Sunday, July 12, 2009

Be Patient? Tell That to My Landlord

Barack Obama is urging a nervous public to be patient.

In his radio address yesterday, the president claimed that the stimulus plan had "pull(ed) our financial system and our economy back from the brink." Now, he said, Americans must be patient.

Stay the Course Redux, anyone?

I understand what Obama is saying when he says his stimulus plan was designed to work over the next two years, not in a matter of months. I went to college. I didn't study economics, but I comprehend what he is saying.

And I think most unemployed people probably understand it, whether they went to college or not.

In fact, most of us probably would be willing to be patient. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but I do believe that is so.

But it would be a lot easier to be patient if we could see evidence that things are moving in the right direction.

And it would be easier to be patient if the president would urge bill collectors to cooperate with those who are struggling.

In my case, I'm talking about my landlord.

But I suspect that most landlords only care about getting the rent money on time.

I've been living in my apartment for almost 10 years. I've always paid my rent on the first of the month. I've never been late. I've never missed a payment.

During most of that time, though, I had a job. Around Labor Day, I joined the ranks of the unemployed. A few months ago, I met with my apartment manager to explain my situation. My lease will expire soon, and I wanted to know when I would need to notify them that I would need to vacate.

Did the manager say, "Don't worry about that. We know that these are difficult times for many people. You've been a valued tenant for nearly a decade, and we'll work with you until you can get back on your feet?"


She said, "How long can you afford to pay your rent?" Then she charged me a $50 fee for a gizmo that would permit me to continue to have access to the laundry room.

The clear implication of the conversation was, as soon as I can no longer pay my rent, I'm on the street. It doesn't matter if I've been paying my rent every month like clockwork since the Clinton administration.

As I say, I understand what Obama is saying when he asks people to be patient.

But, as a practical matter, does he have any insights to share about how to keep a roof over your head or put food on the table while we're being patient?

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