS NewsHour 6/10/2016


SUMMARY:  Aaron and Mary Murray are middle-class Americans, but they don't feel like it: though the two teachers make a combined $90,000 a year, they still live paycheck-to-paycheck.  Even something as mundane as a stranger accidentally sideswiping their car can put a serious dent in their finances.  Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal reports on the struggles facing the Murrays and millions of similar families.

AARON MURRAY (Marketplace):  Don't I call my insurance first to make a claim?

MARY MURRAY:  Yes.  Do you think it's totaled?


KAI RYSSDAL:  This has not been a good morning for Aaron and Mary Murray and Vandy, their 5-year-old daughter.  They came out to find Aaron's car had been hit overnight, one of those unexpected expenses that can throw a lot of middle-class families off-track.

WOMAN:  Thank you for calling Esurance.  My name is Rebecca.  How can I help?

AARON MURRAY:  Hello, Rebecca.  I'm calling because my car got sideswiped.  I did not see them.  They just left a note on my car, ah, and the note that they swerved to avoid a cat dashing across the street.


MARY MURRAY:  Got to brake for animals.

KAI RYSSDAL:  Things get back on track, though, with Mary's car, and they head to the Los Angeles Zoo to meet some friends.  Vandy's really looking forward to the dinosaurs.

MARY MURRAY:  Oh, my gosh.

AARON MURRAY:  It's OK.  I will protect you.

MARY MURRAY:  Yes, right.  He makes noise.  I think he's real.

KAI RYSSDAL:  Over a standard zoo lunch of chicken fingers, talk turns back to that car accident.

AARON MURRAY:  The check goes to pay off the car.  It doesn't come to me.

KAI RYSSDAL:  Next up, groceries at Target.  And Vandy is eager to help.

VANDY MURRAY:  Fruit, taco kit, and (INAUDIBLE)

MARY MURRAY:  Nice.  High five.  Boom.  Awesome.

KAI RYSSDAL:  Mary keeps close eye on the family budget.  Money-saving apps are key.

MARY MURRAY:  Bread, any bread.  Unlocked.  Cha-ching, 25 cents.

AARON MURRAY:  All right.

KAI RYSSDAL:  The tricky thing when you're talking about the middle class is who exactly you're talking about.  One definition, according to the Pew Research Center, is a family of four making between $48,000 and $145,000 a year, which is basically the Murrays.

They're both teachers.  Household income is right at $90,000.  And they're the ones that politicians talk about all the time.

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