Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Unemployment Diary: My "Quiet Conversation" with My Senator's Aide

So yesterday we got a call from an advocacy group representative who wanted me to talk to my Senator about voting yes to ratify the START Treaty with Russia.

"Are you familiar with it?" the nice young man asked.

"I am. And I know about the idiot Republican Senator who's holding up the vote for no good reason."

He laughed. "Okay, so will you talk to your Senator's office?  I'll patch you through."

"Sure.  And I won't call anyone an idiot.  That was wrong for me to say."

"Thank you."

A young man at Senator Saxby Chambliss's office answered the phone and I gave my unrehearsed spiel about START. And then...

"Say, while I have you on the phone, will you please pass on to the Senator that I hope he will vote to extend unemployment benefits, including those for the people who've already been cut off, the 99ers."

No response.


"I'm still here."

I quickly went through the list of why those extensions should be made.  I noted that this isn't about buying holiday gifts.  This is about survival.  It's about mortgages and rent, groceries, electricity, water, heat and gasoline to get my husband to his job and paying off his student loans.  I also noted that I understood that the Senator wanted the extension to be paid for, to not add to the deficit, meanwhile he supports income tax cuts for people who make over a million dollars, not from work wages but from the earnings from their existing money.  Because that's not paid for, was never paid for and has already added significantly to the deficit and will add far more to the budget deficit than the unemployment extensions will.

"And those tax cuts haven't created a single job. Those kinds of cuts don't create jobs. They're personal income taxes.  People don't make hiring decisions based on taxes, especially those kinds of taxes. The proof is here - we're living it.  Those tax cuts have existed for ten years and they've not created jobs...."


"Hello?  Are you still there?" I asked.

"I'm here."

"Okay.  Well, thank you for passing that on.  I appreciate your time.  Do you need my name?"

"I have your phone number."

He hung up.  Maybe he was having a bad day.  As a federal worker, he's probably not going to get a raise for the next two years.  I should have been more sensitive.  (Pssst. I am not suggesting that legislative staffers are overpaid.  I really don't think they are.  My socialist self is for the workers - people who earn their wages through work.)

Wow.  Okay.  So my confidence in the knowledge that my Congressional representatives are working for me is totally on the upswing.  Totally.

Sophie, who was home sick, had listened as I spoke. "What did they say?" she asked.


"Will he tell the Senator what you said?"

"Of course not."

She furrowed her brow.  "So why did you say that stuff?"

"Because if I don't, I'm part of the problem."

She shook her head and turned back to the TV.

Benefits end today for lots of people, including me. Millions of others have already been living without any benefits for months.  The current official unemployment rate is at 9.6 percent.  Never before in our history has Congress cut off extensions when unemployment was above 7.2 percent.  And the sad reality is that when you include all those people who are no longer counted in the unemployment numbers because they've stopped looking, stopped receiving benefits or are working part time when what they really need is full-time work with a living wage, the true unemployment rate is between 17 and 20 percent.

I keep hearing this line - will 10 percent unemployment become the New Normal?  Do you have any idea what that means in real numbers for our economy?  As DCap points out, it's demand that creates jobs.  If people don't have money to spend, demand decreases.  The less demand there is, the fewer workers are needed.  The cycle goes on.

So now people like me wait and wake up at 3a.m. to pee and fret about how we're going to manage while we serve as human political pawns in a game of partisan chicken.

I was calm and measured when I spoke to Chambliss's rude young staffer even though I was pretty fired up after listening to retiring Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) tell Joe Scarborough that the unemployed don't need those extensions because the unemployed "aren't job creators" and that they don't contribute to the economy because they spend "as little as possible" of those government checks.  They're "holding onto that money."

Even Joe Scarborough was stunned by Shadegg's statements.  Scarborough was especially wide-eyed incredulous when Shadegg insisted that the tax cuts for the wealthy do in fact create jobs because they need butlers and gardeners and maids.

Wow again.  So maybe I should keep losing weight so I look fantastic in a French maid's uniform, I can get a job on the staff of some uberwealthy's fourth house on the French Riviera. Win/Win!!! I can use my wickedly amazing housekeeping skills and spend my days off on the rocky Mediterranean beaches sunning my DDs.  This time I'll remember to wear sunscreen.  The first and last time I sunbathed topless in Nice, I sunburned my nipples.  Ouchy.

As I related the conversation between myself and Chambliss's office to MathMan last night after he got home at 9:20 because his second coaching job runs late into the evening and then told him about what Shadegg had said about the unemployed, I finished with the cliched "How do these people sleep at night?"

