Last October, staff writer Art Pine visited six cities across the country and talked with people about the economy and how they were coping with the problems it created for them.
Last month Pine revisted the same cities and interviewed many of the same people. The results of his trip are being outlined in a series which began on Aug. 3 and will end on Aug. 10 with a piece on changing political views. Today Pine concludes his profiles of couples and the changes the recession has made in their lives since October.
When talk of layoffs began in West Georgia's textile-manufacturing industry here earlier this year, Tammy Kennedy's first thought was, "How am I going to meet my house payment?"
The 20-year-old West Georgia textile worker and her husband, Joe, 22, had just bought an FHA-repossessed house. The price -- $17,000 for a small one-story bungalow near Ft. Benning -- seemed too good a bargain to lose.
The Kennedys have no savings account, and the arrival of a baby a few months before already had strained the family budget. Joe Kennedy works as an instructor at another mill. Their wages together don't amount to much.
But the Kennedys were among the lucky ones kept on through the recent slump. They've emerged more apprehensive -- but a little better off -- than they were last year.
Although Tammy Kennedy's mill has cut its work week to four days, her husband received a sizable wage boost earlier this year. As a result, their combined income has risen to $19,000 a year -- up from $16,000 in 1979 and $13,000 in 1978.
As late as October, the Kennedys still were chafing visibly under inflation's bind -- and consciously adjusting their life style to try to accomodate it.
"We live from Thursday to Thursday," Tammy Kennedy related then. We're not doing a lot of shopping. We're eating more canned goods. And we stay home on weekends." The two have no charge accounts whatsoever.
Tammy Kennedy wanted to stay home and raise the couple's child. But she found she had to go back to work to keep the family income up. "It used to be we just had money to go out and blow," Joe Kennedy lamented at the time.
But this time around, for all the bad news about inflation, the Kennedys seem to have resigned themselves to the economic squeeze and may even be coping better than last year, at least by their own account.
"Things are about the same -- we've just adjusted to it better," Joe Kennedy mused last month. "All my bills are stable. I have more pocket money, but instead of bills, it goes to gasoline. So, it all comes out about the same."
And what should be done to bail the nation out of its economic problems? Joe Kennedy's complaint is the same he voiced last year: "The government should control things better," he says. "They tax you to death."