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My departure from Pennsylvania was crucially timed to get me home by November 2nd in order to cast my Florida ballot. The plane landed on the 29th to allow me some focused pondering and research time. For what it's worth in retrospect, I could have remained with my family through Thanksgiving. I've purposely waited to write my column to allot myself some time to digest what happened in Florida and nationally.

The flurry of analysis, which began at the announcement of the first media projection two-thirds of one second following the last poll closure, turned from prediction to a combination of smug victories and resolute miscalls by the analysts who'd taken their positions on the various media channels. I didn't find this particularly enlightening as it was a mere repetition of two-year's rhetoric. I've never quite figured out how anything can be adequately projected with 3% of the precincts (people) reporting. Are we the people that predictable? No wonder politicians have mastered the art of 'spin'.

However, what I did find enlightening was the analysis, which is just now becoming an echo, of what the 'message from the people' was! Does that make sense? It surely isn’t gramatically correct. I'm sure most of you have accepted the results, either won or lost your preferences, but I am still pondering the 'message'!  The message has been given every label imaginable from the radical 'racist' to the 'taking our country back' to the more moderate, often called protest vote of government in general . . . all government. People want action and if you can't do it, you're out. Personally, I tend toward that more moderate estimation.

Yesterday, though, I heard a comment that struck me as the most 'spot on' that has been uttered over the last ten days. Forgive me, I can't recall who on a panel said it, and my relaying of it is not verbatim, but substenative. Being used for example was a certain result in Pennsylvania where I'd just spent five weeks and exposed to the political ads. This particular result had been a 'blue' district in 2008 and was now on the 'red' side of the chart. What happened?  

Basically, the comment was being applied to the 'rust-belt' or the manufacturing middle-class of the Midwest, the very heart of the country. The picture being verbally painted was that the power structures in our nation's rule has slowly divided into two cultures or areas: the liberal left coast and the conservative right coast. The vast expanse in the middle where most of the middle-class dwells has been, over decades, forgotten about. Hence, the slow decline of the middle-class income workers who supplied the biggest share of the national revenue base.  

My own pondering nature consumed me. For the last waking hours I've thought about this 'picture'. I began to see the clarity, the brush strokes and the full canvas in my head. It was true! It was natural, then, that the middle would slowly recede into the leanings of one or the other power bases.  

Both the liberals and the conservatives who get the most 'voice' have one thing in common. Money! Little of the litanies of rhetoric we hear throughout campaigns or policy making reflect those of us who live our lives each day in the tumult of the results. Who of these ranting, promising people remembers, even if they were once exposed to it, what it's like to make the money last until end of the month? They've made it out of the middle! They've had access to guaranteed pensions, government healthcare and wealth or else they were, on the left, often celebrities born into it! How easy to be judgemental! Suddenly every politician-celebrity type was becoming a best-selling author regardless who wrote the book! (Yes, I'm sensitive to that.)

Back in the heartland, pride in workmanship, productivity, responsibility dwindled as profit became the leading acceleration in expansion and job growth. Who worried about balance while moving into a new global world setting? Who worried about sufficient education and job growth at home for an ever-growing population? Who even worried as decent healthcare costs skyrocketed out of reach for the average citizen? We had insurance, right? Who worried when insurance companies played their profit cards and raised rates to both groups and individuals who may be self-employed? If costs became too high, there was always outsourcing to cheap labor. Or, a bank loan. Suddenly, the country was looking to Wall Street for direction. We slowly turned into an electronic society! One could write a book . . .

I must confess; I'm a Midwesterner. I was born and raised in General Motors country, Pontiac, Michigan. My entire family worked for GM and I was raised to have the working-class ethics. Responsibility is second nature to me. Yet today, I lean, keyword lean, to the left. Why? I'm educated, hardworking, and my husband and I planned for the future. But, so did a lot of other souls out here who have lost everything and are now in the clutches of poverty or barely hanging on to the edge of a cliff. Either from job loss or catastrophic healthcare costs. Not ALL homeowners had mortgaged themselves foolishly but when flood waters rise, even the house on the hill gets wet. Farmers don’t watch the market on the Internet! They‘re, hopefully, working out in the fields growing your consumables often from dawn to dusk. Not ALL farmers get government subsidies NOT to grow things. I think that will be more likely found in corporate farming.  

