Choices We Face
To: Jobless Americans and UCubed Leaders
From: Rick Sloan, Executive Director
Union of Unemployed
Date: 10 Days from Election Day
RE: Choices We Face
Neither apathy, nor anxiety should keep jobless Americans from the polls on November 6th. All you have worked for – and all you have lost yet hope to recover – hangs in the balance.
This election is not about global issues – war and peace, deficits and taxes. It boils down to you, your family and what little is left in your wallet at the end of each week.
Ask yourself how did you fare in the last four weeks, the last four months and the last four years? Who came to your rescue? Who tried to help? Who kicked you when you were down?
This election is being fought on familiar turf. In your own home, along your street and in your neighborhood, life has changed. You see, feel and think about it, constantly. Your blood and sweat built that life. And now it is slipping away.
As a solid citizen, you paid your taxes. Local, state, federal, property, sales, gasoline and sin taxes added up dollar by dollar. From your paychecks, money was withheld for Social Security and Medicare. You paid and paid and paid for the best government your money could buy.
How much did you pay? If you contact the Social Security Administration, they will send your Certified Yearly Totals of Earnings. Take 35 percent of that total and you have paid roughly that much into the system. Over a lifetime, it adds up to tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.
What was the return on your investment? If you’re like a majority of jobless Americans, you never tapped into the myriad of government programs because you did not qualify or preferred to go it alone.
The vaunted “safety net” caught fewer than half of the 31 million Americans who were unemployed or underemployed. The rest fell through gaping holes opened by state legislatures and callous Congresses marching to a right wing drum beat. Those hard working Americans experienced a cement hard landing, a landing not felt by the bankers, brokers, insurers and hedge fund operators who caused the economic debacle.
By contrast, those financial wizards landed in feather beds. Cushioned by corporate contributions made to legislators, the constant presence of corporate lobbyists, the parade of former staff members who curried favors for corporate clients, and the campaign consultants who whispered “Ignore the unemployed, they don’t vote.” Their corporations paid not for access but for results. And billions – no, trillions – flowed to them from the Congress of the United States and the Federal Reserve.
Now, 50 months after millions began losing their jobs, those same bankers, brokers, insurers and hedge fund operators are financing a corporate coup d’ etat. They are investing billions in the presidential and congressional campaigns expecting a lucrative return from a new regime – lower taxes, fewer regulations, more government contracts and wider profit margins.
Meanwhile, jobless Americans find themselves at a T. They can turn left or right. One path leads to Prosperity. The other avenue goes to Austerity.
Prosperity offers a return to full employment by adding 20 million new jobs and driving the unemployment rate to 4 percent. Prosperity means that all who want to work find work, college graduates land jobs in their fields, careers cut short by the recession resume with intensity, workers’ skills are valued for what they add to the bottom line, and businesses invest in new products, new customers and new employees.
Austerity, to the jobless, means permanent, structural unemployment. Deep cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, job training, Medicare and Social Security compound the evil effects of an enforced idleness. And, if the Bush tax cuts remain in place and automatic across-the-board cuts occur, millions more will join the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed. Daily life will get meaner, shorter and nastier.
Will the fears and frustrations of jobless Americans spill into the streets? Will protests erupt against the unfairness of it all? Some say it cannot happen here. But do we really want to risk public strife and anarchy?
Or do we want to make the choice between Prosperity and Austerity ourselves … at the ballot box … then in our legislatures … and, if necessary, in our courts … as Americans always have?
Over 130 million Americans have taken – or will soon take – the first steps towards the ballot box. And voters from jobless households will cast over 45 million ballots. Their choices – your choices – will determine who wins and who loses.
And their 45 million ballots – plus your household’s ballots – will dictate the path America takes in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
You know where prosperity takes us. You’ve been there, done that.
But where does austerity lead?
Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that, “After three years of grinding austerity, Greece’s gross domestic product has shrunk by 25 percent. Unemployment is at 50 percent for young people and 24 percent overall, while vital services like health care have faltered following round after round of cuts.”
In the very next paragraph, the reporter included a haunting quote: “In three years they destroyed a nation,” said Maria Choussakou, 59, a former high school teacher of ancient Greek who said she had been forced into early retirement. “We were once middle class, now we’re impoverished.”
Prosperity or austerity is the stark choice facing jobless Americans on November 6th – and for the next four years. Your own choice will be driven by where your family stands on the down escalator between middle class and impoverished.
Vote as if your very life depended on it.
But stay connected to UCubed. You have altered the dynamics of this election by your Facebook activism. With your help, millions of voters laughed and joked and chuckled. Millions more saw your thumbs up and felt the gentle nudge from a friend to go vote.
On November 6th, tens of millions – yes, tens of millions – of worker bees will swarm to the polls intent on handing THE GOP a stinging defeat. And your simple acts of sharing our zany cartoons and liking our posts gave them reasons to believe that they, too, could make a real difference.
You led the way. And millions followed.
Is it an impressive start? Absolutely.
But don’t stop there.
Continue your Facebook activism. Work with UCubed to reverse that economic escalator so millions can rise from poverty and rejoin the middle class. Work with us to restore our small “d” democracy and make America ascendant once again.