For many of us, the fiscal cliff doesn’t have us on edge.
We’re shopping, decking the halls and bracing for a blizzard. From what we’ve heard, it’s just another tiresome game of Washington power politics. More endless gridlock, as President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner struggle to reach a deal averting an avalanche of spending cuts and tax increases at year’s end.
But it’s possible, probable even, that in your neighborhood, there are folks watching this saga with a knot in their stomachs. In my neighborhood, it’s Max and Shannon Krone.
Max and Shannon’s kids walk with mine to school. Their daughter is my daughters’ almost constant companion. Max lost his job as an information technology manager May 31. His company decided to shift its IT duties to an outside firm. Since then, he’s interviewed in person with 10 companies and connected with many others. He’s waiting this week for word on another prospect. A Christmas miracle, maybe.
“It’s very humbling,” said Max, an Air Force veteran.
“It’s been hard on him. That’s been hard to see,” Shannon said.
Shannon works as a certified medical assistant, but the loss of Max’s income has shattered the family’s budget. They’re the first to admit that they ran up too much credit card debt when times were good. Now, they’re trying to hold off as many bills as they can to make a house payment. For the first time since May, they had to borrow money from family to cover it.
Max’s state unemployment benefits run out Jan. 4. He’s then eligible for federal benefits for 14 more weeks. Trouble is, federal benefits expire on Dec. 29, and prospects for an extension are entangled in negotiations over a fiscal cliff deal. Without that extension, a tough situation is going to get much worse very quickly, they said.
“We’re sitting here on the edge of our seat, waiting to see if they’ll have a deal,” Shannon said.
The Krones didn’t tell me all this because they’re looking for sympathy. They really just want people to know that the fiscal cliff is not some far-off fight. It’s not all about tax increases for the wealthy. And it hits close to home. Max is among more than
2 million Americans who will lose unemployment benefits without an extension. That’s getting too little attention. If Congress fails to act, it deserves worse than its current 18 percent approval rating.
Clearly, my own view of the cliff has changed. It’s now just down the street.