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Voice of the Voter - This Week's Stories

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This page updates every other Wednesday

The Economy: A Personal Story

I have a friend that I have known for about six and a half years who just lost her job. While in this economy that is unfortunately not news it is nonetheless a very tragic situation. It is a story of hard work, rejection and a good person falling between the cracks of corporate bureaucracy. Itís a story of dedication rewarded with emptiness and the failure of a wealthy corporation to look after those who have contributed to its success.

As with all the writers for Reform America, Iím a volunteer and have a day job which is how I know this woman. We started working together as temporary employees for one of the nationís largest insurance companies in the summer of 2002. By the fall of that year my temporary employment had been converted to permanent. At the end of that year I was able to get married and begin a new life with a stable company and hope for a good future. My friend also attended my wedding and looked forward with a similar sense of optimism for her future with the company.

By 2004 I was working in another office but still with the same company. I was in my second position with the company having advanced to a role with greater responsibility and a larger salary. Meanwhile my friend was still working as a temporary employee. She had been moved to a different project with greater responsibilities having shown herself to be a valuable team member. Despite her responsibilities being expanded, she was passed over for a permanent position in favor of someone else. Her supervisor at the time told her that there would be other opportunities and to hang in there for the next one.

After a few years in the field I returned to the main office due to another promotion and began to work closely with my friend again. Another permanent position opened up and I helped my friend update her resume so she could apply for the job. We made sure to highlight all of the work she had done for the company over now about five years illustrating how qualified she was for the job. Despite the work to highlight her skills and show how she was extremely qualified for the job, she was passed over again and told to hang in there for the next opening.

Fast forward to this year and the company is laying off workers to cut costs. For permanent employees, there have been Involuntary Severance Packages (ISPís) being issued to give them a bit of money to help them make it through the time needed to find another job. For temporary employees there is no severance being offered regardless of their time with the company. After over six years this woman who had in many cases been responsible for more vital and sensitive tasks for the company than the permanent employees around her received nothing from the company while permanent employees got thousands of dollars worth of severance compensation. Even passing the hat among her friends we were able to raise less than one thousand dollars for her.

While this all has been happening her mother who lives with her has been diagnosed with kidney disease and will require multiple trips each week for dialysis. The health insurance her family has will not cover the treatments and therefore they will need to apply for state medical services. Her husband is working two jobs at an average of sixteen hours per day. They have two children under five. Their home is now worth less than they paid for it. Prior to her being laid off, they were struggling to make ends meet. Now they have to try to make it with her income basically cut in half on unemployment.

This is yet another example of corporate America failing to treat its workers equitably. This situation illustrates why legislation is needed to force companies to limit the amount of time they can be allowed to have temporary employees without hiring them on as permanent staff. If an employee is working for a company for more than one year they should no longer be considered temporary. If companies want to keep using temporary employees for the long term they should bear the brunt of the cost of repeatedly retraining new employees or hire the people they have used for over a year and give them the benefits commensurate with being a permanent employee. Misusing employees for profit is not good business. Itís an inhumane way of treating people and should not be tolerated.

Corporate responsibility will not come from the goodness of the hearts of CEOs. We need to urge Congress to pass legislation protecting workers from the cold unfeeling policies of corporations that put profits ahead of decency. Decency needs to make a comeback in America. We have lost much of our national tradition of caring and community and need to find our way back to what made our land so sought after by those looking for a better life. We can have profits and decency. Some may not get as rich but all will be better off.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | E-mail Comments on this article. | Click icon to Digg this article

Should Congress Force Banks to Do the Right Thing?

The main idea behind the Bush bank bailout plan was to give banks the liquidity to allow them to make more loans and allow homeowners to restructure their loans to avoid default. The actual result of the bailout has been banks tightening lending restrictions and using the money instead to pay exorbitant bonuses to executives and hold extravagant parties on the American taxpayersí dime. This happened because the initial $350 billion in aid had no strings attached.

Given the failure of the initial plan to achieve the desired result it seems that it may be time for Congress to pass legislation to address the abuses on Wall Street and in the banking sector. Homeowners are being forced from their homes even when they are employed and making payments because the payments they are making arenít as much as the minimum payment the loan requires. When these homeowners approach the banks to refinance and pay down their debt, they are either turned down or told they cannot use the refinance to consolidate their debt leaving them still unable to pay all their bills.

Prior to the bailout, a homeowner with equity and a good loan payment history could refinance with cash out for debt consolidation having a credit score over 600. Now lenders are requiring a score of over 720 for borrowers to qualify for cash out for debt consolidation. The markets that were supposed to be opened by the bailout have actually become more difficult to access. It seems that left to their own devices the financial industry has failed to do what it takes to help the American people dig out from our financial difficulties.

Now it falls to Congress to make laws to force banks to be responsible. The banks have decided to give massive bonuses with our tax dollars so Congress needs to pass legislation that limits executive compensation and bonuses. Banks tightened the credit markets instead of using bailout money to help borrowers so Congress needs to pass legislation to require them to set a national standard for lending that allows for average people who do not abuse credit to get needed financing in times of difficulty. The banks have refused to renegotiate loans to make the payments affordable and instead have made the choice to foreclose instead of working with homeowners so Congress needs to pass legislation to require that banks pursue loan renegotiation before foreclosing on any property.

Federal funds have been given to banks and brokerages to shore up the economy not to make fat cats fatter. If the CEOs canít be responsible with the taxpayersí money they have been given then they need to be made to do the right thing. Failure of regulation to control the actions of banks led to the current financial crisis in many ways. Now we need to make sure that future regulation is focused on protecting the people first and the fat cats last. We tried letting the corporations drive the legislation through their lobbyists and it was a miserable failure. Now we need to kick them out of the room and make laws without the influence of lobbyists. Real change requires hard choices. If the leaders in Congress are truly interested in bringing change then they need to step away from business as usual and look out for the American people first.

The Realist - Patriot at Large | E-mail Comments on this article. | Click icon to Digg this article

Get Involved

Do you sit and yell at the TV when politicians come on? Do you shake your head sadly whenever you see a homeless veteran? Is that all you tend to do?

It's time to put up or shut up America. We all love to talk about how we could do things better or how we would do it if we were in charge. Well, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. If you can think of it, you can write it down. If you can write it down, you can type it. If you can type it, you can e-mail it and if you can e-mail it, you can send it here.

We at Reform America are committed to giving voice to anyone who wants to put their ideas out there to make our nation a better place. As the readership grows, we are able to take those views to a wider and wider audience. Grassroots campaigns begin with voices speaking out. You have opinions. Voice them. We aren't about conservative or liberal. We aren't about pro-this or anti-that. We're about Americans and the First Amendment. Reform America is about politics by, for and of the people. You are the people. You only need to speak up. America is listening. Send your article to:

Have You Been Downsized Due to Outsourcing?

For several years now we have listened to some within the business community tell us that America can't compete on a global scale unless they send our jobs overseas where they can be done cheaper. The question becomes, if we don't have good paying jobs here, how can we sustain our own economy? We want to hear from you. Have you lost your job? Have you been forced into a lower wage job due to outsourcing? Has outsourcing been a success for you? Did you end up in a better job?

Tell us your story so we can make sure the politicians see how outsourcing really impacts the workers who are backbone of America. Send your story to


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