Monday, July 11, 2011

Where am I?

The news hasn't been so great lately. Persistent high unemployment, the #1 economic issue. Job growth continues to falter badly, clouding hope for economic recovery. Disparity between CEOs and workers’ salaries increasing. Economic growth and the pace of change is slow, very slow. Retro leaders in high places. Rising prices and lower wages. Elderly on back burner of political agenda. Public confidence on the decline.

Where am I?

Am I still in Ukraine?

Nope. It’s the USA, and its typical news since I’ve been back.

A New York Times’ poll a few months ago confirmed that the “nation’s mood is at the lowest level in two years.” Most Americans are pessimistic about the economy and the overall direction of the country. Public confidence is at a low point. “A Dour Public Mood,” the NYT calls it (21 April 2011).

Mine is too. I thought my dour mood might be a result of transitioning from Ukraine. I’m glad to be home and I miss Ukraine at the same time. But maybe it has more to do with finding the same pessimism and problems here as face the citizens of ever-struggling Ukraine.

What’s going on here at home? Is the conflict between President Obama and the Congress stalling reform?

Do our elected legislative leaders know about the recent AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch research study that shows CEO salaries increased by 23% in 2010. Do they know that the average CEO salary is $11.5 million a year, and the average workers salary is $33,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)? One CEO made $84 million. Do they care?

The AFL-CIO report says that 299 CEOs received a combined total of $3.5 billion in 2010, “enough to pay median wages for 102,325 ordinary workers.”

That's simply staggering. In recommending this report on facebook, my friend Suzanne asked, “How much did your pay increase?"

That reminded me that Social Security, on which millions of elderly are living, myself included, has not had an increase in two years. Not a dime. Looks like it will be more of the same next year. Not only that, the cost of prescription drug plans and supplemental insurance that is deducted from Social Security checks is increasing too. It's simple. Do the numbers! How can we keep up?

It makes me feel like a Ukrainian: disheartened and pessimistic. Okay, I need an attitude adjustment. But for heaven’s sake, our country needs some uplifting soon. Budget debates have become poor excuses for avoiding the real issues, and Obama can't seem to get traction on these issues.

As far as I'm concerned, caving in to the very rich and to giant corporations who pay no taxes, and to tea party Republicans who care less about the poor and workers, is not "compromise." It's public policy. And it affects the majority of Americans, hard-working Americans, Americans desperately looking for jobs. Congress is wrong on the economy, and currently on the debt-ceiling issue as well.

I hope Obama gets the message that elected Bill Clinton: "It's the economy, stupid!" And zeroing in further, "It's all about jobs!" "Create jobs, create hope!" That's my new mantra. I think it would be a good slogan for Obama's next run.

America is not Ukraine, but many of the issues are similar, and most of all, the pessimism and lack of confidence in those who rule are the same. That’s the worst news of all.

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