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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yes, the Republicans are afraid of the 99ers

Yesterday was not a good day for 99ers. It was also not a good day for anyone receiving unemployment insurance benefits beyond 26 weeks. Nor was it a good day for small businesses in areas of high unemployment and homeowners in the very same neighborhoods. Frankly, it wasn't a good day for the "economic recovery" but at least the economic recovery doesn't require food and shelter.

A brief recap: As promised "The Americans Want To Work Act" was brought to the Senate floor with a motion for unanimous consent. Senator Stabenow and Senator Whitehouse gave impassioned speeches in favor of the bill. Senator George LeMieux of Florida (unemployment rate: 11.7%) blocked the motion.  Although the bill is not dead, it will remain stalled through Senate procedures. Millions of unemployed will continue to receive nothing and will be joined by more and more unemployed each week. This is a continuing catastrophe within the borders of the US. It is unfathomable that there is no correction in sight, yet this disaster will continue. There is however one tiny message to the 99ers hidden in this mess.

I don't believe in random activity in the Senate. Any of the 41 Republican Senators could have blocked the bill. The Republicans have not been shy about blocking anything in the Senate. Why was George LeMieux given the honor of denying millions necessary assistance? I can think of two reasons: 1. Senator LeMieux was a temporary appointment and is not running for re-election. 2. Senator LeMieux broke ranks with the Republicans to support a bill assisting small businesses.  How do these reasons merge and clarify the Republican message regarding the upcoming election?

Along with Senator LeMieux, Senator Voinovich joined the Democratic majority to support a bill assisting small businesses. Both Senators are retiring and both come from states with high unemployment. The Republicans claim small business to be a core constituency and don't want to appear anti-small business with the upcoming election. No Republican up for re-election wants to be seen supporting the "socialist agenda of President Obama." Using Voinovich and LeMieux grants cover on both fronts to any Republican senator up for re-election. Similarly, no Republican wants to add to the national debt now (although the republicans weren't quite as reticent during the Bush presidency) and no Republican wants to vote against unemployment benefits this close to an election. Again, using LeMieux grants cover to all running for re-election.  The message to the 99ers: The Republicans are afraid of you.

As a  99er, my course of action is clear. The Republicans have not given a damn about me since Day 1 and I am going to return the favor.  I am going to the polls on Nov. 2, 2010 and voting to continue a Democratic majority in Congress.  I urge my fellow 99ers to join me so we have a ghost of a chance at a future.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My family matters, so does yours.

I know why I should stay home on November 2, 2010.  The Democratic Party has grossly mismanaged a long list of priority agenda items. As a 99er, I am particularly furious about the quarterly Senate dance regarding funding extensions through 99 weeks. Since the fight becomes about funding current extensions the issue of funding beyond 99 weeks receives minimal attention.  Even when a Tier V is proposed as in S3706 it is nothing more than a band aid. Unemployment has been 9% or more since May, 2009 and is not projected to drop below 9% any time soon. A long term solution combining job creation along with a safety net is required and NO ONE is talking about that at all.  That's why I should stay home but on November 2, 2010  I am going to vote for every Democratic candidate on the ballot.

When citing their reason for not funding emergency extended unemployment benefits up to 99 weeks the moderate  Republicans spoke as one, "We cannot in good conscience add to the Federal Deficit and pass this burden onto our future generations." The mean spirited crazies said "We don't want to make the life of the unemployed too comfortable. They're going to have to suck it up and understand they may have to take a pay cut or relocate."

I am voting Democratic for the same reason  Republican deficit (chicken) hawks won't fund emergency unemployment extensions. I cannot pass on this burden to my future generations. "This burden" is the governance of the mean spirited crazies in the Republican party. A Republican Party too moderate for the 2000-2008 version that drove the US economy into the ditch and helped transform America from a country of shared vision to a country of "where's mine". Should the Republicans gain a majority of the House and/or Senate, success will be attributed to the "shit for brains" crowd of Palin, O'Donnell, Miller, Angle et al. It will take decades to undo the damage of George W. Bush, compassionate conservative. It would take centuries to undo the damage should the "Tea Party Trailer Troupe" gain control of government. And since no current Republican is willing to criticize the wingnuts, the wingnuts will be in charge if the Republicans win in November. Therefore I am voting for Democrats because my kids and (hopefully) grandkids deserve better. So I ask you act similarly and if you won't vote for the sake of your lineage, will you please vote on behalf of my future generations?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hillary shows the way.

Yesterday, I referenced the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary.  It started with eight candidates and ended with Barack Obama besting Hillary Clinton by 305 delegates after beating each other up for 6 months. Both campaigns were characterized by passionate support and the outcome was extremely divisive.  Clinton, a two term Senator and former First Lady had planned for this race for years, yet her moment was stolen by Obama, a relative newcomer. The final results had to be devastating for Hillary.

