Oregon Family Faces Economic Realities

The Klarich family of Oregon is happy to disregard the Emily Post notion of not discussing politics and religion at the dinner table.

Indeed, impending elections keep politics firmly on the menu.

It’s a menu shared by retired parents Lauralyn and Jim, their son David, his wife, Odessa, and their son.

“As I get older, I tend to be leaning more conservative,” said David Klarich.

“I look back, and (for) president, I’ve voted Democrat my whole life,” said Jim Klarich.

But this sometimes divided family is more together than they might seem.

“This is kind of our staging area, where Lyn and I, we unpack everything,” said Odessa of an area of their shared home. “We boxed it all up during our six months right of redemption for the house.”

David and Odessa lost their home to foreclosure in 2009 after David was downsized out of his studio production job.

“You feel like you’ve completely failed. You feel like you’ve completely let your family down,” said David. “It completely wrecks your self-confidence, which makes it hard to go back out and find work.”

He did eventually find work in Madison, just as Lauralyn and Jim discovered much of their retirement money was lost in the stock market.

They then decided to become a multi-generational family, all living under one roof.

Their disparate experiences inform their feelings on political issues, but all four of them count health care costs and the quality of education among their top concerns.

But they said they also worry about spending, taxes and, ultimately, their futures.

“For me it would be cutting back on the money being spent,” said David. “I’m very sensitive to that. I know I can’t spend outside my means, and that doesn’t seem to concern anybody that much that we’re spending outside.”

“I’m concerned about Social Security,” said Jim. “Not for me, but for future generations. Because what happened to us could happen to future generations, because we thought we had done everything right.”

As the family continues to adjust to their new reality, they said they hope politicians learn the same hard lessons they have.

“We can’t afford the seven bedroom house that we’d all enjoy to have our own space,” said Odessa. “Right now, we’re all living on top of each other, and that’s what we do. We have to simplify.”

For more on this project and the families participating, go to this website.

Editor’s Note: To show the realities of day-to-day life in the state while studying the proposed policies and solutions suggested by statewide political candidates, WISC-TV, in conjunction with other media partners, has begun a new series as part of the “We the People Wisconsin 2012 Economy Project.”Every month from now until the fall elections, the project will present stories from across the state of families who describe how they are coping with the challenging economy.