Over the past few weeks I’ve traveled to Orlando several times for business. On my last trip I was lucky enough to get hooked up with a driver named “Ralph” (not his actual name). Over the course of several trips, I got to hear his story. It’s a great example of how the “little guy” is taking it on the chin in this economy.
Until about a year ago, Ralph operated his towncar service in Brooklyn. As an investment, he and his wife bought a vacation property in Orlando to rent to families vacationing at Disneyworld. They hired a local property management company to handle the details and everything was looking good…
…and then the property management company went bankrupt. Unfortunately, most of the rental income from Ralph’s property (about $50k) was being held in escrow by the company.
So Ralph sold his home in Brooklyn and moved his family to Orlando. He used the equity from his home in Brooklyn to purchase a couple additional rental properties in Orlando and continued working as a chauffeur to pay the bills.
…and then the housing bubble burst, dragging the whole U.S. economy down with it. That means less vacationers to rent Ralph’s properties. And of course Florida is one of the areas hardest hit by the housing bust, so selling the properties isn’t an option.
Despite all this, Ralph is remarkably upbeat. To me, he epitomizes the American spirit — an honest, hard working guy trying to build a better future for his family. Guys like Ralph are the reason that America is the best country in the world.
So where is Ralph’s bailout money?
If we’re going to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to stimulate our economy, I’d rather give that money to guys like Ralph than big banks and auto manufacturers. Real job growth is going to come from small businesses, not from big, bloated companies with outdated products and greedy executives (the ones that got us into this mess). Let’s invest in the future, not the past.