Dear President Obama,
I hope you will forgive a frank and open-hearted letter. I'm writing it to you because I respect you. I believe you care about us, working class Americans.
I respect that you went into office seeking to be the president of all Americans. I could list the things that you did to reach out to Republican voters because some of them stuck in my throat. Secretly I wanted you to be our president acting in opposition to republican demagoguery. But you took the high road and I think it was the right thing to do.
I have lived my life at the margins. I could have stepped up and claimed the privilege of my class or my color. But I have always been aware of the smug middle class judgment that holds folks away from enjoying the fruits of middle class life. It was short sighted and self destructive of me, but the path that my teachers set for me was one that so many people were denied access to, and I refused to legitimize it by participating in the assumptions. Go to school. Get good grades. Get married, buy a house. Thus achieve good standing among your peers. And listen quietly while people point out that others are falling short of that success because they did not follow the rules too.
I homeschooled my children and the most important thing I learned from that experience is that schools are designed for the most compliant part of our population. There are kids who think differently, who will never find their success in academic pursuits. A large number of these sort of people leave their compulsory education with the conviction that they are stupid. Even worse, many students become disempowered. We can hear them in the refrain that there is no point in voting because it won't change anything. It is easy to stay immersed in the cultural path to success and lose the ability to see the ones that path will not be able to help. It is easy to say, as I have heard you say sir, that some folks just won't help themselves. And maybe that is true. But they are born just as surely as you and I to this wide earth and I don't believe they should have a lesser life because we all have lost our ability to see past our cultural bias and remember that our very way of life is only one way to live.
When you retained Timothy Geithner as your Treasury Secretary I was shocked. It seemed so clear to me that we were in a financial crisis caused by the malfeasance of bankers. That choice looked like a slap in the face to working class Americans. But I really believe you care about us, so I thought about it and I listened to you and I read your words. I have come to believe that you acted in deepest concern for us when you made the choices which shored up our banking system, despite the fact that 75% of Americans were against the bank bailouts. I think you were worried about our jobs and our health insurance.
To imagine that we can see the endgame of the banking concerns and that we prefer the immediate hardship of a huge reorganization of our financial system to the slow stripping away of our place in the middle class is a difficult leap. But lots of us feel this way. I think the banks held working class Americans hostage. You cared about lost jobs and lost health insurance and the thought of children going to bed hungry troubled you. I respect your humanity for caring. But your decision to support the system with bailouts and by not calling out the individuals at the very top including Goldman Sachs employees did not address the core problems which we still face.
Can you imagine a world in which we had instead used the TARP funds to feed the people hardest hit by the banking system's malfeasance instead of turning funds over to them in the belief that they would use those funds to continue small loans to keep the economy moving along? That choice would have been no more a huge departure from our norms to that date than the one to shore up the banking system. Can you see how different our current situation would be now?
I hope that you will have 4 more years. I hope we will be able to give you back a democratic congress. And I hope you will consider my words and the possibility that working class folks would be better off with short term instability as we work to rebuild an equitable and just structure that benefits the vast majority of Americans. Though our individual stories are not written on the larger stage, we are no less important to this country.