The numbers of people who represent pure lack of responsibility or laziness are few. And, many of them are generational because the 'system' was more profitable than working a week for minimum wage. Getting an increase in pay to meet rising costs meant having another baby. Shouldn't the government take some responsibility for its own welfare creations?  

Yet for those who are in trouble through no fault of their own, I feel an obligation to help even if it means taking a little less myself. To my way of thinking, corporate welfare is the biggest drain we have on the economy. When I think of the bailouts with absolutely no strings or restrictions attached, I cringe. Would you or I get that privilege? At least the auto bailouts did come with time tables and restrictions that had to be met. They were the last bastion of big manufacturing America had left. But that isn’t the fault of the heartland!

All that being said, I am not writing this to sway opinion. I would only ask that these thoughts be considered when we ALL have to take the bite in reeling in the deficit because we will be bitten. Social Security is going to leave the realm of 'untouchable' regardless who's in power, as is military spending that is out of control. Congress is going to have to be made to believe that if they fail to perform, the next stop is back where you came from! Congress, too, needs some restrictions and giving up. That would be another book, or at least a column as the newly elected are sworn in.

I want to wish you all a happy and reflective Thanksgiving. I do truly believe no matter what station we occupy, we all have something to be thankful for and be humbled by. As non-functioning as our government has become, I am still an American who is honored and grateful to be living in, if not the richest, it isn't, the freest nation on earth. We just have to remember that with freedom comes responsibility, including corporations. May you all have your share of some rainbows amidst the storms.


**Susan Haley is the published author of three books, several articles on networking, an award-winning poet, and a contract copy editor and book reviewer. She also contributes a column to "The Florida Writer" the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association, for which she is Facilitator for the Sarasota County Chapter. The audio version of her novel "Rainy Day People" was awarded in the 2008 Indie Excellence National Book Awards. She also contributes a variety of editorials and excerpts of her work to various E-zines, newsletters and local papers.


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tamra wrote Nov 15, 2010
    • Hey Susan!  Good to read your work again.  Even if not grammatically correct, you always make sense to me!  estatic

      Hopefully, our elected officials are beginning to hear that they can not ignore our wishes any longer.  More of us have awakened and don’t like what we see.  And we‘re willing to have our voice at the ballot box.  Maybe the politicians are starting to actually believe they really can be voted out!  Take heart, my friend.  I actually think the values of the midwest DID have a strong effect on the election this time around.

      I have a favor to ask.  You speak of corporate welfare.  Could you share some data regarding this?  I think everyone’s heard about the bail outs, but I suspect you speak to something that evolved prior to recent history.  After all, corporations are easy targets that everyone likes to smear, but I’m betting you have a deeper basis for your position.

      I am not trying to dispute your opinion, quite the contrary.  I think examples would give your opinion creditability so it isn’t seen as mere complaining.

      Thanks for offering your blog to us here on Fab 40.  Your writing is very good reading!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Susan Haley wrote Nov 15, 2010
    • Thanks for your response, Tamra. I always appreciate your input. You‘re right, I wasn’t referring to the bailouts when I used the term ‘corporate welfare‘. I will put together some ‘data’ of what I’m talking about in my next column. Thanks for the idea. It has to do with tax credits and off-shore accounts for profits on American investments. The infamous tax ‘loop hole’ syndromes. They‘re are hundreds of them. I’ll dig out some of the most costly.

      I do have my Thanksgiving company beginning to arrive tomorrow and I have two other commitments this week, so it may be a week or so to put together an intelligent article. But, I won’t forget. I’ll try to get something up before Thanksgiving. I was away for ten weeks this past spring and summer ( no, not all vacation :) ) so my columns weren’t as frequent. I’ll be home all winter now, so will write more. I’m working on a new novel, too.

      I’m curious to where the general populace who rarely, if ever, has been ‘polled’ in their lives feel about the expiring tax cuts for multi-millionaires in order for the hurting middle class to keep theirs. That’s what is bugging me now. It’s been proven that tax cuts to the wealthy do NOT increase job growth. That comes from the nonpartisan CBO.

      Do have a wonderful Thanksgiving week.


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Susan Haley wrote Nov 16, 2010
    • Annie! You nailed it. I am not embarrassed to say you are much more astute on some of these financial matters than I am. Why I’m always running to ‘research‘. I’m a writer first, my passion for politics is born out of a love for journalism and a fetish for fairness and honesty, both of which are seriously lacking in government and financial institutions, in my opinion.

