23 November 2010

Two Topics: Calls for Action

One Bookish, one not. I will start with the Bookish one, as politics periodically offend, but they are BOTH important, so I hope you'll hear me out.

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

I have a friend Jenny who is a writer, but is also a passionate promoter of independent bookstores. There has been a lot of talk of late about the unavoidable extinction of the bookstore, and for those of us who LOVE BOOKS, this is a terrifying thought. As the landscape changes and bookstores try to find their footing, the smaller places are the ones who have smaller margins and a trickier job adapting. But the smaller ones have also been friendlier to the occasional author who has had trouble on a larger scale—perhaps their book is too edgy for a larger place—maybe they are local and the run is small, so there is trouble getting into the big chains. Perhaps the most important piece, is that the independents are run by our neighbors and friends... they are us. I don't have any desire to have the big ones go under, and confess to ADORING being in a huge building full of books, but the quirky, nooky, friendly, homey independents are something special.

So Jenny had this great idea... and idea to bring a little traffic into bookstores... to inspire a little love of bookstores in our kids... maybe to urge us to pick up a few of our Christmas gifts in a bookstore. December 4 will be the First Annual 'Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day'. And you can help!

Do you have a bookstore you frequent? TELL THEM! Of COURSE they have a vested interest in getting customers to come in. Maybe they will offer a special promotion, or have a kids or YA author come in to do a reading... Maybe they will put up a poster, send out a newsletter, spread the word. All of us want bookstores to succeed, so this is a great chance to advance this possibility!

If you want more information, check out Jenny's blog, and contact her. She is great at this stuff and may have some ideas on how you can advance this project in your own town.

(now for my political hat)
High Stakes Letter Campaign

This one is potentially more divisive. My opinions are not necessarily those of my fellow Burrowers, and certainly don't reflect on us as a collective. In the US there are some important laws that have some decisions coming up in this lame duck congressional session. My intention here is to share a blog about a very personal journey through the dysfunctional US economy at the moment, present my opinion, but then just to urge you to let your congress people know what you think is right. What do you want your representatives to do?

My friend Lisa was laid off quite a while back when the organization she worked for seriously downsized. But I recommend you read her version of it, rather than my cliff notes.

I encourage you to look through Lisa's blog a little—she is extremely articulate on the difficulties of making it in this economy...

So what are the deals? Two things.

The Bush Tax Cuts in the US are set to expire at the end of 2010. And of course everyone is worried about their own pocketbooks. Obama says we can't afford to keep this in place for people making more than $200,000. Warren Buffett, multi-billionaire who would be hit hardest, agrees. We are running a huge deficit and lose our ability to provide services if there is no money. Now I know that is every good Libertarian's wet dream... no government. But the reality is, people are falling through the cracks... real people with real faces who are trying very hard to keep their heads above water.

There is some argument that these people with these higher incomes are the job creators in this country, but I argue it's a separate issue. The cut-off is for PERSONAL INCOME. You create jobs with that money, it REDUCES your recorded income and you are off the list... and the fact of the matter is, people in this income bracket SAVE more (so the money leaves the fiscal engine altogether) and invest more of their money abroad (vacations, luxuries, investments)--for each dollar 'not taxed' here, only about forty cents becomes part of our economy. This is contrasted to the middle and lower income groups for whom upward of 80% of any maintained dollars are then 'spent'. Oh, I get it. With the rich you get to call it reinvestment, and with the poor they are just spending the damn things, but it is the SAME THING.

Contrasted to this is the Unemployment benefits for people who are trying like hell to find work (anyone who has stopped looking doesn't get these, FYI—my hubby, who is currently a student in hopes of a better future, does not qualify)... But that doesn't change the fact that he was laid off two years ago, or the fact that he tried to get a job with no luck (that was when the school idea finally kicked in).

But some people already HAVE their education. They just work in sectors that saw big downturns. This weekend there was an article in the Detroit Free Press that Michigan's economy is finally going to turn around... do you know what the numbers are? Michigan's unemployment rates, past and anticipated are as follows:

2009: 13.6%
2010: 13.4%
2011: 12.6%
2012: 11.4%

See that whopping turn around? And these are just the people who have NOT YET GIVEN UP.

