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

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We Are... not all we should be.

I took my daughter to school yesterday. The radio was on and the local "I play whatever I want" station was doing a  Top 9 at 9 countdown. The year was 1985 and the #1 song was "We Are The World". For those too young to recognize some of the artists, these artists were mainstream pop music (plus some legends) in 1985.  

What is the takeaway from "We Are The World" 26 years later?

  • The song and it's making still resonate with pop music stars today. "We Are The World 25 for Haiti" is a remake by today's pop stars in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake disaster.
  • Superstars willing to suppress their ego and work together to execute a plan can make great things happen in a very short time frame.  99ers must do the same and coalesce under a single banner with a single message. "It's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives".
  • "We Are The World" was successful at raising awareness of ongoing tragedy in the World. "We Are The World" was also successful at raising funds for the cause(s). Still, there is hunger in Africa 26 years later and Haiti is still a disaster. Nothing is going to change the fact that there will still be long term unemployed hunger, homelessness and suicides. The damage can be mitigated by continued organized activism on behalf of and by 99ers.
Simply put, we can and must do better. The starting point is uniting under one banner. Clear communication to the organization and the public is vital. Time to put aside differences and pull together for our survival.  Anyone have any ideas on reduce the number of unemployed advocacy groups to just one?
    Don't forget President Obama taking questions live today at Facebook HQ. If you don't speak up you will never be heard.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Staying Positive.

    A topic on the #99erAid Twitterchat a couple of weeks ago was ways to stay positive.  A positive mental attitude is essential for 99ers to survive. H.R. 589 would go a long way to helping with positive thoughts. A jobs creation bill would also be helpful.  Both items need to pass Congress, so 99ers must advocate for their passage. Political action alone can't maintain positivity, so long term unemployed need to focus on daily/weekly items to stay positive. In the course of preparing for my life beyond H.R. 589 and 99erhood, I have found two sites that will help maintain a daily positive outlook

    In Seth Godin's roundup of SXSW, I was introduced to Gretchen Rubin. Ms. Rubin is the founder of the "The Happiness Project". The name is self explanatory. I get the daily "moment of happiness" to remind me to stay positive.

    This past Friday night I met Nate St. Pierre through Gini Dietrich on her blog, "Spin Sucks".  Actually, Nate was introduced to me and technically the introduction was on Twitter but either way I found "It Starts With Us" due to my participation on "Spin Sucks". Participation in "In Starts With Us" is simple. Each week you commit to spending 15 minutes on a prescribed project delivered via email. 15 minutes isn't much time, but 15 minutes X 1000's of people has a very positive effect.
    Both "The Happiness Project" and "It Starts With Us" are new activities for me. I'll let you know how it's working, but given the name and portfolio I expect positive results from both. So, how do you stay positive?

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    My Own Medicine.

    Last month, I suggested that the long term unemployed make plans for beyond H.R. 589. Whether H.R. 589 ever passes (or is discussed for that matter) moves closer to irrelevancy. To clarify, 14 weeks of additional unemployment benefits is not irrelevant, especially to the long term unemployed. However as a 99er moves ahead with plans for beyond HR 589, the eventual passage of H.R. 589 loses significance. The 99er is moving toward self sufficiency and would no longer qualify for benefits under H.R. 589. To further translate, the closer the plan for beyond a safety net comes to fruition, the less the need for said safety net.

    In this light I am pleased to announce the launch of "Crowdsourcing A Good Life." Along with the corresponding Facebook page and Twitter account, Crowdsourcing is in part a response to the plethora of self proclaimed experts, ninjas, rockstars and sherpas so abundant in the e-marketplace. Crowdsourcing asks simple questions (for example, What is the best Mother's Day gift you have ever given or received), one at a time. Answers are solicited from the "experts" (anyone wishing to answer) in the crowd and compiled into a blog post. The Crowd is also asked to offer questions. Please take a moment to check out Crowdsourcing and let me know your thoughts.

    "Crowdsourcing A Good Life" is not meant as my stand alone plan to go beyond 99erhood. Rather, it is a puzzle piece of a more comprehensive plan to become a self sufficient servicer provider entrepreneur. In that light, although my plans include tending to "Unemployed but Organized" at the current level, there is obviously the thought that other (profit driven) endeavors will take precedence.  In the meantime, I still plan on advocating for unemployment equity and will keep all abreast on my progress to go beyond H.R. 589.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Passing H.R. 589

    I became involved with the 99ers in July, 2010. Activists had been advocating for TierV/extended unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks prior to my involvement. To date there has been 1 vote on Tier V. S3706 failed to pass the Senate. In the House, H.R. 6556 was introduced in Dec. 2010 during the waning days of the Democratic majority in the 111th Congress. H.R. 589, the 112th Congress sibling of HR 6556 was introduced in Feb. 2011 and referred to committee. The committee must be very busy because no one has heard much about H.R. 589 since February.

    Many passionate, bright, energetic individuals have devoted day and night spreading information about the benefits of passing unemployment benefits on top of the 99 week maximum. Still the answer from Congress is "we're just not that into Tier V." Perhaps it's time to try another approach.

    Currently written, H.R. 589 would add an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits in Tier II and be available to all, including those unemployed that have max'ed out at 99 weeks anytime in the last 13 months. While much will be the same 14 weeks from today (or whenever H.R. 589 passes) 14 weeks of benefits would be a godsend for millions of unemployed and the businesses where the unemployed will spend those benefits. Houses (and therefore neighborhood housing values) will be preserved. Homelessness will be prevented. Some will find work, others will find a path to self employment.  14 weeks means survival for many.

