A tribute to the 99ers: We are not invisible.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nothing new, what do we do?

The next 10 days could get very interesting. Finally there is buzz (other than Ed Schultz and the unemployed) about extending benefits beyond 99 weeks. Much to my surprise the Republicans are part of that buzz. The Republicans want unfunded tax cuts and privatization of Medicare and Social Security. While I wouldn't turn down benefits they might put through, I'm not holding my breath either. Many of the Democrats would like to provide relief to those that have exhausted their benefits. It's good economics and the right thing to do. Unfortunately neither Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi or President Obama have spoken about additional benefits beyond current limits. A picture paints a thousand words and their silence is deafening.

Extending unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks should have already been accomplished. No one would be breaking new ground, there is historical precedence when either party held the White House or Congress. Sometimes these extensions were funded, sometimes they were emergency (added to the debt) appropriations. This is were bold leadership is required.

Prior to passing the recent extension funding, Democrats attempted to offset the expense with cuts to Medicaid and food stamps. The $25 weekly stimulus funds were also removed and not part of the final bill. Medicaid and food stamps are safety nets for people with minimal income in the same manner that unemployment benefits are safety nets for those that have been unable to find reemployment. Extending unemployment while reducing other safety nets accomplishes nothing. It merely shifts the burden to another group with limited representation. It's a cowardly way of doing business. If the extensions are going to be part of the budget (they should, with 5 seekers for every job this won't be solved quickly) new sources of revenue (new or greater taxes, yikes) must be found. I have ideas which will be part of another post.

What do I suggest? Stop counting on the kindness of others. Elected officials need voters more than voters need elected officials. We (the UNEMPLOYED voters) need to recognize, internalize this fact and act accordingly.

1. Stay abreast of happenings that effect the (long term) unemployed. Open Congress is a great way to track legislation.

2.Michael Thornton and Donalee King are two of many that do a great job of simplifying Congressional language and talking about 99er issues. Subscribe and stay knowledgeable.

3. Get involved now. The Unemployed Workers Action Group and Unemployed-Friends have specific campaigns right now. There are multiple petitions on Change and Care2. I am trying to organize our efforts here and at Facebook. Participate on your behalf. Patience is poison.

This may not be too hard but it's not simple. It is easier than living in a box or feeding your kids at a soup kitchen. 99ers know this because they are living it. They may not be telling their stories because they no longer have the capability. It is up to you and me to act for them and for ourselves. Either we swim together or we certainly sink alone. I am off to find my Rabbi and ask why the clergy appear to be silent about impending homelessness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thanks and thoughts

Some follow-up to yesterday's post. Please email Ed Schultz at his radio or TV show to say thank you, he's approaching this crisis as though it was his own family seeking help. You can also tweet him at @wegoted, @edshow.

I had a chance to review Rep. Alan Grayson from two nights ago. I hoped the 99ers would get an advocate on their behalf similar to Alan Grayson for health care reform. Sure enough someone claimed that mantel: Rep. Alan Grayson. Why can't anyone else be Grayson? Is he the only Democratic in the house with heart, soul and guts?

A friend suggests that Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Jim McDermott are amongst the most likely to champion additional unemployment extensions. Please contact either or both (especially if you are a constituent) to urge their vigorous participation. For anyone without benefits for months, patience is poison and action is everything.

Please participate in the "Send a Shoe to Washington" Campaign. There are so many in danger of losing everything. A coordinated campaign makes us newsworthy, which generates press. News coverage guarantees the 99ers will not be ignored.

Finally, thanks to Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Olympia Snowe. It takes strength and courage to buck your party. Still, part of me has to ask, $25? It took $25 per family per week to get this going? Is that what it takes to get this going? $25? Now my family has to go to Martha's Vineyard for just a week in August. $25? I'll have to suffer with domestic caviar. $25 is $108.33 a month. $108.33 is bread, eggs, milk, peanut butter, jelly, ground beef, noodles, tomato sauce and canned vegetables. Don't worry. We will all figure it out. Sen. Collins, Sen. Snowe and any Democratic Senators that hid behind Sen. Collins and Sen. Snowe, don't consider me ungrateful. I am grateful checks will be out soon. I am grateful to pay my bills. If $25/week was what it took to get these extensions funded, I am grateful it wasn't more. So I am grateful. I am so grateful I could puke.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The next step.

