Listening to our president address the nation last night stirred different emotions in me. As the morning-after pundits said, the speech was actually about restoring the U.S. economy. President Obama said “our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy.”
While it’s difficult to disagree with strengthening our education system, our president seems unaware that a large number of those who lost their jobs during the Great Recession are individuals with advanced degrees. My bachelor’s degree seems worthless to me right now. A college education has not helped me find a job in my career field, even with years of experience and persistent job searching. Marketing and public relations jobs are scarce in my area (although I did see a marketing manager job opening that pays $10 an hour, about $35 an hour less than my previous salary). I know friends with more advanced degrees who are also out-of-work. There are millions more educated Americans waiting tables and bagging groceries because they can’t find a job in their chosen field, despite their education and training. Studies show that job retraining programs have little success in this economy.
Although I wrote this letter to the president a few months ago, I wanted to post it here in this blog, along with the response from the White House.
Dear President Obama:
Last year at this time, I was knocking on doors for you. This year, I am considering knocking on doors to ask for a job.
Three years ago, driven by a desire to secure better education and opportunities for my family, I accepted a new job in a new state to direct the public relations and marketing department at a stable company. My wife gave up a good job to move here. As a director, my job paid well enough to support the family.
Two years later, I was let go in a corporate restructuring move. A published writer with 20 years of experience in communications, I thought I would land a comparable job within three months. It’s been a struggle. Now, my unemployment benefits are scheduled to expire soon. If that happens, I will likely cancel our COBRA health insurance benefits to save money and keep our house, which of course cannot sell in this market.
I am writing this letter not to complain, but to let you know of a growing segment of our society that is staring deep into a chasm of unfamiliar and unchartered territory – real poverty. If we fall off that precipice, there is little to bring us back. So far, we are lucky compared to people like the Vasquez family I read about in Sunday’s Washington Post – an unemployed engineer who keeps his family in a Virginia homeless shelter.
We are determined not to meet that same fate, and have cut back on everything from cable to cell phones. We sold the second car and are juggling trips and appointments between us both. My wife is evaluating part-time work that pays a third of what she was making before (she’s been looking for work for 2 ½ years). So when I receive requests for donations from Organizing for America, understand why I cannot give.
In our constant rejections where businesses tell us they have no openings or put the open position “on hold,” we wonder what happened to the stimulus money designed to create jobs. There are no jobs. I saw an ad in the local newspaper last week from an unemployed man asking for work: “I WANT TO WORK: I’m intelligent, honest and hard-working! I have a Masters in Finance, wife, 3-month old daughter, and a mortgage! Please call.”
Please, when you speak to your economic team remember that there experienced, qualified, well-educated professionals in this economy who are distressed and need help, too.
Thank you for your service to the country and may God bless you and keep you safe.
Here is the response from the White House:
Thank you for writing me. I have heard from many Americans who are losing their jobs and struggling to pay their bills. Every day, I meet with my economic advisors to make sure we are doing all we can to create good jobs and help Americans support their families and pursue the American dream.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was the first step to spur job growth and ease the pain of unemployment. This measure was designed to save or create millions of jobs here at home in industries such as alternative energy, health care, and construction. By extending and increasing emergency unemployment compensation and increasing access to health insurance, ARRA has provided relief to millions of unemployed Americans and has helped improve our Nation’s economic outlook.
Many Americans, however, are still struggling to find employment and provide for their families, and I am working to promote additional job creation. To assist workers who lost their jobs, I signed into law the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act in November, extending unemployment benefits beyond what exists in ARRA. I also signed into a law an extension of COBRA benefits and partner with Congress to ensure that a safety net remains in place for those who face long-term unemployment.
My Administration is also helping Americans return to work by emphasizing job training in industries that cannot be outsourced. Recently laid-off workers receiving unemployment benefits have new opportunities to pursue higher education and job training programs, including access to Pell Grants. To encourage job creation in the United States, I am replacing tax laws that send jobs overseas with new incentives to create them here at home. Available assistance can be found online at: http://www.dol.gov/recovery/implement.htm or http://www.opportunity.gov.
Together, we can help more Americans find and keep good jobs and enjoy a healthy standard of living. To locate an employment center near you, select your state at http://www.dol.gov/dol/location.htm or http://www.dol.gov/dol/audience/aud-unemployed.htm . To find career resources, you may call 1-877-872-5627 or visit http://www.careeronestop.org. While it may take time to turn our economy around, I am confident that, working together, we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before.