My Letter to The President:
Protect ‘Big 3’ Benefits

by J. Blake on November 29, 2012

President ObamaHere is the content of the letter I sent to President Obama last week, regarding protecting the ‘Big 3’ during the current budget negotiations.

Dear Mr. President,

I could be your mother. Not literally, as you were born a few years before I. But, in terms of life experiences and struggles, your mother and I share many similarities.

I’ve been a single mother raising biracial children from a very young age — two by the age of 19, four in all. Because of that, my life’s path never quite matched societal norms and expectations; still, I’ve quietly done my best. I value education and community involvement, and what I want most in this world is to see my children have the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.

By the time you took office in 2009, I was just seeing the collapse of the little piece of middle class dream I’d managed to cobble together for my babies. By May of 2009, as a direct result of the economic meltdown, I’d lost my job and the home that I’d purchased six years earlier. We were catapulted into an extreme financial free fall from which we have never recovered. Your unemployment extensions and HPRP monies kept us surviving longer than we might have; but by last Thanksgiving, my 99 weeks were up and all emergency resources exhausted. I closed my doors to the foster kids I’d taken in & my children and I became homeless. This Thanksgiving, one year later, we’ve just barely scraped back in to a nice, but temporary, home. With gifts and temporary work I was able to move us in to a below-market-rate rental unit. The caveat: it is in foreclosure and will not last long. I’m still searching for permanent employment and permanent housing, either here under new owners, or elsewhere.

I’ve felt helpless over the past few years as I watched House Republicans hold this economy hostage and, with it, our lives and livelihoods. I tried to go back to school to finalize my BA and get a MA during my unemployment, but with impacted state colleges and prohibitively expensive alternatives, I was stuck with community college. This allowed for a skills update, but not the degree advancement which might have been a real ladder of opportunity. A job was never quite forthcoming, so my family engaged in the exceptionally difficult work of taking in foster children until we financially couldn’t maintain our home any more. We’ve all worked hard and it’s been a struggle. I have zero assets, zero retirement, and my share of Social Security, provided it still exists when I hit retirement age, is estimated to be no more than $300 or $400 a month.

While optimistic by nature, I’ve almost given up hope that I will ever be able to get back to where I was — a professional with a decent salary and a homeowner. Now I only hope that with blood, sweat and tears, I can keep these kids housed and fed. I’ve proudly watched them maintain high scholarship and dedication while our world was crumbling around us. I can only dream that their hard work will still have the effect of earning them a decent future. These days, that no longer is a certainty.

I suffered deep anxiety over the past few months, when Romney and Ryan appeared to have some potential of winning, and I breathed a sigh of relief with the election victories of you and so many democrats. At least now I know all is not completely lost.

I’m writing to ask that you uphold your promise to families like mine — to protect, if not strengthen, the safety net and to enact a more equitable tax system. Please pay close attention to the likes of Bernie Sanders and Robert Reich, for they are representative of Americans’ true voice. Please make sure that Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, and Social Security benefits are not bargaining chips in your budget negotiations. This country has resoundingly called for tax increases on the wealthy, not some weak middle ground. The compromises that have already been made in the past few years have disproportionately hit the neediest and disproportionately protected the most well off. A real “balanced” approach recognizes this and reverses the trend. There are inklings you might potentially put these entitlement programs on the table, in some part, just as you have in the past; but, caving in on what is moral and what is right in order to strike a deal risks squandering the overwhelming energy and support behind you now.

At this point, we who are the most vulnerable can no longer afford to be the tragic pawns in a disingenuous political game. The playing field is tilted too far against us. We cannot afford even the smallest additional hit. In fact, what we need is further support and relief. As a country, we need jobs and growth now, not austerity. After so many blows, many of us are just now climbing back to basic survival. Stability will require time. As for now, we are hurting too deeply. The GOP should not be dictating the goals and parameters for our economic debate. Their ideas lost the day. Please remember that the country is tired of obstinance and obstruction. We voted overwhelmingly for your vision. If we don’t see a strong and determined front to enact it, there is a real risk we’ll become dispirited and disillusioned beyond repair. You must stand tall and strong for true equity and fairness.

I thank your mother for bringing you into this world and cultivating in you strong community values. I, like her, hope for a world of opportunity for my children, so that my children can impact this world in their own unique and profound ways. Thank you, President Obama, for standing with those of us who have nothing at all except love, hope and dreams for our children and our country. We appreciate who you are and all you do.

Sincerely,

Jeanne

Read my Homeless for the Holidays post from last Thanksgiving.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kate October 10, 2013 at 1:14 am

This is a beautiful letter and it deserves to be read.

I hope you are doing better since you wrote it.

I would help you if I could, but my situation is similar to yours – if anything you deserve it even less than I do.

I found you on Twitter and I’ll keep an eye out for you there. Stay hopeful, and if you can somehow be ready to fight even harder, maybe that’s a good idea too. These are strange times.

(I’d be happy for you to email me if you feel the need – even a little support from a long distance can be useful.)

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