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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Abandoning the 99ers and receiving nothing.

As usual, the always relevant Donalee King was her eloquent mix of facts and fury on Thanksgiving. In synopsis, Donalee makes the case that everyone (I take editorial license to exclude Ed Schultz) from Sen. Stabenow to unions to advocacy groups to rally organizers have lied to the 99ers. The 99ers have been encouraged to lend their voice to every Democratic and unemployment cause only to have Tier V (or any talk of extensions beyond 99 weeks) excluded from last minute negotiations to extend unemployment benefits past November 30, 2010. She proposes lobbying the new Congress to strip NELP of funding as part of the presumed upcoming austerity program in January.  She continues by withdrawing her support from any extension that does not help the 99ers and concludes telling the Dems to grow a set and combine extending expiring tax cuts with long term extension of unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks. It's hard to argue with Donalee but I do want to disagree at least in part.

I heartily agree with combining tax cut and unemployment benefit extensions in the way only a self promoting blogger can.  I suggested this combination on August 27, 2010. Extend long term unemployment benefits (including TierV, VI or Tier XX if necessary) for the same period as tax cuts for the ultra wealthy. The CBO reports unemployment benefits are 5 times more effective than extended tax cuts in creating economic production. Given this obvious logic I can only assume the conversation will still be about tax cuts with unemployment benefits being at most a footnote.  On that count, big thanks to both Congress and major media outlets.

I split with Donalee on her decision to "unsupport" the less than 99ers.  As a 99er, I can't understand Donalee's frustration but I am fully aware of my anger. As a 99er, I was able to cross each week off the calendar, fully aware when my unemployment safety net would end.  For those under 99 weeks of benefits, a sudden end (for example, tomorrow) is even more unsettling than being a 99er.  I speak from personal experience.  I went through the Congressional "June Swoon" when no one beyond 99 weeks received benefits previously approved.  The idea that unemployed planning on up to 99 weeks of benefits cut off at 26 weeks is as unsettling as the lack of support for 99ers.  Still, I can't agree on the actions of NELP, unions, etc.

Although flummoxed at the piss poor economic policy of not continuing unemployment extensions given the high unemployment rate and stagnant job creation the stupidity of Congress never surprises me.  If my advocacy groups must abandon my needs to serve millions of others I realize I might get left out. But NELP, AFL-CIO, Working America, One Nation Working Together and others have flushed me like blue ice and gotten nothing.  Don't jettison my needs without getting something for the rest of the unemployed.  At the end of the day I fear not only will I be left out (and me and my family are my primary concern) but so will everyone else beyond 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.  The war analogy fits here, don't make me a casualty for nothing.

On a final note, Donalee's Thanksgiving article ends with a description of her personal desperation. Donalee, don't give up, now or ever.  Your talent shines through. Any organization would be blessed to add your ability and passion.  Don't let short sighted idiots get you down, you are way too good for that.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm watching the parade with my family.  We had a substantial breakfast and look forward to an overabundant family meal later.  I am lucky to spend today in this manner and would like to share just some of things for which I am grateful.

1. The friends I have made on Twitter via #Twittermarch, #TierV and #99ers. The circumstances that bring us together are maddening but the relationships are priceless. It is my fervent wish that we all enjoy better next year.

2. My wife's unending love and support.  I've been unemployed for nearly 27 months.  My family has not missed a meal nor has the county sheriff has paid a visit.  This is a testament to my wife's financial wizardry.  Without her, I doubt there would be any semblance of stability in the midst of all this uncertainty.

3. Last Monday's tornado that touched down two miles from my house.  I am sad for those that experienced injury or property damage and grateful it wasn't me.

4. The same tornado flipped a school bus, with only minor injuries (a minor injury is one that occurs in someone else's family).  My children were not on that bus but were in transit at about the same time. I don't want to think about what might have happened.

5.  We'll be joining family to celebrate Thanksgiving in a few hours.  My niece has obligations that keep her at school but everyone else will attend.  A big family meal is not without stress but it's a kind of stress I'm happy to have.  No one is at war overseas or in a hospital. I'd rather have an argument than a table with an empty seat.

This list just scratches the surface. Obviously I have my challenges but all things considered my cornucopia of life overflows with good stuff.  I wish everyone as many blessing as I have today and the entire year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

`Tis the season to work together

Thanksgiving is just a few days away kicking off the official holiday season (Ignore the Xmas carols you've been hearing since Halloween). Charities appeal for assistance in the spirit of the season. Wouldn't it be nice if Congress would answer this appeal?

In a modest a effort to give our elected officials an example, I remind Congress of an event from almost a century ago. In the midst of World War I, soldiers called for a truce during Christmas, 1914. If armed adversaries can conceptualize and execute a cessation from killing, why is it so hard for Congress to find civil exchange and common ground?

My last post indicated it was time for the unemployed to stop painfully pondering the inequity of our lot and find the energy and reason to move forward.  I still stand by every word but that doesn't mean I can't find a few moments to politic on behalf of 99ers and not yet 99ers. In this light, please click on the link and sign the petition to our Congressional leadership.  It only takes a moment and though it may not help it certainly can't hurt. Then continue your bold action plan to success.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A letter to the 99ers.

