Last week I read about the woes of the 99 week unemployed, referred to by some as the 99-ers. For many in this group, savings accounts have run dry, benefits have run out, and, by the looks of things, social services such as food assistance and low cost medical care are being cut to the bone if not eliminated by our State and Federal governments. (And no, this is not a political statement about one political party or another. As far as I am concerned, most political types are egotistical do-nothings that serve their own interests and not those of the rank and file populace.)
Having long term unemployed workers is bad for everyone. With no money coming in, these folks have no money going out. And you wonder why consumer spending is at an all time low? Even an economics knucklehead such as myself can figure this one out. In addition, many of these people have lost their homes and have moved in with friends or relatives. Their dignity has suffered as has the privacy most of us expect within the domain of the four walls we call home.
And sadly, many of these unemployed are middle aged or older and are facing the last half of their life with nothing to look forward to than the handouts of others and more of the same, day in, day out. Yes, this is very sad.
It would be easy to say that these folks were overpaid workers in an industry that was top heavy with management and executive types. But the truth is that many were hard working people who did their jobs diligently, were loyal to their employers, and were simply at the wrong place and the wrong time in our world economy.
Meantime, back in the executive suite, the bosses are still having $50 lunches, driving around in limos, and golfing at the county club. They are doing so with bonus money provided by government bailouts and other sneaky sources of funds that only the alphabet soup of government agencies can identify.
Something is wrong with this picture and we all know it.
Reality meets The Company Men
Last week I also watched the movie “The Company Men”. With an all all star cast including Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and others, this movie tells a tale of the sudden downsizing of some corporate types who have lived by the treacherous adage “you are what you do.” Yes, many of the ousted are supposedly company executives. But many are also what we would call young, middle management types that are on the brink of their careers, working hard to support their families in the best way they can.
The company they work for is depicted as a shark tank in which the only thing that matters is the bottom line. The old days of corporate beneficence and loyalty to longtime employees are long gone.
So what happens? I don’t want to be too much of a spoiler but the downsized employees learn to face the truth about corporate America and learn that there may not be much glory on donning a shirt and tie and downing a daily power lunch. Sure, they have lived at the edge of their means if not beyond their means. But now they must move in with family, find pleasure from simple recreational activities, and most of all learn the hard lesson that bigger and more expensive does not mean better.
Oh, I forgot to mention: they learn that self-worth comes from within and from the way you live your life and not from your job, your career or your bank account.
The tale of the Company Men aligns with the long term unemployed and the 99-ers in so many ways.
The unemployed come from many walks of life – from the factory floors to the management suite. They are also all ages, from the young just starting their careers to older folks, close to retirement age and beyond.
In the movie, as in real life, homes have been lost and paying for food has becomes a challenge.
Many of the unemployed have had to deal with the psychological trauma of dealing with the “you are what you do mentality”. Since they are now doing “nothing” by society’s standards, they are nothing. Or so they believe.
Once unemployed, it no longer matters what someone did when they were gainfully employed. It does not matter at all and a feeling of despondency and uselessness prevails.
Regardless of how they became unemployed, most people need and want to work and do not want to be dependent upon a government benefit system to subsist.
The longer someone is unemployed, the less likely they are to find another position utilizing their experience and skill set.
So for today, I would like to pause and remember that the unemployed are not simply a bunch of lazy bums that are taking advantage of an overly generous benefit system. The vast majority are not at all lazy and most certainly, our benefit system is skimpy when attending to the needs of our long term unemployed. Like the displaced workers in the dog-eat-dog world of The Company Men, today’s unemployed need something to do – not only for the money but also for a sense of accomplishment and self-fulfillment.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, I say forget budget talks, debt ceilings, and political posturing. Create jobs and the money will come. It is time to bail our own people.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Backdoor Survival Tip of the Day: Have a new washer, dryer, refrigerator or freezer? If it is Energy Star Compliant, be sure to check with your local utility company regarding rebates. These rebates have been around for a while but are not widely publicized. We just got a $15 rebate on our new freezer from our local electric company. Sweet.
And finally, don’t forget to check out Emergency Essentials for your long term storage food items. Check out the July specials, including 20% off on prepackaged meals. They also have select Mountain House Cans back in stock.
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