I think most of you know in the US it really takes two incomes to survive unless you are in a dinky, cheap place, or have a serious wage-earner—an engineer or a doctor... So how are these families getting by? The answer is BARELY.

So while congress debates extending tax breaks for the wealthy, shouldn't they REALLY be debating extending unemployment benefits for the people who are already suffering? Who HAVE been suffering and will most likely continue to suffer? I happen to think using that money for food and heat is a better investment than using it for boats and vacation homes...

At least that is my opinion on the matter. You don't have to share it. What you SHOULD do, is tell your congressional delegates what you want. If there is a flood of public feedback, it can't be ignored.

And if you need some help FINDING THEM, this should help:

Take Your Child to Work Image borrowed from site with permission
Unemployment Permission


CA Heaven said...

Good idea; this year I will buy ALL the Christmas presents in book stores, starting in the smaller ones.

And then the economy-and-tax stuff: I could write a 10.000-word essay about this but don't have the time right now. So, in short:

I completely agree with Obama and Buffet (he's one of the few rich people with a solidaric mind). The rich should be taxed more, some of them a lot more. If someone believe that a red Ferrari and a 80-feet super yacht brings happiness, he should receive lobotomy (at tax-payers' cost). An important issue here is to distinguish between private (consumer) economy and corporate economy. To keep up the economy can be done in two ways: (1) a few very rich people, and many poor people, or (2) less rich people and higher incomes for ordinary people. The latter is most efficient for building a solid economy and increased employment. It's only a question of distributing the money available in our society in a different and more just way >:)

And if you think my mind is (politically) red, it's just because of that ketchup bottle >:)))

Cold As Heaven

Natasha said...

Two topics very close to my heart, Tami. And whether I understand the specifics or not, I agree with you on both.

Economic inequity is one thing that makes me really livid. It is not right that some people take so much for granted, while so many others have nothing at all. That my son dares chuck a half eaten bar of chocolate into the trash can, while others are going hungry. That people who lead comfortable lives compare themselves to the mavericks who believe in obstentatious displays of indecent wealth, instead of doign something to pull other people upto their level.

I mind that a family of five needs a 63 story residence in Bombay, while there are people who have never known electricity.

Anything that addresses that inequity is a good thing.

Sorry about the tirade, but you got me started on something I am passionate about.

Hart Johnson said...

CaH-good idea to get all the presents at a book store! And I totally agree with you about the choice between a few super rick and a lot of poor versus a lot more people with better resources. I wish Americans were more open to that idea, but most are deluded into thinking THEY can be the super rich (or that the super rich DID something to deserve it, when most often they just were born to the right people)

Totally with you, Natasha. And I know you really hear me, as India's cases of poverty are far MORE POOR than most cases of poverty in the US.

Ella said...

Well done; It is sad and mind altering the panic and pain of the American people! I want to go back to school...but which way do I go.
Perhaps death and taxes, morbid and pathetic paths, but isn't that the path we are on...
I think I will go into natural foods, since the soy in our foods is making me sick. Time to put my green jeans on and buy some chickens.

I emailed my bookstore with the link. Thank you~

ViolaNut said...

I just got the weekly newsletter from the local independent bookstore, and they do indeed have 4 December planned out. Meanwhile, I warned one of the managers at MY bookstore today... 'cause YES, please do bring your kid to a bookstore - but remember that the staff are neither your babysitters nor your maids, 'kaypleaseandthankyou?

As for the financial bit... well, my income is down so far that my tax bill might even be manageable this year. We shall see. If not, you'll be reading a lot more posts about Cream of Wheat and how to invisibly repair seams. :-P

Hart Johnson said...

Ellie-thank you for passing that on!!! And green agriculture is a great area to go into.

Leanne-I'm glad your local indy is on it! (and having worked restaurants in the past, i GET the 'keep and eye on your kid' thing. Ann Arbor is terrible for permissive parents...)