• WisBusiness

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wall Street got bailed out, but families are still struggling


By Nick Strub
My dad, Ron Strub, worked at Lear Corporation in Janesville for 18 years. My mom, Anna Strub, worked there for eight years. The closing of General Motors forced many of its suppliers to shut down. Lear was one of them. All of the employees lost their jobs, including my dad. My mom was already on medical layoff due to on-the-job injuries which resulted in complete disability. She is no longer able to hold a job.

Lear’s employees were offered tuition to go back to school. My dad enrolled at Blackhawk Technical College to earn his associate’s degree in criminal justice. He hopes to be a correctional officer. He has completed a year’s work so far. While going to school, he receives unemployment benefits.

There is a catch to going back to school though. If my dad decided to get a job while remaining in school, his unemployment benefits would be cut. Our family is very dependent on an unemployment check.

Another troubling thing on the horizon is the end of my dad’s unemployment check entirely. On Capitol Hill, Congress is debating extending unemployment benefits again. On June 15, the Senate failed to extend the benefits. On June 29, the House passed the bill to extend benefits (261-155), but the Senate once again failed to pass it (57-41, needing 60).

Without an extension of unemployment benefits, there will be very little, if any, income for our family, as well as thousands of other families in Wisconsin. Most of these jobless workers have already exhausted what personal savings they had.

Living on an unemployment check is not easy. And now if we must live with no income at all, it will be chaotic. I used to be one of those kids who could depend on my parents for just about anything. If I needed a few bucks here and there, I could ask them. I cannot do that anymore. Our lives have changed so much already and it hurts. I have to worry about making money for myself in order to pay for my own needs. Kids were supposed to be the ones to enjoy life to its fullest, do whatever they wanted, and just have fun. They are not supposed to be the ones to worry about supporting the family or seeing if they can even make it another day.

Another huge part of my life that is now impacted is furthering my education. I had my entire life planned. I was going to go to college and earn a degree in aviation so I could fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot. Now there is no longer a single cent saved for my college education and I cannot rely on my parents to help me. Every day I have to think about how I will pay for college. I wanted to be the person who could say, “Hey, I got into college, and now I’m living my dream as a pilot.” Now the question constantly stuck in the back of my mind is, “How in the world am I going to pay for this?”

Another source of anxiety is the tight job market. If my dad loses his unemployment, it will be exceedingly difficult to find another job. There are not that many jobs available. He would somehow have to find one. How can anyone with this predicament possibly make ends meet?

The Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress have been fighting the bill to extend unemployment benefits. They say it will add too much to the deficit. Yet there seems to be an unlimited line of credit for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Since the beginning of the war in 2001, over $1.01 trillion has been spent. By the end of fiscal year 2010, another $40 billion will be spent. That is about $500,000 a minute, all funded by taxpayers.

If members of Congress are so worried about our deficit, why do they keep adding to the deficit through war spending? We can’t add another $34 billion to help unemployed workers, but we can spend another $40 billion through the end of this year for a questionable war?

Abraham Lincoln once said “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Federal policies now look more like a “government of the big industries, by the taxpayers, for the bailouts.”

When the banks, insurance companies, and car makers like General Motors were struggling financially, they looked to their government for help. And the government helped them out. Hundreds of thousands of families are still struggling financially, and they are asking their government to help them out. They are looking for some light at the end of the tunnel. Wall Street, AIG and GM are now doing fine. Families like mine are not.

As more families lose their unemployment checks, matters will get much worse and Wisconsin residents will be more desperate than ever. Offices of the state and federal government will hear calls in hopes of some form of relief, but the staff will have to be the bearer of bad news and inform them of what they cannot do.

I speak for many of the jobless families in Wisconsin when I ask Congress to please help. Do what you are supposed to do and help the people.

Let the light shine at the end of the tunnel.

-- Strub, who will be a senior at Janesville’s Craig High School in the fall, is one of four Cullen interns working in the Capitol this summer and learning about government at all levels. The internship program is funded by a foundation established by Tim and Barbara Cullen.

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