On Tuesday, a potential agreement to extend benefits for those who have been out of work for six months or more fell apart over squabbling about procedural disagreements in the Senate. That fight came two and a half weeks after those checks stopped going out to millions of Americans, and it doesn’t look like it will be resolved in the next two weeks. Congress let the program lapse at the end of the year, which offered support to the jobless after their state benefits ran out, drying up a lifeline for those who are struggling to find a new job.
The people who have been left without that support are incensed, and the anger reaches across party lines. In an email to ThinkProgress, Peter LeClair, an out of work investment manager from New York, said he has been a lifelong Republican. But he “will never vote for a Republican, as long as I live” after watching them say that relying on unemployment benefits makes people dependent. “I am incensed with this Rand Paul,” he said, who has said extending the benefits would “do a disservice” to those who were relying on them. “He says I am lazy… I am not lazy, how dare he. He doesn’t even know me.”
LeClair says he has sent out over 2,000 resumes and been “rejected on a daily basis.” The benefits, which he pointed out he paid into while he worked for more than 20 years, were the only think keeping him “glued together financially.” He said he is “absolutely shocked and dismayed” with Republicans, reiterating, “I will never, so help me god, vote for a Republican again, period.”
Another person who is losing his benefits echoed LeClair’s outrage. “I read these politicians’ opinions of the unemployed and am furious at the implication as it correlates to my situation,” Dan Strollo wrote in an email. The 42-year-old father of two from Canton, Ohio will lose his benefits next week. But that’s not for a lack of trying to find a new job. He says he has applied for more than 200 jobs, some that are in his field and some that “are substantially lower in pay and responsibility.” He’s also traveled to try to find work, going as far as Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. “The cost of these trips is more than draining financially,” he pointed out.
Yet the work he’s put in to find a new job often backfires. He said he’s been told, “You live too far away and the commute would be an issue,” as well as being told he is too qualified, too old, and too expensive. “The hurdles to find work these days are significantly more difficult than 10-20 years ago,” he said. The long-term unemployed in particular face daunting odds in finding employment, as they are less likely to be viewed as qualified or to get called for interviews than those who have had shorter stints of joblessness.
So, I’ve been rereading George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier for the first time since college and the following (admittedly long) passage seems to speak to some views held by many in this country today as regards people in poverty and the working poor (the “takers”, lazy slackers, welfare queens, etc.).
ETA: Specific emphases added in bold.
To get rid of class-distinctions you have got to start by understanding how one class appears when seen through the eyes of another. It is useless to say that the middle classes are ‘snobbish’ and leave it at that. You get no further if you do not realize that snobbishness is bound up with a species of idealism. It derives from the early training in which a middle-class child is taught almost simultaneously to wash his neck, to be ready to die for his country, and to despise the ‘lower classes’.
Here I shall be accused of being behind the times, for I was a child before and during the war and it may be claimed that children nowadays are brought up with more enlightened notions. It is probably true that class-feeling is for the moment a very little less bitter than it was. The working class are submissive where they used to be openly hostile, and the post-war manufacture of cheap clothes and the general softening of manners have toned down the surface differences between class and class. But undoubtedly the essential feeling is still there. Every middle-class person has a dormant class-prejudice which needs only a small thing to arouse it; and if he is over forty he probably has a firm conviction that his own class has been sacrificed to the class below. Suggest to the average unthinking person of gentle birth who is struggling to keep up appearances on four or five hundred a year that he is a member of an exploiting parasite class, and he will think you are mad. In perfect sincerity he will point out to you a dozen ways in which he is worse-off than a working man. In his eyes the workers are not a submerged race of slaves, they are a sinister flood creeping upwards to engulf himself and his friends and his family and to sweep all culture and all decency out of existence. Hence that queer watchful anxiety lest the working class shall grow too prosperous. In a number of _Punch_ soon after the war, when coal was still fetching high prices, there is a picture of four or five miners with grim, sinister faces riding in a cheap motor-car. A friend they are passing calls out and asks them where they have borrowed it. They answer, ‘We’ve bought the thing!’ This, you see, is ‘good enough for _Punch_’; for miners to buy a motor-car, even one car between four or five of them, is a monstrosity, a sort of crime against nature. That was the attitude of a dozen years ago, and I see no evidence of any fundamental change. The notion that the working class have been absurdly pampered, hopelessly demoralized by doles, old age pensions, free education, etc., is still widely held; it has merely been a little shaken, perhaps, by the recent recognition that unemployment does exist. For quantities of middle-class people, probably for a large majority of those over fifty, the typical working man still rides to the Labour Exchange on a motor-bike and keeps coal in his bath-tub: ‘And, if you’ll believe it, my dear, they actually _get married_ on the dole!’