The aftermath was highlighted by intense bickering between supporters and professionals from both sides. If this rift was not mended John McCain would have a cakewalk to the presidency. Swift decisive action was necessary. It fell to Hillary to endorse Obama. Instead of a lukewarm endorsement, Hillary Clinton anointed Barack Obama as the consensus candidate of the Democratic party and the rest is history.

#99er NOVO's (99ers pledging to NOt VOte if unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks are not implemented) are faced with a similar conundrum. Like Hillary, the 99ers desired outcome appears unlikely in the immediate future. Just like Hillary, 99ers can determine the fate of the upcoming election.

As of yesterday, I have made my decision. I am angry at the Democrats for not aligning the votes necessary for Tier V. I am frustrated by the Democrats inability to be proactive in the face of a known attack plan by the Republicans. Yet, as angry and frustrated as I am, I will not be passive and allow the Republicans victory because of my feelings.  I will not sit back and turn over the government to a party that has spoken as one against anything to move the USA forward.  The Republicans have put party over policy for almost 2 years and I will not reward them for this grievous lack of governing.  Like Hillary, I will strongly stand for what is necessary in spite of personal dissolution. I am going to vote Democratic in November and I urge all 99er NOVO's to join me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

On second thought, I'm voting in November

About a month ago I listed my criteria for voting in November. Under duress I have changed my mind.

I do not feel any better about the Democrats than I did a month ago. Collectively, in both the Executive and Legislative Branches they continue to mismanage extended unemployment benefits as well as most other agenda items. I am angry, hurt and frustrated in a manner that is only inflicted by people or policy that are dear. As an Illinois Democrat and a lifelong Cub fan I am familiar with embarrassment and disappointment. The Democrats in the 111th Congress have evoked unhappiness well beyond that of Cubdom. I continue to believe that as of today, there is no effective difference between the Democrats and Republicans for the 99ers.    Despite all of these negative feelings I am going to the polls on November 2, 2010 to support the Democratic Party.

I remember the Democratic Primary in 2008. By February all but 2 of the party's presidential candidates had withdrawn. I still got to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; a tough decision because they were both strong candidates. The 2008 General Election was simpler; for me the choice was clear. Democracy does not guarantee a choice between 2 or more strong candidates. Sometimes the choice is between getting screwed occasionally and getting screwed routinely, aka the 2010 General Election.

I won't vote for a third party. Our elections are geared for a two party system and the Dems and Repubs don't care about "messages". The two major parties only care about winning and losing. I can't vote for the Republicans. The 2010 Republican Party is lead by mean spirited xenophobic crazies and weaklings that turn a blind eye to the lunatic fringe. So I will go to the polls, hold my nose, vote for the Dems and try not to cry. After voting, I'll go to the local pub for a beer to wash the sour taste from my mouth.

Will you vote? Stay home? Cast a better light on the choices available?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Remaining optimistic.

If you watch network news daily you are informed when these Jewish holidays occur: Rosh HashanaYom Kippur, Chanukah and Passover. The anchor starts with "Today at sunset Jews around the world begin celebrating (insert name of holiday). This holiday commemorates (what the holiday commemorates in 1 sentence)." There are other Jewish holidays of significance, but they don't make the news.

Rosh Hashana begins a 10 day period of intense introspection which concludes with Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement". A mere 4 days (Wednesday night) from the end of Yom Kippur the holiday of Succot begins, followed a week later by the holiday of Shemini Atzeret. Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur is marked by somber themes: Introspection, apology, forgiveness and atonement. According to strict traditional interpretation failing to successfully reach atonement could lead to premature death of the individual and collectively the destruction of the world.  Succot (a mere four days from Yom Kippur) and Shemini Atzeret are marked by a theme of unrestrained joy. Given that the reward a "successful" Yom Kippur is to earn a another year of  (successful) existence a joyful celebration so close seems extraordinarily presumptive.  Yet  as a Jew, I know this happens every year. How can anyone, let alone an entire people make this assumption? The answer is faith.

Faith is not limited to belief in a beneficent divinity. For me faith also includes a positive attitude: the understanding that everything  I have done stands on it's own but also serves as a building block to a successful ultimate outcome.  I will achieve what I desire because I have engaged in the proper activities to earn a favorable outcome.

I feel this way about being a 99er. My period of intense self review began September 22 (yesterday) with the fax rally organized by the American 99ers Union. The "One Nation Working Together" DC rally On October 2 will end this period of soul searching combined with activity. Along the way I have called elected officials and will continue calling. I have supported other rallies. These rallies were notable but also serve as a precursor to DC Rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Finally, after many months the unemployed advocacy groups have come together under a single umbrella. I believe in a positive outcome, for me and over 2 million 99ers.