Dear Colleagues:

Except for bad news, we 99ers would have no news at all. I got my latest news from Mike Thornton.  All unemployment extensions  are scheduled to expire November 30. Congress adjourned after an exhausting four working days and didn't move forward on unemployment extensions. Extending tax cuts to those making over $250K may be a bargaining chip for assisting the unemployed, but apparently not to help the 99ers. Except for 99ers (and Ed Schultz) no one is talking about the 99ers. What should we do?

My answer came from Sarah Robinson and her blog "Escaping Mediocrity".  Ms. Robinson's point is that it's easy to find a reason not to do something. That is the path most people choose.  Those that seek a reason to act inevitably succeed as a result of their move to action. I agree and today is a great day to start.

Do not mistake this as a "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" lecture to 99ers.  Anyone that suggests that 99ers are not doing everything possible to be a non-99er is a jerk.  99ers are some of the bravest and driven people I know. Unfortunately strength and motivation may not be enough to stave off eviction and hunger.

One choice is to lobby Congress even harder for extended unemployment benefits. Unfortunately the most expansive option is S3706 which currently is only discussed in a whisper and not even out of committee. S3706 calls for an additional 20 weeks of benefits in some states.  I don't expect the economy to be significantly different in 20 weeks, so S3706 is at best a band-aid. There is nothing wrong with a band-aid, it's just insufficient.

Another option is to continue to be angry. Donalee King has been expressing this rage most eloquently. This is not a criticism of Donalee.  She is a tireless advocate on behalf of the unemployed and a continual source of inspiration. But sitting around reading Donalee and being angry along with her doesn't move me forward.  It's time to stop being incredulous about getting f***ed, light up a smoke and get moving.

Identify a skill, something you do better than anyone.  Rediscover professional passion, your reason for heading out the door. Combine these two and find a way build a living with them. This is the choice I've made. Easy, right?  Not at all! If it were easy everybody would do it and it's time to be different from others. Bold action isn't one option , it is the only option.

Success will not come easily, nor is it guaranteed.  Even failure moves success one step closer. Most importantly, failure while striving to achieve is better than disaster while waiting for help.  99ers have been labeled lazy and drug addicts. These mean spirited opinionated bastards deserve an extended middle finger waved in their faces. Every move toward success is that flip-off.  I will not give these jerks a victory, I will fight.

I was talking with my friend and neighbor "Union Jack".  Jack is a union electrician.  In 2009 he worked about 14 weeks and thought that was a tough Christmas.  He's worked 8 weeks in 2010, this will be the mean Christmas.  I plan on kicking mean in the ass. I'm hoping many will join me in this endeavor.

My prayer for all unemployed this winter is shelter, sustenance and success. It's about time.

With admiration,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Words matter.

Wandering through the local Toys R Us I saw a sign atop a bin, "Retired Beanie Babys". Obviously, TRU is trying to clear inventory, but the perception of Beanie Baby Closeout/Blowout/Discount vs. the perception of Retired Beanie Babies is significant even though the goal is the same. Words create image, words matter.

I am a lifelong liberal. Politically, I've been playing defense my entire life.  Liberals lose the word game and have to fight twice as hard to drive public opinion. Liberals must stop using conservative terminology and reframe the discussion with favorable word images.

"Pro-life, Pro-choice". The inference is that a woman that wants control of her body is somehow against life. In contrast many anti-abortion activists have no problems with the death penalty or untold millions dead in Iraq and Afghanistan. These anti-choicers are many things but certainly not pro-life. Start framing the abortion debate accurately: intrusive big government required reproduction vs. personal reproductive rights.

Cap and trade is a moderate response to pollution control. Other options include cap and tax/fine (government receives income from carbon credits), cap (comply or close) or allowing our world to become a pile of toxic goo.   Opponents call it cap and tax (if only) or government intrusion.  Proponents should call cap and trade what it truly is: free market pollution abatement.

Entitlement programs. Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment benefits are not entitlements, they are safety nets.  Framing them as entitlements evokes a spoiled rich kid with unrealistic expectations as a birth rite. Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Compensation are insurance programs. Insurance is pooled risk. By definition not everyone enrolled in an insurance program benefits equally. Some receive greater than their input, some less than their input and some lucky individuals don't need the benefit. Would you rather receive payment from you auto insurance or be accident free?  The only thing that makes Social Security or Medicare entitlements is that individuals that do not need benefits, receive benefits.  Income and asset test these "entitlements" and reserve the programs for those in need of a safety net.

Extended Unemployment Insurance Benefits. There is no benefit to being unemployed for any length of time. Unemployment compensation supports both the recipient and the community and occasionally must be extended beyond 26 weeks during a weak economy. Refer to unemployment insurance compensation as local short term recession mitigation. Individuals and their neighborhoods suffer during high unemployment. Foreclosures rise, property values plunge, businesses close and the cycle spirals downward to disaster. It makes sense to invest in these communities through (unemployed) individuals until the economy is sustainable. Anyone in Congress listening?