The reason why class-hatred seems to be diminishing is that nowadays it tends not to get into print, partly owing to the mealy-mouthed habits of our time, partly because newspapers and even books now have to appeal to a working-class public. As a rule you can best study it in private conversations. But if you want some printed examples, it is worth having a look at the _obiter dicta_ of the late Professor Saintsbury. Saintsbury was a very learned man and along certain lines a judicious literary critic, but when he talked of political or economic matters he only differed from the rest of his class by the fact that he was too thick-skinned and had been born too early to see any reason for pretending to common decency. According to Saintsbury, unemployment insurance was simply ‘contributing to the support of lazy ne’er-do-weels’, and the whole trade union movement was no more than a kind of organized mendicancy:
‘Pauper’ is almost actionable now, is it not, when used as a word? though to be paupers, in the sense of being wholly or partly supported at the expense of other people, is the ardent, and to a considerable extent achieved, aspiration of a large proportion of our population, and of an entire political party.
(_Second Scrap Book_)
It is to be noticed, however, that Saintsbury recognizes that unemployment is bound to exist, and, in fact, thinks that it ought to-.exist, so long as the unemployed are made to suffer as much as possible:
Is not ‘casual’ labour the very secret and safety-valve of a safe and sound labour-system generally?
…In a complicated industrial and commercial state constant employment at regular wages is impossible; while dole-supported unemployment, at anything like the wages of employment, is demoralizing to begin with and ruinous at its more or less quickly arriving end.
(_Last Scrap Book_)
What exactly is to happen to the ‘casual labourers’ when no casual labour happens to be available is not made clear. Presumably (Saintsbury speaks approvingly of ‘good Poor Laws’) they are to go into the work-house or sleep in the streets. As to the notion that every human being ought as a matter of course to have the chance of earning at least a tolerable livelihood, Saintsbury dismisses it with contempt:
Even the ‘right to live’…extends no further than the right to protection against murder. Charity certainly will, morality possibly may, and public utility perhaps ought to add to this protection supererogatory provision for continuance of life; but it is questionable whether strict justice demands it.
As for the insane doctrine that being born in a country gives some right to the possession of the soil of that country, it hardly requires notice.
(_Last Scrap Book_)
It is worth reflecting for a moment upon the beautiful implications of this last passage. The interest of passages like these (and they are scattered all through Saintsbury’s work) lies in their having been printed at all. Most people are a little shy of putting that kind of thing on paper. But what Saintsbury is saying here is what any little worm with a fairly safe five hundred a year _thinks_, and therefore in a way one must admire him for saying it. It takes a lot of guts to be _openly_ such a skunk as that.
Along with Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, I think Orwell’s talking about some aspect of human nature — or at least, Western culture — that seems to be with us still, has been with us for a long time, and will probably be with us into the future.
What do you think?
WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added 162,000 jobs in July, the fewest since March. The gains were enough to lower the unemployment rate to a 4 1/2 -year low of 7.4 percent, a good sign in an otherwise lackluster report.
The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment fell from 7.6 percent in June.
The economy added 26,000 fewer jobs in May and June than previously estimated. Americans worked fewer hours. And their pay dipped. The figures suggest weak economic growth may be making businesses cautious about hiring.
Reaction to the jobs report on financial markets was slightly negative. Stock index futures gave up early gains and were little changed shortly after the report came out. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.64 percent from 2.71 percent as investors bought U.S. government bonds.
Unemployed workers who want state benefits must verify each week that they have searched for a job. Now some state lawmakers want to add a new requirement: pass a drug test.
Such a bill has yet to be introduced but Sen. Jim Davis, a Republican from Franklin, said that everyone he’s talked to about the idea has responded positively.
“If you have to pass a drug test to get a job and you lose that job, then we think that drug testing should remain a component of getting unemployment compensation,” Davis said.
To receive unemployment benefits in North Carolina, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own. If you were fired for “just cause” such as using drugs, you would typically not be eligible, although applicants are allowed to make a case for why they should receive benefits.
