Monday, November 29, 2010

It's not a problem until it happens to me

I've been watching the brouhaha over the 99ers with some bemusement.  There's nothing quite like a recession to make people who were oblivious to social problems suddenly sit up and notice that the generous social safety net they assumed was there for slackers to abuse has huge holes in it.  Lots of the folks freaking out over the fact they've exhausted their unemployment benefits after "only" 99 weeks don't have a clue that before this recession hit,  the maximum payout period for benefits was 26 weeks with zero extensions.

I'm really not sure how I feel about all this.  On the one hand, I think it's deplorable that the U.S., unlike almost every other industrialized nation on the planet, does not provide an indefinite unemployment allowance (aka general welfare, the dole) to able-bodied adults who are jobless through no fault of their own.  We shouldn't have beggars in the street, there shouldn't be people forced to camp out under highway bridges or live in their cars, and no one in a country as rich as this one should ever go to bed hungry.

On the other hand, as a person who spent many years in a part of the country that's been going down the economic toilet for the past 50 years, part of me is thinking "welcome to my world."  What the shocked and horrified and newly poor ex-middle class is discovering is the reality that people in places like Flint, Michigan, have been living with since the '70s:  fewer and fewer jobs, stagnating or declining wages for what employment does exist, and a shredded or nonexistent social safety net.  And, for the past 50 years, while a few economists have warned that it was a really, really bad idea to outsource jobs and allow manufacturing in this country die a lingering, painful death, most folks have assumed that what happened in Flint or Pittsburgh or Youngstown would never affect them.  After all, who cared if union jobs went away as long stock prices were going up on Wall Street?  Well, it took awhile, but it's starting to look as though people are finally figuring out you can't base an economy on consumer debt and people serving hamburgers to each other.  Based on the results of the last election, however, it appears the American populace isn't smart enough to figure out what to do to turn things around. 


  1. Well, I get by just fine on my less than 12 grand a year, but it doesn't take a hell of a lot to keep me going.

  2. I have people who look at me sideways when they find out I took a part time job, nights, at a local hotel. They know I am educated and was in management positions before. They assume I could do better and don't seem to get that I have been looking for "better" for nearly 2 years.

    The thing I feel bad about is that I feel myself scheming to get the part time person who doen't need the benefits to quit so I can get enough hours to get benefits. I am turing dog eat dog...


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