Saturday, December 11, 2010

Letter to the People Who are Supposed to Be Representing Us

Dear President Obama, Senators Warner and Webb, and Representative Wittman:

This has been a lousy week in our household.  I’m putting the blame squarely on your shoulders.  This week, it was announced that federal employees will not receive a pay raise for the next two years.  And it was announced that federal employee transit benefits will be slashed in half.  Now apparently this is due to the fact that they were raised and were due to come back down.  Unfortunately for us, it comes at a time when our sole breadwinner is now commuting 4 hours a day to get to his job, which he loves might I add, in our nation’s traffic clogged capital, and because he has been unable to find someone to carpool with, he must now take the train and Metro to get to work.  A train which is frequently late.  A Metro that frequently has “issues”.  In October, he was leaving home at 7:15 and getting home between 4 and 5.  Now he leaves our home at 5:15 and gets home at 6:30.  Doesn’t say much for our quality of life when we can’t spend time with our husband/father, who is exhausted when he gets back from those kind of hours, does it!

The pay freeze and benefit reduction news also came at a time this week when I drove by the local gas stations around here and nearly choked on my own teeth to see a sharp spike in gas prices.  In case you didn’t notice, gas here is back to nearly $3 per gallon.  I suppose I should feel fortunate—in many cases it’s back over $3 per gallon.  And you know that manufacturers and retailers are not going to swallow the increase in gas prices on their end.  They tack it onto the price of the goods that we have to buy.  So really, we get to pay for our gas and everyone else’s.

Our health insurance co-pays have increased.  I can only assume this is on account of the fact that those health insurance bastards had to lobby you guys so heavily not to support free health care for everyone.  They must be laughing now that the bill you passed will only make them richer.  I full support free health care for all.  I just wish you had done it right.  You had an amazing opportunity to do so, something that could have been your enduring legacy, but you blew it.  Good work.

We are far from being in financial dire straits.  This year we have taken in an exchange student.  I still do not work so that I can be a stay at home mom to our 20 month old.  If I was working, the majority of my income would be going to pay for day care and commuting costs.  But don’t think I haven’t thought about going back to work.  I even contacted my former boss who said I am a phone call away from being employed.  Do you know how lucky I am?  Because there are literally millions of people out there right now who are either scraping by at jobs they are overqualified for, who are unemployed, or who are in fear that their jobs are going to vanish.

Because of the pinch we’re starting to feel, even just a little bit, our lifestyle will change in the new year.  This year, we’ve already started buying generics on things that don’t especially matter—things like “raw materials” for cooking (flour, sugar, oil, etc)—and medicine.  We will continue to do so.

The last several years, we have re-invested our tax return into the economy.  We adopted our beautiful little girl.  We made major improvements to our home.  We went on vacation.  We discussed what we’re doing this year and my advice to my husband was, “I think we’d better save whatever pittance we get.”  And that’s what we’ve agreed to do.

We will seriously slash the amount of travel that we do, both locally and nationally.  We do hope to travel next summer to see a former exchange student, but other than that, our plans are to stay home or to visit family.  Traveling by air has become such a pain in the butt that we don’t have any plans to do it unless it is absolutely necessary.  Between extra fees for just putting a bag on the plane, the new security measures that we may or may not be subject to, and the prices of actually flying, we’re better off staying home.  Thankfully the Smithsonian is still free and nearly in our backyard.  This past year, we traveled to New York, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia.  Next year, once our exchange daughter has gone back home to Thailand, we won’t probably go anywhere.  We are fortunate to have been able to show her some of our beautiful country, but we won’t be able to show her a whole lot more of it other than visiting our parents. 

I have been running all over town with my younger daughter this year  as well, taking her to story time and a local toddler gym and the mall and playground.  I participate in a local choir and run a book club.  We have a very active group of friends who like to go sightseeing and bowling and out to meals.  Where our schedule or that of a babysitter has permitted, we’ve enjoyed joining them.  No more.  My activities will be restricted to my book club and choir, my daughter’s to the park, toddler gym, and story time at our public library, which has slashed its hours and needs funding.  I loved going to visit former co-workers and going to friends’ parties and meeting for lunch.  But I think the days of wine and roses are coming to a close.

We have agreed that in 2011, we will no longer go out to eat at restaurants.  We went out last night with 4 friends, and on top of quite a pricey bill, we had to tack on a babysitter.  It was a sobering wake up call as to exactly how much we spend on something that ultimately really doesn’t matter that much.  We can stay home and not pay gas to get somewhere, pay higher prices for a meal, and pay extra money for a tip for the waitress and a babysitter.  Oh sure, I know, we should be supporting the American economy.  I’ve heard all those precious little soundbites from all of you.  But let’s face it.  As a card carrying member of the middle class, I can only do so much.  My dollar only goes so far, and it’s not really going anywhere at the moment.

But of course, you don’t seem to much care about that.  You just passed a big tax cut again for the wealthiest Americans.  I know three of the four of you are going to tell me that it was necessary to help out the little guy, but let me ask you this:  since when did doing the right thing have to be tied to doing the wrong thing?  Republicans like you, Rep. Whitman, are screaming that it was necessary in order to help job growth in this country.  Much like Reaganomics, they swear the effect will trickle down into the rest of the population.  These tax cuts have been in effect nearly a decade, and forget a trickle, there hasn’t even been dripping.  When are we supposed to see some positive effect?

Senator Webb, your email this week was the proverbial salt in the wound.  President Obama, when I shook hands with you in 2008, I felt sure I was shaking hands with one of the greatest men of my lifetime.  Representative Wittman, I have even been to your office, only to be told the reasons I’m wrong.  Senator Warner, I hear nothing from you, literally nothing.  I had to go to your website this morning to read up on anything you’ve been doing, only to find out that while you’re “disappointed” in the tax cut deal, you’re going to vote for it anyway.  What!?  When either of my daughters does something that “disappoints” me, I don’t say, “Oh well, let’s just say it’s ok anyway.”  All four of you are about debt reduction, as long as it doesn’t come at a price.

Well, as detailed above, my family’s debt reduction will seriously reduce the amount of money we’re pumping into the American economy, and we are not unique among American families.  And watch our choices and the choices of other families trickle down.

Gentlemen, let me assure you that unless something drastic changes, I will not vote for a single one of you when you are up for re-election.  I’m not switching sides and voting for the other guy.  I’m going to hope someone new comes along with some new ideas, someone whose vote that is supposed to represent me, protect me, and make my family’s life better hasn’t already been bought and paid for by huge corporate donations I cannot hope to match.  Let me remind you that the votes of the people got you into office and that’s who you should answer to.  Every single one of you seems to have forgotten it.  Quit “playing the game” and start making life better for all of us.

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