Liberals will continue to make a case to a deaf public if conservatives are allowed to control terminology.  When liberals use proper language there is no debate. Progressive points are self evident.  Choose the right words and control the conversation.

Some of the above newly coined terms are rather lengthy.  Any ideas to make them shorter or sharper?  Do you have any other terms to recast?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

My friend and neighbor, "Union Jack" posted this on his FB page on Tuesday. I can't improve on perfect so with his permission I am using it for today.  Thank you, Union Jack.

I am a Veteran. A Veteran is someone who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America, for an amount up to and including their life. I honor those who served before me, those who have served with me, and those who will serve after me. God bless them ALL. Copy and paste if you are a Veteran.on Tuesday  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


My final thoughts on the mid-term election, specifically turnout:

Thank you to everyone that bothered to vote no matter your choices.  The only way to counter billions of dollars in hidden contributions is to make elected officials accountable. It is critical to demonstrate to politicians that we are watching. Voting is fundamental.

As a corollary to above, anyone that voted GOP, Green, Libertarian or independent although I disagree with your choice I respect your decision. Again, thank you for voting.

Finally to any 99er, unemployed, GLBT or liberal/progressive that voted to send Dems a message or stayed home because you didn't get enough change with your hope, go to hell. You are a codependent facilitator of all things not working in America. You can't effect anything when you sit on the sidelines. Please do not complain about the next two years, you've earned it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Keith is back to work tomorrow, #99ers are back to work...

Late last night my wife found an update that Keith Olbermann will be back at Countdown on Tuesday.  I am happy Keith is back, not only as a fan, but as a 99er as well. It's not because of unemployment coverage on Countdown.  Countdown touches on unemployment and job creation but not nearly enough for my taste. I'm happy Keith is back to work because his suspension no longer monopolizes the newscycle.

Since his suspension was announced on Friday, support has come from multiple sources. A petition with over 300,000 signatures, at least two Facebook pages totaling over 15,000 "likes", a Twitter site with 210 followers, 2 Twibbons (2200+ supporters) and even William Kristol. All this activity in under 72 hours.  The unemployed, some without any safety net for over 7 months get this support: preemptive armed guards at unemployment offices, tax cuts for the wealthy to "create jobs" and the usual cut spending from one (safety net) program to fund another (safety net) program.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am a huge fan of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann". I'm glad Keith is back. He gives is "liberal media bias" and I want him on the air. I understand why over 315,000 would mobilize on his behalf in a weekend.  Why can't (won't) the same group and more do exactly the same to support millions (and growing each week) of unemployed? More importantly, what can I do to get 300,000+ to spend 10 minutes to advocate for the unemployed?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Today is November 3, 2010. Make it count.

Senate races in Colorado, Alaska and Washington are too close to call.  It is still too soon for analysis and too early to make predictions for 2012.  I remember November 4, 2008. Two years is a very long time.

The future for the unemployed however, looks uncertain.  No extensions are funded beyond November 30, 2010.  Anyone receiving benefits beyond 26 weeks will be cut off beginning in December.  The incoming Congress appears unfriendly and potentially hostile to the plight of the unemployed.  99ers and all unemployed must target the lame duck session of Congress (beginning Nov. 15, 2010) for any help. Grassroots lobbying on behalf of the 15 millions+ unemployed begins today.

UWAG has suggestions. I expect other unemployment writers, bloggers and advocacy groups will also have recommendations for action. I suggest calling/faxing the Whitehouse, Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi.  I would contact each of these three today, tomorrow and each day after until there are extended unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks. Each day is precious, don't waste a single one.

Postscript: Donalee King wrote last night about the potential of violent protests. I don't disagree but I hope she is wrong. Violence doesn't solve anything and only delays reaching goals.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Time to vote and move forward.

Election day, which means the plethora of campaign ads are finally over.  In the "no more commercials" spirit, today's post is 100% non-partisan.  First, however is an unpaid political announcement.

On this election day, please take a few minutes and vote. With voter turnout well below 70% politicians have no reason to do the people's business; clearly the electorate isn't watching. Until voter participation goes sky high, elected officials will continue to chase corporate money. The power to reform government is in our hands. It's time to take control. Happy election day and now today's post.

I watched the Sanity/Fear rally and really enjoyed it. Both ends of the spectrum were skewered. Pointing out the absurdity of extremes is important in comedy. Good comedy should be non-partisan.  I also enjoyed  Jon Stewart spelling it all out as a conclusion. Stewart made sure no side could claim the rally as a victory. His metaphor about merging lanes on a busy highway was perfect.  Shouldn't government work together in areas on which all (most) agree and compromise when they differ?

A bipartisan committee has called for a full audit of defense spending. This is a great place to start. Find specific cuts in the defense budget, apply 50% to deficit reduction, 25% to tax cuts and 25% to social programs/safety nets. Everybody gets something, no one gets nothing and America gets government that works.

I am not an expert on government budgets. I am sure there are a myriad of reasons why my example is too simplistic. So what, start somewhere. The last two years have been an embarrassing example of government gridlock. Screw blame and move the country forward.