My first letter to The Times

Paul Krugman's latest column prompted me to write to The New York Times for the first time. And maybe the last.

One thing I couldn’t do as a working journalist was express my opinions in print — well, except when I was writing a column about music or sports. Journalists aren’t supposed to have opinions, in the name of objectivity.

But I’m not a journalist anymore. Old habits die hard, and it’s taken me this long to finally write a comment to a newspaper.

Why start small? It was The New York Times.

I was planning to wrap up another post or two this Sunday-into-Monday when I saw Paul Krugman had a new column online called “Punishing the Jobless.” Krugman — Nobel-winner in economics, Princeton economics professor and unabashed liberal (his blog is called Conscience of a Liberal) — is one of my journalistic must-reads, along with Salon’s fierce defender of the Constitution, Glenn Greenwald.

Krugman has written eloquently about the ongoing economic mess — breaking down and condensing for the general public why we’re in such a mess and what he thinks should be done to right the ship. If Obama truly wanted to give us hope, and not capitulate to Wall Street, he would have the audacity to bring Krugman into the Cabinet — that is, if he can stand to have another Nobel-winner in the room.

Anyway, Krugman’s latest column deals with the Congress that decided not to extend jobless benefits, then went off to enjoy the Fourth. He attacked the “coalition of the heartless, the clueless and the confused” for leaving millions of us hanging in limbo. And he particularly took aim at Nevada’s Republican wack-job Senate candidate, Sharron Angle, focusing on one of the many lies she has spewed about us:

“You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job but it doesn’t pay as much. We’ve put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry.”

Anyway, that bit of reckless, rhetorical projectile vomiting, combined with Krugman’s defense of us, prompted me to submit an impromptu comment. It might not technically be The Times’ op-ed page, but close enough. And whether they print it is another story:

I dare Sharron Angle to tell me to my face, or the millions of others in my situation, that we don’t want to work. Same goes for any politician enjoying all the privileges and spoils of the offices to which we hired them. Privileges such as being able to get away to some posh location for the Fourth — and without extending jobless benefits for those who really need them. It’s easy to spew such verbal vomit when you can hide in a controlled, soundbite environment where no one can talk back, where no one gets to directly call you on what you say.

Come Sunday, I’ll be out of work 16 months. I was whacked from a business (journalism) that was impacted as much by rampant greed (publicly held media companies held to outrageous profit-margin demands by Wall Street) as it was the general economic downturn (which has severely affected the region where I live, the Central San Joaquin Valley). It wasn’t my damn fault I lost my job, and the same goes for thousands of others in my former line of work — and you can sub out “journalism” and sub in “(insert job field here)” if you want. I’ve put out close to 100 resumes in the Bay Area, New York and Connecticut (from where I moved for my now-former job), looking for a position at a website or public relations firm, any place where I can best transfer an entire adult lifetime of skills. Nibbles have been few and far between; job offers have been nonexistent.

Thanks to friends and family, I’ve managed somehow to keep my spirits barely above water. Actually, save for the nagging unemployment thing, life is good sometimes. But Angle and friends, especially the G-NO-P congressional cadre, have never experienced the persistent feelings of uselessness and worthlessness that come with being upended from a job you’ve done, and well, your whole life, compounded each additional day you’re out of work. Or the depression that walks hand-in-hand with that. Being single, though, my feelings can’t help but pale in comparison to someone who was providing the main income for a family and had that taken away, again through no fault of his/her own.

Anyway, lazy, incentiveless me, living on just about a third of what I made in my last job, continues to scour the job sites and send out resumes. I still hold out hope that I’ll be able to land another decent job eventually, while I still have my benefits. Or my sanity, whichever runs out first.

And to the heartless, clueless politicians who spew such lies as the one Angle spins and many others seem to subscribe to: Maybe you ought to try unemployment sometime. Like in November.

And Paul, thank you for sticking up for all of us as eloquently as you have all along.

Fran Fried, Fresno, Ca.

UPDATE: The boilerplate statement at the bottom of The Times’ Comments page reads: “Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.” Well, it’s past midnight Eastern Time, about 19 hours after I submitted my comment, and it never appeared. Room for 641 others but not this one. Guess my comments about journalism being beholden to Wall Street was too “abusive” for The Times — or not fit to print, in their parlance. Just punishing the jobless a little more …

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One Response to “My first letter to The Times”

  1. Jay Says:

    Oh yeah, I just LOVE being out of work. I just LOVE getting less than 100 bucks a week. And yes, maybe I COULD go find a job scrubbing toilets or saying “would you like fries with your order?” but is that what I have to be reduced to? Why not start creating REAL jobs in this country again? Why don’t these companies go back to the way they used to run, when sane people were in charge and didn’t have ridiculous profit margins? And when they didn’t fire people over the most miniscule nonsense stuff? Why don’t people like Ms. Angle shut the hell up and consider herself lucky she has a job…at least for a few more months? Nothing makes me more angry than rich, priviledged politicians telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing…while they are taking kickbacks & bribes and screwing over the American people. Oh yeah, I’m getting really rich on 98 bucks a week…I think I’ll go get into my Ferrari and go looking for a job now.

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