      I tend to think of a flat rate tax for everyone as being the answer which would even mean giving 10% of entitlement income back. Yet, too, I don’t know the ramifications of such a thing. It’s just logical to me. :) Obviously, the tax code in general is a chaotic mess.

      I think of middle-class as ‘working people’ earning a living and yes, by all means that varies from one geographical location and another. Florida is expensive only in two areas: real estate and associated property taxes but those two things are killing many retirees who don’t have the huge investments from their working years. In addition, losing a spouse and one income is common. True, that ‘label’ is open to interpretation depending on personal perspective. You always give me provacative ideas to ponder and I appreciate it. I love to learn!!

      A great holiday to you and yours and now I’m off to the airport in a pick-up role. :)


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      UK Girl wrote Nov 16, 2010
    • Susan I always read your column even though I live across the pond and yes I read all your papers on the internet as we have a saying in the UK America sneezes and we catch full blown flu - what your saying could apply to the UK.

      Over the last 10 years the “middle class” of the UK have been squeezed and we just voted and as we didn’t know which way to jump we have ended up with a coalition (we have three parties)plus we are also governed to a great extent in the UK by Europe and the laws from Brussels (so an unelected extended Government has a big say in our lives !) but everything you guys do affects us and my worry is that while your battling with your long drawn out election our economy with keep faltering until you guys really pick up speed.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      UK Girl wrote Nov 16, 2010
    • Annie your so right and yes I am so thankful we didn’t join the Euro and I know for a fact Germany and France are looking to leave.

      We are about to bail out Ireland and Portugal we ourselves are just stumbling with debt.

      Iceland is a huge mess and has affected my industry badly due to all the toxic debt from free loans given to buy over priced retailers in the past - I think after Christmas will be very messy on the UK high street plus and this is the big plus we are living in a bubble economy with an artificially low interest rate which has just battered those who are retired or on a fixed income and saved for their future , but once the interest rates go up I see lots of personal bankruptcy along with corporate and also foreclosure.

      The other trouble is lots of people are affected and very impassioned and I see civil unrest - last week was a taster of what is to come - we have had companies seeking tax shelter Vodaphone is one and people are protesting as their unpaid tax would wipe out 2/3rds of our toxic debt

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote Nov 16, 2010
    • It was an interesting tangent!

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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Midnightmom wrote Nov 16, 2010
    • I think when the US put NAFTA into effect there was good intention behind it. But, what we are seeing now is the lack of the balance you so rightly wonder if it was ever considered. How can we continue to outsource the production of what we consume and not end up broke from not doing it ourselves, ie; the middleclass worker.

      This is where I believe the corporations rightfully earned the disrespect and downright anger of the middleclass American. What is it that the manufacturing workers are doing for a living now? Are they working for McDonalds? Are they working for Walmart? Are they working for the tech industry, who also now outsources American jobs?

      This country needs to become more self sustaining, but the problem is there are the corporate profits to be considered. Which corporation will actually take a loss in profit to have their products produced here?

      The very ONLY way we can cause it to happen is to act as consumers and STOP buying foreign made products. Do you like buying a product made in China when you have to pretty much assume that they will put inferior substances in the products they produce; such as lead in paint? How about poison in toothpaste?  

      Oh, but it is cheaper to buy these China made products we say every time we go to Walmart and buy them. We have to start taking the hit in the pocketbook as a consumer instead of just being made poorer every day by not working making better products, that we consume, right here in America.

      Yes, we have to pay More to buy what is American made. Are we ready to take control and pay the price? I read the label of every single thing I buy at Walmart and if it isn’t made in America I don’t buy it. That is the only power we as middleclass Americans have - buy American products and nothing else. By middleclass American I mean the working class.

      Money is always the driving factor behind the political scene. After all it is only by big corporations funding candidates that they even get elected. That in itself is a flawed system that is doomed to failure. There can be no fairness in a system like that.  

      We are the consumers so We have the power to make it change.

      Thanks for another great thought provoking read, Susan. Have yourself a wonderful Thanksgiving. In spite of our economy there is still much to be thankful for.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Susan Haley wrote Nov 16, 2010
    • Good conversation by all! This whole system and the global impacts are much too complicated to limit it to one discussion. I enjoy having the input from UK Vicki, too. England interests me anyway because my grandparents were from Cornwall and I’ve been to England and feel roots there.
      Not to mention, there IS global impact to all of this stuff.