It may not make it to the floor during this session, though. Stevens said it depends on how quickly staff can get the bill ready. Among the details to be worked out is, of course, how to pay for the drug tests. More than 400,000 are still unemployed in North Carolina.
Read the full story at the Raleigh News & Observer.
Remember that when Florida decided to drug test welfare recipients, the program cost the state more than it saved (and the law was later deemed unconstitutional).
In addition, the state legislature just cut unemployment benefits:
Federal extended unemployment benefits end for more than 70,000 jobless North Carolinians on [July 1] as the state becomes the first in the nation to opt out of the federal long-term compensation program.
A state unemployment overhaul that takes effect this weekend disqualifies North Carolina from receiving the federal benefits intended for those unemployed longer than 26 weeks. Federal law cuts off aid to states that don’t maintain their current benefit system.
Advocates for the unemployed say the measure will hurt the state’s economy, where the unemployment rate is the fifth-highest in the nation at 8.8 percent in May.
In addition to those losing benefits when the law kicks in, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by the end of the year an additional 100,000 jobless workers in North Carolina won’t receive the long-term unemployment benefits for which they’d otherwise have been eligible.
The unemployment overhaul, passed in February, raises taxes on employers and cuts both the amount and length of benefits for the unemployed.
The overhaul scales back maximum unemployment benefits to workers by nearly one-third, from $535 a week to $350 a week, and reduces the maximum weeks of benefits from 26 weeks to between 12 and 20 weeks, depending on the state’s unemployment rate.
John Shaw, a spokesman for the North Carolina Justice Center, a group that advocates for the poor, said Friday that the measure would have an adverse ripple effect on the state’s economy.
“People will lose the modest benefits they were getting for basic needs,” he said. “Once that money goes away, businesses won’t be getting paid.”
Read the full story at the Charlotte Observer.
Looks like North Carolina is going to learn a bitter lesson in Keynesian multipliers. Oh, who am I kidding: as more people lose their jobs and are added to the unemployment rolls, the General Assembly will just cut benefits further to avoid debt. And that’s what this is really about: paying down the state’s debt while lowering corporate taxes:
The move was meant, in part, to reduce the tax burden for businesses, which would see a $21 per employee increase each year until the federal debt is paid off. By enacting this new policy, the state estimates it will be able to pay off its debt to the Feds by 2015 or 2016 — as opposed to 2018. With about 4 million employed people in the state (again, according to the Fed), that’s a savings of about $250 million for those businesses.
Read the full story at the Atlantic Wire.
IDG News Service - Many tech companies have called for Congress to ease restrictions on high-skill immigration because they can’t find qualified tech workers to fill open positions. Yet, many veteran IT tech workers say they can’t find jobs.
More than a dozen veteran IT workers, contacted through the Programmers Guild and high-skill immigration critic Norm Matloff, computer science professor at the University of California at Davis, say they can’t find jobs, with many pointing to a glut of cheap workers available through the H-1B visa program.
Fifty-year-old Robert Wade, who has been in the tech and engineering fields for 27 years, has worked 10 months out of the last 40, he said. It’s been eight months since his last paycheck, even though he has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in industrial engineering, with an emphasis in human/computer interaction and user interface design.
A recent study from left-leaning think tank, the Economic Policy Institute, seems to back up claims by Wade and other veteran IT workers. The U.S. has plenty of workers in the science and technology fields, the EPI study said. Only half of U.S. students who graduate in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, however, gets a job in those fields, the study said.
The Information Technology Industry Council, a tech trade group, said the EPI study was “replete with faulty data, exaggerated claims, and plain wrong facts.” The study relies on 2009 data when the U.S. was still recovering from a recession, Robert Hoffman, ITI’s senior vice president for government relations, wrote in a blog post.
Wade, from Indianapolis, said he’s willing to move for work and has looked in Texas, Florida, Tennessee and other states. “The stories are usually that they have tons of locally unemployed tech workers to choose from so why would they want to pay for me to move there?” he said in an email. “I’ve even offered to pay the move myself, and still nothing.”
Wade has drawn the line at getting additional training, however. “I’ll take whatever training a company wants me to take, but I’m not spending my savings to get yet more degrees and more certs just hoping that some company will then hire me,” he said. “That’s all a crap shoot.”
10 years ago most IT departments contained at least 50% or more H1B workers from India and the far East. The IT department where I work now is about 98% White American Male.
I had practically given up ever finding another job but the auto industry bailout saved my career. I’m also getting calls from recruiters.
