An Open Letter to President Barak Obama and Candidate Mitt Romney

August 29, 2012

Dear President Obama and Mr. Romney:

I have never not voted in an election. When I was in college, approaching voting age, I could not wait to be able to vote. To me, it was right up there with getting a driver’s license and being able to legally drink as a sign of having attained adulthood. The first candidate I voted for was John Anderson, on November 4, 1980, and I remember walking out of the voting booth with the satisfaction of being a “grown-up” and the pride of being part of the democratic process.

Through the years, I have always voted, always made the time in an often busy schedule, always appreciated that we, as Americans, have the ability to elect the people who will lead us. I’ve nagged friends to vote as well, reminding them of the millions of people on this planet who do not have that freedom.

2012 will be the ninth time I will have the freedom to elect the President of the United States, Sadly, it will be the first time I will think about staying home and not voting.

This nation – the “greatest country on Earth” – is a mess. Although we, the people, have been repeatedly told that “the recession ended in 2009”, no one believes it. And by “no one”, I mean the ninety-nine percent of Americans who are not comfortably well off. The 99% that don’t have trust funds and hedge funds and off-shore bank accounts. The 99% who don’t have steady jobs, or jobs at all. Who have to worry about whether they are sick enough to visit a doctor or a hospital and don’t have any health insurance. The 99% who are facing foreclosure and bankruptcy. The 99% who are facing a future that holds no hope for a better life, because things just keep getting worse.

The 99% that are scared to death.

I know, because I am one of them.

I was laid off from a 16-year job in November of 2008. I am coming up on four years without steady, stable, reliable full-time employment, without sick days, and without a retirement plan. It has left me and my husband without health insurance as we are no longer able to afford it on our own. Now, he is unemployed as well. Our annual income has dropped from roughly $120,000 to less than $35,000. We are hanging on to our home by our fingertips and we both know that, given another 6 to 12 months without employment, we will be without a place to live.

I know I am not alone in feeling that no one – not those already in office nor those running for election, neither Democrat nor Republican nor Tea Party – really cares about “the rest of us.”

I am not the unemployed depicted by the GOP and the conservative media. I do not want to be unemployed nor am I enjoying my time away from work. I am not “funemployed.” I am not lazy, unmotivated, uneducated, disinterested in working, a drug addict, an alcoholic, looking for a handout, looking for free money, spoiled, to blame for not having a job, not trying hard enough, a slacker, a leech, a parasite, unwilling to work, low-skilled, asking for a handout, a failure, a loser, or merely holding out for higher pay.

I am one of almost 13 million unemployed Americans who have still value and worth and are tired of being told otherwise.

I don’t enjoy having to worry about having enough money to keep our house. (Just as an aside, we didn’t “overbuy”. We bought well within our means and, with jobs, had no problem keeping current on the mortgage.) I don’t enjoy wondering if we’ll have enough money to heat our house this winter. (Aside number 2: oil was $1.05/gallon when we bought the house. Right now it is hovering around $4.00.) I’m tired of worrying that we won’t be able to keep the lights, water and phone turned on. Or if we’ll be able to stay connected to the Internet.

You may not think that being able to tap into the online world is essential, not having had to apply for jobs for quite some time, but most employers will only accept applications online, so having Internet access is a pretty big deal.

Speaking of job applications, please don’t think I’ve been resting easy and not applying for jobs. I’ve sent applications and resumes to literally hundreds of places, only to hear “no thanks” from about a dozen and nothing at all from the rest. Let me know if you would like to see the list. I am happy to share it.

I don’t enjoy being 50-plus years old, lying awake at night worried about my husband or me being able to pay for prescription medications this month. Or being terrified of getting seriously ill and, with no health insurance, incurring a huge medical bill that we’ll never be able to pay.

I don’t enjoy knowing that we’ll never be able to retire – ever – because all that retirement money we worked so hard to save over all those years is now gone.

The past 4 years have left me with a true crisis of faith. I have lost faith in myself and my abilities. I have almost entirely lost faith in this nation and in its leaders, who seem to only want to help themselves and those who really don’t need help – that “one percent.” I hope you noted that I just said, “almost.” Almost entirely lost faith in this nation.” I still believe that there is hope but, for me, hope is fading.

So I ask you both: why should I bother to vote for people who have lost touch with America, its people and the ideals which were set forth and carried forward for over two hundred years? In short: what are you going to do for me? Because right now, I don’t see any reason to get out of bed and vote on November 6.

Give me a reason. And give me back hope in myself, my future, and the future of this nation.


Bette Blackwell

Bridgeport, CT

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