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My Safety Net Story

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Editors Note: Firedoglake activists are sharing their stories about why the social safety net matters to them, and why we cannot afford benefit cuts of any kind. Read their testimonials and consider chipping in $5 to Firedoglake’s campaign to protect the social safety net. If you would like to participate in our series, please email for more information.

I have been a longtime reader of Firedoglake, and only just recently finally signed up to make comments on the great coverage of #OccupyWallStreet. This my first post, so forgive me if I screw up.

The Reader’s Digest version of my story goes like this:
For almost 20 years I worked as a Union Carpenter building concrete forms on bridges, high-rises, and commercial buildings. The work was heavy, dirty, and dangerous, and I loved it.

In March 2007 I started getting what I thought was just a migraine. It wouldn’t go away and I started having pain in my neck and numbness and pain down my right extremities. I ended up having three of the vertebrae in my neck removed. This helped the numbness and pain down my right side, but the migraine-like pain persists to this day.

I had a second surgery to install rods and screws down the back of my neck after the screws in the plate down the front of my neck loosened. This stabilized my neck, but it ended up increasing my neck pain.

I have been unable to work since this all started.

It took two years to be finally approved for Social Security Disability, and with it I was qualified for my pension. I truly feel that I am one of the lucky ones. We have managed to keep our house with my wife’s income and the kind of frugality that the working class family learns through necessity.

I know what a physical safety net is; I have installed them in elevator shafts during construction. That net keeps a mishandled tool or material from falling on the people working below.  To keep ourselves from falling we would tie off with a lanyard or cable.

I prefer to think of Social Security as my family’s Safety Lanyard.  It is hard to explain the feelings of failure and emasculation that come with no longer being able to support your family. I have been able to accept it better by thinking that Social Security was the insurance paid from my years of hard work. It infuriates me to no end when I hear the phrase “entitlements.” It is just like my pension. It was purchased with sweat, pain, and three cervical discs.

Now we have politicians of both parties trying desperately to make cuts to the working and middle class safety lanyards. We are in a class war. The few rather than the many are winning a war of attrition that could be fixed so easily that it’s an obscenity. We must win for all Americans. The social safety net allows for a stable nation and a prosperous economy.

That’s the short version.Thank you all for supporting the safety net, and I may not be able to work, but I can still fight for your right to it when you need it.

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The Broken Carpenter

The Broken Carpenter