Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dear President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Early Friday morning, I received a text message from my dad confirming the news I'd been expecting since Thanksgiving: He had lost his job because his company went out of business.

His company had previously been one of the largest retail bedroom furniture companies in the entire state of Indiana. And now they are out of business.

My dad had long seen the writing on the wall. Last summer, he told me about how their business had been adversely affected because the Chinese government, in preparation for the Olympics, stopped all furniture shipments leaving China. As you probably know, over the last decade, almost all U.S. furniture production has ceased to exist because it was simply unable to compete with the cost of furniture made in China. Consequently because of the Olympics, my dad's company (and I'm sure many others) were held hostage by the Chinese government last summer.

With no time to recover from that, the economy collapsed in September. You know exactly how deeply Indiana has felt the impact. You've visited the state multiple times yourself and seen the devastation to people's lives first hand.

Yes, my dad stayed with his company until the end. He's been an employee there for 12 years. What other choice did he have? I know he's been looking for a new job for months, in hopes that he'd avoid being unemployed, but so far he's found nothing.

My dad is a college graduate and has worked hard his entire career, all of it spent in the retail industry. He's loyal, patient, great with customers, knowledgeable and has always been one of the top sales people at his various companies. He's been in management, but prefers not being the boss.

It's been great hearing you talk about expanded health care benefits for the unemployed, but I don't think your programs go far enough because they only benefit those eligible for COBRA. You see, my dad's not eligible for COBRA because his company went under. So now he's completely uninsured and that's a problem. My dad has epilepsy and asthma. I can't tell you the last time he had a seizure, but that's only because of the medicine he's taken daily for the last 40 years. How will he afford this medicine now? He's not eligible for Medicare yet because he's only 63 1/2.

In fact, because my dad is 63 1/2, who is going to hire him? Yes, we both know that equal employment laws prohibit discrimination based on age, but that's nearly impossible to prove. He looks pretty good for his age, but a cursory glance at his resume by anyone with rudimentary math skills and his age becomes obvious. In spite of it being illegal to do so, I worry that companies will realize his age and not hire him because they'll think he'll retire in a year or so and not around for the long haul.

Finally, the thing that upsets me the most about this horrible situation is that because his company no longer exists, he didn't get paid for his four weeks of paid vacation and he discovered yesterday that he wasn't getting paid for his final two weeks of work. That's 6 weeks of pay he's lost and no way to recover it.

I won't get into how big of a hit his retirement savings have taken in the last 6 months.

He's got no debt, except for his mortgage, which I'm certain he's up-to-date with. My dad's a frugal guy

Mr. President, what do I tell my dad? How do I help him? I wish your health care benefits through the stimulus package also helped people who aren't COBRA eligible. It's not my dad's fault he's not COBRA eligible. He's just a guy who's worked hard his entire adult life and through no fault of his own, finds himself completely unemployed 18 months before he's eligible for retirement.

I listened to your press conference last night, but didn't hear anything that gave me reassurance that anyone really yet "gets" the plight of Main Street and not just the loud whining from Wall Street. Please prove me wrong. Please do something to help my dad.

Thank you.

Little Merry Sunshine


  1. I'm so sorry that your dad is out of work. These stories keep piling up. It is sickening that AIG guys get face time with Congress but they aren't spending any time listening to the rest of us.

  2. Thanks American Girl! By no means do I think that my dad is the only person out of work, he just happened to really personalize it for me. My brother and I are both single and work for ourselves, so the economy has effected us in different ways than it's effected many people. I truly worry about how older unemployed workers will fare. In general, I think younger people are more flexible and we have skills that many in my dad's generation don't have. My dad isn't very computer savvy. He's got a laptop, but still doesn't have internet access at home and in retail, he's never had to develop those computer skills. I just don't know what he will do.

  3. Please don't think I was suggesting you weren't aware of the plight of others. I just keeping these stories from people I know (training off shore replacements, pay cuts, no work for months)and it is so sad. It's like we are all waiting for the banks to get their shit together so we can get back on our feet and they and the govt are dicking around about something new everyday. Congress needs to invite people in their 50s and 60s to a hearing about what retirement looks like with no safety net and little chance to recoup their 401k losses instead of figuring out how to maintain executive bonuses.

  4. Oh no, American Girl, I did not take your comment that way at all!

    I will tell you one thing I was not aware of, however . . . I thought that EVERYONE was COBRA eligible. I thought that was the point of COBRA was to give everyone who had insurance the opportunity to continue it, even though it's at sky high prices. I did not know that if a company closes its doors then there is no COBRA option. That is wrong.

    President Obama has made a to do about how the stimulus package will help reduce the financial burden on those with COBRA insurance. Well, that's great, BUT (and I don't mean to sound unfeeling here) they've got an insurance option. Yes, it's crazy expensive, but they've got an option. With so many companies simply going out of business, I'd like to see him do something in the stimulus package to make more people eligible for COBRA.

  5. That's called national healthcare. As much as I am not impressed by the system or the huge chunk of change we lose to finance it every paycheck, it is so nice to know that if the paycheck goes away, we can still see a doctor.

    I've been uninsired, fabulously privately insured and on COBRA. COBRA is built to make sure you cannot afford it and there is no grace period. If your monthly payment is a day late, you are uninsured.


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