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Only Ninety-Nine Percent American

I’ve written for a living my entire professional life, so it’s hard for me to blog  for free. It’s also shocking and completely annoying to me to admit that, this morning, Glenn Beck inspired me.

OK, inspired isn’t  the right word. Incensed, driven, irrationally compelled to have the last word are all better descriptions. Today, Beck fired up his pointer and blackboard to tell America who is and isn’t a Real American.

Since we’re all subject to Beck’s assessment, I’m still trying to figure out whether I should be happy or sad that I barely made the cut. As it is, I’ve got about 30-some weeks to decide.

Beck says folks called 99ers –Americans who have been receiving unemployment checks for 99 weeks — would rather take money out of their neighbor’s pockets (state/federal unemployment insurance funds) than work jobs that are there for the taking.

Seriously, watch the video for yourself. I’m not making this up.

http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201008160043

The way I generally deal with punditry is to ignore it. I only really hear Beck’s opinion of the wider world when what he says is so egregious that it is picked up by other news services. I’ve been a news junkie long enough to be suspicious — or at least feel righteously indignant — about folks who present their opinions and prejudices as news. It’s all basically bull – and usually incorrect and unsubstantiated bull — targeted to readers/viewers/listeners who instinctively trust the messenger or who don’t want to do the intellectual work of processing reporting supported by actual, verifiable facts.

Here’s the problem. Glenn Beck claims to be a Christian and a conservative, and he has 2.1 million viewers. My little brother is a Christian and a conservative, and a viewer. He’s listening to who Beck thinks is a Real American. So are his friends — a bunch of really nice people who welcomed me to their homes for a church picnic last summer. They don’t know anyone like me, and I don’t know many like them.  So, suddenly it’s become very important that I speak for myself and the people I know who are in the same boat.

It’s pretty much the same story at the gas station, the grocery store or the BMV.

Here’s who we are.

Many of us are first-generation Americans. Some of us got our education because our parents were the first generations of their families to make a living wage in union jobs. We believe in public schools and a safety net that should be there when all else fails. We’ve worked, saved and sacrificed. We regrouped when big industries moved south, then left the country altogether. Most of us found new careers and adjusted to lower salaries. We studied. We got new skills on our own dimes while working full-time jobs. Fewer of our kids went to college, many went to war, others left the state. We stayed, even though fewer new industries were coming to Ohio because there were younger, better-educated workers elsewhere.

We’ve worked in restaurants, nursing homes, factories, garages, bars, newsrooms, mom and pop shops and Fortune 500 companies. If any of the jobs Beck assures my brother and his friends are out there really existed in Northeast Ohio, most of us would be working by now.

We collect unemployment payments from a system we have paid into for years. Most people get about $300 a week. That amount covers two-thirds of either the monthly electric, gas, or  COBRA coverage ( but won’t come close when the federal subsidy runs out). Property taxes, insurance, busted water heaters, used transmissions and other acts of fate come out of our savings, which is not currently a renewable resource.

Here’s why you should care.

For a bunch of years we’ve  worked every day, obeyed the law and paid our bills and taxes on time. Every year the costs of our benefits rise and the proportion of taxes we pay relative to our income rises too. Since we comprise 70 percent of the consumer market, that means we can buy much less and we save less too.

We actually are who Glenn Beck says we can’t be: People who work hard and play by the rules who are getting pummeled by economic and political policies that were not made in our interest.

We’re not laggards. We’re the Middle Class, and we’re vanishing.

I’m pretty certain things will work out, even in Akron, Ohio where the unemployment rate is over 10 percent.  But if Beck gets his wish and the 99ers run out of unemployment before they find new jobs, the 99ers won’t suffer alone.

No money= foreclosures=vacant houses on your block and  your property taxes take a dive. In my area, it’s a very real impending doom. More than a quarter of the single-family homes are worth less than the amount owed on them. http://www.ohio.com/news/100744689.html

No money= less property and local taxes= less money for governments to spend=more potholes in your roads, fewer library branches, more schools in trouble, cuts in police and fire protection in your communities (even the gated ones).

No money=consumer spending drops=plants close=more jobs are lost (this time, maybe yours).

That’s the view from wherever Beck sits as he pulls up the ladder after him.

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