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02 June 2011

I Wrote a Letter to Barack Obama In reply to my latest email from my friend Barack, I sent this. [More:]

Hi Barack,

Thanks for the email. It's a lovely thought - I mean, I worked hard to get you elected the last time and I wish I could contribute again now. But I'm afraid I can't. You might be wondering why you haven't heard from me - I've been kind of busy. I guess you know I got laid off in April of 2010. That was kind of a bummer but I was confident that I'd find another job. After all, I thought, I have 20 years of experience in nonprofit management, PR and communications. Something will come along!

Well, it didn't. And, because I got laid off in 2010 instead of 2009 and North Carolina is slowly going broke, my unemployment - which, by the way, is not enough to pay for much, because half of a nonprofit salary isn't much at all - didn't get extended beyond a year. I guess I'm lucky, though, because I did find a job - as a cashier at Home Depot. I'm making $8.15 an hour now. It's not enough to live on but I'm hoping that they'll approve my food stamp application soon. It won't be long before my savings are completely gone and I don't know what I'll do then.

When I was working to try to get you elected I said a lot about health care. It struck me as outrageous that everyone in other countries got health care while we in the US did not and it seemed to bother you too. Well, that was a couple of years ago when I had some health insurance; now I don't have any health insurance at all. You still need it here, you know. More than ever, actually. I'd like to go to the doctor - it's been three years since I had a pap smear or a mammogram, for instance (the kind of thing Planned Parenthood might offer if somebody had their back) - but I just don't have the money. It's too bad, because I'm exhausted all the time and my joints hurt, but maybe that's because I've gone back at 48 to doing the kind of job I did in college.

Anyway, cheers! Wishing you best of luck on the reelection thing! I will probably vote for you - I wish I had a progressive candidate to vote for, someone who actually cared about the working class but I guess it is too late. I'm sorry that you turned out to be a corporate tool just like all the others. I really liked you back in the day but I suppose the rot has gone too far and this country is done for. I don't much like seeing the US turn into Brazil but hey, I guess it's reality. Maybe Brazil or some other distant place will let me move there with no money and three dogs. I sure don't see much of a future here.

Wishing you the best, anyway,
I think it's a great letter. I was just reading some analysis today about how the election will essentially be decided on jobs - that no president since Roosevelt has been re-elected when the jobless rate was below a certain percentage. I don't think it hurts at all to send the message, loud and clear, that jobs are the #1 issue for most Americans right now. I know that's true in my household.

At the same time, though, it's going to be a tricky tightrope to walk. The Tea Party gang has gotten some traction with the cut-cut-cut "enough Washington spending!" thing, and there's no way out of the jobless rut without more spending. There really isn't. So I think we have to start asserting, as a public, that we are totally willing to defer the deficit/debt issue long enough to get people back to work. That's being used as a wedge issue now, exploited by the 1% to keep cutting government programs and taxes to enrich the few. We've got to be ready to say, en masse, "No, I'm OK with the government taking a few more draws on the future right now to get some new jobs programs off the ground." The private sector is, flat out, not going to create a lot of innovative new jobs on its own in the US. That's not where the cheap, efficient labor market is. So we've just got to communicate that we'll take the trade - we'll take increased government spending, if it gets us back to work.

Otherwise, same-same.

I hope the message gets developed and works out for Obama, because there's no other election outcome I could really live with. A lot of people will hold their nose and vote for him, but I'd prefer he came out with a strong and aggressive pro-jobs and pro-safety-net program and message so we wouldn't have to do the nose holding thing.
posted by Miko 02 June | 21:47
"I was just reading some analysis today about how the election will essentially be decided on jobs - that no president since Roosevelt has been re-elected when the jobless rate was below a certain percentage."

Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight had some good analysis today suggesting the correlation between the two is tenuous at best, based on the data we have.
posted by Rhaomi 02 June | 22:14
well written, and very sad...

Let me get this out of my system... this country currently sucks.

If there is anything we can do, let us know..
posted by HuronBob 02 June | 22:23
I agree, well written, and hard to read at the same time. Man, I hope something turns around soon. It's hard to see so many friends struggle, and also it's getting harder to be a smug Canadian of late. Goodness knows none of us Canadians like that. We're good at that smug, welcoming thing.
posted by richat 02 June | 23:01
I can only hope that if Obama gets reelected, he'll forget about sucking up to the powers that be and just kick ass.

Alas. . .I hope for a lot of stuff.
posted by danf 02 June | 23:30
Great letter. Too bad the skill in writing such can only get a Home Depot job. I watched Too Big To Fail the other night. The clips of McCain and Dubya sure made Barack look good. I guess it's all about looking good now.
posted by Obscure Reference 03 June | 04:40
That made me sad in a lot of ways. :(
posted by mudpuppie 03 June | 11:02
I'm so sorry you're having such a hard time, mygothlaundry. And good on you for writing that letter. I'd look into publishing it somewhere (I mean, other than here) if I were you.
posted by Orange Swan 03 June | 11:25
As a 2008 donor, I imagine I might receive a call from Team Hope at some point.