There are many reasons to be negative.  Tiers 2, 3 and 4 are not funded beyond November 30.  Tier V discussion will be delayed until previous Tiers are addressed. Nothing regarding extended unemployment benefits or aggressive job creation is currently on the legislative schedule. Congress will recess in early October to campaign for reelection. Most importantly, some 99ers have gone without benefits since March. Too many have already lost so much, when resolution arrives it will not help. But negativity or anger induced indifference will not solve all that is wrong. So I return to my tradition and find reasons to be positive and continue to affect change where ever I can.

Do you continue to remain positive or are you tired of being ignored as a 99er? Any ideas on how to move things along?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Organized to help ourselves.

I hadn't planned on posting today. It's Erev Yom Kippur (Yom Kippur, a 24 Hour complete fast begins at Sunset), I have an appointment in a few hours 75 miles away and it's garbage day. I found some good news in my email last night and feel compelled to share the news. Just maybe, yesterday's unjustified optimism is justified.

Cleaning out my email yesterday night 3 great independent sources shared a similar message.  Donalee King, Mike Thornton and UWAG all had the same theme: As of today we are all organized, in this together.

It was the lack of any organized effort that made me start this blog.  As I found other advocacy forums, I followed their lead because I believe we need to work together. In the name of total disclosure, I had absolutely nothing to do with this aggregation of force. None the less, I would not feel any prouder had I pulled this together myself.

Our task is clear. Unemployment beyond 26 weeks is not funded for anyone beyond Nov. 30, 2010. There is still nothing for anyone  beyond 99 weeks. Congress will be in session for 3 weeks beginning Monday and neither of these topics is on the calendar in either chamber. This is unacceptable and must be changed. So along with Ed Schultz, Norman Goldman and other progressive voices support the DC rally on 10/2/10. Whether or not you can attend the rally, get everyone you know involved with the call-in on Wednesday 9/22/10. Spread the word, provide the energy and create the buzz. Our moment has arrived, do not let it disappear.

I wish an easy fast and a Gmar Tov to those that these wishes apply. I wish us all success. Lives hang in the balance.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No help yet.

Last week I was talking with my friend Vito, a Desert Storm veteran, union member, Republican and a 99er.  We've known each other for over 15 years, working together for 4 years. Vito became a 99er in July, my membership began in September. We share information weekly about jobs, unemployment and general thoughts.   During our last conversation I mentioned that I didn't think there would be any legislation for TierV until after the November elections. Vito disagreed, "Do you think Congress is going home for elections with unemployment close to 10% and 5 million 99es?" His opinion gave me some hope.

The past 7 days had shown some promise. Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) broke ranks with his party to support a small business package. John Boehner indicated he would be open to extending tax cuts without including the ultra rich in the package. The spirit of compromise was in the air. Unfortunately, that spirit didn't stick around too long.

Republican leadership ran away from Boehner's thoughts. It seems some Democrats don't have the stones to pass a tax cut that ends at $250,000.  This morning two sources indicated that Democratic Congressional leadership will again postpone funding Tiers II, III and IV until the last minute, squeezing out the 99ers in the process.

For reasons that defy logic I remain optimistic.  The DC rally on October 2nd is gaining momentum. Ed Schultz has guaranteed at least 300,000 participants.  Along with Sen. Voinovich, Gregg of NH and Lemeiux of FL are retiring Republican Senators that might be persuaded to join in the populist issue of helping the unemployed, especially if tied to continuation of the Bush tax cuts. I think something will be done before November. Do you ? If yes, how will it fall together? If no, why not?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Looking back to look forward

This past Wednesday evening I joined Jews around the world in celebrating Rosh Hashana, the Jewish "New Year". Rosh Hashana commemorates the creation of the world and begins a 10 day period of intense introspection which concludes on Yom Kippur. The implications and associations of this period in the Jewish Calendar initiate a multitude of discussions most of which are outside the scope of a blog on unemployment. The concept of self-review to learn from the past and proactively improve the future resonates as I assume my place as a fully realized 99er.

On September 9, 2010 I received a letter confirming I had exhausted all unemployment insurance benefit extensions available. This was not a shock.  It was merely restating the obvious,  "What now?" I've been asking that question for 99 weeks without a fulfilling answer but the ensuing holiday of Rosh Hashana provided the road map, introspection. Review the past (year),  continue with successful strategies and abandon failed approaches.

DO take responsibility for educating the public about the plight of the unemployed.  Publicize ralliesshare videos, tell the story.
DON'T count on Congress to do anything on their own.

DO remain aware of news concerning unemployment. (The link shows a partial list along with some resources).
DON'T depend on major network, cable or print news outlets. The 99er count began in March, 2010 and apparently isn't sexy enough for daily coverage.

DO stay connected with the unemployed community. There is strength in numbers.
DON'T Go it alone. One person did not create this mess, one person can't fix this mess.

With this battle plan, I plan to make the upcoming year a better year than the past year. Shana Tova.