"Wait, never mind.  I know the answer," I said as I put a pot of beans on the stove and turned on the gas.  "They sleep on extremely high count cotton, organic sheets on plush mattresses that cost as much as all our furniture combined."


  1. When reasoning fails ... perhaps that's when the middle class will finally revolt - not in a misdirected Tea Party way or in a stupid Sarah Palin way ... but in ways which will scare the bejeezuz out of the Republican dogs who have been fucking things over since Ronnie Raygun first started tossing monkey wrenches in the machines of the Federal Government.

    Dorn't worry about the Dems, come the revolt, they'll simply do as they always do ... stand on the side-lines and watch.

  2. Yeah - don't burn those DD's again.

    Really? Joe was stunned? Hmmmm. I find that interesting.

    I have been thinking about you all week and need to send you another joke -

    Why does a squirrel swim on his back?

    To keep his NUTS dry of course!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. (Try again)

    I hate the Republican party. They are despicable. They have no humanity, no soul. They are trying to bring this country back to the 1890s.

    Will, there will be no revolt. The Republicans have convinced their sheep that it is their duty to cut their own throats so that the rich can get fatter.

  5. Most Congressional staffers are a type of political appointees, so they're not quite the typical federal worker. They're not protected by civil service rules and they serve at the pleasure of the Senator or Representative who hired them. That means they've usually drunk the same Kool-Aid their boss has. I'm pleasantly surprised Shameless's aide actually let you finish talking instead of hanging up on you as soon as he figured out you were taking a position different than the Senator's.

  6. i saw that interview w/ shedagg and wish mike barnacle would have went at him even harder. maybe said something like, "do you even realize what you sound like? it's as if you're trying to come off as some bloated, exaggerated SNL political parody of yourself."

    did you see it this morning? jeb bush was on to promote education reform of sorts and the first question sorkin asked him was about tax cuts. loved it.

  7. Hope something works out. If this economy keeps going this way, it may soon be pitchforks and torches time. That's the only thing that would scare the bastards in their secure locations.

    Next time ask if Shameless has to piss in a cup?? Back in the 90s it first came out that Congress was not taking part in random drug testing like the rest of the government or the country. Contacted my local Congress Critter at the time and the answer I got was there was no procedure in place to do the drug testing and no meetings had been held to set the procedures up. That was when the Regressive Party was in control. Still don't have drug testing as far as I know.

  8. If you roll long-term discouraged workers (defined as unpersons in 1994) back into the unemployment rate, a number closer to 22% then results.

    I share Will's and Comrade Misfit's fury at what Republicans have done to this country since the arrival of Reagan on the national scene. Ronnie was Governor of my home state before he blessed y'all with his presence. Most enduring image of that period: A poster of RR in a cowboy costume with six-guns at the ready. The caption, "Thanks for the votes, suckers!"

  9. Jeez, why didn't you ask if you can be Saxby's maid? Obviously, someone doesn't *really* want to work.

  10. Will - Yes, we can think Reagan for this. What we see now is the result of 30 years of magical thinking based on is philosophies.

    MommyL - Love that joke!

    Comrade - It's so frustrating. The lies are just repeated and repeated.

    Nan - Thanks for the correction. I should have known that or researched it better.

    Amyg - Could you believe that segment? I was yelling at Barnicle to ask tougher questions. It makes me nuts that these guys get to go on these shows and spread their lies and misinformation and they're not called out on it.

    Silly Kulkuri. You know those laws are for the little people.

    Drydiggens - Yeah, Reagan unleashed a mess of monsters on us. Attacking labor which led to the bad trade policy that has resulted in the loss of jobs, energizing religious fanatics who want to make law based on their religious beliefs, the big lie of trickle down economics, the demonization of taxes, the utter hypocrisy of the Right when it comes to deficit spending (borrow and spend, don't tax and spend), the legitimizing of the Free Market fetishists, the end of the Fairness Doctrine which gave rise to the Right Wing media machine which has framed every American debate since. (imagine if Americans of all political stripes were exposed to real news and were unable to live in an echo chamber!)

    Randal - You busted me. It would have done no good. Saxby has an affinity with gay haters. I'd never qualify.

  11. All I can think of to say are cusses and extensions of impotent sympathy.

    Instead I will do a small dance, in hopes that, through chaos theory that I don't understand, the flapping of my arm wings will somehow create a sensation of human grace within the demented soul of the Republican party.

