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Monday, December 23, 2013

Guest Post: Where are the jobs?

Cross-posted with the author's kind permission from the Shortcomment blog:

To all of you holier-than-thou, not-yet-unemployed people who treat the unemployed like we’re on vacation:

Do you even think about what you’re saying? It’s really easy to talk big when you have a job, isn’t it?

Why does every not-unemployed person assume that all unemployed people should just suck it up and take jobs as manual laborers or fast-food counter jockeys? What about our wealth of experience, (expensive) education, and professional knowledge?

Should our collective brains become a puddle of goo so we can mow your lawn for you for five bucks or make you a Big Mac for $7.25 an hour? Should we be prostitutes and gigolos, too?

I’ll be damned if I go back to the job and wage I had as a 16-year-old in the 1970s. I didn’t get a college degree and amass 30-plus years of professional experience to go that far backwards. Those of you who suggest otherwise are out of your minds. Get real. They aren’t hiring people like us for jobs like that anyway. They know we’re way overqualified, and they won’t pay us anything close to a livable wage.

Do you expect me and my fellow unemployed citizens to PERMANENTLY accept jobs that are low-paying, low-quality, low-everything? Is that the solution? Should we all live on the street – YOUR street – because we want to do work in the field we’re trained, educated, and knowledgeable in, rather than accept a menial position that requires NO skill, NO education, has NO future or advancement opportunity, and pays at most about 1/3 of what we made previously?

That’s no way to live.

Let’s try some common sense for a change, shall we?

I was laid off in February, 2010, from an amazing job as an editorial manager and writer for a brain fitness company. I’m highly educated, I’ve got great reference letters, and an impressive résumé. I’m even a member of Mensa. I’ve been searching desperately for full-time writing, editing or managing work since the day I lost my job, and I’ve had no success.

When I was receiving UI benefits (that meager source of income ended over a year ago), I was required to search for full-time work in my usual occupation, so don’t tell me I should have been looking for temporary or contract work. I’m doing that now, and it’s as fruitless as it was three years ago. And yes, I expanded my search to cover anything remotely connected to anything I’ve ever done, including copywriter, editor, manager, travel agent, salesman and much more.

With the new online, faceless, nameless world of job ads, applications, and emails, I’m lucky if I even get a “we received your application” note. Forget about a phone call, a meeting or an interview. I use employment agencies, creative agencies, online sites, résumé sites, and more. Even craigslist, for what that’s worth. Doesn’t matter. I’m either overqualified, too old (49), or have made too much in the past (since when is $45,000 “too much?”) to be offered a job for $10/hour. I can’t make ends meet writing articles for 3 cents a word (if that), and last I checked, unpaid internships (which are usually illegal anyway) are all unpaid. But I still search, every day, seven days a week, and although I used to believe something would turn up eventually, I’m not so sure anymore. I’m incredibly discouraged, but I’m not giving up. Yet.

Unfortunately, the economy is still shaky at best (thanks, GOP), and the “job creators” are too busy counting their stacks of money to be bothered with creating jobs. There are no employers begging for workers, at least not here in southern California. And no, moving isn’t an option for us, or for most unemployed people. It’s not free to move, my wife still has a job (should we both be unemployed so I can find work?), and our rent is thankfully fairly low. How would we get an apartment in a different state with no jobs, no income and no money for a security deposit? We’re not moving somewhere else to put us in a worse position than we’re in now! It’s as if some of you who aren’t unemployed believe in the Move-And-Find-A-Job Fairy – you just snap your fingers and *poof!* – you’re in a new state with a new home and new job, and everything’s just peachy keen!

Life doesn’t work like that.

What if every unemployed person just moved to another state to find a job, because “that’s where the jobs are?” Sadly, jobs are few and far between, and chasing one’s tail around the country is about as inefficient and unproductive as it gets.

The only winners would be moving companies. Maybe they’re hiring.

I’ll stay here, keep searching, and maybe before I die I’ll be a productive member of society once again with a job that’s important, challenging, and rewarding. Or maybe not. I’m not getting younger or more employable.

