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It’s Time to Go to Work!


By William McNary; Co-Director, Citizen Action/Illinois

In last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.

The President believes this is a make or break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it.  What’s at stake is the very survival of the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement.

There is plenty of public work to be done in America;  Repairing and improving our infrastructure, providing healthcare and human services, providing quality education for our children, protection our public safety, and securing America’s energy future.

I live in Chicago.  I walk by work every day.  I drive my car around potholes in the road that needs repair or an expressway that needs paving.   I drive past a public school where one teacher has fifty students in her class.  There is no band teacher, no music teacher, no art teacher, no truant officer, no school nurse.  The school is 100 years old and needs repair, remodeling, rewiring and energy efficiency.

I drive past an overcrowded public hospital while nurses, community care providers, janitors and security guards are being laid off.  As I walk to my office I walk past people living on the streets because we’ve cut mental health and human service providers’ budgets.

Gas guzzling cars whiz by while public transportation routes are cut.  Old clunkers spewing fumes could be replaced by fuel-efficient cars made in America.  There is plenty of work to be done and it can start in our own communities.

There has never been an incumbent president who has won re-election in the last 100 years when the economy is down – except one:  Harry Truman.  In 1948, in the midst of a struggling economy, Harry Truman won by running against a “do-nothing” Republican Congress.  Truman said, “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”

Last night President Obama challenged the American business community, and the American Congress to work with him in a common effort toward a common purpose.  It is up to us, the American people to continue to shine the light and make our elected officials feel the heat.   It’s time to go to work.