In February, I stood before an audience at a major law school as a featured speaker in its Law, Politics and the Media series. In April, I still sat in my familiar spot in the Supreme Court press gallery several feet from the justices reporting on their every inclination in hearing key oral arguments as part of my duties as Editor-in-Chief and Supreme Court correspondent for a nationwide legal news service.
Two months later, I was out of a job. My company had closed, and I was reporting for a much different kind of duty at the New Jersey Department of Labor. There I sat with nearly 100 people from all different walks of life. Our bond was the need to attend that mandatory meeting as a condition of receiving our recently-filed unemployment benefits.
Just across the parking lot was the Trenton Train Station from which I had departed so many times for Washington, D.C. for more than a decade to attend big cases when the Supreme Court was in session. The irony of the sudden change in situation was not lost on me. Had I needed a reality check, this was certainly it.
Fortunately, the doldrums did not last long. I eventually was able to obtain multiple offers and a good new position before summer’s end. In the interim, I kept busy with my family and a number of other pursuits including this blog.
But many Americans, including I suspect a large number of my cohorts in that Trenton meeting room and others like it, are not nearly so lucky. For some, even strong past work experiences are not enough. Unemployment continues to run rampant with not enough signs that “hope is on the way.”
President Obama’s unmissed predecessor did a good deal to drive the economy into the bushes, but he has been gone for nearly three years now. And yet, unemployment still hovers near double-digits in many parts of the country.
Coming up with solutions, even from the sidelines of the blogosphere, is not easy. But it sure seems like raising taxes on millionaires and putting at least a slight bump in the capital gains tax would be a no-brainer good place to start. If you don’t believe me, ask Warren Buffett who has called for such measures even though he would be among those directly affected. In a recent op-ed piece, he expressed incredulousness that his “rights” were being protected.
Still, it’s become readily apparent that pigs will fly before the Republicans in Congress agree to any increases, even slight ones, on the rich despite the fact that the country is hemorrhaging money. A failure to generate more income only leaves us further in debt to China.
To be sure, the president is not without blame either. His hands may seem largely tied at times now. But when the Democrats had 60 members in the Senate and controlled the House, his philosophy seemed one of Neville Chamberlain-style appeasement rather than bold leadership.
It’s still not too late for that leadership to surface. It’s easy to forget that Bill Clinton did not find his footing until well into his third year as president. After taking on Newt Gingrich, he gained respect as business and workers alike benefitted greatly while on his watch. By refusing to fold, his popularity rose and the Republicans could no longer block him at every turn.
For those sitting in rooms like that one I found myself in at the New Jersey Department of Labor not long ago, that leadership coupled with action from this do-nothing Congress cannot come soon enough.a
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the author are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Workplace Fairness.
About the Author: David Weisenfeld served as U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for LAWCAST from 1998 through June 2011. During that time, he covered every employment law case heard by the Court, and also wrote and co-anchored the company’s employment law newscasts. In addition, his work has appeared in the American Bar Association’s Supreme Court Preview magazine.