I see from the article that the disgruntled IT worker did not want to expand his skill set. Well, there are very few jobs available now for FORTRAN programmers. The technology is constantly changing and it’s important to stay current.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, a raucous crowd descended on the city center with signs and drums, chanting and waving banners demanding the death penalty for the owner of a factory where more than 400 people died in a building collapse last week.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, some of the tens of thousands of demonstrators marching through the city came dressed as ants - complete with bright red outfits and antennae - to depict the exploitation of workers.
And in Greece, trains, buses, and ferries sat vacant and hospitals nearly empty as thousands of public sector employees walked off the job in a one-day strike.
Each year, May 1, better known as May Day, is marked with labor rallies and strikes around the world. And this year’s holiday came at a particularly prescient moment in many parts of the world.
From Europe, where the bite of austerity has left many facing down unemployment and reduced benefits, to South and Southeast Asia, a region cluttered with precariously-built factories similar to the one that collapsed last week in Bangladesh, demonstrators gathered to vent outrage and demand reform.
Only on Fox News would unemployment insurance be presented as some kind of “cruelty” to the poor that “deters” them from getting hired at low-paying jobs. That’s right, with a straight face, Fox guest John Tamny said that we should scrap federal unemployment benefits in order to make “existing jobs” more attractive and “help” the unemployed by “luring” them back into the workforce. Naturally, host Tucker Carlson was all ears.
It started with a suggestion by Carlson that unemployment insurance benefits are unnecessary and wasteful. He cited a statistic that, during the past recession, the federal government paid “almost $80 million in jobless benefits to households that made more than $1 million a year.” He added, “Is this proof that the system is broken or should top earners be entitled to federal assistance if they lose their jobs?”
His guest, John Tamny took the concept a few steps further. He thought it would be even worse if millionaires were “forced” to pay into a system “that only non-millionaires could collect from.” But he went on to advocate for getting rid of unemployment insurance altogether - couched in the kind of rhetoric George Orwell would surely have loved - by calling one of our most important social safety nets “anti-poor” because it doesn’t encourage them to work for lower wages.
The system) makes it that much more expensive for (businesses) to lure workers back from the sidelines. It actually raises their labor cost. If you didn’t have the federal government essentially paying people not to work, their labor demands would naturally fall to the level at which the markets would hire them again and they would get back to work more quickly. I think it’s anti-poor to say only you get a program that’s going to make you unemployed for a longer time.
…If you’re being paid money not to work, it’s going to make it that more expensive for businesses to hire you back into the labor force. So if you wanted to rid that, you’d get rid of unemployment benefits and people would then have to accept the existing jobs that are available. Many of them maybe don’t look attractive now. …Unemployment benefits are a deterrent to getting back into the labor force so I think it would be particularly cruel to say if you’re poor, you get paid to stay on the sidelines.
Oh sorry to hear you lost your $60,000/yr engineering job! Go work at Walmart for $7.00/hr.
U.S. employers ramped up hiring in February, adding 236,000 jobs and pushing the unemployment rate down to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January. Stronger hiring shows businesses are confident about the economy, despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.
The government’s February employment report released Friday was filled with mostly encouraging details. The unemployment rate is now at its lowest level in four years. Hiring has averaged more than 200,000 per month since November. Wages increased. And the job gains were broad-based, led by the best construction hiring in six years.
One negative detail: Employers added fewer jobs in January than first estimated. Job gains were lowered to 119,000 from an initially reported 157,000. Still, December hiring was a little better than first thought, with 219,000 jobs added instead of 196,000.
The unemployment rate had been stuck at 7.8 percent or above since September. About half the decline in February occurred because more of the unemployed found jobs. A decline in the number of people looking for work accounted for the other half. People who aren’t looking for jobs aren’t counted as unemployed.
Strong auto sales and a steady housing recovery are spurring more hiring, which could lead to stronger economic growth. The construction industry added 48,000 in February and 151,000 since September. Manufacturing has gained 14,000 last month and 39,000 since November.
So far, higher gas prices and a Jan. 1 increase in Social Security taxes haven’t caused Americans to cut back on big-ticket purchases.
Global currency wars (competitive devaluations) are about to destroy trade relationships. Say goodbye to the 12,000 mile supply chain from Guangzhou to Hackensack. Say goodbye to the growth financing model in which it becomes necessary to open dozens of new stores every year to keep the credit revolving.
