March 15th, 2009
07:13 AM ET

Dear President Obama #55: Day of rest? Hardly.

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Reporter's Note: Before he took office, President Obama invited Americans to give him advice on running the country. My advice is taking the form of a letter a day to the White House.
Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Did you ever hear this joke during the Bush presidency? “I know George Bush is creating jobs, because I’ve got three of them!”

I’ve said before that any of us who have jobs now should be grateful, but there is a down side to all the downsizing, even for those who keep their paychecks coming. Many people are working harder than ever before; sometimes at two or three jobs in different places; and sometimes at two or three jobs right where they stand. Because even though there are fewer workers in the office anthills, the bosses still want the same amount of work accomplished. So you can walk through all sorts of businesses and collect the stories of lone workers doing the jobs that used to be covered by two, three, or four other people.

Invariably, when I meet such folks, they quickly say they are glad to be employed. But then they sigh, slump a little, and say they certainly hope the economy picks up soon, because they’re getting tired. Between longer commutes, growing hours on the job, more competition for each position, e-mails, Blackberries, and the sense of being constantly “on call” like an ER doctor; many gainfully employed people seem to be struggling in their own way with our economic problems.

Are harder working people and leaner payrolls good for business? I suppose so. But many years ago we established a 40 hour work week in part because we also knew something else was good too: Full employment. And when one person takes over several jobs, you can bet your resume some former colleagues wind up walking the pavement.

Again, I’ll admit in a heartbeat that the unemployed have it worse. But the guy in the sixth circle of hell is not cooler just because he knows there is a seventh circle.

I’m a big believer in hard work. I’ve worked many long hours over many years, and I’ve found it rewarding, both financially and personally. Still, no one likes feeling like he or she is being unfairly taken advantage of, and that’s one of the more subtle dangers in an economic downturn.

So in the midst of all your hard work, remember there are others working just as hard to keep this economy running, and they are doing it for a lot less money, no recognition, and with little hope that the job will be any easier this Monday morning…or any Monday… until the economy gets a lot better. And when that happens, remind your powerful business friends that the regular folks who kept them afloat deserve to be rewarded…and a little rest.

Call if you feel inclined. I’m in and out today, but always happy to hear from you.



For more of the Foreman Letters, click here.

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Lauren

    Thank you, Mr Foreman, for an enlightening – and enlightened – read. I'm writing this from South Africa, where many people have little understanding of how this economic situation arose and less understanding of why we, at the southern tip of a continent on the other side of the world, are affected. The kind of reckless lending that arguably started the rot is illegal in this country, yet suddenly we too are staring the spectre of retrenchment in the face. The thought of losing a job is terrifying to me, particularly as we live with the hard truth of affirmative action. The moral, if there can be one, is that world leaders and major corporations need to realise that the days of existing in an isolated bubble of greed are gone: your irresponsible behaviour causes suffering all over the world. Isn't it time we start holding people and corporate entities to a higher level of accountability?

    March 16, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  2. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Corporate America knows only one thing, "profits,"--–you can reduce the work force as long as it does not affect profits--but like anything else all good things eventually come to an end--and you have no workers--no profits-–and corporate welfare--all of which qualifies you for a "bailout."

    March 16, 2009 at 8:37 am |
  3. np

    We all know that companies are taking advantage of the bailout. Why don't the IRA just audit every last one of them (individually and the corporation). Perhaps even their family members. This also applies to the Madoff's family and anyone else similar to Madoff. Lets get some money back.

    March 16, 2009 at 12:14 am |
  4. Cheryl Case

    As most people I am outraged about the bonuses that the people of AIG received. Maybe we should let AIG fail and then there would not be any bonuses and see how the people at AIG would feel about that.
    I don't care what the lawyers say but I know the money that I pay in taxes should not be used to give people at AIG bonuses. I would like to know how I can write to the president to let him know how I feel. In fact the think you should give that information on the air so all of America can write to him and let him know how much we feel that he has let us down!!!!

    March 15, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  5. Ron Illinois

    I think American business should be examined more closely. When you see the people who get laid of, they are usually the lower paid workers and people who don't hang in the circle of the bosses. The the remainder sit around and get paid until their business picks up again and they can hire someone to do their work again.
    I have worked for large companies and small and I really don't believe all that stuff about us being the most productive workers on earth. If we are then the rest of the world is pretty lazy.
    I think 75 percent of Americans don't want a job at all, they just want a paycheck. Only about 25 percent of the people I have worked with carry their weight.