      In fact, it’s SO complicated, I don’t think any one of us have a total clue as to what goes on beyond closed doors and the boardroom sets of mega-corporations OR the governments. It’s decades of history catching up with itself! WW2 changed society everywhere. Slowly! It’s not one thing or one administration or one policy. It’s all very intricate combinations of many things no one mind can even comprehend. I suppose that’s one of the reasons ALL administrations have tons and tons of staff and advisors.

      I just read a totally non-partisan book written by Jonathan Alter, “The Promise“. It chronicals from the 90’s thru Obama’s first year in office in 2009 with references all the way back to the Great Depression of the 30’s. I can only dream of having that kind of journalism skill. I was mind-boggled by the things I learned and I truly think these kinds of writings should be required reading in schools beyond 10th grade. Thanks to all for taking enough interest to even participate in this column. Remember when I took this position, I readily confessed that I don’t claim to be an expert - only a ‘thinker‘. :)


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Susan Haley wrote Nov 19, 2010
    • Hey, Annie - First, let me say that I do believe in capitalism as we USED to know it. Greed, as such, isn’t limited to corporations. The ordinary man on the street can be obsessed with greed as well.

      The labor unions, like everything else, got a bit of power and then got greedy and kept demanding more. Oh yes, labor is to blame, too. The demands got more and more outrageous. Another good idea that got carried to the extreme. Often, UAW members didn’t even want to strike. They HAD to. You simply didn’t cross picket lines if you valued your hide. Power and greed took over. Then GM tried to cut costs by cutting quality. Then Toyota, for example, jumped all over the opportunity. Slowly. GM quality continued to go down but the ‘spoiled’ Americans wanted the big, fast, and GM continued to supply the demand at the loss of quality. Again, this was a gradual process. But, it started in the 60’s. Prices went sky high (supply and demand) and people started noticing the lower foreign car prices. The switch was triggered.
      Suddenly, competition was a loser for GM so they started to look for other ways to cut costs which led to cheaper labor which led to outsourcing . . . The stage is set. Then, came the SUV craze, American cars surged ahead again in the 80’s. The big moves started interstate. Canada had already started making GM vehicles and Mexico was next. Unions started losing power especially in foreign countries. You know the rest of the story. Enter Clinton and NAFTA which is another good idea carried to extreme when greed entered in and Congress failed to keep up with fair trade legislation.
      Then, comes Bush with the big tax cuts and tax incentives. Meanwhile the world banks are providing more and more income shelters. Slowly, the GNP starts to go down, but the shelters and the off-shore ‘offices’ ensured the CEO’s and stockholders plenty of profit that wasn’t taxable in the US. So, costs continue to rise to the consumer, corporations are still making money with foreign corporations, poor people in the other countries are happy to be making any money at all, their government revenues are rising, the banks start with all their Wall Street games and somewhere it all ends where we are now. A vicious cycle.
      Now 2% of the people control 93% of the wealth at the expense of the vanishing middle class working folks who can’t get a decent paying job. For the millions and millions of UNemployed, there are that many again UNDERemployed. Some households have two people working 2 jobs to earn what 1 person used to make working 1 job. I am speaking for the automobile industry because I lived through it, and with it, as a GM employee with a GM employed family. I witnessed the wars between the unions and GM. But the unions were (UAW)forced to reeling in demands, as they should have been, BUT the car companies were already gone for good. I can’t begin to tell you how many foundries and assembly plants were leveled and now produce weeds. Same thing in Pennsylvania with the steel mills. Meanwhile, we hear about CEO’s and bonuses in the millions annually! More than we make in a lifetime put together working our backsides off.

      I find it very difficult to not say it’s time for some limits and a new tax code. I find it very difficult to not favor some re-distribution of the wealth. I find it very difficult to continue tax breaks for billionaires in order to preserve the tax cuts for the middle class. Especially, when we are talking about personal income tax! That has nothing to do with a legitimate business expenses. That’s already written off in operating deductions, inventory adjustments and a hundred other deductions for $100 cocktail lunches and 100,000 office re-decorating. I don’t know about the rest of the girls here, but I sure don’t have gold plumbing and 50,000 worth of oriental drapes. Even allowing for media hype, that is beyond ludicrous.