No, I’m not “too good” to do anything, but I won’t be used or taken advantage of either. I have more to offer society than spatula or mopping skills, and I shouldn’t have to settle for a job that will keep me below the poverty level forever just because I got unlucky and got laid off from a good job. I deserve the opportunity to find a REAL job that matches my skills and experience and pays a fair wage. To steal that opportunity from me because YOU think I’m lazy, or I’m unwilling or unable to take a manual labor job, or because it’s taking so damn long to find work because good jobs are so scarce, or because YOU think I think I’m “too good” to flip burgers is impatient, short-sighted, and destructive to society. The job market sucks, and it’s going to take time to recover. That’s why UI extensions and middle-class tax cuts are necessary!

Will America thrive and prosper and grow by putting our best and brightest – but unluckiest – to work mopping floors, washing windows, or cleaning stables? Even if the local Burger King is hiring, it’s ludicrous to think that every educated, qualified professional should make milkshakes for minimum wage instead of seeking actual employment that pays a wage one can live on. That’s not how the economy grows, and it’s a waste of talent and brainpower. Taking a crappy job is not going to fix either my world or the economy in general. There aren’t enough burger joints in the world anyway to employ all the “lazy, unmotivated, entitled hobos” – er, I mean unemployed, no matter what the Tea Party & GOP might want you to believe.

To all those who think it’s so damn easy to find a job, or think any unemployed person should take ANY job that’s offered: QUIT YOUR JOB AND GIVE IT A TRY!

Now, shut up and get back to work. And be damn glad you have work to go back to.

To the employed, the unemployed, and the “job creators”:

From outsourcing to tax cuts, we’re going nowhere as a country until the economy is back. So what does the GOP do to help? First, they reluctantly – and barely – agreed to extend UI two years ago, tossing it to us like table scraps tossed at a dog. “Here you go, boy. Now shut up and get away from OUR table.” Then, last year, they took away UI extensions from those who desperately need it, while fighting tooth-and-nail to keep an obscene $700 BILLION in tax cuts for the super-wealthy. That’s OK, though, it only costs us $3,000 per person (not per family) to keep those fat wallets bulging, which the unemployed can easily afford to part with. It’s not like we need that money for food, shelter, utilities, or anything else. Oh, yeah, those tax cuts mean we have to pay the Chinese more interest, too. The greed of the rich at the extraordinary expense of the middle and lower working class is sending this economy and this country downhill at a rolling snowball’s pace.

The tax cut “compromise” of 2010 was a disaster. The GOP’s $700 billion “gift-for-the-rich” scam destroyed what little recovery we made in this country. They’re happily widening the divide between those who have and those who desperately want to have. This is class warfare. Make that nuclear class warfare. Don’t believe it? Then how could the GOP justify NOT spending 1/56th – less than 1.8% – of the cost of the GOP’s top-bracket tax cut for millionaires (read: FREE MONEY) on a short-term UI extension to help out millions of unemployed, desperate Americans who were (and still are) in dire straits due to NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN instead of handing it to the richest people in our country to add to the top of their pile? Then they added insult to injury by having the enormous brass balls to say we couldn’t afford the extensions because the wealthy needed their tax cuts, and called the unemployed the greedy ones. Unbelievable. Money-bundle Jenga, anyone?

A few unemployed people surely took advantage of the extensions, but the vast majority of us did not. Do many of the wealthiest in our society not take advantage of the tax code and hide income and avoid taxes? We’re NOT leeches, we’re NOT lazy, we’re NOT “too good,” and we’re NOT unmotivated! We desperately WANT good jobs and fair wages!

The wealthy still pay far less in taxes than they should. They still have more money than they know what to do with, and they won’t spend a dime of it to create jobs, because there’s no incentive to do so. Their lives are a whole lot better and easier and cushier than ours, and still, they’re not satisfied. They want more. Which means we get less. And since money equals power in America, they’ll get what they want. They always do.

So, if any of you rich folks out there find any more scraps on your well-appointed dinner tables, or good-paying jobs in your well-heeled corporations, can you toss a few our way? We hate to beg, but your greed has left us no choice.

Woof.

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