The Economy: ABC7 talks with Bay Area residents


ABC7 recruited a group on Facebook and Twitter and invited them to the 7Live VoiceBox to hear what they have to say about the economy.

"A lot of people are being left behind," BillFloat CEO Ryan Gilbert said.

They are real people facing the realities of the biggest recession since the Great Depression.

"We need to work hard," radiologist Hayden Williams said.

Most people in the Bay Area are frustrated by the slow growth of the U.S. economy. The federal government says the U.S. economy grew just 2.5 percent from June through September. Consumer confidence in October fell to lowest level since the height of the recession in 2009. Home prices are flat, and unemployment sits at 9 percent nationally.

Many feel politics in Washington is playing a role in preventing it from getting better.

"I think that the parties can have disagreements and have disagreements on principal," Dan Shuman, who works for Project Open Hand, said. "I think what we are seeing now as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago is an unwillingness for any kind of bipartisanship."

At the heart of the problem -- a lack of jobs and stagnant wages.

"I have been applying to a few places recently; I've applied to like 10 so far in the last week or so and nobody's called me back yet," student Daniel Bermudez said.

"Because of the excess at the top, because of the decline of the real value of minimum wage, the decline of union jobs it's, the wages are shrinking at the bottom and growing at the top," Matthew Poland, who works with the non-profit group Youth Employment Services, said.

"What they are trying to do is reduce our wages because it is a business and they want to make profit," union leader Gregorio Rodriquez said.

The state unemployment rate hovers around 11 percent. The Bay Area as a whole is doing slightly better at 9 percent.

"One of my neighbor she had to sell their house cause they could not afford to pay," Keiko Kim, who is retired, said.

Home values in the Bay Area have plummeted more than 45 percent since mid-2007, when home prices were at their peak. The median home price in the Bay Area in 2007 was $665,000. Last month it was down to $365,000.

"The big banks that were too big to fail are now too scared to make loans," Gilbert said.

These taxpayers say, now is the time for the banking industry to give something back.

"Hold off on the foreclosures and evictions, let these people pay what they can, pay what you can, and they'll get back to it," poker dealer Ronald Navarro said. "These banks are going to survive; corporate America's going to survive."

They want to see home loans readjusted to today's values.

"The mortgage crisis wouldn't have happened if the banks would have made safe investments," substitute teacher Paul Bodner said.

Afterall, it was taxpayer money that funded a federal bailout of the banking industry in 2008.

That's just one of the ideas this group has to fix the economy.

"Drastic change has to be made and I think, you know, the people on the top all the way down, nobody wants to give up nothing," Navarro said.

"If we are going to fix the labor market we are going to have to fix education," quality control inspector Raymond Lucas said. "We keep making cuts to education, kids aren't learning what they need to learn to enter the middle class; it's either you have enough money to earn a degree and make the big bucks or your stuck in, below poverty level."

"Everything you want is not going to come tomorrow; the president is not going to change everything just because he's president," Denise Williams, who works in pharmaceutical sales, said. "There is no magic wand; this is reality, we have to work hard."

"We really have to look at the labor market and things that can be done to fix the labor market and not increasing the safety net services, that's not really where the problem is," Poland said.

Tuesday, ABC7 will talk to some of the top economists in the nation and ask them how we can fix the lagging economy.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel

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