"People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing." Walter H. Judd.
Wow - Election 2010 is over. I am still tryin' to put the whole thing in perspective. Lucky for me, I had a Saturday off from work. It's a rare occasion for me to be a weekend warrior, too bad the little lady had to go off and schlep the U.S. mails. I considered scratchin' my ass and going back to bed as I kissed her goodbye, but instead I vacuumed the house, cleaned the bathrooms, and waited to see if it was gonna be a good day for a ride. As the sun began to break through the clouds, around 11 a.m., I put on my leathers and mounted the Great White Steed.
As I roared down the roads leading to my friend's house, I saw many letter carriers performing their daily duties. Each and every one of them looked very professional and, I thought to myself, how proud I was to be part of their ranks. On this sunny Saturday, I just felt that I was a big juicy piece of the American pie. It is so good to see a mailperson walking down the street. It gives the community an indescribable sense of stability and security. I picked up my friend at her house, and we proceeded to take a shortcut to Big Beaver Road. I swore I knew where I was going. Being nicknamed "Cementhead" means you're gonna get lost from time to time, and I didn't fail to disappoint my friend. We got lost. And then I saw the mailman.
Now, I've been asked a thousand times for directions as I was delivering the U.S. mails. Thankfully, this nice feller in his postal uniform was there to help me out this time. With the dumbest look on my face, I introduced myself and told him I was lost in this confounded subdivision. He said "Aren't you the guy who writes for New Vision?" I admitted I was, asked him his name, and proceeded to forget that name two minutes later. So to that anonymous carrier in Troy, "Thank you for getting me to Big Beaver (exit 69)." Your assistance was much appreciated and I'll buy ya a beer at the Christmas party.
Speaking of direction, this country appears to be lost in its own windy subdivision looking for the main road. Take another look at my opening quote and read it carefully. I examined the voter turnout for my city of Royal Oak and found the results disheartening. Fifty percent of registered voters cast their ballots, and in the neighboring city of Clawson, it was 51%. In the previous gubernatorial election of 2006, 60% of Royal Oak voters turned out and 59% in Clawson. I would expect this was typical of cities all over Michigan on November 2 this year. This is a 17% drop off from the last midterm election. So, whose voices are being heard, and who is voting?
In 2008, our country seemed ready for Change. The idea of change was embraced by the citizenry so resoundingly that our first African-American President was elected along with a Democratic House and Senate. The people said enough of the Bush era policies that were leading us to the precipice of an economic meltdown. Participation in all the various election campaigns, including Labor 2008, was happening in unprecedented numbers. Our own branch saw levels of volunteerism in "Getting Out The Vote" that we've never seen before. There was an optimism and electricity of hope in the air. Unfortunately, all that changed two short years later.
What happened? I am not one to point fingers at others. I've always said, when you point a finger at someone, there's three more pointing back at you. I do believe that two great myths have been promulgated by the Right to the voters in this election, but I also believe that we did not do the proper job of discounting those myths and promoting the hard work done by our President and other advocates of the working class over the past two years. Here are the two Great Myths (in my humble opinion) used to overcome the "Audacity of Hope."
1. Government is too big. The federal deficit will saddle our nation for decades to come. Our great-grandchildren will never forgive us.
It's as if we have never had a federal budget deficit before. Do we forget what happened in the final months of 2008? We, as a nation, were on the verge of an economic meltdown akin to the Great Depression of 1929! In Detroit, two of the Big Three were announcing plans to go bankrupt. Financial institutions were falling like the house of cards that they were literally built like, and we as citizens looked to the Federal government for leadership. The Stimulus Package was enacted; the banks got the bailout package, and the bankrupt auto companies got a chance to restructure and rebuild. And this was all used against the Democrats in 2010.
First, let's talk about the Federal stimulus money. I see roads being rebuilt and, most importantly, folks working. We need to take a look back at how this country got out of the Great Depression. In plain English, the federal government spent money to put the jobless back to work. Through programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), millions of unemployed and underemployed in America were put to work doing thousands of projects across this great land. Many of the grand murals decorating U.S. Post Offices were commissioned by the WPA, as well as highway construction, and reforestation of public lands. In 1936, the WPA rolls had reached 3.4 million people. During its eight year history, our government spent $11 billion with the WPA building 651,000 miles of roads, 124,000 bridges, 125,000 public buildings, and 8,200 parks. Many of the public lands and buildings we pass by every day are products of this Federal government spending. Without it, our country would have never recovered from the Great Depression.
Fifteen million Americans are out of work today. Roughly ten million more can only find part time jobs. Forty five percent of the jobless have not worked in the last six months. Last year's $789 billion government stimulus commitment (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) "worked". It stopped the economic free fall in the wake of the financial crisis. It put folks to work, but it was not enough. Why not spend more Federal dollars putting more people back to work, rebuilding this country's aging infrastructure and road system?
There are leading economists who are on my side. Jeff Faux, who spoke at this year's National Association of Letter Carriers convention in Anaheim, is the Founder and Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute. He writes: "The basic economic problem is not very complicated: If no one spends, no one works. In order to keep people working, as the Great Depression taught us, the Federal government must therefore compensate by increasing its own fiscal deficit. As jobs return, consumers resume buying, businesses respond by investing, and state and local revenues grow. When we're back to full employment, the Federal budget should return to balance."
And yes, if we spend and grow our Federal deficit now by putting Americans back to work, we will have to return to a balanced budget in the future. But I believe most of us got hoodwinked during this election. We, as working folks, were told that government spending is bad. We were told that the Federal budget should be like our own household budget. Can't spend more than you bring in! Well, our fairly recent national history proves otherwise. Myth busted.
More folks working mean more tax dollars in the coffers. It means stronger communities with fewer home foreclosures. It means restoring the American Dream. It means believing that we have a government capable of doing great things, instead of drowning ourselves in pools of skepticism and meaningless slogans. It means listening to the lessons of our own history.
And it means sometimes asking the Mailman for directions.
Never above you, never below, always by your side
John "Cementhead" Dick
P.S. I'll try to remember to get to the Numero Dos great myth next issue. Being a Myth buster is a great hoot. Happy Holidays to All!
John "Cementhead" Dick is an active member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 3126, Royal Oak, Mich.
This article appeared in his union's newsletter.
Photo: USPS letter carrier watches his footing carefully while delivering mail in northeast Philadelphia last winter. Joseph Kaczmarek/AP