According to everything I've heard, unemployment extensions up to a total of 99 weeks will pass the Senate today. The President will sign the bill and checks will begin to go out in short order. It has taken only 8 weeks with a Democratic majority of 57/58. A hollow victory to be sure, but a victory (especially for those waiting for these benefits) none the less.

Some Senate Democrats have been all over the news decrying the "minority obstruction". True as it is, please stop. The only thing worse than a bully is a victim that continually allows the bully to bully. Democratic Majority: If for some reason you thought the homeless and hungry would be granted immunity to the filibuster, the actions of Senator Jim Bunning should have been a warning. You should have had a plan and you need to do better. Name those specifically impeding progress and add their state's unemployment rate. You weren't sent to Washington to claim it is the fault of others that very little is being accomplished. Do something!

If you are looking for a suggestion, fund unemployment extensions beyond 99 weeks. The 73 weeks of emergency extensions are unprecedented. It is also unprecedented to discontinue extensions with unemployment above 7.2%. Time is dear for those without unemployment benefits. Get started now. Talk about it every day. Don't recess until it's done (Sen. Reid, Speaker Pelosi this means you).

It doesn't look promising. Rep. Alan Grayson was great last night. Ed Schultz has been spotlighting the 99ers daily both on radio and TV. Others including Rep. McDermott,
Sen. Brown and Sen. Stabenow have spoken in favor of extending benefits, but not often enough. The White House has avoided discussing anything beyond 99 weeks. So along with Ed Schultz we will need to make this a daily issue.
Contact your Senators and Representatives every day. Tell your story everyday. If you are still receiving benefits, make sure your vendors (exclude landlord or mortgage holder) know your situation. If they have many customers in the same situation, their business could be at risk without continued extensions. They need to contact Congress too. So do your neighbors. If your house goes into foreclosure, their property values go down. Without continued extensions the economy will return to a downward spiral. For the 99ers, patience is poison. We must be relentless. Is there anything else to do to keep this part of the daily news cycle? Please share your ideas.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why are they holding my check hostage?

Like many unemployed Americans, I have not received any unemployment benefits since mid-June. Unlike 4 million+ unemployed I still have benefits. Until extensions are funded, no one is discussing adding weeks. Additional weeks are crucial for the recipients and the economy. This breaks my heart for the 99ers. They are running out of options or worse. It scares me because I will be joining them soon. It angers me because it is bad economics and bad social policy. I still look for work everyday, but jobs aren't there. Like many I am frustrated that 41 senators can do this much damage. Why are they holding my check hostage?

The Senate Republicans are using a filibuster to keep the vote on funding from taking place. Their claim is fear of increasing the national debt. I always felt this is a convenient excuse andSen. Jon Kyl admits as much. Most pundits attribute this to pure partisan politics, but it goes beyond that. These quotes are a 30+ year snapshot of Republican opinion regarding the unemployed. It reflects a concerted effort to keep wages from increasing and keep employees in fear of losing their jobs. Think about it: Unemployment benefits aren't getting out and officials representing over 40% of the country call us lazy, hobos, substance abusers and worse, with impunity. Are you really going to fight for $10 a week? Be too busy to come in for a half day on Saturday, compensated or not? Call in sick when you are sick?

I don't think the Republicans stand in the lobby and talk about ways to suppress wages. It is just who they are. Government safety nets are socialism; repeal or privatize Social Security and Medicare; "The business of America is business". They are merely being true to character but things happen and you must reevaluate your priorities. No matter what drives your behavior you are still responsible for the consequences. Why didn't even one Republican Senator, Representative or Governor say "No matter what we believe, people are going without food and shelter. Philosophy can wait." ? They all bear that responsibility.

Am I being too harsh? Not harsh enough? Too simplistic for a complex issue? What do you think?

My apologies to Conservatives fighting for unemployment extensions. I whack the Dems. next time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

100 isn't perfect. It might be disaster.