    March 15, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  6. Don, WA

    Sweating from work is much better than sweating from the lack of work.

    March 15, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Tom / Roseburg OR

    The answer to the AIG bonus ripoff.....
    Any AIG employee accepting a bonus will receive severe scurtiny from the IRS this year and years to come!

    March 15, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  8. Kim

    Since when does a Gov. that works for the people have the right to take $88 million dollars but actually, there is "no" exact amount indicated or transparancy. It's all in a pot for St. Patrick's Day ? There goes the state educational lottery to balance a state budget. That's as sour as a pig foot in a jar ! The stimulus money is there but how is it being spent and directed to benefit the people ? Min. wage to $10.00 an hour and get the empty factory open for green jobs !

    March 15, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  9. Carlos from South California

    Anderson, this is a wonderful letter as it reflects the truth about all of us today. I can totally understand the writer when he speaks about long hours, multiple jobs, and being tired (yes it could be worse if I was unemployed).

    Now, with that being said. I also work so many hours to pay for my big screen tv, my new car, my big beautiful house, for my kids to play club teams, and for my wife to have all the "pretty" jewelry she wants. Is this really necessary? Is it the governments fault that I want all the toys? Is it anyone's fault that I want so much more than the bare essentials? Could my family and I be happy with just 1 xbox in the house? With just 1 computer? With just one small economy car instead of the Suburban and Ford f250 in the driveway? Who is really to blame here? Is it big business for wanting a productive workforce, or is it people like me who want EVERYTHING?

    Interesting topic if you choose to truly be honest with yourself! Do we all know the difference between a want and a need?

    March 15, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  10. Marty

    OK, time to go to work........accountability & transparcy. Since AIG has our money I want to see a list of the Exe. who are getting our $165 Million in bonuses---Name, address and phone #'s. I want to send them a Thank You card.

    March 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  11. Shana

    I am a single mom. I work two jobs and have never lived on welfare. I truly think we stop supporting generations of people unwilling to work. Welfare was meant to be a hand up not a hand out. Educate and empower people to support themselves. It frustrating that I work, pay taxes, and have paid for my own education so other people don't bother.

    March 15, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  12. Joanne Pacicca, Solvay, NY

    Not only are Americans working harder, longer and have a second..or third job in the face of our economic deceleration; but, also , AIG is paying millions in bonuses...the reason? They want to make the people that they believe will the salient difference in their restructuring process...Happy! While Mrs. Madoff and sons remain scot free from outright theft.

    Mr. President...where is the oversight committee? On vacation?

    March 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  13. Patti Williams

    Dear Mr President
    We need to keep a manufacturing base in the USA.Our automotive industry has always been the lifeblood.We need to keep it.Give GM a LOAN! You are giving the banks trillions,loan the auto companies enough to keep them viable.Hundreds of thousands of jobs are on the line and a few hundred thousand retirees could lose half their retirement,their healthcare and as a result their homes and anything else they have financed.More taxpayer money will go to welfare,food stamps and medicaid.
    Remember...baseball,hotdogs,apple pie and CHEVROLET?

    March 15, 2009 at 9:28 am |
  14. Art

    Your right Tom, alot of people are working harder and longer hours. The American dream is slowly, slipping away. American business doesn't know when to say when. I hope the president can fix some of this.

    March 15, 2009 at 9:15 am |
  15. Glynnis Kuykendall.


    March 15, 2009 at 8:26 am |
  16. Craig

    I look forward to reading this blog every day. Your column is always thoughtful and and clever.

    March 15, 2009 at 8:17 am |
  17. Julie

    Another on target letter, Tom.
    I am one of those domestic foot soldiers; lucky to have today off from work.
    I wish your letters got more attention. I went back and read each one
    of them, when I discovered your writing. They are TERRIFIC!
    I wonder how long before the president lets you know he is reading them (and taking them under advisement) too!

    March 15, 2009 at 8:10 am |
  18. AnaRC

    You are right! Today employers and contractors want more for less. I am working double hours to make the same amount I made before. That's also because my company has to compromise to accept the job for half the price to avoid joining the 2,000 small businesses gone bankrupt in the last month in my area. At Premier Social Media, we develop corporate Social Media Applications in Facebook, MySpace, iPhones & Twitter. We also help companies build a Social Media presence and now a lot of companies are asking us to take over their Social Media positions (Bloggers, Twitters) for a third of what they used to pay their staff. What do we say? no, keep those jobs or yes, let's survive?

    March 15, 2009 at 8:02 am |