    Herein lies the path to passage for H.R. 589.  Unemployed, unemployment fairness advocates and umbrella groups organizing on behalf of the unemployed must concentrate on a vision for week 15. Specifically, show the benefits of H.R. 589 as it expires for the first group of recipients. Contrast that vision with a picture of another 15 weeks without anything for millions. If the unemployed can articulate these 2 different scenarios and connect on a visceral level with the populace as a whole, momentum for H.R. 589 can build. What starts as a few voices can in fact become a loud loyal chorus.  Isn't that right, Wisconsin? 

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    I Was Born At Night But It Wasn't Last Night.

    On Thursday April 7, 2011 the Waukesha County Clerk reported she forgot to include the votes for Brookfield, WI in the final totals. The 13,000 + votes broke roughly 2 to 1 for the Republican, Justice David Prosser turning a 200 vote deficit into a 7500+ vote margin of victory. Conveniently the new margin of victory is just beyond the threshold for a state mandated (and state paid for) recount. Best as I can tell, these are facts.

    When it comes to conjecture, this all seems very convenient. Having just intimated massive voter fraud incompetently masked as a math error, let me hold that thought in abeyance for now and share some thoughts on cleaning up this particular mess.

    1. No one knows the truth about the "found" votes except for Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus and perhaps a Koch brother.  Ms. Nickolaus's explanation involved "not saving" and "personal computer".  "Not saving" and "personal computer" are unacceptable reasons for the  loss of over 13,000 votes. All involved should call for the resignation/immediate removal of Ms. Nickolaus. She may not be a criminal, but she is criminally incompetent.  The idea that votes are saved on to a personal computer is vomit inducing.
    2. Governor Scott Walker should call for an immediate recount paid by the State of Wisconsin or Waukesha County.  The system failed miserably. It is incumbent on state leadership to do everything possible to restore some certainty to the election process.
    3. The State of Wisconsin must develop and institute "best practices" to avoid this type of impropriety in the future. Although the short term outcome may be favorable for some, in the long run everyone loses when democracy suffers.
    I'm not a fan of the GOP in any state. Had I chance to review Justice Prosser's record, I doubt I would find much to like. Still, if this man was indeed duly elected to the state Supreme Court it is criminal that his victory is tainted by an idiot County Clerk, even if Justice Prosser is Clerk Nickolaus's patron. Imagine that.

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Paul Ryan, Consistent, Clairvoyant and maybe a Funeral Director's Best Friend.

    You have got to love Rep. Paul Ryan. He's been the GOP's lead man on the budget deficit since the GOP was the minority party in the House.Way back to early 2010, Rep. Ryan has been calling for additional tax breaks for the wealthy and the evisceration of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Yup, balance the budget on the backs on the poor and soon to be poor middle class. You may like him or not(put me in the not category) but the man tells the 100% truth. "To hell with you all, I'm hangin' with the rich." (Okay, so it's not an exact quote, more a paraphrasing of supply side economics.)

    Ryan's 2012 budget was much the same as his proposals in 2010. Cuts in Medicaid, privatize Medicare, tax policy welfare for the wealthy and Social Security in the cross hairs. Ryan's budget is also a long term godsend for the unemployed and apparently a quiet endorsement of the Obama administration. Using a newly updated model, he predicts unemployment at 7.8 % in 2012 dropping to 4.3% in 2021. Wow.

    March, 2011 unemployment was 8.8%.  Rep. Ryan's budget begins in 2012 so the predicted 1% drop in unemployment must be due to the fiscal policy of President Obama.  Further, mainstream economists  estimate full employment as an unemployment rate between 5%-6%, so a predicted unemployment rate of 4.3% is welcome news (even 9 years off) to the long term unemployed.

    Rep. Ryan uses assumptions from the Heritage Foundation so unlike in high school he doesn't have to show his work. So I have just one question: Given the consideration currently given long term unemployed (banks doing historically well since bailout, unemployment still 2+% points beyond 9/08 rate, no unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks) is the drop in unemployment joined to a corresponding rise in the death rate? Just sayin'.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    The Hidden Ball Trick

    The Major League Baseball season is here. For those of us that enjoy a hearty mix of baseball and politics this season is especially welcome. The onset of the baseball season provides a daily welcome distraction from everything not going on in Congress.

    A favorite play of sandlot ballplayers is the hidden ball trick. The hidden ball trick is a ploy by which the pitcher pretends to hold the ball when in reality another position player has the ball in his/her possession. The aim is to trick a base runner into taking a lead off and the base runner is then surprised (embarrassed) and tagged out by the position player holding the ball. Organized baseball rules are designed to minimize this type of subterfuge and the hidden ball trick is rarely employed in Major League Baseball. The last successful hidden ball trick in the major leagues was either 2007 or 2005 depending on how you define the execution of the play. Congress has no rules against their version of the hidden ball trick and it is currently in play in another attempt by the minority to enforce their vision on the majority.

    Allow me to explain: The GOP use foot soldiers like Allen West, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. West, Palin, Bachmann and others serve two funtions: 
    1. They rile up the "base" (low information voters, those voting against their economic self interest, kloset klanners, etc).
    2. They provide fodder for media to either lionize or minimize their musings. These musings rarely reflect a policy discussion, further masking the ongoings in government.
    All the while the GOP is able to further their policy objectives by "moving the middle." For example in the ongoing 2011 Congressional budget battle, The Dems have already conceded GOP budget cuts of $30 billion but that amount of budget cuts continues to increase. No one is sure whether the Dems will compromise (capitulate) further or government will shut down (temporarily) but the GOP has already achieved their goal of shifting shared responsibility for the commons away from those most able to participate.  While the jesters have America's attention, Americans are being tagged out. Surprisingly no one is embarrassed, but we are all diminished.

    Nothing can be solved overnight, but you can begin to take back the discussion.  Please join the #99erAid Twitterchat, Tuesdays 8 PM EDT.