Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

One thing we can agree on: jobs

About once a month I indulge in coffee, newspaper, and eavesdropping—I mean, information gathering—at a local coffee shop. One of the gifts of being unemployed is having the time to do this. One of the curses is not having the money to do it more often.

Since today’s visit was to the One Way Café, I’ll admit that a pecan roll was also involved.

At the long table near the front of the room, a small group of older men chatted. Cars, sports, the governor’s race. A brief homage to Charlie Sykes. Agreement that Obama will not be in office for a second term. A wish that Reagan were still around. A few mild and inoffensive barbs at Democrats. A little checking in on the whereabouts of old friends. In other words, the usual.

It seems they’ve lived most of their lives between St. Bernard’s and Christ King parishes. By all appearances, these are people who lead good and orderly lives, who’ve done the right things and been rewarded with long marriages, good enough health, and sufficient money for a pleasant retirement.

You can’t judge people’s inside lives by outside appearances, of course, but they look like they’ve succeeded in achieving the American Dream.

Change some details: Protestant, not Catholic; female, not male; liberal, not conservative, but I’d guess we share a similar sense of living a good and decent Midwestern American life. Still, they and I see the world and solutions in a very different way.

For one thing, I don’t expect anyone to be able to resolve a huge international crisis in less than a year.

One point on which the gentlemen and I agreed: whatever else the government wants to do, they need to do something about jobs, and they need to do it fast. Without jobs, people can’t buy stuff. Worse than that, they lose their ability to house and support their families. They lose hope. Some become dangerous.

The whole fabric of our national life is weakened by joblessness. So the jobs problem needs to be solved in a real way, not a smoke-screen way.

According to the Chrisitan Science Monitor, the president has called a jobs summit with “CEOs, small-business owners, economists, and labor unions.” It’s an acknowledgment that there’s a disconnect between the abstract “improved economy” and the very concrete personal and family economy.

But without the people who need jobs at the table, it’s unlikely that any solutions will crop up that benefit the people. Those at the table will craft solutions that benefit themselves.

Throwing money at banks hasn’t improved joblessness. It’s improved the lot of bankers in some of those banks. Maybe throwing money at jobs will improve the lot of the jobless. Now there’s an idea.

What are your ideas about what’s needed for job creation—and especially, the creation of good jobs—family supporting ones?


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