I am one of the many long term unemployed in this country. Although I usually only speak for myself, I feel comfortable speaking for all of us in one regard. In no particular order, the 5 most important things we need are jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs. Job creation doesn't happen overnight. President Obama wanted a bipartisan stimulus, instead he got one too small. He thought after the bank bailout, the banks would repay the favor. Loan the 0% money they could get to small businesses. Instead the money was used to fuel their insatiable greed. So we must continue to be patient. Patience (in this case) requires shelter, food, utilities. Unemployment compensation beyond 99 weeks. Numerous officials have compared Wall Street to Main Street; Recovery is incomplete until it reaches Main Street. OK, put up or shut up.

Work began on the Bank Bailout in Sept., 2008. The unemployment rate in Sept., 2008 was 6.1% Today the unemployment rate is 9.5%. The unemployment rate has only been this high once in the last 70 years.

Put up or shut up. If the recovery is incomplete until it reaches Main Street, continue unemployment benefits until the unemployment rate returns to the level of Sept., 2008, 6.1% Or stop telling the world this is a priority. To help, I'll have suggestions of ways to pay for this next week.

I'm on Facebook at UBO21C and Twitter @ubo21. Please jump in.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What is equitable? Equity.

As Congress prepares to return to work for a mere 3 weeks, it's important to define what we want. As a group, we the unemployed want 1) the extensions approved 18 months ago fully funded through 2010 2) extensions beyond 99 weeks. Unfortunately, no elected official wants to champion going beyond 99. Until current extensions are funded nothing will be done. Realistically, no one will champion unlimited extensions, so we must be precise in articulating our expectations.

What do I want? Equal treatment under the law as almost any other person. Since recent court decisions imbue corporations with personal rights, this is a great place to start. Just as the banks were bailed out for the good of the country, I would like the same. Not for my good, but because it is good economics. Auto manufacturers were propped up not for the sake of the corp., but to minimize collateral damage. Add more weeks not for me but for the stores I frequent and the property values of my neighbors. When I get healthy, I wish to continue to pay a disproportionately low share of tax. I would like to borrow gobs of money at 0%. I want to invest that money to grow my profits and justify obscenely large bonuses. Not for my sake but for the good of the country. (I apologize for the last few sentences of liberal diatribe. Like gas it surfaces at inopportune moments). What do I want? I want to be considered the same as the big corporations, because as a group we are just as significant. I will give specifications in my next post.

Like the rest of the country, I am unable to fathom the extent of the crisis in the Gulf. I wish Congress could fix it with the wave of a pen. I am sure they would if they could. I don't want to equate the country's chronic unemployment with the Gulf disaster. The circumstances are different but the results might have similar effects on our country. Ironically, Congress could mitigate the effects of long-term unemployment with just a wave of the pen.

I plan to start a conversation on delivering our yet to be crafted message on Facebook at UBO21C, please join in. Also follow on Twitter @UBO21

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What just happened?

June 30, 2010 7:20 PM CDT I was on the laptop, The Rachel Maddow Show on TV in the background. (Yes, I am a progressive and proud of it.) The hose host stops her interview to announce Breaking News: The Senate has failed to pass Funding of Unemployment Extensions by 1 vote and was adjourning for Independence Day until July 12, 2010. My extended unemployment has been held hostage since June 6, 2010 and elected officials were taking a week off.

How could this happen? Many reasons with blame enough for both parties, the White House and my fellow unemployed. There is time enough to go through the politics, I want to talk about the unemployed.

That week was a very busy week in Washington. 2 confirmation hearings, the death of Senator Byrd, the ongoing mess in the Gulf. Many pressing issues were competing for coverage. 1.2 million citizens without any support, promised support and very little coverage. This is my responsibility along with my fellow unemployed.

The unemployed have no voice, no face, no advocate. We don't have a concrete message other than we need help either with a job or longer benefits. We are relying on the compassion of others, but our plight is much harder to comprehend than the image of an oil-slicked pelican. That is not going to change unless we make it change.

That is why I have started this blog along with companion sites on Facebook UBO21C (please like) and Twitter @ubo21(please follow). Together I want to craft a message and devise ways to deliver that message keeping us in front of the news. I also hope to share links that can help us get by. Finally we can gather for support.

I look forward to your thoughts and ideas. Stay positive, despite it all.