I look to you, the leader of the country in which I have spent my entire life, for the answer to a simple question. What happened to the dream?
I wanted to ask this simple question because while many people may joke about who is simple and who isn't, I think in a way we all are. I have now lived through eight presidents. I have watched this country shift uncomfortably on its political feet from left to right repeatedly. Perhaps I am small-minded, but at the end of the day I do have simple questions: "Will I have a job tomorrow? Will I be able to contribute support to my family? Will I be able to support those I love when they cannot support themselves?"
We have as a country become so focused on the methods and the mechanisms that these topics are waved off. "You have a job today, don't worry about the half of your company that will be moving to another country." "You get paid today, don't worry if it demands a 2-hour commute each way and a 11-hour day." "Don't worry about providing for those you love, we'll argue about this in the Congress and on CNN."
It used to be that if you had a dream, a love, a passion, this country could be the place to realize it. If you wanted to build a hardware store, you could do so. If you wanted to study law, you could do so. If you wanted a job doing work in a field you were good at, it didn't require moving to a city where only the company owners could afford to live.
I'm not sure if the government has lost touch with the people it serves or merely doesn't walk in the same world the masses do. Every day I hear about Terrorism, Iraq, Civil Liberties. Everyday I experience qualified, good, passionate Americans... who just can't make it to see their loved ones for the holidays because the money isn't enough, the time isn't available, or the means are impossible. These people aren't even categorized as 'the poor.' These are the media-termed 'white collar' workers who have made it through graduate programs that will leave them in debt until well after their second mortgage gets paid off. These are scientists who can't find a laboratory that has the funding to bring in another worker. These are master craftsmen who can't sell artwork because art is a luxury out of everyone's budget.
I adore the fact that the government wants to nurse the ills of the world. I absolutely believe in liberty and freedom. But I fear that the government has gotten so caught up in this display of nursing the world's ills that the People are suffering for it. A dear friend of mine once observed, "How can you take care of the people around you, when you can't take care of the people at home?"
I consider myself a good worker from an industry that pays fairly well, even on the entry level. However, even that industry has succumbed to a level of specialization that turns its workers into little more than cogs in the machine; assigned to work as hard and as long as it is necessary to turn out an over-managed project. Extended workdays are the norm and specialization means that they are exempt from overtime. Further, this extended specialization creates an environment that a position can only be filled with a clone of the previous worker. Leaving a position is unlikely to yield other work in the industry because no one has the impossible list of specializations required for the few available positions. The positions are fewer and fewer because, much like the auto industry of the past, skilled workers here are being replaced by low paid specialists overseas.
I am also a person who's been looking for work for the past 6 months.
I am writing this letter today because I was turned down for a job opportunity that I had all but done in a previous company. I was told that I was turned down because of the "ramp up" time that would be needed. I was told that I didn't have enough experience in the position they had. I was told that I didn't have enough experience doing the same job I'd already done. I don't know if that was a stock answer to hide some other personal issue or the truth. Companies don't explain their hiring practices anymore. The law protects them.
I am writing this letter today because in two more weeks my unemployment benefits (which are shackled to a 6-month period) will come to an end. The great amount of savings that I had coming out of my last job have been depleted. I will run out of the savings that I had, and have no income from the field I am trained for. No minimum wage job will hire me because I am far overqualified; plus no minimum-wage job will sustain me and I may be forced to break my lease and sell my possessions.
I am writing to you, because in two weeks this will no longer be the government's concern. I will no longer be counted among the unemployed by the government. I will still be unemployed, it just really won't matter to you. In a strange way it sort of feels like you've said, "Well, you tried. You lost. Next contestant." This is ironic because I am a law-abiding citizen. I have never done anything more illegal than get a speeding ticket.
Am I any less passionate or willing to work? No. Am I any less hirable than I was 6 months ago or 2 years ago? No. Could I do a really good job for an employer? Yes! I have ideas in my head. Ones that I think could make many people lots of money. Good ideas. Unfortunately, our small business support system is so complicated that it requires home ownership, an MBA, a bevy of lawyers, and several tens of thousands of dollars to even get someone who can help realize your dream to listen to your idea.
So here I am, at the beginning of the day, Mr. President.
Will I have a job tomorrow?
Will I be able to contribute support to my family?
Will I be able to support those I love when they cannot support themselves?
What happened to the Dream?
-Andrei A. Freeman