Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Note To The Long-Term Unemployed: "You're On Your Own, Kid!"

Imagine the scene: you're attending a local school board meeting.  During the announcements, the management team notes that a much-loved employee is retiring after 37 years on the job.  Just two days later, you're observing a similar scene at a different meeting, where one of  the key administrators is retiring after four decades in the educational trenches.

Either way, you find yourself surrounded by people with equally extended tenures -- with the average hovers between 15 and 30 years.  The atmosphere is breezy and jovial at both meetings. Between raids of the nearby brownie table, the conversation focuses on summer vacation plans: what books they plan to read, which grandkids they intend to visit, what kinds of tasks they'll finally catch up on.

You sigh to yourself, and wonder: how'd everybody else get to stick around for so long, and what the hell did I do wrong?  Why am I still playing the same never-ending game of 19th-century-style musical chairs, of insecurity as a permanent condition?  How'd we get to this pass, anyway?
For most Americans today, the reality is starkly different,.  If you're a part-timer, or self-employed, you already find yourself parked right behind the eight ball -- with no benefits and no health insurance -- plus the knowledge that, if you're a contractor, you'll be expected to cough up about 25 percent of what little you actually do take home. 

In a month where you often don't have a tenner left over to buy anything more radical than Ramen noodles and Carl Budding lunch meat, you still have some small matters to address...such as quarterly estimated tax payments.

But Caesar's not particularly bothered about whether you have anything left for such fripperies -- as you'll find out next year, when he'll whack on enough penalties and interest to keep you working for him...well, more or less indefinitely. 

Like the Bible says, Caesar still expects his due, and by God, you'll pay, pay, and pay until your wallet turns black and blue. The scary thing, of course, is that your situation could be worse -- as the long-term unemployed are finding out.  By next month, the federal Extended Unemployment Benefits Program will phase out in most states that have used it, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

This assistance -- which the federal government has fully funded since 2009 -- amounts to 13 or 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate in each state.  For many folks, this latest onsalught of cuts -- imposed, remember, by Congressmen and women with full benefits, like taxpayer-funded health insurance, and pensions -- amounts to the final kiss-off from a government that seems permanently stuck in voodoo economic mode.

Don't worry, though, the voodoo priests are making out like bandits -- as ABC News reported, in noting that the four living ex-presidents billed taxpayers $3 million for various items last year.  The amounts included $15,000 for Jimmy Carter's postal expenses; $579,000 for Bill Clinton's office rent; $830,000 for George H.W. Bush's expenses (hopefully, they were itemized!); and $80,000 for George W. Bush's phone bills.

Now, considering how much money these gentlemen heist on the rubber chicken circuit -- which amounted to $10 million for Clinton, and $15 million for George W. Bush last year -- it seems strange when the feds claim they can't find more money to help those who need it most. 

Remember this factoid when your far right coworkers start ranting about "bums on welfare."  These ex-presidential perks amount to welfare of a different sort, but apparently, they prefer to call it something else to ease their blackened, blinkered consicence -- albeit one that's shrunken and shriveled from too many years spent lapping at the public trough.

As NELP director Christine Owens notes, it's not like everybody who was relying on these long-term unemployment dollars suddenly found a magic bullet to cure all their ills: "These cuts are coming faster than the economy is improving, which means more workers will have to survive without any jobless assistance and families will have less money to put back into the economy."

But that doesn't bother anybody, apparently.  The government remains stuck in full passive-aggressive mode, hoping that the bad economic news will finally go away, so that all those people grubbing underneath them will stop yammering about their needs...and they can look good.  Fat chance.

For those trapped in this permanent morass of insecurity that devalues their lives, their dreams and their hopes of meaningful social change, the message is simple: "It's sink or swim.  You're on your own, kid." 

If there is a hereafter, Darwin and Nietzsche must be slapping each other high-fives: "You see? You see?  I told you so!"


  1. Good point about the moocher ex-POTUSes. I hadn't ever considered that one. So damn typical...

  2. Another sign of our blighted times, I'm afraid -- more and more Dickensian by the day.

  3. After reading that most Americans have nothing saved for their old age, I was curious, so I asked my parents if they had deliberately saved while they were younger. My dad retired as a professor about 15 years ago, and my mother only ever worked sporadically from time to time. Currently I wouldn't call them wealthy, but they are certainly very comfortable and have been ever since my dad retired. I was curious how they did it, after raising four kids too.

    Well, it turns out they DIDN'T save anything at all. My dad went through grad school on the GI bill, he had TIAA-CREF and health benefits from his job, their mortgage was paid off when they sold it at a profit and bought a cheaper place, and I suppose they have Social Security and so forth.

    They fully acknowledge that their generation is the last to live that life.

  4. Thanks for sharing that anecdote. That's the difference between now, and then -- during the '60s and '70s, there was some consensus that people's well-being should be taken into account. In 2012's world, it's the opposite: everybody has to work till they drop, while trying to operate on a payscale that's closer to 1912. Doesn't work, does it? Imagine that. Thanks again for your comment.