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Closing our eyes to the problems facing our country will not make them go away.

By Carl Petersen
Something is wrong with our country when Congress makes headlines for doing their job. Actually, the budget was due before October 1, but the TEA Party convinced the Republicans to shut down the government in a last ditch attempt to stop Obamacare and then everyone kicked the can down the road so that it could be reopened. While almost three months late, at least the country now has a spending plan for the next couple of years and proof that something bipartisan can still come out of Washington.

Left behind in the compromise were the 1.3 million Americans who have suffered from long term unemployment in the current economy. (1) While the members of Congress spend the holidays celebrating with their families, these less fortunate people will live with the worry of losing their unemployment insurance benefits on December 28. While the Conservative right argues within the Fox Nation if we should say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” it is a good guess that the families of the unemployed will be having neither.

How did we get here? These 1.3 million people are not just numbers on a page of statistics, they are real people - our neighbors and our fellow countrymen. With a different roll of the dice, they could have been you or me. Since they are eligible for unemployment benefits we know that they were working at one point, yet too many of us simply dismiss them as “takers” and are willing to let them fend for themselves. The America that I believe in is better than that.

“Go you or I
Open your eyes
You don’t see me
You couldn’t be me
Who cares wins.” (2)

In the rant that is credited with starting the TEA party, Rick Santelli referred to those who were having trouble paying their mortgages as “losers” and said that the “government is promoting bad behavior.” (3) The problem with this mindset is that it ignores the fact that there are two sides to the equation. The banks made these bad loans and they were helped with a $150 billion tarp bailout, effectively socializing their losses. (4) Why is redistribution of wealth all right when it is given “to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water,” and bad when it done to help the American people? (5) Why was it permissible to give banks the money so that they could thrive while people were still losing their homes? If the government had bailed out the citizens instead the corporations would we be in a situation where corporations are sitting on their cash instead of reducing the unemployment rate?

Forty percent of our country’s net worth is held by just 1% of the population. (6) The unemployment for blacks is “consistently twice that of whites.” (7) In 2010, 49.9 million Americans were uninsured. (8) Ignoring these facts and throwing up red herrings will not put us a path towards solving these problems. Just as the first step an addict must take towards recovery is realizing that he has a problem, we as a country must take the step of admitting that our fellow citizens are hurting. The proposed solutions will vary depending on ideology, but the path to the best solution will take the best ideas from all sides. We can only accomplish this if we start having conversations instead of talking at each other.

“There but for the grace of God
Who cares, who cares, who cares, who cares” (9)
(1) http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/18/congress-poised-topassbudgetdealcappingoffyearofparalysis.html
(2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtD_GUvu-wc
(3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp-Jw-5Kx8k
(4) http://useconomy.about.com/od/glossary/g/TARP.htm
(5) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp-Jw-5Kx8k
(6) http://www.businessinsider.com/wealth-and-income-inequality-in-america-2013-4?op=1
(7) http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/08/21/through-good-times-and-bad-black-unemployment-is-consistently-double-that-of-whites/
(8) http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/27/politics/btn-health-care/index.html
(9) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtD_GUvu-wc

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