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Get out your forks, let's all eat pork

Editor's Note

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Published on: Thursday, February 12, 2009

By Linda Blachly

According to Webster’s Dictionary, “Stimulus” means “something that rouses or incites to activity.” As usual, someone forgot to tell our esteemed lawmakers that, as debate battles on endlessly about “cutting the pork” out of the original $838 billion bill  approved by the Senate Tuesday.

However, Obama wants the final package approved by the weekend.

With each passing day, businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs and their ability to pay their bills.

President Obama, who has lobbied tirelessly for this admittedly imperfect bill, strongly feels that the plan that ultimately emerges from Congress must be “big enough and bold enough” to meet the size of the economic challenge we face now.

“This is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill recession,” Obama said Monday night.

Yes, he’s right. Why can’t anyone admit that we have moved past a recession, into a depression?

Again, we turn to Webster, who defines depression as “a period marked by slackening of business activity, widespread unemployment, falling prices and wages, etc.” Does that sound familiar?

Now, let’s look at the definition of recession: “A temporary falling off of business activity during a period when such activity has been generally increasing.

Which term would you choose to describe what has happened to us over the past year?

This situation is anything but “temporary” for long-time businesses that are closing their doors right here in Prince George’s County. And what about the employees who are being laid off every day by the thousands? Will they get their jobs back, citing a “temporary” loss? “Oops, sorry, we’re doing better now. You can have your job back.”

I think not. When businesses close, it seems like a permanent situation to me.

I think about the friends who live right here in Prince George’s County who have lost their jobs over the past month. There’s the father of three young children from Greenbelt who lost his job at the Baltimore Examiner, which will close its doors on Sunday. What will he do now to put food on the table and pay his mortgage?

Then there’s another friend who is a widow who was laid off from Capital-Gazette last week. How will she make it?

The United States lost nearly 600,000 jobs last month, sending the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent, the highest in 16 years, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday. In Prince George’s County, the latest unemployment statistics are for November, which is 5.3 percent. The rate is expected to go higher–up to 9 percent over the next six months, where it is likely to hover through 2010, analysts predict.

On our cover this week, we have a story about how college students are feeling the pinch of the economy.

I recently read a report that compares the January job losses widespread across almost all major industries were “the worst totals since 1974.” I must admit that I never felt it as a student in the ‘70s. Usually, the only thing students are worried about is their next test or project. The parents absorb all the shock from the economy to pave the way for their offspring to “have it better than we did.” Well guess what? I’ve known many parents who have had to sit down with their “Me Generation” products of the 1980s and explain that the money faucet has slowed down or turned off.

Despite cutting costs and finding part-time work, many students are still feeling the pinch. According to our front-page article, University of Maryland American studies junior Jenna Brager has three part-time jobs, 18 credits worth of classes and a healthy extracurricular load. She thinks that while most of her peers have tuition payments “locked in” for the semester, they struggle more with paying the more frequent bills associated with school—rent, books, and utilities.

“I’m not feeling particularly optimistic right now,” Brager said. “I think we’ve got a hard road to go for the next year or so. I don’t think the nation is going to crumble, but there are definitely tough times ahead.”

Yes, there are tough times ahead, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better anytime soon.

That’s why this stimulus package is so important. The bulk of the employment effects will be in 2010 and 2011, which is when we’re going to need them to bring down the unemployment rate.

“The plan is not perfect,” the president said Monday night. “No plan is. I can’t tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans.”

One of our Sentinel staffers recently told me he grew up on a farm in South Carolina. He used to have a pet pig named “Suey.” When economic times got rough his family had to do the inevitable. “Suey sure was good,” he said.

Let’s use the pork in the Stimulus bill to fatten our stomachs a bit to see us through the tough times ahead. And let’s get on with recovery.

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