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Political Economy
Posted at 02:56 PM ET, 09/09/2011

Unemployed offer advice to political leaders on jobs crisis


People wait in line during a job fair, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, on Aug. 18 on the campus of Atlanta Technical College in Atlanta. (Bob Andres - AP)
After months of debates in Congress over deficit reduction, President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night signaled a renewed focus on job creation.

But at this point — two and half years after the passage of Obama’s signature stimulus package and two years after the official end of the recession — many of the 14 million unemployed Americans say they no longer trust politicians to solve the jobs crisis.

In the week leading up to the Obama’s speech, The Post asked the jobless to answer the question “What is the most important thing our political leaders need to know about the unemployment problem?”

Dozens of people responded by leaving audio and written messages. They shared stories of hardship, offered specific policy suggestions and expressed a willingness to work. Most of all, they called out for attention.

Help Wanted - South Carolina (mp3)

To one South Carolina man, the most important thing that politicians must realize is that the jobs crisis is real.

Help Wanted - Vanessa in Texas (mp3)

And for a woman in Texas, the answer is even simpler: “The most important thing our political leaders need to know about the unemployment problem is we want to work,” she said.

The written responses were just as blunt:

What do our leaders need to know?

" That people really want to work and be productive, sharing and valuable members of our communities, and country, again. We are not lazy. We need opportunity. Please help us."

James Malenfant, unemployed for four years

" The world is watching how our democracy deals with this crisis. If the parties cannot overcome politics to create solutions, why will other nations choose this insane form of governing? "

Lanny Smith, unemployed for eight months

" Sit in a room and come up with a plan that will work for Americans, by Americans. Put the ideologies and the BS rhetoric aside and do your patriotic duty for Americans. "

Ray Camara, unemployed for 10 months

Listen and read more responses from the unemployed, and learn how to submit your own below.

Help Wanted - David Gage (mp3) Help Wanted - Peter Kenny (mp3) Help Wanted - Michelle from Pennsylvania (mp3)

Lisa Whitmire (unemployed for one year): “Our political leaders need to know that even after you’ve done all that you can do to better your chances, you still can’t get hired by anyone. I don’t know if it’s because I’m over 40 and I have been out of work for a year or what. THOSE things I sadly cannot change. But I’m a hard worker. I just need somebody to let me prove it.”

Jack Wells (unemployed for 20 months): The most important thing they must understand is the scope of this problem. I don't get the sense that either the President or Congress really has a feel for how broadly unemployment has affected Americans from all walks of life.

Mary A. Carroll (unemployed for five months): “We have millions of Americans unemployed, interest rates are at 2%, and the U.S. has several trillion dollars worth of infrastructure work (roads, bridges, schools, water and sewage systems, etc.) that desperately needs to be done. What are we waiting for?"

Kim (unemployed for one year): “I think what politicians need to know is that the majority of us who have been unemployed for a long duration are not lazy or unmotivated. We are indeed out there everyday looking for work. In fact, we WANT and NEED to work, but there are just not enough opportunities available.”

Alan Dunn (unemployed for two and half years): “That I want to work and hold my head high again knowing I'm able to take care of myself and my future…I'm very intelligent and motivated but if I can't get any more unemployment benefits I won't be able to survive through the holidays. I have contemplated suicide and my health is suffering from the constant stress.”

Terry W. Glynn: “Automation is causing a structural changes in the employment  requirements in the manufacturing industry.  The mid-class jobs are not coming back so something new needs to be developed.”

Jeanne Reinman (unemployed for two years and four months): “We need our government to spend money in order to create jobs. Put us back to work and the deficit will take care of itself.”

John Weber (unemployed for three years and nine months): “Listen to those who are unemployed and not your political advisors. Drop the rancor and work across party lines. Care more for the unemployed than the rich.”

Daniel Joyce (unemployed for 41 months): “That solving the unemployment problem--bringing the unemployment rate down to 6 percent or less -- should be their number one priority. Putting millions of experienced, highly-qualified people back to work will solve many of our country's ills and get our economy back on the road to recovery.”

Thera Larson (fiancee of man who has been unemployed for 15 months): “It's real and good people are suffering.  Please look past the numbers and statistics - take a trip away from The Hill and visit the communities who elected you.  Talk to people and really understand that the average person is really struggling.”

You can answer the question by calling 888-279-7678 and leaving us a voicemail. If you would rather submit a video, click here and follow the instructions.

Messages will be featured on the “Help Wanted: Stories of Unemployment” project page.

All entries must be your own and they must abide by our discussion policy. We ask that you keep your answer brief – preferably 30 seconds or less – and identify yourself with your full name and former occupation in your response.

If you would rather answer in text form, please fill out the form below.

Finally, we’ll also collect tweets with answers to the question. Please tweet with the hashtag #helpwanted.

To find out more about the “Help Wanted” project, click here. To visit the project’s homepage, click here.

By Brian M. Rosenthal  |  02:56 PM ET, 09/09/2011

 
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