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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

99ers, it's time to change our message

It appears 99ers are the gangrenous little toe of the body politic. Just as a diabetic would amputate the little toe for the sake of the entire body, so too are the 99ers being cut off from the conversation on assistance for the long term unemployed. Consider the National Employment Law Project (NELP)'s statement about the compromise extending tax cuts for all:  nothing about the 99ers. Rather than being angry or frustrated (although both are appropriate and well-earned), I have a list of do's and don'ts, ending with a suggested change of message.

Don't beat up friends like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Debbie Stabenow or other legislative friends for not accomplishing all needs of the 99ers.  If Pelosi had the votes in the House, there would already be TierV.  If she had nearly enough votes, she'd have twisted arms and there would already be TierV. As for Sen. Stabenow S3706 hasn't gone  far,but she took a shot. Along with the McDermott/Berkley proposal in the House of Representatives, the total proposed TierV pieces of legislation in the entire 111th Congress was 2. Do not target failed attempts when at least these legislators (imperfect as they may be) tried.  If we 99ers did not generate enough public support to move these bills along, we share the failure.

Do continue to reach out to Congress, no matter how frustrating the endeavor.  The best time to call, fax, email elected officials is right now.  The second best time to reach elected officials was yesterday. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Don't threaten to vote for politicians that will never advocate for 99ers to punish lawmakers that did not support 99ers sufficiently. Worse yet, don't withdraw from the process as a way to motivate Congress.  Apathy is the antithesis to motivation.  Voter disinterest did not gain leverage for 99ers.  99er detachment helped create a tax compromise with unemployment funding that does nothing for 99ers.

Do stay involved in the political process. It's easier to achieve policy objectives by stating what you'll do as opposed to threatening to withdraw. Withdrawing from activity creates a vacuum. This political vacuum will be quickly filled by other advocates with diametrically different goals. The results will be a disaster.

Don't continue admonishing those that ignore 99ers. It's time to stop screaming at President Obama, Congress and labor organizations that have thrown the 99ers into the trash.  It's not that elected officials don't deserve to be lambasted. Unfortunately the verbal attacks of incredulity have failed to produce results. 99ers continue to be ignored by elected officials, going on 9 months. It's also time to move the 99er stories of personal disaster to the back burner. This is not to diminish the countless tragedies of the long term unemployed but the populace doesn't give a damn.

Do reframe the discussion. The CBO says the best way to stimulate job creation is unemployment benefits. Put a human face on the fact that unemployment insurance goes beyond helping the unemployed..  Testimony needs to come from small business in areas of high unemployment. These business owners need to express their fear of business failure as extended unemployment benefits discontinue because the unemployed can longer buy from these businesses. Similarly, homeowners groups in areas of high unemployment need to talk about plunging neighborhood home values as foreclosures skyrocket (again) because extended UI dollars are no longer available.

It appears the tax compromise is going to pass with nothing for the 99ers and little to slow the increasing growth of 99ers.  The only way continue the fight for 99ers is to tell stories from non-99ers affected by discontinued unemployment benefits.

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