The Republican presidential nominee asked that question of me last night. Here’s my answer:
No, I’m not better off, because after working at a company for 20 years, my position was eliminate exactly one year ago for business reasons and I have been unemployed for the last year.
In applying for jobs these last 12 months I’ve learned that my skills are not easily transferable to the current marketplace and that employers don’t really care to pay for knowledge and experience, especially when they can pay a younger person much less to do what is deemed adequate. That lesson has been sobering and humbling and, although I’ve always empathized with those laid off for whatever reasons, I’ve come, after a year, to a deeper understanding of how demeaning and humiliating it is to be unemployed and unemployable for many of my country’s fellow workers.
The reason given for the termination of my position was financial, a business decision based on the economic downturn of the last few years caused by the bursting of the real estate speculation bubble and near-financial meltdown of our banking institutions.
It was a problem I did not cause nor profit from. It was caused by those who believe that true economic value comes from the use of capital and that the accumulation, buying and selling of assets are governing principles of our nation’s economy.
For 20 years of my employment, I received wages for my labor and my value to my company was my labor. My skills, knowledge and experience are my assets in today’s marketplace.
Four years ago the hope I felt and the change I hoped for was kindled by what I felt was a recognition that this country had chosen leadership embodying my values— the values that my labor, not what I owned, was what was worthwhile as a contribution to our country.
The man who asked me the question last night stands with many others for whom the accumulation of capital is most important, not the value of labor. He stands with many others who have, with money and influences, stymied reforms of the regulatory and financial systems that have failed to protect my interests. He stands with many others who would take us back to the very way of doing business in this country that brought about the very hardships he now promises to alleviate.
No, I am not better off than I was four years ago. But that is not because the hope I felt four years ago was misplaced or foolish; it was not and the value of my labor remains all that I can offer to this country. No, I am not better off than I was four years ago and I will not be better off in the company of Mitt Romney, his capitalist brethren and their lapdogs because in their eyes, I have no value, no assets, nothing worthy to buy and sell.
My worth is my labor— and I will work for and vote for and stand with those who believe the same.