fresh voices from the front lines of change







Scientists say there are trillions of parallel universes. Statistically, that means that must be one where some poor version of humanity lives in an inverted, mind-bending alternate reality where everything is backwards and nothing makes sense.

But why did it have to be us?

Consider the latest evidence: 64 Senators are ignoring the one problem that polls consistently show is the public’s highest priority. Instead they’ve written a letter to the President asking him to make a different issue his highest priority – and to address it by doing something the public doesn’t want. In return they’re promising that they’ll do something the public doesn’t want, too.

Welcome to reality.

You can see the original letter here. Then you can keep reading to see what that letter would say in a rational universe.

In our world – the one where most people live – 25 million Americans are unemployed or under-employed. A recent Celinda Lake poll shows that concern over jobs outweighs deficit concerns by 2 to 1, and that 77% of the public opposes cutting Social Security. Nevertheless, in what’s an especially surreal move even for them, a majority of Senators just sent a letter demanding that the President make the deficit his highest priority, not jobs – using as his framework a a proposal that cuts Social Security.

Others have pointed out the timorousness of what they’ve done, most notably E. J. Dionne and Ezra Klein. After all, these Senators could’ve written a law and passed it. Instead they just wrote a letter.

So rather than repeat what’s been said so well by others, which would be a depressing experience for both of us, I thought I’d offer an uplifting glimpse of a more rational universe, a universe where people are both fair-minded and sensible … a universe where the letter from those Senators would read like this:

Dear President Obama:

As the Administration continues to work with Congressional leadership regarding the current prolonged, recession-like situation for many millions of people, we write to inform you that we believe comprehensive unemployment reduction measures are imperative and to ask you to support a broad approach to solving the problem.

As you know, a bipartisan group of Senators has been working to craft a comprehensive unemployment reduction package based upon the recommendations of the Jobs Commission[1]. While we may not agree with every aspect of the Commission’s recommendations, we believe that its work represents an important foundation to achieving meaningful progress on our tragic economic situation. The Commission’s work also underscored the scope and breadth of our nation’s long-term employment and economic growth challenges.

Beyond FY2011 decisions, we urge you to engage in a broader discussion about a comprehensive unemployment reduction package. Specifically, we hope that the discussion will include stimulus spending, entitlement increases and tax increases for the wealthiest among us.

By approaching these negotiations comprehensively, with a strong signal of support from you, we believe that we can achieve consensus on these important economic issues. This would send a powerful message to Americans that Washington can work together to tackle this critical issue.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Imagine. Somewhere, in some other universe, this letter was actually written and sent to the President of the United States. Then these Senators concluded their productive work day, went home, and tenderly clasped their husbands, wives, and children in the loving embrace of their six tentacles.

For your consideration, we offer this glimpse of a different universe … a happier universe … a more rational universe. But we have to stop now. We Americans are a busy people, with jobs to find and underwater mortgages to pay. Our little diversion is over.

We now return you to the Twilight Zone.


[1] There was no Jobs Commission. This is an alternate reality, remember?

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