copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Somewhere in America, a man loses the job he has held for more than thirty years. Somewhere in America, a woman cleans out the office she had occupied for close to a decade. Elsewhere in the United States, a teen unsuccessfully tries to find work. He knows he needs to help his Mom and Dad; each toiled in the factory that closed just down the street. A young woman searches for a professional position, just as she has for the two years since she graduated form the University. Each of these individuals is not startled by the headline, Economy Shed 598,000 Jobs in January. All ask, where have the “experts,” Economists, and elected officials been?
There is a stark reality barely revealed in this report. For the many who live somewhere in America, the statistic is not news. It is the culmination of life or strife as it has been in the United States for a long time. Countless experience the misery of an economic crisis that consumes them. There is no joy in jobs lost or the threat of more layoffs to come.
What occurs most every moment, somewhere in America is the reason President Obama stated in his recent address, this country needs a stimulus package now, not tomorrow, not in a week, or in a month. At least, “3.6 million Americans . . . wake up every day wondering how they are going to pay their bills, stay in their homes, and provide for their children. That’s 3.6 million Americans who need our help.”
What the President does not say is that these numbers represent only the persons we know of.
Somewhere in America, in a rural residence, children cry. There is no food in the cupboard. Mom, who is the sole supporter in this family, has been out of work for months. Dad, too depressed, left his loved ones long ago. He labored part-time for years. When the economic downturn began, in 2007, he realized he could not even count on temporary employment. Nor can the young one who hopes to enter college; she understands “career path” may be a euphemism from the past. Today in America, the streets are not golden.
As Senators and Congresspersons, all of whom are gainfully employed, bicker, and build an Economic Stimulus Bill filled with pork, and, or tax cuts that benefit only the rich, somewhere in America, a mother cannot buy food for her son. A single father, without a High School diploma, wonders how he might hold on to his factory job and still adequately prepare his daughter for school. Somewhere in this great country, educational institutions go without textbooks. Perhaps, it matters not, the students cannot read.
Somewhere in America, a cancer patient is refused treatment, for, although he has insurance, the policy will not cover the costs.
Elsewhere in this country, citizens, the few secure in their circumstances, argue over the proposed stimulus package. Certain that all is well, at least for them, these affluent Americans say the situation is not dire. They encourage their Representatives not to sign on to a incentive measure that might spend money on other than they, personally, think right. Meanwhile, somewhere in the United States, a family in the frozen Midwest is thrown out on the cold streets. The mortgaged house, the five had lived in for near a score, went into foreclosure.
In a country, where the words “economic crisis” is not hyperbole, few wish to help move the nation forward. People rather quarrel. Free speech is fun for those who still feel safe. Today, the public does not ponder the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota two summers ago. August 2007, was eons ago. The public does not hear the stressful sounds of a viaduct ready to crumble. The roar of engines is too loud, or perhaps, when the conversation turns to fiscal responsibility the screams from silly squabbles drown out the noise steel makes when it bends and breaks.
People plump with power, profits, or an ideology can safely ignore federal government studies that show “Nearly a quarter of the nation’s roughly 600,000 major bridges carry more traffic than they were designed to bear,” When an American lives elsewhere in America, it may matter not that the “Federal Highway Administration data from 2006 shows that 24.5 percent of the nation’s bridges longer than 20 feet were categorized as “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” (data from Utah and New Mexico was from 2005).”
Rarely do individuals reflect on what does not affect them directly. Many are happy to refuse to see what is invisible to their eyes let alone the reality numbers might represent. Empathy, elsewhere in America can be elusive.
People who have a roof over their heads rather rant. Those who toddle off to the office much prefer to rage. It is “pork” they say. The Obama stimulus plan is nothing but needless government-funded expenditures. “Taxes must be cut;” screech the tycoons and venture Capitalists. These influential persons of means make telephone calls. The rich reach out and touch Republican and Democratic Legislators alike. Why? Because they can. Powerful persons have access, the privilege of the affluent. The plight that occurs somewhere in America is alien to them.
Insulated and isolated, the wealthy worry not. Elsewhere, many in the Middle Class cannot imagine what it must be like to live somewhere in America. Most do not believe an economic catastrophe will become a personal truth.
Those whose children are enrolled in private schools, or in public school out in the suburbs subsidize their progeny’s education. They wonder why others cannot. Perchance these individuals have not traveled to somewhere in America. Persons whose families are well-funded, who hear, and see no evil on the streets of this nation, do not imagine that somewhere in America might ever be where they live.
