Monday, June 14, 2010

Unemployment for the Unenlightened

Wow! Some days I read a post that really says it all.

That's how I felt when I checked out this post on Unemployment at The Boxcar Kids blog.

I work with those living below the federal poverty line--some of whom are, just as the critics fear, not all that interested in working.

But they are the exception.

These days, in this economy, I am getting more and more clients who never expected to be in my office. The simple act of getting food stamps and Medicaid embarrasses them. Unemployment, less so, because at least there's a sense that those benefits were earned and that getting Unemployment Compensation proves that there was a time when they were gainfully employed.

I share the blog author's dismay at those who carp about extensions of unemployment compensation, as though it's an unwarranted suck at the public trough.

Are the critics really so set financially that they cannot conceive of being laid off? Of experiencing age discrimination? Of not getting back into the work arena easily?

Or is it a certain smugness brought on by class?

I dunno. But as someone who is just one job away from financial disaster, you won't find Grace complaining about extensions to Unemployment Compensation.

Just don't ask me about all the forms of corporate welfare!


Anonymous said...

It's called 'how are we gonna pay the bill that congress keeps racking up?' It's not so much as not wanting to fund benefits to those who truly need it. Who is gonna pay back this debt? For that's all it is: debt. In the trillions and trillions of dollars.

Wouldn't the money be better spent getting people back to work and giving them jobs?

It's a catch22 cycle. More people lose their jobs and need benefits. Less people are working to pay the taxes that fund the benefits.

Solutions, anyone?

MasterPo said...

Not smugness.

Just no understanding of people who exhibit no drive, no ambition, no realistic goals and no work ethic to try (because there is no guarantee) to achieve more in their lives.

Yet who cry that it's not "fair" when someone has more than they do. Or think they have the Heaven-sent right to reach into someone else's pocket!

Sharon said...

This is an interesting post, as I've come across, (and I'm sorry to say) some relatives who have no interest in working because they want to suck their unemployment dry. My own brother turned down some jobs because his unemployment was paying more. What's wrong with this picture?

I tend to agree with MasterPro, because those are the only people I'm coming across these days....

Being unemployed for two months (by choice) made me realize how much I value working. I took a job with a lower pay, but I feel so much better.

MasterPo said...

Sharon is correct.

MasterPo knows a guy who lost his job recently - and is happy!

He has openly said many times that unemp pays more than his job plus he's now eligable for cheap state-funded health insurance.

He says he's taking a 3 year vacation! (on MasterPo's tax dollar!!!!!!)

Thank you Messiah.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but unemployment is insurance with a specified benefit. You pay in and if you need the specified income benefits, you get them. You don't get more just because you are unemployed longer.

I suggest many if not most of these folks are poor planners and never thought they needed to save for that rainy day. Those folks whose houses are in foreclosure bought more house than they really could afford, given the likelihood of unemployment at some point in their working life. Once they were unemployed and their inability to pay the mortgage became apparent, the house should have been on the market, even if it had to be sold as a short sale.

What I see is two classes of unemployed. The lazy folks tend to be younger and less educated and are not the best employees. No sympathy for them.

The older folks tend to be better educated but lack the flexibility to move on. They will become the new structurally unemployed. These folks need to re-evaluate their situations, downsize their lives, move to areas with better opportunities, and lower their expectations for the future.

Jerry said...

I have never used food stams or medicaid but I have received unemployment. I was grateful for unemployment insurance and it was very helpful to my family at a needful time. I don't understand the judgment either and all it does is lead to animosity on both sides - something we don't need more of.

Pam McCormick said...

I know I am jaded on this subject, as a nurse who has always worked more than 1 job I have trouble understanding this subject.It has not been pleasant working evenings,nights,weekends or holidays in my line of work but I have always done anything that was necessary to take care of my family.I am okay with people having freedoms and choice as long as they bare the consequences of their choices....

Anonymous said...

