By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network
A friend who lives on Manhattan's upper west side but who spent the summer in New England says she noticed it upon her return to the city. So many businesses in her neighborhood are closed.
"The washer and dryer repair guy closed up shop," she said. "So did the 99 cent store. The only business that seems to be thriving is Starbucks."
This may be an over-simplification of the situation. But, anecdotally, she's right. There are more empty storefronts around America, even in Manhattan which has not been as hard-hit by the economic downturn as the rest of the nation.
Where I live, in New Jersey, getting a good Asian meal is more difficult. My favorite Chinese restaurant closed just months after a major renovation. So did the nearby Japanese steakhouse where my kids and I would go for special occasions.
Unlike when a big company goes out of business, when the washer and dryer repair guy or the Japanese steakhouse pull up stakes it doesn't make headlines. But if you look at the accumulative effect on the economy, the closing of small and medium sized businesses is a far bigger issue.
Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers are caught in a squeeze. Their 20 and sometimes 30-something children are still in the house - and they're taking care of their aged parents.
And those attending university are concerned about their futures too. Many of them are on student loans - and worry that - when they graduate - their dream job won't await them.
My son has friends who have graduated college but are being underpaid for jobs that they really don't want and for which they are - already - overqualified. Some of his friends have opted to join the Armed Forces and fight for their country rather than fight for a spot in the workforce. Oo-rah!
And those Baby Boomers who have lost their jobs. They suddenly find themselves overqualified for the positions they are seeking.
This really translates into, "we don't want to pay you what you're worth."
All of this is leading to an erosion of the middle class. This is a very dangerous situation. Because when a nation becomes mainly one of the haves and have nots, natural tensions develop. Both economic and social.
President Obama today said it's time to help the Middle Class. It's time, he said, "to reaffirm our commitment to the great American middle class that has, for generations, made our economy the envy of the world."
If only he really had the power to do something about it!
Host - News Talk Online
Director of News and Programming Paltalk News Networkwww.paltalk.com/pnn Join the News Talk Online on the Paltalk News Network at 5 PM NY time weekdays Twitter: http://twitter.com/garybaumgartenChat with me: http://gary.superim.me