“Yes Congress, all they need is greater poverty”

Yes Congress, all they need is greater poverty”  a college professor’s perspective

imageAs a professor at a community college, I have  the privilege of teaching and working with the “long term unemployed” and Iraq, Afghanistan and Viet Nam war “veterans.”

I watch them as they struggle to retrain themselves and look for full time employment with benefits.  I watch them suffer in poverty, low self esteem, poor health, depression and hunger, as the corporations and military complex continue to be heavily subsidized with our tax money…as corporations are allowed to pay less taxes than any of the rest of us.

I so admire their determination to better and retrain themselves in the face of unrelenting obstacles to their success. Even while congress is serving their corporate owners at the expense of the middle class and the poor, these people tenaciously hope and strive for their futures.  They are not lazily sitting on a couch sucking on the government tit. They live from check to check, going without food, gas, electricity, medical care, while also providing for their families, who are suffering with them.

They suffer while congressional republicans posture themselves and hyper-focus on the affordable care act (designed to help the poor), women’s reproductive health and gutting the middle class, instead of proposing a Jobs bill or any “real” solutions to the republican driven, self inflicted financial crisis. No, I don’t agree that democrats are to blame for helping the poor. Paying for two wars of choice with a blank check!! Paying for “Star Wars” instead of renewable energy or infrastructure retooling and construction! So don’t give me this crap about the poor stealing your money so they can be lazy! Ridiculous and not reality! The rich getting richer and now owning our government…buying elections….plutocrats and theocrats striving for a fascist state?…That is reality! People are suffering.

When I see veterans left hanging in the middle of a semester because congress has shut the government down, I get angry.  They didn’t leave their service to our country in the middle of a war, or at least not until they were blown up or traumatized by multiple deployments.  Many of them suffer from PTSD, migraines, permanent brain injuries and a myriad of anxiety related illnesses, which make it difficult to work in “ordinary” jobs.

When I see my students, who had their full time professions pulled from under them by corporate outsourcing, I get angry. But what really infuriates me and drives me to activism, is when I know these same students are sitting in the dark or are going hungry so their children are able to eat.  Unnecessary suffering, inflicted simply because congressional republicans have extorted budget cuts (taking money from the long term employed, children and all military, including the veterans) to continue to provide corporate welfare and tax breaks for their rich donors.

Roughly 35% of my students are in school because the job they were trained to do was outsourced overseas or they are veterans who suffer from injuries and are unable to work at jobs they were trained to do.

Two year colleges tend to be places where students, who do not just need core classes for a four year degree, may find retraining and workplace certification.   If it takes them two years to finish their retraining, then the jobless benefits should be for that long too, especially when it is the  government, corporations and big banks who gutted our economy in the first place.

These hard working people were receiving their unemployment or veterans benefits, while they actively looked for another job. They couldn’t find a job, so they went back to school to gain additional retraining to enhance their ability to get another job. Most certifications take at least 16 months.

When congress cut veterans and long term unemployment benefits (keeping in mind that both are required to prove they are actively looking for a job and maintaining good grades, while they survive in poverty) they lost their ability to pay for basic utilities, food, gas…now they sit in the dark, hungry…forced to work minimum wage jobs and/or drop out of school.

Yes congress, they just needed increased poverty and hardship to encourage them to go compete for part time, low wage jobs, which don’t come close to replacing the pay and benefits they had in their full time jobs, before they were either injured serving our country or lost their job so corporations could make more money.

So, even though I don’t ever have enough money, as a single parent, I still have more than my students and I provide snacks and sometimes pizza days for them. I get paid every two weeks and I have budgeted to provide pizza every two weeks for my students. I can’t do much, but I feel compelled to do something. There is power in prayer, but that doesn’t feed them before an exam.

C. Dianne Phillips

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