The Economy Simply Got Worse...Thanks, Hil. 

(From August 2006)

Dear Senator Clinton,

With several concerns on my mind of very different character, I write to you in hopes of advice, guidance, and general understanding. First and foremost, I feel it necessary to give you a bit of background information about myself, understanding that one cannot truly know his neighbor’s strife if he does not know his neighbor. I am a nineteen-year-old young lady from a small town near the border of New York state. I have two extremely hard-working parents (whom are still happily married), and two older brothers, both of whom have graduated from prestigious universities. I am currently attending the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) as a sophomore, studying political science. I am a Christian (Presbyterian), consider myself of a moderate political affiliation, and am, like the rest of my family, very hard-working.

I have held different jobs steadily since age fifteen (this summer holding down three jobs successfully), all extremely different. During this summer, I have worked as a cashier at a Byrne Dairy location (a local gas station/dairy/convenience store/grocery store chain), as the Summer Youth Recreation Coordinator for my church (I plan events for teenagers), and as a waitress in an Authentic Mexican Restaurant (where I am lucky enough to be surrounded by culture and expand my language skills daily). I receive different wages at each job. I have not kept track of my earnings-to-date (of all of my jobs total in the past), as I would never imagine needing such totals. However, I have felt, for a very long time, a certain frustration each time I receive a paycheck from whichever job I am currently working; I am sure that being a woman of the people, you are familiar with this impediment; the frustration that I mention deals with Social Security Deductions and taxes.

Unlike several other people, I do not write to you to simply complain about the loss of money and blame the government for my skinnier wallet; I am truly interested to see exactly which percents of my deductions go to what, and what I am fueling in the government. You see, my frustrations lie in the fact that I come into daily contact with hundreds of people at my jobs, and at my school; I cannot tell you how many of these people seem to be using the government to their financial advantage. As a very diligent person, I am extremely annoyed at this misuse of government (in turn, my) funds.

For instance, when I work at Byrne Dairy, I constantly come into contact with people using EBT Benefits and W.I.C. Checks. Do not misunderstand me, I am not against helping those out who need it, I am in fact a great supporter of helping those in need. Nevertheless, I do have a difficult time serving people who use their EBT cards to purchase items that are not pertinent to survival. I was never trained that certain items may not be bought with EBT cards, so I have never questioned a customer’s purchase with this card; I have had people buying alcohol, cigarettes, junk food, bags of ice, novelty items, and unnecessary groceries with these cards. If I was, in fact, wrong to sell these items to those paying with their Benefits card, then I have no gripes with the government’s system in that aspect. In addition to this concern, I am also concerned with the customers yielding W.I.C. checks and EBT cards; in several cases, the customers will open a wallet full of hundreds of dollars in cash, and pay for several other things with said cash; if the person has the cash in the first place, why are they receiving government aid?

I understand that there are certainly different cases with every person and every situation, but many times, I see the same people using government aid who, in my best judgment, truly do not need it. My mother is a woman who is supposed to be claiming Social Security benefits due to a severe disability, but she still works. She took two years off on disability, but realized that although her doctors had advised her to work no longer, she felt selfish taking other peoples’ money, and missed her job as a language teacher. As I before related, she is, against doctor’s wishes, working, in chronic pain. Additionally, my father is a recreational and musical therapist for New York State; he is in daily contact with mentally and physically challenged persons, many of whom can not work, and many of whom long to be able to have the pleasure of having their own job, making their own money. Thirdly, I suffer from severe endometriosis and live in chronic pain myself; I have been operated on twice, and still have not found the right solution for my pain. However, I have learned that life is much too short to dwell on things like pain; I do not have enough years offered to me to waste time not experiencing all that I can. So, I work…..and I study…….and I live my life as much as I can!

Being aware that every person has a different story and is placed in a different situation, I have plenty of sympathy for those who cannot work due to physical or mental restrictions. However, this sentiment and understanding has only exacerbated my anger toward those who misuse programs such as Social Security, W.I.C., and N.Y.S. benefits. If there was an actual misuse of these governmental aid programs, all I can do to offer my opinion would be to suggest treating these programs with more care; in my hometown, there is a shelter of small apartments that is offered to homeless families or people “trying to get back onto their feet.” I have a great respect for this organization, as I learned about it through my church, which pays for two of the apartments there. The interesting thing about this place is that the people who live there get food, clothing, and other necessary living items, but they only get to stay in the apartments for a certain amount of time, or until they can get a job and a place to live. This system helps those in need, but also motivates them to help themselves in life- if the person(s) cannot do what they need to do to acquire an occupation and a place of residence, they are not allowed to just stay in the apartments and live off of others; the shelter offers people things in time of need, and as soon as it seems as though the person is ready to fly the nest, they are encouraged to make their own way in life.

Miss Kathryn Tunison

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