  12. I have long thought that the answer to so many of our problems with politics and government lies in doing away with multiple terms in office. A politician could campaign on his or her own beliefs and could actually, you know, draft legislation and VOTE based on those ideals. What we have now is a pack of career politicians with dubious alliances and more interest in keeping their own jobs than in the welfare the citizens they have been elected to represent.

  13. Oh, Lisa-I've been thinking about you since I heard the vote went this way. I'm so sorry. Michigan's unemployment is on the downswing at last! Should drom from 13.4% this year to 12.9% next! *rolls eyes* It BAFFLES me how blind people are, and yes... Reagan DID start this. Deregulation and Supply Side economics... Borrow until the credit is gone because he knew he'd be dead by then. That claim that the unemployment checks don't get spent? Are you freaking kidding me? In what universe?

  14. Sadly, your phone comments probably fell not only on deaf ears, but on the vacuum between them.

  15. When I realized that the unemployment benefits were not going to be extended, I wondered about you and your family. I am really sorry that you are getting fucked over by this and as you said if you did not say anything to a staffer that will not pass it on, you are part of the problem.

    But I do have to say that once you mentioned you in a french maid outfit, I kind of lost focus and had to go back and re-read the last bit.

  16. Will people migrate to other regions in a futile search for jobs? Will there be an emergence of tent cities? What will it take to awaken America's social conscience? Homeless people selling apples on street corners? No, I don't think so. I'm afraid that things are going to get worse in the next two years. I'm very afraid.

  17. It's all just so frustrating. But, you REALLY taught your daughter a valuable lesson today.

    Case In Point:

    "Will he tell the Senator what you said?"

    "Of course not."

    She furrowed her brow. "So why did you say that stuff?"

    "Because if I don't, I'm part of the problem."


    Way to go!!

  18. I have been thinking about you and your family as I hear this sickening news. I am sorry our country has become so retarded that they will accept this crap reasoning that these blowhards spew!

  19. glass eye:
    It sounds like you're talking about term limits -- it sounds good in theory, but in the state where I live, they passed Term limits for our state legislature. Results:
    A) when their limit is up in the state senate, they run for the state house, and vice versa -- they can "ping-pong" back and forth forever, and
    B) our state politics got meaner and stupider because as the Term Limited elected officials came in, as "freshmen," they were In A Big Hurry to get things their way Right Now (because of Limited Time in legislature) and it gave way to a culture of agitation and impatience and no one bothering to "learn" ANYTHING, it was like just say it louder & more....
    (Part of that change, thought, will readily admit was cultural across the board in our country -- modern mores -- be obnoxious, bully, lie, and steal what you can get.
    Oh sorry don't mean to rant.
    And -- term limits might work, if we took out the "ping-pong" option, but still -- there's Value in Institutional Knowledge, where you have people involved who have longer experience -- in my experience with it, term limiting served to "dumb down" the process.
    However -- I Totally Agree with what you intend to Accomplish, with Term Limits.
    just don't know how...

  20. And -- Lisa, in your conversation with the staff guy in Wash. D.C. -- it's his JOB to listen to you -- you're a constituent.
    I suppose they take a different view. Not only have they "drunk the kool-aid" as another Comment said, but they're pumpin' that kool-aid out, AT us.
    I guess that shows the staffer works FOR the senator, not FOR you, yet Guess Who pays his (staffer's) salary?

    Your leverage is there, on Election Day, but it doesn't feel like much.
    (Man, this is ticking me off.)

  21. Juli, we already have tent cities in California and Arizona, and various municipalities around the country are designating parking lots as safe zones for overnight parking for people who are now living in their cars. The BBC and other foreign news media have numerous reports on how bad things are getting in this country while the US news media ignore those stories and continue to peddle propaganda and/or natter on about D-list celebrities.

  22. Food stamp usage is at record highs.
    Real unemployment is around 17%.
    Food and energy inflation are on the rise.
    Incomes and housing prices are falling.
    Wall Street bonuses are at record highs.
    Manwhile, the Fed continues to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the banks while proclaiming a “recovery”

    A typical American doesn't buy food or pay their mortgage/rent with the profits from their day-trading; they pay with the money they earn from their JOB.

    The * BenBernank says the stock market is a great economic indicator but that's only true if you work at Goldman Sachs or are a corporate insider.
    * hopefully, you've already seen


  23. What Nick said; but at least you had the balls to say what needs to be heard AND noted by our "esteemed representatives" in W-Town.

    We should just kick them all out, revoke their gov'ment pensions and health care. Then let's see how well the handle what they have dished out to the nation's middle and working poor.

  24. Hi Lisa~ You nailed it with this comment

    "human political pawns in a game of partisan chicken."

