I grew up in the land of Democrats. As an 11-year-old, I was a regular attendee of the Citizen’s Action Coalition, a PAC headed by a family member. I probably never met a Republican until I was a freshman at Penn. The usual arguments ensued. Republicans said government was too big and that blacks sucked the life out of America with welfare.
My response was that government was created to take care of its people, and that they were effective in doing so.
The last 15 months of my life have erased a lot of my early beliefs. I know we are the best country in the world, but I also know that often our government can be highly ineffective, especially for the Americans that are hurting financially.
Several weeks back, I shared the saga of a friend who lost his white-collar job and wondered how the gas company could shut off his gas, without notice, after cashing his $620 check. Recently, he encountered the same challenge with the electric company. He made his payment two days late; they accepted it, and told him to buy some candles unless he had a medical emergency that would require them to keep his power on.
His struggles have deepened because, thanks to the mismanagement at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor’s unemployment division, he has received only one unemployment check since July 4th. Given that his eligibility entitles him to $500 a week, he’s missed about $3,500. In that time, he has lost his auto and health insurance, and all he gets from the Department of Labor is the runaround from belligerent customer service reps that really have no desire to help him.
Frustrated, he did the obvious: He sent an e-mail to his congressman, Joe Sestak. Joe responded with a 12-page form letter that warned him of Internet job scams, etc. — proving that not only are many government officials out of touch with the struggles of the American poor, but they also don’t care about the environment.
I still believe in the American dream. But I also believe that if the government can take 32 percent of our income before we ever touch it, they owe us something in return.
They owe us good public schools that are safe and productive, not those with 50 percent dropout rates. They owe us public libraries and parks that are clean and safe.
They owe us protection from those that attack America because of our freedoms. And they owe us freedom from undue government intrusion into our private lives. If they can’t provide us with that, at least they should be able to get an unemployment check to the people that need it the most. After all, they tax those checks too.
— Eric Mayberry is president of SmartBoy Enterprises, a media and entertainment firm in Philadelphia. To take The Big Brain Challenge and debate this column, go to www.hugebrain.net.
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