Friday, February 26, 2010

Enough Already...Let's Move On!

Yesterday's Washington health care reform summit, while perhaps well-intentioned, just extended the futility of the Obama administration in trying to forge some sort of compromise with Republicans on achieving any true reform on this important issue anytime soon. The President is desperate to trumpet success on a signature promise of his campaign but the Republicans are just as desperate to block it. Answer? For the good of the country and its citizens we must move on to address the far more pressing joblessness dilemma in this country before it becomes a national death spiral beyond the point of no return.

Alarmist? I don't think so. According to the Labor Department, jobless claims bumped up close to 500,000 in the latest week while the measurable number of long-term unemployed--those out of work over six months and near the end of their unemployment benefits--continues to grow. (The key word here is "measurable" since BLS "official" numbers continue to underestimate the true breadth of the crisis.) Other economic indicators like new orders for durable goods and housing starts continue to stagger along. Yes, the Congress may yet finally pass a modest bipartisan jobs bill but it is far too little in the face of an ever deepening problem. We need leadership at the highest level to present bold, new FDR era-like initiatives because it is increasingly obvious the private sector likely will remain on the sidelines much longer awaiting a true recovery before they will resume any real, substantive job hiring.

In the meantime, the suffering of a once vibrant middle class of Americans continues unabated. Government outreach programs are woefully inadequate and bogged down with needless paperwork and bureaucracy. Solid citizens who have diligently and proudly worked for decades, always paid their bills on time and enjoyed comfortable yet not lavish lifestyles are for the first time facing the nightmare of their lives and once unthinkable symbols of societal failure in foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce and worse. Discussion boards on the Internet are flooded with thousands of stories of personal despair and desperation. From all over America across all demographics the stories are sad and frightening, not just for those unemployed, underemployed or otherwise hurting but also for many fortunate enough with jobs yet fearful that they, too, could join the ranks of the less fortunate as what has been described as the "nascent" recovery sputters.

Americans have a history of strength and resiliency but when you take away their ability to work to support their families and their "pursuit of happiness" it's like a dagger to the heart. Life basically stops during unemployment--roles are reversed, relationships altered, priorities shift, and emotions boil over. Add in the ongoing frustrations and humiliation of fruitless job searches, sleepless nights, constant money worries, including agonizing over having to borrow from friends and relatives for the very first time, and the loss of individual security and dignity and it is not difficult to see how job loss ranks right at the top by experts as one of the most stressful events in any lifetime.

So...Mr. President and members of Congress, enough already! Isn't it about time to put country ahead of party and politics, compassion ahead of money, greed and lobbyists, and responsibility ahead of foot-dragging and do a full-court press on the unemployment crisis in this country? Americans need you to do what we elected you to do--work as hard as you can to especially help those most in need so they and our country can be the very best (it) we can be. The suffering and despair are real, yet the disconnect between constituents and elected officials in Washington and in our state capitols grows deeper. It's past time to step up and make a change. It's too late for many but opportunities remain for millions more. Let's move on!