My friends Shane, Matt, Beth and I had the fortune to participate in two peaceful protests downtown today. Move On.org's "Jobs not Cuts" and Occupy South Bend, two organizations with similar wants and goals (ending corporate greed; getting Americans back to work with good wages; returning government to the principles of 'by the people and for the people--not for corporations) both organized to protest downtown, joining forces to make their (ours) voices heard.
Today's turnout seemed rather small, however, Occupy South Bend also had organized downtown on Saturday with reported crowds of approximately 100 citizens.
I went with the thought of representing returning veterans of war. Recent figures estimate 9.1% percent of Americans are unemployed. Those same conservative estimates state that 14 million Americans are unemployed (or underemployed). I doubt any of us have doubts that that figure is much much higher.
U.S. Labor Department figures are of those collecting benefits and does not take into account the other 4.5 million people whose benefits have long been exhausted (and even that is considered a conservative number). Some believe there are nearly 25 million Americans out of work--and one can only guess what those figures are worldwide... remember, America is not the only nation suffering from high unemployment!
While millions of Americans from all segments and age groups are unemployed, one segment often neglected are our returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghan War. As recent as this summer, it was estimated that more than 200,000 veterans are unemployed. The unemployment rate for veterans is 13.3. And for Reservists and Guardsmen, the news is even worse. More than 14% of our "weekend warriors" are having difficulties securing jobs after returning home while defending our nation.
This fact is unconscionable! While we veterans would be appalled to think we are any better--or worse--than the other unfortunate souls unable to find a job, it does seem a slap in the face to come home and be unable to provide for our families.
Another related fact in these hard times is that of the 4.5 million homeless Americans, 14% of those are our veterans of war. Poverty in America has risen to numbers not seen in decades. The poverty level (U.S. Census Bureau figures: September 13, 2011), estimate that poverty rose to 15.1% in 2010, the highest rate since 1993 (and social scientists believe it has risen even more in 2011).
It does not take a rocket scientist to see these the high unemployment rate and homeless rates are tightly interwoven together.
Today at the rally, one of the speakers from Occupy South Bend called Americans to arms. "We do not have a leader (in the movement). Our voice is our leader!" Many of the speakers today spoke of their frustrations of a government that seems to have forgotten who put them in office--and who they represent.
It, to me, is a disgusting fact that our corporations today are sitting on larger monetary stockpiles than in any time in our history yet they are not hiring; they resist paying decent living wages to their employees; increasingly in recent years, jobs were shipped wholesale overseas (I did read yesterday that there are signs that this trend may be reversing--welcome news, if true); and they are contributing more dollars to politicians to represent their demands... yet the last time I heard the Constitution read "we the people," not "we the corporations."
My friend Matt sadly represents the "99." Those people wearing that moniker have long sought jobs. Matt has sent out more than a 1,000 resumes over the past three years to no avail. These people, above most others, definitely have the right to raise the question, "where are our leaders who say they "feel our pain" but do literally nothing to get America back on track-- and their constituents back to work.
I make no apologies for echoing the cries of those who wonder what the GOP are doing. The Republican Party swept the nation in 2010 with the claims they would put America back to work, yet in the 11 months since that dramatic November election, the House of Representatives have not offered one single jobs bill. Instead, they have offered bill after bill that instead wreaks havoc on those who are unemployed (no jobs bills, refusing to extend unemployment benefits, working to repeal the health care package that should, in theory, benefit ALL Americans.
Jobs programs are sorely needed; likewise with educational training programs. Yes, this costs money, but let's face it, if our government (your government) can bail out the banking industry, it can surely find the means to do the same for its citizens. I know of those who decry the bailout for the automotive industry, but it appears those programs saved countless millions of jobs. Can the same be said of the banking bailout (those same business organizations that most believe helped contribute to near catastrophe)?
Realizing that all of these issues are complex (and finding answers just as complicated), it makes little sense for our government to sit back and do nothing to alleviate these dire situations.
Members of both political parties must... MUST set aside their differences and work to put America back to work again!
With the 2012 elections looming in the not-too-distant future, it is definitely time for us voters to make our voice heard and our displeasure known! I have seen signs around town that say "vote for neither party!" I can empathize with that thought, but do not endorse it. I truly believe the Democratic Party has the best interests of our people at heart. I have to ask a familar question, "Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs????"
Make your voice known!