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Happy Labor Day - Martha Randolph Carr

The working man's holiday is upon us once again. It's the second one since the Great Recession began and the first one since we were probably able to gather a collective deep breath.

We have a better idea of where our economic bottom is, which is a little easier than the chasm we were staring into last year when we were wondering how far down we could go.

One year ago, we were starting the icy slide downward in the stock market that had people taking their laptops to bed with them, either out of depression or obsession. People were watching helplessly as their pensions and college funds dwindled down to almost nothing. Office pools were taking bets on where the bottom would finally turn out to be.

This Labor Day we're all a little more economically sober and maybe some of the sting has worn off as we've picked through the financial rubble and started to rebuild our savings.

Of course, the country has a deficit so large it's difficult to imagine how that could get paid back unless GM suddenly comes out with a car that runs on smog, and can buy back the government's investment in their bailout.

AIG could always pay back the money because it's the right thing to do. See, you smiled just a little at that joke.

The truth is we've seen a lot of measures to stop the gush of red ink, but have yet to see any proposals besides a public element to the health-care bill that contain innovative ideas aimed at bettering the lives of the middle class.

Here are a few suggestions I've come up with that borrow a little from past successes with a few twists. Offer a paid trip through state college for GI's, but this time include those willing to teach in K-12 public schools, social workers and those going into law enforcement or public safety.

Require a certain number of years post-graduate in the field as payment for the taxpayers' generosity and work out a plan with the state colleges who already receive public funding.

Make a deal with all of the banks that received federal bailout money to offer foreclosed homes at a discount to the same list above, before the general public sees the list. Make it a package deal with a qualified fixed rate mortgage.

Bailout money, which comes from the middle class paychecks, should have consequences for those who took the funds that benefit the middle class. That would finally take it all back to more of a capitalist economy where the one who's doling out the money actually gets something real in return.

As it stands now, there are a lot of companies on the public dole not too long after we had started to phase out welfare. That's ironic.

In fact, every company that took the bailout money can offer, at a deep discount, something worth having to this group of our society that does the work that ensures we stay a great country, but generally never sees the economic rewards.

Proof of the soundness of this idea would be the benefits offered to veterans of WWII, such as a college education and better mortgage rates that contributed to building such a solid middle class in the first place.

Many people got the opportunity to pursue a higher education and be the first in their family to attend college. Towns became dotted with starter homes that lead to stable local economies and new members at civic organizations. Everyone in America ended up benefitting from their contributions.

We can take this opportunity that the Great Recession has given us and write to our elected representatives to tell them we expect a little something for our money. That's other than some kind of vague reassurance that we averted disaster.

We actually want more than that this time. Start typing, everyone. Happy Labor Day, America.

Martha Randolph Carr is the author of the novel, "The Sitting Sisters." Her column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. She can be found on Twitter at MarthaRandolph, or e-mail at Martha@caglecartoons.com, or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.