Janesville couple live modestly and wonder why governments don’t

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Sunday, November 27, 2011
— Lita and Jim Powers do not live extravagantly.

The couple pinch pennies and trimmed their lifestyle to stay out of debt.

But Lita and Jim are exasperated, frustrated and angry with governments they believe live beyond their means.

The two are also concerned—not so much for themselves, but for their grandchildren.

“We’re at the end,” Lita said. “We’re 72. But we’ve got great-grandchildren coming.”

Sometimes, nothing makes sense to the couple. They cite the billions in taxpayer money that bailed out General Motors, the $535 million loan give to the now-bankrupt Solyndra Corp. and what they consider unneeded city bike trails, sidewalks and roundabouts.

The couple count themselves among those who worry that increasing costs could force them from their homes.

It’s not like they’re destitute, Lita said.

“We’re certainly not as bad off as other people,” she said.

“We don’t want to be in that position,” Jim said. “I come from a long line of people who work their cans off to make things work.”

“If the state, local and federal governments would think twice before they spend—if they would live the way we do—they wouldn’t be in the trouble we are today,” Lita said. “If they would live like normal people do and not live beyond their means.”

“We haven’t really complained about taxes so much,” Jim said.

After this year, though, they’ve had enough.

Jim cited Janesville’s recent citywide revaluation that increased their home’s value to more than what they believe anyone would pay for it. Lita pointed to three homes in foreclosure on their block, and Jim noted the pages of foreclosures in the newspaper.

“Hello! If that isn’t a red flag in Janesville …. ” he said, his voice trailing.

Then there are the proposed $10 city wheel tax and a proposed 21 percent increase in water rates.

Fees and school, county, state and federal taxes keep going up, on top of increases in the costs of vehicle and health insurance and such staples as food and gas.

Conversely, the couple spend only what they receive in Social Security, saving a bit each month in case their furnace goes out. Jim works 12 hours a week managing an apartment building, but Lita has been unable to find a job.

The couple live in a modest, 1,500-square-foot ranch house. Their bedroom set is 30 years old.

They go out to eat once a month. They sold their newer car and are down to one. They don’t go to plays or movies or on vacation. They don’t golf. They don’t hunt.

They can only afford the gas to get Jim to his part-time job in Milton or for the occasional visit to their children in Lake Mills or Rockford.

They give to their church but cut out gifts to their children. Lita is embroidering pillowcases for her grandchildren for Christmas.

They are almost apologetic about their one splurge: a large, flat screen TV in their living room. And wait, Jim said. He belongs to the local rifle club at a cost of about $100 a year.

Over the years, Jim has had decent-paying jobs, but they didn’t come with union benefits, insurance or retirement, he said.

He and Lita lived modestly all their lives, raising five kids in a 10-by-57-foot trailer. Those days were probably some of the happiest of their lives, Lita said.

Their savings took a hit when their son was hit by a car. They paid off what was left on the $1 million medical bill after insurance covered its part. People told Jim he should declare bankruptcy, but he’s old school. He wasn’t raised that way.

Maybe the couple should act like the government, Jim said. Maybe they should have kept the new car instead of the old. Maybe they should have run up debt on their credit cards.

“They just keep spending,” Jim said of the governments. “Then they have to find someplace to get it.

“Our Social Security checks come in, that’s what we have to live on.”

“They should stop spending money they don’t have,” Lita said.

“It just seems useless,” Jim said.

“We pay our taxes, pay our bills, try to keep our heads above water. It doesn’t mean anything.

“Nobody gives a rip.”

Last updated: 6:51 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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