“Families who are scraping by every day see no real relief in sight,” Amanda Greubel, an Iowa mother of two, told a roomful of US senators Thursday morning. “We hear that corporate welfare continues and CEOs get six-figure bonuses at taxpayer expense, and we look across the kitchen table at our families eating Ramen noodles for the third time this week…. We know that money talks around here, and that means you don’t hear us.”
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions heard Greubel’s pleas during a hearing called “Stories from the Kitchen Table: How Middle Class Families are Struggling to Make Ends Meet.” As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee three floors below, outlining American plans for “longer-term sustainable development that focuses on spurring growth” in Afghanistan, senators on the HELP Committee heard about the urgent need for “nation building here at home,” as President Obama put it in his address to the country last night.
Greubel and her husband work for the public school system in DeWitt, Iowa, and both had their salaries reduced during recent state spending cuts. She tried to convey to the committee the real effect it had on her family. “The loss of that income required a complete financial, emotional, and spiritual overhaul in our family,” Greubel testified, describing shopping trips to Goodwill stores and discount supermarkets, and cold cereal for her children at dinnertime. “We did everything that all the experts said we should do, and yet we’re still struggling. When you work as hard as we have and still sometimes scrape for the necessities, it really gets you down.”
The committee also watched a short video by documentarian Susan Sipprelle, who is working on project called “Over 50 and Out of Work,” which tells stories from people facing unemployment after long careers but before retirement. It was similar to this version, posted on the project website: