Notes from the Heartland

Since August 22 when the NDP website went live officially launching the NDP, we’ve been talking to people in Illinois and Wisconsin about the NDP’s position on issues and its vision for the country.  About 2700 people to date.

Comments about our vision have been interesting, ranging from “over the top” to “wish list” to “that’s what the New Deal stood for”.  Almost everyone dislikes Washington and the two-party system, and they want an alternative.

Some in Illinois have tried to get millionaire Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to commit to “no cuts” on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, BUT HE WON’T DO IT.

People in Wisconsin are worried that Gov Scott Walker will completely ruin the state if he wins re-election with the help of the Koch Brothers and other out-of-town money.  Low job production has moved Wisconsin near the bottom in the country.

The top concerns people are most worried about are:

  1. Jobs jobs jobs
  2. Social Security & Medicare
  3. Retirement (many people now feel they’ll be working ’til they die)
  4. The country’s direction and America’s place in the world
  5. The never-ending wars
  6. The bad economy’s effect on young people
  7. The future
  8. The financial inequality
  9. Post Office closures
  10. The inability of the government to fix problems, and in some cases, causing problems (this goes back to the 2-party system)

And many more.  It’s really an earful.

Many people don’t trust the government’s numbers on unemployment based on what they see in their daily lives.  

Many say we are in a depression, not a recession.  

Many feel the politicians have sold the country out.

People are also sharing their stories with us.

1. Prices for a new patient at a doctor’s office are costing $1000 and up with tests and consultations.  It’s unaffordable to some.  Same thing with dental and vision, costs are unaffordable for some.  Some state university medical schools like Southern Illinois University (SIU) are higher than private doctors.

2. There’s been a change in the employer-employee dynamic. In some cases, employees are having to pay to work for some companies. One person said his company would not pickup travel and living expenses for a contract in Chicago, costing him upwards of $800/week to travel from the St. Louis metro area, eat store-brand canned goods from Domnicks and stay at the Red Roof Inn. Overall, it cost him $8000 for 10 weeks of work. His take home pay ended up being $180/week based on 60 hours of work per week (including 11 hours of travel per week).

3. Another example in the employer-employee dynamic change was another person who accepted a job with a tech company after 7 months of interviews and tests. He moved from southwestern Illinois to Wisconsin and he picked up the cost of the apartment hunting trip, the move, the auto tags and license transfer.  After 8 months, he was laid off with a lot of other staff.  He ended up paying for the remaining 4 months left on his 1 year apartment lease and the moving costs back home. Total cost to him was about $17K.

4. There are many long-term unemployed people. Some have been unemployed for years. Others have tried starting businesses, but people aren’t spending money.

5. People are having a very hard time making ends meet because some of their pensions keep getting cut due to insurance increases.

6. Many seniors say their Social Security raises are zeroed out with Medicare increases, so they’ve really had no increases for over a decade.

7. Many are worried about healthcare and paying for insurance, many recognize Obamacare for what it is, the privatization of healthcare, which means endless cost increases.

8. Many are worried about the rising cost of everything from gas to food to heating to electricity. Many are openly skeptical that privatization did anything but cause an endless cycle of prices increases. One person said she’s making nothing from her job because gas costs eat up much of what she makes; she travels 2 hours daily to/from work.

9. One person said they sent out over 3000 resumes over the past decade but there are no jobs out there.

10. People have lost their homes and some have taken in family members who have lost jobs.

11. College graduates are finding no jobs based on their areas of study and have massive amounts of debt and can’t support themselves.  They don’t see much of a future in the U.S.  For some, marriage and raising families are a big question mark.

People want their government to work for them, not solely for the rich or corporations.

Everywhere we’ve been, the story is the same.  People are hurting.  And things don’t appear to be getting any better with Democrats or Republicans in charge.