Now: “We mainly shop at Sam’s Club and portion out our meals. We spend $4 to $5 a night on eating.” He and his wife use space heaters in their elegant house and leave parts of it cold. The Hummer is gone, and he drives a 2005 pickup. On Nov. 6, Kaufman is voting for Mitt Romney.
Lower down the ladder, the recession put Simone Ludlow’s life in a full circle. Laid off by an Atlanta hotel company in 2009, Ludlow, 32, bounced from job to job for two years, got by with a “very generous mother,” still makes do by renting a room in a house owned by friends, and is back working for the company that had let her go. She’s voting for President Barack Obama.
For four years, the bumpy economy cut an uneasy path. It raked small towns and big cities, knocked liberals and conservatives on their backs, plagued Republicans and Democrats alike.
It was the worst economic setback since the Depression, and it didn’t take sides.
In the Charlotte area, the recession played a cruel trick on Obama supporter Tamala Harris, wrecking the Charlotte housing market just after she quit a job to go into selling real estate. It drove Romney supporter Ray Arvin out of business selling industrial equipment from North Carolina and cleaned out his retirement savings with not that many years left to start from scratch. Both have more hope than you might think.
Harris, 38, is back in Charlotte after getting her master’s in business from the University of Rochester in New York. During the worst of the calamity, she used loans and scholarships to advance her education, and looks back on it all as a time that made her dig deep.
“It made me realize what was important,” she said.
Arvin, 47, is starting over, too.
In 2001, he and his wife bought a small company that sold equipment to power utilities and the aviation industry. It sank in 2009. Now he travels five states in a 2005 Suburban as a sales representative for a business supplying equipment to electric and gas companies, bringing home $50,000 to $60,000 after taxes and travel expenses.
“Am I doing better? Yes. But I’ve lost so much. I’m starting new. I’m confident in my ability to work hard and do well with what I do,” he said.