Unemployed "American Voices" Speak Out in Ohio

In a CBS News poll released Thursday, more than half of likely voters said they wish there were other choices on the ballot in the upcoming midterm elections. So why are voters so dissatisfied, even angry this year? We went to Ohio, a state that often reflects the mood of the nation, to ask them -- and listen to them -- for our new series "American Voices."

Two days before his election, Barack Obama delivered a message of hope to the working families of Cleveland.

But today, the streets tell the story. The signs of the recession are all around, hope is fading and frustration is growing.

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CBS News anchor Katie Couric sat down with four unemployed voters at Slyman's Restaurant in Cleveland. Slyman's is known for its corned beef, and working class customers.

Couric: "Everyone is saying these upcoming midterm elections are about anger. Are you angry?"

"I don't know if angry is the right word, but concerned," said Tim Myers. "A lot of promises by both sides, Democrats, Republicans, even the Independents are promising stuff - that realistically - they're not going to be able to come through with." Myers, 48, used to be an auto parts manufacturer. He's been unemployed for 16 months.

Paul Levin, 63, said, "I'm not so angry at the situation, because these things happen. What I'm angry at, or upset about is that there's not an ability for people to cooperate to address the problem." Levin's an attorney who has been unemployed for over 2 years.

The No. 1 problem in Ohio is the job market. Nearly 600,000 jobs have been lost here since 2000. More than half of those job losses have come in the past two years.

Couric: "Why do you think it's been so hard to find a job?"

"I remember getting a phone interview with one company, and they said that they had hundreds of applicants, and they weeded down the hundreds to maybe the top 20," said 34-year-old Laiteisha Dobbins. She's been out of work since 2009.

Levin, the attorney, is "more than a little bit" nervous that he's not going to be able to find something. "I wish I'd prepared for retirement in a better way than I did. But, stuff happens and you've got to move on."

Linda Trausch, 55, had to move on after she was downsized out of her advertising agency. She's been out of work for nine months, and now she volunteers at a Republican call center until she finds a job.

Couric: "What would you like to see the Obama administration do, and can it do anything?"

"I really would rather have them not try and create jobs," Trausch said. "I'd rather have them make a business friendly environment."

Ohio has lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs since 2008. Tim Myers says thousands of those jobs went overseas - where labor is cheaper. "I mean, there's no way that you can compete with that," he said. "I don't see the manufacturing coming back, unless something's changed."

So, Myers changed. He went back to school, and recently graduated with a nursing degree.

Laiteisha Dobbins already has a Masters degree in journalism. But the only news she's getting is one rejection after another.

"I know from my vantage point, I want a job. More jobs being created would be nice," she said. "I just think it takes time."

Couric: "Do you think this country's headed in the wrong direction?"

"I wouldn't say the wrong direction, it's not headed in the right direction," Myers said. "It doesn't matter who's got the majority or who's got the minority. If the only answer that comes out of Democrat or Republican's mouth is, 'No to everything,' get rid of them. Send them back home."

Trausch said, "I think it's the wrong direction right now. I mean, our jobless rate is high, you know, our deficit and our debt is too high. I just don't think these policies are working."

Many in Ohio agree. Just 32 percent believe President Obama has made progress fixing the economy. Only 37 percent think he has a clear plan for creating jobs.

At the table in Slyman's Restaurant, not everyone agreed on how to make Ohio better. But they did agree it will be better.

Couric: "Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?"

Myers is optimistic. "I think it's in all our hands. I think each of us has a responsibility to go out there and to get a job, and it's our responsibility to make the politicians do their job."

Trausch, too, is optimistic. "I think more now than ever I think our citizens are engaged."

Levin said, "I'm balanced on optimism. I think we've got a good system in place. The rest you can sort out.

"Throughout this journey I've had hills and valleys," Dobbins said. "But at the end of the day I am optimistic. It's that optimism that makes me get up every day and send out one more resume, accept another phone interview. I think at the end of the day I am optimistic."

  • Katie Couric

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