Let me say at the outset that neither I nor my husband has ever collected unemployment insurance. Let me say also that my husband began working before turning 14, and he put himself through college. I gave up a full academic scholarship and worked and put him through law school, then went back and finished college myself. He was the first in his family to attend college, much less graduate from law school. He worked continually, hard. He reeducated himself continuously, as attorneys are required to do, by the way. He did whatever needed to be done, whenever it needed to be done. We saved, religiously. But for most of his career, he worked for companies with no pension plan, and because he didn't know about the importance of things such as Law Review, he certainly didn't rank among the highest paid of attorneys. And, when his company was acquired when he was past 60 and the country was sinking into recession, and the acquiring company went through and began systematically letting go prior execs, especially those over 55, we saw the writing on the wall. As he always has, he began a campaign to find another job. He's not the only one who had a similar experience. Attorney friends at or over 60 were quickly separated from their jobs. My husband and others sought contract work, as he continues to do, with salaries for the out-of-town, few-and-far-between offers he gets so low that he collects less than $50.00 for a day's work after he pays for a cheap hotel and meals, and nothing at all if he gets anything above Motel 8 quality. All those who carp about people happy to be unemployed, people who are lazy, etc., should try seeking employment in their early 60's and beyond, especially if one has health issues. Reinvention? I can't tell you how many times my husband has been turned away from jobs because he's over qualified. I can't tell you how many job ads specify "new graduate" or "one to three years out of law school," which is an euphemism for "old farts need not apply." I still work, but for a rather low-paying job, and we do have savings, but we also have a medically fragile grandchild whose unreimbursed medical bills run into the thousands many months. Our savings are the backup plan for her when she needs a therapy, medication or operation that's not going to be reimbursed . . . and if you've never dealt with such issues, you can't imagine the hours my daughter spends each week getting her daughter the treatment she needs to stay alive and to make progress.

You're making generalizations here that just aren't valid. We've moved to a small town with cheaper expenses. We've returned to law school spending habits, which means we don't eat out often and we eat some beans-and-rice meals, too. I'm driving my 1997 paid-off car. I'm not complaining on our behalf because we do have savings, but on the behalf of all the people some responders have just uniformly blasted without understanding the realities for many people. I dare to have anyone meet my husband and call him lazy or even complacent! I dare them to call a not-five-foot-tall feisty former patent attorney friend of ours lazy! And the sixty-six year-old former engineer who also relocated to this small town to lower expenses, who has spent the last few months as a census worker to try to bring in a few dollars. These are educated people who worked hard all their lives. You are indeed smug and you ought to step down from your ivory towers now and then and care a little bit about what's happening to your countrymen and women.

Sorry, Grace, for getting on the soapbox.

Grace. said...

No Problem! There's plenty of room on this particular soapbox for ALL of us!

And I DO think that age lends a whole lot of perspective to this issue that my younger readers have yet to appreciate.

DogAteMyFinances said...

Your welfare clients must be a heck of a lot more productive than my welfare clients...

Me, I just think you should have to drug test for welfare. And unemployment too. That would cut the program.

Barb said...

I am always amazed at how so many people just dont get it. I have been unemployed since 2006. The last job I applied for had 1000 applicants. sure, I'm lazy and unmotivated and I really WANT to access my IRA at a twenty percent penalty, Thats right............

Anonymous said...

Totally selfish request: Could you put the boxcar kids blog on your blogroll? I'd love to be able to click on her after checking on your blog. (Love your blog!)

Retired Syd said...

Wow, this is a tough crowd. Let's do a little math lesson. According to the BLS, there are now 15 million unemployed people in the U.S. There is currently 1 job available for every 5.6 jobseekers.

Which translates to this: there are 2.7 million jobs available for the 15 million jobless people looking. Is it really possible that people are unemployed and collecting unemployment simply because they have no drive, no ambition, no goals? There are 2.7 million jobs available, that means that 12.3 million people will not be able to get a job no matter how driven, ambitious, and goal-driven they are.

I just don't understand that particular characterization of the long-term unemployed. Maybe it's because I don't know a single person that's happy to be unemployed . . . the unemployed I know are scared and demoralized.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous who is married to the unemployed attorney demonstrates my point exactly. Unless the economy improves dramatically and there is a sudden need for a lot more lawyers, her husband needs to rethink his future employment plans. With 5 years or less to retirement age, he should not plan to go back to doing what he used to do. The demand for his skills just is not there and the market is telling him that.

