Recently I visited Bridgeport, a neighborhood in Chicago’s near South Side; I was attending a Communist Party school. It was the second time I had the opportunity to visit the Windy City. The first time, in 2005, I didn’t have a lot of time to get around but being downtown and on the North side gave me the impression of a city that was doing fairly well.

Seven years later, the downtown and North Side sections still had pockets of the upwardly mobile, but the hustle and bustle had definitely diminished. Even so, in comparing it to the Bridgeport section, there was a stark difference; I was really taken aback at what I saw.

This is, as many a writer has coined; the “Great Recession.” As I strolled South Halsted Street (a main avenue that connects the South Side to the North), many stores were closed and shuttered. For a brief time, due to my excitement of attending the school and just being in this great city, I had forgotten the hard times we are in.

I always enjoy talking to people, especially when I’m visiting a place I’ve never been. While washing some clothes in a nearby laundry place, I took the opportunity to talk with two women who live in the area. I had heard that there was an attempt at gentrification in the area but when I suggested this to one of the women she looked puzzled and told me that if in fact that was true, it had ended abruptly with the meltdown of the U.S. economy.

She explained that she moved into the area several years before the recession and now the house she bought was “under water” for $125 thousand. I then asked if she had a job and she replied, “For now, but I’m not sure for how long.” Her friend had a job in a local real estate office and she laughed when describing how the manager of the office told perspective buyers about the great shopping and transportation. She looked around at the closed stores and then looked at me with a quizzical sort of smile.

That’s the first part of my kick in the pants. Hey! Is Congress listening? We are in deep trouble in the U.S.A.

Shortly after returning from Chicago, my partner and I took my granddaughters camping in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) at Hi Point National Park. We camped in the town of Montague, which is on the Jersey side. Port Jervis is on the New York side. I’ve always had this vision of Port Jervis as a solid working-class town, an idyllic place; a town that I would have loved to have grown up in.

We drove into Port Jervis to buy a few sundries and take in what I expected to be a pleasant experience. Wow! What a shocking experience. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I was so taken aback at what I saw that I didn’t think to take any.

One store after another was closed. One side of a street we walked down was entirely shuttered with the exception of one or two stores. The only businesses that seemed to be surviving were the antique stores. Apparently the town is a favorite stop for folks looking for such things.

We stopped at a local bakery for a little dessert – my granddaughters weren’t as interested as I or my partner in the experience – and rest. Before leaving, I asked the server how long she lived in the town; she replied “thirteen or fourteen years”; then I asked her how things were going. She said, “Many people are on section eight and public assistance… there are no jobs.”

Is Congress listening to the American people? Does the budget-cutting right wing in Congress care that the American working class is bleeding? Obviously not.

It is so, so very clear to me that the only way the working families in America will be able to raise their families and live a decent life in the future is for the government to intervene – as it should – and put a massive infrastructure jobs program in place. For example, The American Jobs Act, sponsored by Representative John Conyers of Michigan.

HR 4277, a revised version of HR 870, was introduced by Rep. Conyers in March of this year. This federal legislation would create a national public service jobs program to complement job creation efforts in the private and nonprofit sectors. There is no other way. This is the first step towards any kind of meaningful recovery.

At the party school, a chart was used to explain why we need a massive jobs program and government intervention. Pure and simple it explains how productivity has gotten us to this point in our history. Here is a sampling: 2 percent of the U.S. population is engaged in agriculture today; in 1940, 18 percent were engaged. Manufacturing: 9 percent today, while in 1940, 37 percent were in production of goods. In this era of globalization and enormous productivity there is no logical reason not to challenge the existing order of things.

The first thing that must happen to get any one of the jobs programs passed is to re-elect President Obama. This administration has done much for the betterment of the American people in spite of the rabid pushback by the right wing, which is in the majority of the House at this time.

I would be greatly remiss if I didn’t include the imperialist wars that the military corporations have engaged us in that are draining our treasury.

And, I’ll end here with the words of the recently deceased Gore Vidal (American social commentator, author and critic of American foreign affairs policy): “America can not prosper without peace.” To be in agreement is an understatement.


Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.