      I worked in retail food marketing and the policy was throw all waste in the trash compactor. Never lower prices at the end of the day on fresh products because that got charged to sales and waste was a tax write off. That was the corporate rule. Then, employees had their profit sharing based on net sales while UPPER management had their profit sharing based on gross sales because that was yet another salary expense deduction. There is a huge difference between mega corporations and small business hiring 25 and under people. Obama tried three times to get small business tax credits and the republicans fillibustered every one of them because their goal is to make him fail and be a one term president. And, he will be. They’ve already won. I wonder where we’ll end up next?

      Sorry, if this sounds more like a rant - as I said, I lived through it and I’m ultra-sensitive to power and greed regardless if it’s a GM plant or a big insurance company who drops coverage the first time you get catostropically sick. My husband may be alive today if he’d been allowed access to the best heart doctors. As is, he was working the very day he died to help me with the medical debt I was going to be left with.  

      An economist, I’m not. None of them agree either. But, I am still thankful I had 35 years with him. We all have something to be thankful for, I’m sure.


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Midnightmom wrote Nov 23, 2010
    • Thanks for the thoughtful response, Annie. Sorry it took me so long to get back here. My sister was in the hospital for better than a week. Anyway, the problem for me is when corporations just want to get the product produced at the least cost without thought about our country and community -what it does when they hire the production out overseas. I think they should think a little more about their place at home.

      And, you are right, we can’t pay less and have a superior product, or even a safe product without the expense of having it made here. So, as consumers the ball is in our court to react to what is offered; we can either go for the least expensive product made overseas or we can take some responsibility in our communities and buy American made. It seems to me if sales of imported goods goes down and American made product sales go up then the corporations that hire overseas will have to take a look at that.

      I am disappointed in corporate America at the abuses of many administrations that have such a few that are gaining at the expense of many. Of course a corporation has to make money and they do have a huge role in bringing about the way of life we know in America.  With success comes responsibility. What then do we say when they don’t choose to make their products here which causes unemployment? And, why is it so much cheaper for them to make it overseas? Is it because the workers overseas are treated less than they should be? Are they merely exploited masses that have to work in horrible conditions? How is America to continue when we don’t make what we buy? There are so many  millions of Americans that cannot get a job that supports a family. Our opportunities have been shipped overseas and if nothing comes along to replace them then how will we be able to even be the consumers these corporations depend on? A day of reckoning is coming around the bend.

      I just want to know where the corporate America went that appreciated and celebrated their success realizing that it comes from their employees who produce their products? I think more and more I hear about companies realizing that when their employees are happy they are much more successful companies. It has to become somewhat personal between a good company and a good employee. After all is loyalty something born out of logic or emotion? What gives us pride in a job well done?

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Midnightmom wrote Nov 23, 2010
    • Susan, thank you for the in depth comment you wrote. I hear your passion and know it is true. I would just like to hear one of the higher up politicians defend the billionaire’s Personal tax cut! You know I never even thought about the biilionaire getting away with not paying personal income tax. I just never separated them from their corporation, but you are darn well right! The corporation gets their tax deductions. Why the hell does a CEO or a shareholder, or if their is just one at the top, an owner; why should they get to pretend that they didn’t even make a dime while the other 97% of the country has to pay. It IS high time for there to be percentage income tax across the board. If you make $10,000 you pay 10%. If you make $100,000 you pay 10%. How could anyone say that isn’t fair? Tell me, how would that be just being against the rich and making the rich pay for the poor?

      Forgive me, but I am feeling really angry about how justice takes a back seat with many of our leaders, and it is right in our face day after day.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Midnightmom wrote Dec 29, 2010
    • I am writing today to let you all know that Susan is in the hospital with double pnuemonia and severe anemia. This what what is posted on the FWA blog, Florida Writiers Association, where Susan is their leader:

      Tuesday, December 28, 2010
      Health Update: Sue Haley
      For those who haven’t heard, Sue Haley was admitted to Doctor’s Hospital yesterday (the 27th) with pneumonia and anemia and will probably be in for several more days. She’s not able to talk much right now but I’m sure she’d appreciate a get well card. The address is:

      Susan Haley
      Room 534
      Doctors Hospital of Sarasota
      5731 Bee Ridge Road
      Sarasota, FL 34233

      Posted by
      Russ Heitz
      Posted by FWA Sarasota Writers Group at Tuesday, December 28, 2010  

      Susan, I wish for you a speedy recovery! You are so missed!


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