Then there is the matter of the American customers themselves. The WalMart shoppers are exactly the demographic that is getting squashed in the contraction of this phony-baloney corporate buccaneer parasite revolving credit crony capital economy. Unlike the Federal Reserve, WalMart shoppers can’t print their own money, and they can’t bundle their MasterCard and Visa debts into CDOs to be fobbed off on Scandinavian pension funds for quick profits.
They have only one real choice: buy less stuff, especially the stuff of leisure, comfort, and convenience.
The potential for all sorts of economic hardship is obvious in this burgeoning dynamic. But the coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies.
Back in the day when big box retail started to explode upon the American landscape like a raging economic scrofula, I attended many a town planning board meeting where the pro and con factions faced off over the permitting hurdle.
The meetings were often raucous and wrathful and almost all the time the pro forces won — for the excellent reason that they were funded and organized by the chain stores themselves (in an early demonstration of the new axioms that money-is-speech and corporations are people, too!).
The chain stores won not only because they flung money around — sometimes directly into the wallets of public officials — but because a sizeable chunk of every local population longed for the dazzling new mode of commerce. “We Want Bargain Shopping” was their rallying cry.
The unintended consequence of their victories through the 1970s and beyond was the total destruction of local economic networks, that is, Main Streets and downtowns, in effect destroying many of their own livelihoods. Wasn’t that a bargain, though?
Despite the obvious damage now visible in the entropic desolation of every American home town, WalMart managed to install itself in the pantheon of American Dream icons, along with apple pie, motherhood, and Coca Cola. In most of the country there is no other place to buy goods (and no other place to get a paycheck, scant and demeaning as it may be). America made itself hostage to bargain shopping and then committed suicide. Here we find another axiom of human affairs at work: People get what they deserve, not what they expect. Life is tragic.
The older generations responsible for all that may be done for, but the momentum has now turned in the opposite direction. Though the public hasn’t groked it yet, WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms have entered their own yeast-overgrowth death spiral. In a now permanently contracting economy the big box model fails spectacularly. Every element of economic reality is now poised to squash them.
Diesel fuel prices are heading well north of $4 again. If they push toward $5 this year you can say goodbye to the “warehouse on wheels” distribution method. (The truckers, who are mostly independent contractors, can say hello to the re-po men come to take possession of their mortgaged rigs.)
At this stage it is probably discouraging for them, because all their life programming has conditioned them to be hostages of giant corporations and so to feel helpless. In a town like the old factory village I live in (population 2500) few of the few remaining young adults might venture to open a retail operation in one of the dozen-odd vacant storefronts on Main Street.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives will convene on Sunday in a last-minute effort to avoid the steep spending cuts and tax cuts scheduled to take effect at the end of the year. But Sunday will already be too late for long-term unemployment insurance, which will almost certainly lapse on Saturday thanks to congressional inaction.
According to the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, more than 2 million Americans will stop receiving benefits after Dec. 29, when the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program will cease to exist.
“The 11th hour has arrived,” NELP director Christine Owens said in a statement on Thursday. “Other consequences of going over the fiscal cliff won’t be felt for some time, but losing Emergency Unemployment Compensation will deliver an immediate and severe blow to people who are already down.”
It won’t be the first time in recent years that lawmakers will watch idly as millions of Americans stop receiving federal unemployment insurance, which kicks in for workers who use up the standard six months of state-funded benefits. During the summer of 2010, benefits lapsed for weeks as the Senate squabbled over the spending. After lawmakers finally reached a deal, unemployed people received lump sums accounting for the benefits they’d missed. Presumably, the same thing would happen if Congress reauthorizes the benefits early in January.
Democrats have demanded a full reauthorization of emergency benefits through next year, which would cost $30 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The current regimen of benefits provides up to 47 weeks in states with high unemployment rates, for a combined 73 weeks of state and federal compensation. Jobless workers in only nine states are eligible for the full duration.
Republicans have been quiet about the benefits, which many observers consider a sign they won’t be a deal-breaker for the GOP. President Barack Obama included unemployment compensation when he called on Congress to pass a scaled-down “fiscal cliff” bill late last week.
The benefits have been overshadowed by other elements of the fiscal cliff, the nickname for the moment when a host of spending cuts and tax hikes will take effect at the end of the year. The biggest disagreement is over taxes — Democrats want to allow the expiration of tax cuts on household incomes above $250,000. But Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) gave the unemployed a shoutout on Thursday.