    And yesterday's debacle about 42 GOP Senators signing a formal letter to the president stating they will not vote on anything until the tax cuts for the rich & government funding are dealt with to their satisfaction.

    Bastards! I want Obama to push back.... put out a ton of legistative measures... one after another, so as we head inot the holidays, the headlines would read GOP refuses to fund Social Security. GOP cuts Grandma's Medicare prescription funding.
    GOP out of touch. GOP getting paid $14,000 a month, plus benefits, but refusing to work.
    GOP = Grinch.

    Might I suggest you hound the Senator endlessly.

    Mail in a letter marked *Personal & Confidential* stating a line item list of everything.
    How many resumes you've sent out.
    Although you have a College degree, you can't even get a shitty job, with no benefits.

    How many times utilities were shut off & how much more it cost to turn them back on.

    How many extra things your husband is doing & how long it will take to pay back student loans.

    Request a personal response.... no pre fab "thanks for your input" BS reply.

    But I would also send it to Rachel Maddow & Keith Olbermann.

    Make this unemployment money thing personal.
    Maybe just use your first name only, or a fictitious name... but they need to understand in a very real way what exactly the hardships are.

    Go nuts! Write Oprah. Major news stations. Your local news station.
    Make a fuss. Pitch a fit.
    Tell the truth.
    Once you have drafted the checklist,
    it will be easy enough to send out to many outlets.

    Because the truth needs to be told Chloe.
    Because there are some people who do care & would help.
    Because if you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same result.

    Also because the government always has money for wars & to overpay themselves.
    Because they think we will have "just" lost $25 billion from the TARP corporate bailout money.

    Let me state the obvious-- the $25 billion would be real handy for those out of work- the 99+ crowd.

    Because what they are doing is not right & people have to speak up.

    *** steps off soap box now***

  25. Really Lisa, you haven't mentioned all that government money you are hoarding under that inexpensive mattress. It's time you did your civic duty and took it outa there and bought some crap young lady, and leave those poor senators alone.

    You know politicians are doing the same thing over here in Canada - they'll say anything - it doesn't matter how far off from the truth it is. If called on it later, they'll blame it on "context" or "you didn't take my words the right way." In fact, often they don't even feel the need to explain away lies anymore.

    Really what they're doing is throwing words against the wall and seeing which ones stick. Unfortunately, in this world of sound bites, a lot of them stick. And a lot of people believe if the words are out there sticking on a wall, they must be true.

  26. It's all so screwed up. How DO those people sleep at night? Are they really that ignorant? Do they tell these lies so often they believe them themselves?

  27. I really don't like where we are headed.

  28. Will: Unless I am mistaken, every revolution was started by the middle class. As for Shadegg, I'm guessing his masters have a nice plan for him now that he's unemployed. Or maybe he's one of the rich ones. I'd like to see him raise money for the unemployed by allowing people to contribute $20 for the right to kick him in the balls. I'm in for $100.

  29. "...holding onto that money"! -- *What* money?! As soon as the necessities are paid for, there's nothing left!

    I'm with you, Lisa xoxo

  30. The only people holding on to their money are the very rich who bank it out of the country and the corporations (who don't even pay taxes) and bank it out of the country.

    I don't know enough to know how we are going o get out of 30 years of mismanagement and crazy thinking - like off shoring jobs and manufacturing somehow helps us-

    I am very afraid for what this means for families like yours and for our kids, too. My husband says anarchy.

  31. Ouch. ouch. ouch.
    Another offer of impotent sympathy.

    Any chance of writing editorials for Atlanta's paper? Even if the aide HAD drunk the Kool Aid I can't believe your "quiet conversation" didn't register somewhere. If only, like the telemarketers trying to sell me stuff every night at 5 pm, he was required to "record the conversation for training purposes."

  32. I wonder, how many have actually tried fighting "city hall" or gone up against government representations? I have and I can add this to the conversation: It takes a tons of time and really deep pockets to even get in the conversation.

    Not only that, don't expect much from sympathizers. True enough, friends, neighbors and the general public might agree with you - but few will commit their own time and energies to actually being involved.

    Still, there is strength in numbers but the trick is to not let supporters fade or dissipate - which is typical unless someone is a charismatic leader (spokesperson).

    If you do get a foot in the door with an elected representative ... they will want positive suggestions, not criticism or hostility. That's just the way it works. Generally, those elected are hesitant to get involved unless there is something useful to them.

    Representative government works ... the problem is Big Biz and vested interest groups are the ones who are being represented, not you and me.



And then you say....

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