TEXT OF COMMENTARY
Steve Chiotakis: This week, President-elect Obama and Congress are working on a new stimulus package. Billions for middle-income tax cuts and infrastructure improvements. Something, they say, to get the economy moving again. Commentator Kathleen Denny would like that, too. She is an out-of-work airline mechanic. And Denny says lawmakers should remember working people as they craft away on Capitol Hill.
Kathleen Denny: My Aunt Bee says there’s going to be a depression. Last year, when pundits barely whispered “recession,” she knew the signs: Big mergers and big layoffs.
I think Aunt Bee is right. From where I stand, things have been getting worse for a long time. Working-class people like me, we paid for what they called prosperity. Profits and the stock market soared while we paid in wage cuts, lost benefits, more dangerous workplaces.
What I care about is protecting people like us from people like them. Who’s them? The people who own banks and big companies. They’re not in business to provide us with jobs, health care or a dignified old age. Their business is profits, nothing else. They’re lined at the trough for even more multibillion-dollar handouts from the Treasury, but when they talk about economic recovery, they only mean profits, not people.
With that kind of money, people like us could set up a public works program at union scale to take care of human needs and defend our resources. We could go to work alongside family farmers to supply healthy food; build schools and public transit; restore streams and maintain our public spaces.
And our dignity through old age is precious, far too precious to be glued to stock market swings or the fortunes of any one company. The company I worked for dumped our pensions outright, and the stock market dive rocked Aunt Bee’s pension fund. We need a movement now to make Social Security a universal retirement program. Social Security was born in the labor upswing of the Great Depression, and people like us have unfinished business.
Chiotakis: Commentator Kathleen Denny lives in Oakland, Calif.
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