I'll have quite a bit to discuss with them.
posted by Trurl 03 June | 12:35
Your letter put a lump in my throat, mgl. I'm sorry that life is so rough for you. (((mgl)))
posted by deborah 03 June | 12:39
Seconding what Orange Swan said. That letter deserves wider circulation.
posted by enn 03 June | 13:13
Thanks for the kind comments, y'all. I'm actually not that badly off - I've been lucky enough to get to a point where my expenses are ridiculously low, so I can manage for a long time on very little. And I know that a lot of this is my own fault: I'm bad at jobhunting (also, apparently, at interviewing) and I don't want to move, even though I know it would be the smart thing. Asheville has never had much of a functional economy - hello, tourists! Hello, minimum wage! - and it's always been tough to make it here. Anyway, I'm okay. I have coworkers who are in far more dire (dire-r?) straits and I feel for them.

Still, I wanted to write it to sort of make that point that many, many people are in this boat of making less than they used to, often way less. I caught part of an NPR thing a month or so ago about people getting off unemployment. They were talking to two guys who had gotten jobs - as $10 an hour overnight data entry clerks. The one guy I heard them interview used to be a bank manager. He was about my age. He said working the overnight shift was tough. Jesus fuck. Then the interviewer was all, like, but isn't it great, you have a job! I thought, fuck that, he doesn't have a job. That's not a job, not when you've gone down from probably 70K a year to $10 an hour. You can't live on it. Really, you can't. And I'm sorry, but if that's the metric that's being used to measure employment and call it a recovery, than we're really fucked, here.

I think we are really fucked. I've always been kind of bleak and cynical anyway but I look around these days and it seems so, I don't know, Dickensian or something. As if the next step is the Thunderdome or civil war or some equally apocalyptic reality. I don't know where we're heading but it doesn't look good at all. I am put in mind of The Good Earth, which is a 30s Orientalist potboiler by Pearl S. Buck that I read at a young and impressionable age. There's a line in there that's repeated and it goes like this: "There is always a way, when the rich are too rich and the poor are too poor." Then they go on to have the Boxer rebellion, I think. I wonder if that will happen here but I doubt it. The years of spin that have gone into making Americans believe that if they are poor, if they have less than they used to, it is their own fault and occurred in a pure vacuum have succeeded to a truly frightening degree.
posted by mygothlaundry 03 June | 14:47
mgl, that could go viral. Submit it as a letter to the editor of a major paper. Post it on your blog.

As a newly and first time unemployed person, I know I need to file right away so I don't loose out on benefits in case I get a job relatively quickly (plus some other reasons involving upcoming part time work). My instinct, though, it to hold off so that my weeks stay in front of me. It's terrifying.
posted by rainbaby 03 June | 15:30
mgl, that could go viral.

rainbaby speaks wise words: mgl, this letter you've written seems to speak to a lot of us, and does it without being vicious or hostile. That's part of what makes it so affecting.
posted by Elsa 03 June | 15:45
I've always been kind of bleak and cynical anyway but I look around these days and it seems so, I don't know, Dickensian or something.

I hear you. Here in Georgia, one of the first things our just-recently all-Republican legislature did was pass an Arizona-style immigration bill. The bill hasn't even taken effect yet, but the boycotts have already begun (Atlanta is a big convention city- or was. But Republicans hate Atlanta, so you know, the hell with us). Oh, and guess what? Agriculture, our main industry in south Georgia, suddenly has a severe labor shortage. The season is underway, and there aren't enough hands to pick and plant the crops. The farmers are in an uproar.

Our governor thinks the solution is to help unemployed people up here in the northern half of the state get down south to work on the farms. I shit you not. "Hey, middle manager who's been laid off! Want to come pick produce in 100-degree heat for just above minimum wage?"

Yeah, we're fucked.
posted by BoringPostcards 03 June | 16:34
May I dissent?

I've been thnking about this post and mgl's eloquent letter off and on for a good deal of today. But I think the wrong person is being blamed here, and I hope to goodness mgl's letter doesn't go viral, as I think Barack Obama takes enough abuse from his own party.

Look, he has worked really hard at fulfilling his promises, and he has put restoring the US economy and jobs (and health care!) at the top of his agenda. But he is one man, even if he is the U.S. President, and in case no one has noticed, he has had serious difficulty getting his own party to competently move his agenda even for the two years at the start of his Presidency. The current crowd of Congresspeople have been swinging a wrecking ball at what is by anyone's standards a progressive Presidential agenda . . . yet Obama has still been effective at preserving, thus far, the gains his administration has made.

I understand mgl's frustration, and frankly it worries me that the U.S. economy remains so sluggish, with unemployment really not bouncing back. But that is definitely not Barack Obama's fault, and furthermore kicking at him just opens the door wider for the field of people who really would send this country to hell in a hand basket.

So, mgl, you have all my sympathy and furthermore my admiration for the way you have made the best of a truly bad situation, but . . . actually, President Obama is not a corporate tool. He is also not a demigod or a magician. He needs a Congress that can move the ball, which means not only does his reelection campaign need support, but that the 2012 Congressional races need close attention too.
posted by bearwife 03 June | 17:19
Well said, and I agree, bearwife, that Congress should be taking most of the heat. They have been a sore disappointment since 2008...and they actually hold the pursestrings.
posted by Miko 03 June | 20:22
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