These citizens, comfy, cozy, and content with what is, have no need for the Head Start programs now cut from the stimulus package. Education for the Disadvantaged, another program now eliminated from the Bill, will not have an effect on friends or family of the economically-established. Persons who have the ability to care for their own do not understand the plight of those they have never encountered.
Thus, they exclaim, the “fat” must be removed from the stimulus package, and so it is.
School improvement stipends were removed from the proposed fiscal plan. These critical contributions, in a country, which ranks low, or last, in many categories of learning seems unnecessary. Child Nutrition grants are lavish in the minds of the physically and financially satiated. Surely, the well-off say, there is no need for such remunerations.
Individuals who are safe and sane do not wish to sponsor programs such as Funds for Violence Against Women. These planned provisions were erased from the proposition. Persons not in harm’s way questioned why would society wish to assist those ladies who did not chose their companion wisely.
Food Stamps surely are wasteful spending, say the scornful and satiated.
These same persons are happy to see an end to what they think exploitive expenditures. Dollars expected to be doled out to The National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA, National Science Foundation NSF, and the Western Area Power Administration were also expunged from the package.
Firefighters are now forsaken. Cash for the Coast Guard was deemed redundant. Payments for better prisons, are said to be decidedly pointless. Community Oriented Policing Services COPS Hiring programs, are among the allowances that have been cut. Apparently, community safety is not critical, at least not for those who think private industry better cares for any communal needs.
That may be why these same individuals decided dollars devoted to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC were also wanton. Certainly, these would not stimulate the economy.
Perchance, the persons who live elsewhere in the United States, do not realize that cash spent on services contributes to jobs somewhere in America.
Possibly, the prosperous do not recall that poverty produces greater poverty. Persons who love to engage in arguments, think it fun to find fault with each and every point, These individuals, whose intention is to wrangle, do not wish to acknowledge, as Nobel Prize winner and Princeton Professor of Economics and National Affairs does in his most recent NewYork Times column. “As the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out almost 80 years ago, deflation, once started, tends to feed on itself.”
As dollar incomes fall in the face of a depressed economy, the burden of debt becomes harder to bear, while the expectation of further price declines discourages investment spending. These effects of deflation depress the economy further, which leads to more deflation, and so on.”
Hence, as a country we stand still. Democrats and Republicans are divided. Congress cannot or will not decide to support an authentic stimulus package. Policymakers will do as they have always done, dicker, and deliver little. What may ultimately pass will likely be more irresponsible than it might have been.
When somewhere in America is not where you are; nor is it a place you chose to imagine as real, then you do not reflect upon the parent who has not had a paycheck for years, or the child who cries out for a but a mere morsel of food. Sadly, somewhere in America, for members of Congress, and for citizens comfortable in their circumstances, is a place far, far, far, away.
In truth, were the quarrelsome to look out their window, they might see, somewhere in America is right next door.
Sources for Somewhere in America . . .
- Obama Announces New Economic Recovery Board, President: Job Losses “Devastating News.” CQ Transcripts Wire. Washington Post. ?Friday, February 6, 2009; 12:38 PM
- Economy Shed 598,000 Jobs in January, By Edmund L. Andrews. The New York Times February 6, 2009
- Obama Raises Stakes for Senate’s Economic Stimulus Bill, By William Branigin, Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray. Washington Post. Friday, February 6, 2009; 1:11 PM
- Grim Illiteracy Statistics Indicate Americans Have a Reading Problem. Education Portal. September 20, 2007
- Schwarzenegger orders mass layoffs, unpaid furloughs, By Patrick McGreevy and Jordan Rau . The Los Angeles Times. December 20, 2008
- Firefighters in Colorado Springs Have More Than Just Fires To Worry About. Employment Spectator. January 26, 2009
- U.S. Teens Trail Peers Around World on Math-Science Test, By Maria Glod. Washington Post. Wednesday, December 5, 2007; A07
- Lawmakers Seek to Revise Stimulus; Bill Now in Senate (Update2) By Brian Faler. Bloomberg News. February 3, 2009
- Latest Cuts To The Stim Package: Head Start, Child Nutrition, Food Stamps Public Transit, By Greg Sargent.. Who Runs the Government. A Washington Post Publication. February 6, 2009
- Baldwin Township couple, among millions facing foreclosure in U.S., turn to nonprofit aid program. By Tim Grant. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 28, 2008
- Experts: Leadership, money keys to building bridges. Cable News Network. August 3, 2007
- Community Oriented Policing Services COPS.
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA.
- National Science Foundation NSF.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC.