That was a premise of an MSNBC commentators opinion on the current public, analytical perception of our situation, that one of the largest myths of this great recession has been that we live in a state of lack rather than realizing we have a lot of wealth, in terms resources from persons, to homes, to machinery sitting idle, falling into disuse. Disseminating from people who can’t get work, to vacant homes just existing, to business spaces boarded up, equipment collecting dust; the biggest travesty of the great recession is the absence of creative thinking to get things moving again, use and utilize tools at our disposal to put people back to work, restore confidence in the country’s ability to meet the challenges now and in the future. Sadly for many, those trying rise up or those in need of a helping hand are met with ridicule, people trying to make things right, settle their debts, do the honorable thing met with the words we can’t help you.  Disenfranchised former workers who want to work, would gladly take any job they could physically do, who perhaps only need retraining not only don’t receive the latter but become the scapegoat for politically unpopular policies meant to help the desperate and the destitute, the increase in usage of social welfare programs. Do something or do nothing and the government still takes a hit, ordinary people still take a hit as current political candidates vow to change the social welfare state, return us to a merit society vs. what they  call an entitlement society.  

Clearly it’s a case of did our MSNBC commenter ever get it right we don’t have a lack of resources, lack of manpower, not even a lack of capital; what we have is a failure to mobilize resources correctly, a failure to recognize core issues and deal with them accordingly, galvanized by Dennis Miller’s comments on Bill O’Reilly‘s The O’Reilly Factor. In which he used a comment from president Obama talking about America needing to get tougher in terms of competitive edge to say American’s have gone soft pointing to healthcare legislation allowing kids to stay on their parents insurance till age 26, legalizing medical marijuana, 2 years of unemployment “if you don’t want to work,” making fun of the record number of food stamp recipients under the Obama administration stating: “throw in some food stamps for munchies and it really is  Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure 3.” Next it was how motivated he gets when his toes are dangling over an edge and he can fall, and when you can’t fall you’re not motivated, ending with someone ought to tell that to the island of misfit toys in hemp hoodies, referring to the occupy protesters. Once more it’s a question of do such comments, uttered by a political comedian or not, hold water, and of even greater importance, what will the viewing public take away from them, regardless of accuracy? Frankly it doesn’t take long to see the hypocrisy and arrogance, to say nothing of a fall from grace, of a stand-up comedian screaming at college students, worried about the debt they will incur their ability to obtain stable employment, to get a job. Or after a semi successful career, the fact that the only way he can pay his bills is spouting political wisdom beside the despised likes of Bill O’ Reilly.

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When I think about children being on their insurance past 18 or 21, I remember a friend I made in college who was diagnosed with a brain tumor; after surviving chemo and radiation that left him looking like a balding middle aged man, despite being in his 20’s, he was given a clean bill of health only to have to drop out of college and go get a semi decent factory job to pay for the CAT scans he would need for years to come, if not the rest of his life, to ensure he was healthy. Why, because he turned 25 and was subsequently dropped from his parents insurance. And this was being on his parents insurance later than was usually allowed before the Obama measure; what would have happened had he not been on an extended plan? Would he have died; would the cancer reoccurred because of lesser treatment. Also to be considered are those with mental health issues looking to preserve successful mental health treatment as they transition into legal adulthood, go on to college; i.e. keeping the same psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, medications, insurance covered support group/ treatment program, instead of being forced to change based on free programs for individuals without insurance, switched to generic or similar medications for the same reason. Anyone looking at the current employment market notices how long it takes for even the luckiest, most industrious young people to gain traction in the workforce, land a job that might carry health benefits, inconvenient though it is to one liners, punch lines of political pundits.

Two years of unemployment if you don’t want to work has to be one of the most incendiary phrases of the last nearly four years; because it isn’t two years of unemployment if you don’t want to work, it’s two years of unemployment because it takes you that long to find work. Nor is it being taken advantage of by people sitting on their couch, toking on medical marijuana, eating Funyuns in their underwear, rather being used by people sending out hundreds of  résumés a day or a week, people who are on their computers, their phones networking, using social networking to try and land their next job, people who have the means, and by that you’re talking about a car, a license and enough money for gas, who are out pounding the pavement, doing face to face follow up, delivering applications in person, people who were probably out this holiday season trying to get hired on for one of the seasonal jobs hoping against hope to make it permanent. The 99 weeks of unemployment benefits provided are being used families trying to hold on to their homes, provide stability to their children, by older workers traditionally always struggling to be rehired during hard times, after a downsizing. Unemployment benefits largely given to people who incidentally haven’t done anything wrong or negligent to lose their jobs but who are victims of their workplaces’ bottom line. Interesting also is why they can’t get another job seeing as we report a 300 million job jobs gap in this country; top on that list of reasons is a lack of employer willingness to train people for what they can’t immediately hire, too much emphasis on former job held and an absurd discrimination of people who have ever been on welfare or anything perceived as welfare. Adding credence to Miller’s diatribe, enter political oddball Newt Gingrich spanked in the Iowa caucus saying blacks should demand paychecks not be satisfied with food stamps, comments that might have made more sense had he said it in terms of blasting discrimination against ethnicity, discrimination against individuals in poor areas, earnestly trying to get off of welfare, sending the demand to businesses to legitimately look at all potential workers, bring back job training, instead of making it sound like he’s again attacking poor people, black people, somehow making the situation their fault.      

The chief reason we have seen such an increase in the number of food stamp recipients under Obama is not his lax policies, his “bleeding heart liberal” tinge toward so called social welfare, but stems from the record numbers of people having lost both their home and their job, so echo the ABC news fact checkers who vetted Gingrich’s claims tying food stamp applications to a weak economy, the extended average time it takes to get a job, varying by which part of the country you live in, how easily a person can become one of the long term unemployed based on age, experience, previous job held. We have people in their 40’s 50’s who never in their life have needed any kind of help suddenly both needing and qualifying for assistance, persons swallowing their pride and applying solely so their children can eat. As one in 6 Americans currently live in poverty, suffer food instability, 1 in 4 of those being children.  However Mr. Miller is far from alone in his damn near crusade to rid the country of all things deemed welfare, entitlement; two terms that evoke thoughts of laziness, system abuse and people wanting something for nothing. Recently announced former presidential candidate MicheleBachmann was on C- span talking about if she were president she would go through the great society programs enacted by Lyndon Johnson and probably eliminate a great many of them, pointing out we didn’t have food stamps prior to 1960. Forget they were put into effect in an era when people were treated better by business.  And this is what is happening with food stamps families living in vehicles, in California there is a place called slab city where people who can no longer afford to heat homes in other parts of the country go, where people who can no longer afford fees at an RV park go, including a father of 6 who lost his audio visual business who prior to the recession had always gone to work in a suit and tie, who planned to look for work in the city come spring, currently only able to scrape together odd jobs.  Strangely enough it took 60 Minutes reporting on the problem to land these families offers of housing and jobs in addition to the donations of viewers.

And why have so many lost their homes, everything they’ve worked for; it’s not because the government and vilified president Obama didn’t try to help with several programs meant to aid millions but more because banks are hives of buck passing and bureaucracy bent on crucifying distressed homeowners leading directly to the inability of agencies to work together to negotiate a lower mortgage rates for people. In fact willing to throw out delinquent owners after one missed payment; one woman’s house was nearly auctioned before proper foreclosure procedures had been completed. The latest bizarre story out of what can only be called mortgage hell, involved a husband and wife looking to refinance their home after the husband lost his job only to be told by Bank of America they could not get help until they were behind on their mortgage, so they stopped paying, talked to several people at the bank and showed CBS News a binder of letters denoting employees passing the case off to various staff. Receiving no word from the bank, they move out, send registered letter informing their lender of the action, new address and contact information. Finally after seeing no movement on their situation, they moved back in and two years after their ordeal began they obtained permission to sell the house for less than was owned to the bank, found a buyer and are moving to a mobile home.  Banks illustrated a profound stupidity at the height of the recession, still are, being all too willing to evict underwater home owners even after abandoned foreclosure properties became magnets for drugs, teen mischief and disgruntled former home owner rage, translating into thousands upon thousands of dollars in damages, repairs and enticements to get the home ready to sell again and convince people, in this buyers’ market, to come to desolate neighborhoods. Whereas had they employed some common sense, creative problem solving negotiating with owners would be their top priority since doing so keeps the owner in the home, prevents property destruction or the dwindling of surrounding property values, avoids neighborhoods becoming ghost towns. Another solution renting the home to the former owner at a lesser price for the same reasons; yes you’re taking a loss, but some money has to be better than no money. Similarly, can’t find a buyer for homes, why not try a renter, keep someone in the property, taking care of it, again not allowing it to become a drug den, flop house or squatters place for the homeless?    

Watch How the U.S. Economy, Americans Fared in 2011 on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

<Now it doesn’t matter if the unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, a possibly false positive as an estimated 300,000 to 450,000 have simply stopped looking for work after months and years of trying; it’s simply too late for some. Neither does the mild growth adding an estimated 1 million jobs to the economy this year when we have anywhere from 6 to 14 million out of work; poignantly illustrated by the Romney supporter caught on camera at the Iowa caucus begging Romney, should he make it to the White House, to please do something for small unemployed families. Even for those who have jobs times are uneasy; many feel stuck, sense no upward mobility. Many in this category feel like they are barely keeping their heads above water. Experts echoing known fact that short term unemployment becomes long term at some point, emphasizing the length of this recession and what that means for the financial prospects of everyone going forward, translation there will be less money going to them even after any kind of substantial recovery, they won’t get back to where they were. Not surprising was the projected impact on children caught in the recession longer who will inevitably grow up to earn less money than children whose parents made only slightly more in annual income. Despite commentators on the PBS piece detailing above information pointing to the optimist, happy to see her have a brighter view, highlight the reality that kids who’ve always had farther to go had less chance of making it; one can say the bigger point is, the reason for bringing it up is, it is a situation now effecting nearly every kid in America. By the way President Obama was speaking of American’s having gone soft, needing to get tougher relating to competitive edge not to be confused with personal grit, overinflated expectation of government, inability to sacrifice, inability to at least try to pull yourself up by the bootstraps although someone should inform users of the phrase boots no longer come with straps, if they ever did.             

Perhaps we should get back to calling them the great society programs rather than welfare and entitlement; perhaps it is the older people who need a wake-up call and no, not the PBS optimist who thought the children of this recession were going to come out with much more of an understanding of the importance of frugality, saving in contrast to the ones raised by baby boomers in reasonable wealth and prosperity who seem to be having the majority of the problems. Why, well for starters because it sounds better than the treating our older citizens with respect program, the keeping them from eating cat or dog food program, preventing needless death of all people due to lack of medical care program or the this is the way we stave off communicable disease programs, don’t see starving children programs, but more because it reminds us this is a great society and in a great society, the mark of people’s character should be how he treats those not deemed better than him, those seen as his equals, but those, for whatever reason deemed his inferiors. Because we don’t want to pay for it; we “can’t” afford it isn’t a good enough reason to throw vulnerable people under the bus and who, other than the politicians, rich fat cats say we can’t pay for it, while simultaneously paying for everything from oil subsidies to earmarks, bailouts to defunct presidential coins?  

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Perhaps most compelling of all because the MSNBC commentator was right; we don’t live in a land of lack. We live in a land of  myth perpetuated waste; we have people, we have resources, we have mechanisms political and otherwise, we have equipment, space but we refuse to find ways to keep people in homes, preserve property, refuse to take the side of common workers, students over mega corporations in terms of making the latter pay their fair share, giving opportunities to those starting out, young people glad to work, wanting a career, willing to pay back student loans if only given the means to do so. Instead we allow the mocking of said students by people like Dennis Miller to go unchecked, unchallenged, no matter who allowing children to stay on insurance longer helps, or god forbid aids the mentally ill,  allows the diagnosis of diseases striking adolescents, 20 something’s so they are later alive to work, to pay into social security. We refuse to put together new rules, enact job training programs, a change in business culture to get them hire all workers 18-50 needing, wanting a job as openings become available; we refuse to force banks to lend money to those with sound business plans to create more jobs, translating into needing less of the demonized welfare. Instead we hold on to petty, out of date ideals tied to the protestant work ethic, a model that never worked to begin with, creates excuses to call the poor lazy, the struggling unmotivated, unwilling.  These are the things Mr. Miller, candidates like Michele Bachmann should be bringing to light not trying to abolish welfare, food stamps, housing assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, rather the need for them.

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