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Source: Herald News
Date: December 5, 2008
Byline: Janet Lundquist

Flipped flag signals economic distress

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Liz Wilkinson Allen
Debra Brzostowski hung an American flag upside down in front of her Joliet home to protest the government bailout of banks.

JOLIET — Life on Paradise Circle has been anything but lately for Debra Brzostowski.

Like many small business owners, the tanking economy has put her business in jeopardy. She and her husband are also on the verge of losing the home they've lived in for seven years.

On the day after Thanksgiving, while much of the world was out snapping up Christmas bargains, Brzostowski turned the American flag flying on the front of her house upside down.

"It's a sign of distress," Brzostowski said. "I think everybody should do it."

According to the U.S. Flag Code, as posted on usflag.org, "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

Bailout no help for small business

Besides serving as a distress signal, Brzostowski said her upside-down flag is intended as a protest of the government's bailout plan for banks.

The government's plan will help the people who hurt the economy in the first place, she said, not those who really need help.

"They're looking to bail out big business," she said. "I understand the trickle effect where it could help some businesses under them. But I just feel like they're looking from the top down and it's not going to help my business."

Brzostowski's husband, Al Brzostowski, had to close his business, D-Sign in Shorewood. He recently found another job.

But it has been four months since Brzostowski, a mother of three, took a paycheck from her Shorewood-based telecommunications business, ComTec Communications Co.

And the couple has not been able to make a mortgage payment since June.

"I'm scared. I already watched my husband shut his doors," she said. "I keep reaching out to investors and the bank."

Some of her neighbors have said they think she should turn her flag upright again.

"People don't understand where I'm coming from," she said.

She has e-mailed local and national government officials, including President George Bush and President-elect Barack Obama, to share her plight and her feelings about the bailout plan.

"I've never been through this before. This is quite new to me. I've always had good credit, earned a good living," Brzostowski said. "I'm just letting the government know that I'm in distress," she said.

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