With his skill set, he should be looking for something different to do. Can he work in a legal administrative field? Take on contract legal work for a downsized government agency? Manage the affairs of a non-profit? Do a little pro bono work in a different legal area to expand his contacts? Maybe he should try something completely different.

The legal profession, like the engineering profession, is cyclical. My cousin is in his sixties and is a partner in a medium sized firm. He's been twiddling his thumbs for the last three years. The junior attorneys are long gone. It's not the first down cycle in his career, though, and he was well prepared. When times were good, he saved and invested. That's paying off now.

Worked for firms with no pension? The compensation should have been higher and the difference invested. No pension means you are responsible for your retirement. And you should know the benefits and limits of unemployment insurance in your state. Plan accordingly.

The reality is that it is not reasonable to expect full employment from age 20 to age 65, unless you work for the post office. That's particularly true in a profession that is business cycle or technology cycle dependent. Anyone in an engineering field should figure out after a few years of working that they need to move into management by their early to mid-40's, or they will be out the door in the next round of layoffs. And engineering managers need to have a Plan B - usually a consulting or other side business.

I don't think I'm being smug, I think I'm being realistic. The knowledge workers in this country have become as complacent as unionized autoworkers. Your employer is not your nanny. You are not entitled to your job and your benefits.

In other words, quit griping, find something to do, and move on.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous who thinks my attorney husband should consider other options. Really? Didn't you read the part about where he's sought out contract work? Do you think a man who took his first job before 14 and put himself through college hasn't got the wherewithal to think of these options you've tossed off as if they wouldn't occur to intelligent, articulate, educated and driven people? As if I should be sitting here thinking, oh, problem solved. Why didn't I think about that? Do you think he hasn't even volunteered in order to keep contributing to his community and maintain his contacts? Honestly, I've never written a letter like this in my life, but I'm tired of hearing these assumptions about unemployed people.

If you think I'm making your point, I in turn believe that you're making my point about smugness. It's easy to toss off ideas about how easy it would be for someone else to try something different. It's far different to be in that spot, doing everything and anything and coming up empty. It's easy to think others haven't tried these methods you've glibly mentioned: it's far harder to develop empathy for others.

But my point wasn't for my husband and I. As I said previously, we saved religiously. You pointed out that we should have prepared differently if his company didn't have a pension. That's of course what we did. We went beyond that saving. In case you haven't noticed, not only have jobs gone away but the value of many investments have, too, as Grace mentioned a year or two ago when her own investments were impacted by the downturn. We were conservative there, too, because we could see that writing on the wall. So, I'm not asking for suggestions--believe me, we're tried them--or even for sympathy. We're fine. We know how to manage our finances and react conservatively to the changes we're facing. Instead, the point was that if this is happening to my husband--an intelligent, driven, will-do-anything kind of guy with lots of contacts and lots of built-up recognition and goodwill--it is happening to a lot of others, too. As Syd has said, read the statistics. Consider the facts. Stop making assumptions about others.

MasterPo said...

Obama himself said many of the jobs lost just are not going to ever come back.

Hope may spring eternal but won't get you anywhere.

If someone has been waiting around for years hoping this or that legislation or someone in government will make something happen that turns things around in a week you're just kidding yourself.

Deal with reality.

Brandon said...

It's classism, completely. We've come to revile people for whom it doesn't come as easy as it does for us as "lazy." Yes, there are some who abuse the system, but as this blog states, there are many people who don't fit the stereotype at all. I happen to know a few people who need unemployement, but are too proud to accept it and are suffering as a result.

Check your credit

Anonymous said...

Call me judgmental.
I am with Sharon on this one
I have a number of acquaintances who are happy with their unemployment and choose not to seek real employment until it runs out. I don't begrudge a year- but 2 1/2 years----that is someone who should move and find a job at a wage that is real. The above acquaintances were over employed and do not want to take anything less than they made before.
We are not talking working poor here- we are talking "I put in so I DESERVE it." They tend to be in their twenties and thirties.
The older people I know returned to school and got different professions...tough in their fifties. SIL became a social worker and BIL works as a contract arbitrator.Both did a year with unemployment- and then moved on. Brother continues in sales HOPING to make it to 62 so he can get SS (like that will support his family).
Lawyer's wife- if unemployment pays for grandchild's treatments- why not welfare? It is the same pocket....