This past week, I did something I swore I would never do - I moved back in with my parents. It's not because I particularly wanted to - I'm 27 years old - but because my finances have been squeezed so tightly, I decided I needed a chance to regroup and work on my savings. I've been hearing about a recession, but it never really hit home until I had some hard choices to make. Like most people, I assume things aren't my problem until they're staring me in the face. The cost of living is far exceeding the usual "three percent increases" that are built into most of our salary structures. Since the price of fuel, heating, housing, services and food are going up, it became infeasible for me to maintain my past standard of life. I don't usually like talking about myself, since personal finances are something I view as, well, personal. But I am tired of feeling helpless, and tired of feeling defeated before I've even begun. I don't like assigning blame. I prefer claiming responsibility. So I'm at least going to say what I'm thinking, because a teacher of mine once pointed out "silence is affirmation." There is something seriously broken in our society. The middle class is disappearing, and there are far too many people struggling to pay for the necessities, and not luxuries. There is intense polarization between the "extremely rich" and "very poor" and for the foreseeable future, I don't see anything changing. Personally? I'm not that worried about myself. I don't have children I need to worry about, and I had a fall-back position. I am worried about the people I know who already were struggling to make ends meet and dont have a similar safety net. Our area food shelves are already seriously overburdened. I dread having to do a story about someone freezing to death. HEAP benefits only extend so far and if we end up with a really rough winter, there's going to be serious problems. I would not be surprised to see gas balloon to $4 a gallon before June. And for the North Country lifestyle, with no public transportation to speak of, that's going to be crippling for many of our working and middle classes. Property taxes are going to continue to go up, which will force out our low-and-middle classes. Affordable housing is scarce, and though there's been several patchwork solutions offered, the key problem remains. This in turn affects the available pool of volunteers for services like ambulance and fire departments, which are experiencing a significant shortage of hands. All issues are an intricately related stacking game, and it's impossible to address just one problem without the threat of creating a cascade of others tumbling down. Someone is going to need to make some tough choices. Its obvious to me that reform is needed on the local, state and federal governments. We need to move away from the extremist policies of both the left and right wings, and toward compromise. Last year, Albany politics were more divisive and poisonous than ever before - and that doesn't even start on the polarization on the national level. I'm definitely watching the presidential election with interest. I'm very well informed - again, it's the nature of my job - but I've yet to make any decision on who to vote for. I'm tired of choosing between "bad" and "worse," and none of the candidates fill me with any sense of optimism for the future. All of them advocate change, but I want to know what they think change is - and how the heck they're going to accomplish it. The word "bipartisan" has been thrown about as a catch phrase constantly. I wish politicians would stop singing the "bipartisan" songs and start showing me. Talk is cheap, action is what counts. For people who are starting out, its extremely difficult to make ends meet. I dont think Im the only young person who feels this way in states which have already held their primaries, theres been a sizable increase in younger voter participation. And this is a good thing, because the only way to make things better is to get involve. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore - but the thing is, I don't know where I'm supposed to take it to.