Friday, November 12, 2010

Letter to President Obama: Where's Our Commission?

Dear President Obama and Democratic Leadership,

Have you ever looked in your empty fridge, the needle on your gas tank meter getting dangerously close to the E, the two digits in your checking account and then at the calendar, counting down the days until your food stamp benefits renew?

Have you ever gone a whole day without food, and then made a stop behind your neighborhood grocery store that night after a fruitless day of jobhunting to see if there was anything good in the dumpster to eat?

Have you gotten the letter from your energy company telling you that they're going to have to resort to a collection agency if you can't pay your $65 light bill within two weeks?

Have you ever brushed the dust off of your bachelor's degree and looked at it proudly before putting it back in one of several cardboard boxes that you have lying around because you've been changing addresses like you've been changing socks?

Now, I know it's been a rough few years for you guys. Every time you break your backs to achieve another groundbreaking progressive accomplishment, you have to battle the right-scream media while they call you Socialists, Marxists, Kenyans, Muslims, Nazis, Fascists, Communists, and every other name under the sun. And I know that accomplishing great change in times like these where the American people have a shorter attention span than ever, and a 24-hour mindless news cycle that leaves valid stories in the dust while over-hyping nonissues is probably frustrating.

You created and saved millions of public sector jobs with the stimulus program, and now that the Small Business Act has been passed, the SBA is giving out loans to help small businesses grow more private sector jobs. PPACA, while it leaves more to be desired, is certainly a step in the right direction toward getting more Americans' health insured. You guys are actually getting a whole lot done in a very short amount of time against tremendous odds and infinite money being spent to go against your agenda. And you are still succeeding. And yet, nobody gives you any credit. I can't imagine it, but I'm sure that's rough.

But all that being said, it's time for you all to throw us a bone. Something. Anything.

Remember us? The people who went door to door in our neighborhoods with armloads of your literature, telling people they should believe in you in November? That they should support you and your message of helping the lower and middle class? That if elected, you would put an ear to neighborhoods, working families and small businesses instead of Wall Street and K Street? That you would fight for us if given the chance to govern?

We're still here. And we're hurting. And while there's anywhere between 12 to 20 percent of the population on the record as not working, there are 40 percent of us who are literally one pink slip away from tumbling into poverty. And of those not working, there's folks who have been out of a job for so long that they've stopped looking all together. We're working hard at our job and possibly a second one just to feed ourselves and keep the lights and the heat on.

In the land of prosperity, most are fighting just to hold on to their property. Many of us are looking at poverty directly in the eye. And believe it or not, we're also the folks who went through four to six years of debt for a degree that we were told would make us employable in a globally competitive 21st century economy. We worked hard and sacrificed our whole lives to try and win in the system you provided for us. We stayed in school. We ate our vegetables. We listened to our parents. We went to our Friday morning classes at 8 AM despite partying the night before so we wouldn't miss our exams.

And then we entered a world where playing by the rules didn't get you anything except an inbox full of rejection emails from employers we're more than qualified to work for. We entered a world where employers, thanks to a lack of regulation and a generous helping of greed, shipped all the jobs that used to be for folks like us to China and India and told us, "tough luck."

We entered a world where people who took home more than a million dollars a year gripe about four extra percentage points on their tax form and get coddled. It's the same world where a clean-cut, college-educated, rule-abiding citizen has to dig through garbage cans for food because there's no jobs for him. We want YOU, our leaders, the people we broke our backs to support time and again, to fight for us. And what did we get?

We got a commission of panelists telling us that the deficit is more important than jobs. These panelists that you appointed tell us to tighten our belts, that they're going to start chipping away at the future we've been saving for with each paycheck earned. The same rightful future of ours that requires a lawyer and hefty legal expenses just to access. These panelists all say they've harpooned every fish, and a few minnows, yet somehow missed Wall Street, the hulking whale devouring all of the sea's resources. These are the same people who literally have their salaries paid by groups that lobby for lower taxes for the rich and less social spending for the other 98 percent of us.

Forgive me if I'm a little upset that you listened to the bloviating radical right instead of us, who said fiscal austerity was more important of an issue than the citizens' prosperity. I'm a little upset that you put together a deficit commission instead of a jobs commission. Or an environment commission. Or a commission to save the middle class. Forgive me for the cliche, but where's our bailout?

Mr. President, we're hurting. We're on our last breath. We're tough, and we're fighters, but we're getting beat up hard and fast. We urge you to listen to us, and fight our fight. It may seem daunting to take on big money and the established status quo, but if you do, we will fight for you and with you by your side, as we always have.

I'm not asking you for a fat government check or an eternity of food stamp benefits. I'm not asking you to pay my rent or my light bill or for a tank of gas. I'm not even asking you for single-payer health care, a new WPA program to build light rail infrastructure or throwing BP and Goldman-Sachs executives behind bars, although those would all be nice.

I just want you to fight for the American way. To fight for more jobs and less greed. To fight for the idea that living a virtuous life and trusting in an education will pay off in the end.

Please think of me and the millions of others like me, Mr. President. Fight for us, and we'll fight for you. We don't have much time left.

Respectfully Yours,

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