Monday, September 5, 2011

The Insanity of Demonizing the Unemployed

Is this country getting tired of the unemployed?

It would seem so.

If fact, that would be aligned with a lack of capacity for most of the public to have a sustained interest, not to mention concern, for any issue that doesn't have an immediate solution, or call for systemic resolution vs. charity.

Unemployment is such an issue.

An article in this morning's Dallas Morning News points to the nation's fatigue with the issue of unemployment:

"As the nation celebrates U.S. workers this Labor Day weekend, many jobless Americans say they sense a growing indifference to their plight, and even a certain level of demonization."
"For years, people who lost their jobs were the sad, sympathetic faces of the nation’s economic meltdown. But more than two years after the Great Recession officially ended, America’s empathy for the unemployed is showing signs of wear."
"Many companies now shun the long-term unemployed when filling positions, fearing their skills have eroded or their talents don’t measure up."
"America’s jobless also face increased hostility from conservative lawmakers, as more states cut the amount and duration of unemployment benefits, while making them harder to get and easier to lose."
"In South Carolina , where state-funded jobless benefits were cut from 26 to 20 weeks, Republican state Sen. Kevin Bryant blogged in April that “part of the unemployment problem is that our human nature is to take advantage of the ability to get paid to not work. … I’m very sympathetic to those out of work desperately seeking it, but I’m disappointed that we have a significant segment of our society leeching [off] the system.”"
"Similar comments from a variety of conservatives reflect a sneaking suspicion that 99 weeks of extended benefits have taken the urgency out of job searches."
"“Two years is a long time. At some point you’ve got to provide more incentives to get people to do things,” said Frederick Tannery, an associate economics professor at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania."
"The notable change in tone begs the question: Has America lost patience with the unemployed? And have extended jobless benefits caused some to view the long-term unemployed as the “welfare queens” of the new millennium?"
The unemployed, as the new 'welfare queens'
Not only isn't it surprising, unfortunately, but it is also in line with the attitude that suggests that people ought to find it 'easy' to overcome the impact of something as devastating as Katrina, or the Great Recession. If that seems to be an odd comparison, remember that within days of Hurricane Katrina, the cry of many had nothing to do with the Corp of Engineers, or FEMA, or the response of President Bush, it was 'Why didn't they just get out...?'
Now it's simply 'why don't they just get a job or start their own business?' As if either is something that any or all of us could do on a whim. 
What's worse, politicians pander to this simplistic reasoning. Mainly because it absolves them of changing a system capable of toppling the economy of whole nations...

"...During his 2010 campaign, Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett told a reporter, “The jobs are there, but if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there.”"
"Corbett’s comments, which he later said weren’t meant to be insensitive, still resonate with Ahniva Williams, who counsels jobless people for the nonprofit Unemployment Information Center in Philadelphia."
"“It enraged a lot of my members who were actively looking for work, volunteering, going to school, taking classes and going to job fairs,” Williams said."
"Charlette Pennington, who lives in a women’s shelter, attends Williams’ weekly job-search class. Unemployed for more than two years, Pennington was insulted by Corbett’s comments."
"“I’d like for him to visit one of these shelters and hear these women’s stories,” Pennington said. “He might change his mind.”"
Of course the fear is that people on unemployment will become 'addicted' to it.  In fact one Texas government official compared unemployment insurance to crack! Worse, the fear is that they will 'game the system'. Newsflash: the sub prime mortgage crisis which precipitated the Great Recession was the results of a whole industry that 'gamed the system'!
The issue of extending unemployment benefits for 99 weeks during a recession recovery in which corporations sit on billions of dollars in profits while using 'uncertainty' as an excuse, is for many, problematic. But interestingly enough, there are no equally simplistic solutions for what the unemployed are to do if they are unable to find a job. If we decide that unemployment benefits are unaffordable, that people on food stamps are drains on the economy, that welfare benefits sap human initiative, that health care is a 'privilege' and not a 'right', then what do you do with literally millions of people who are out of work and who have no hope of income?
If you say, for instance that non-profit organizations are the answer - where do you think the money for such a massive philanthropic response will come?! Foundations are cutting back, as are corporate donors. There is not, nor has there ever been enough in the way of individual donations and volunteerism is, itself, limited - limited in capacity, expertise, knowledge and time. That leaves the federal government, whose money, even if given to non-profits, calls for employees, programming, facilities and equipment. 
It amazes me that people don't see that our ability to respond to a crisis of our own making, lies with the reform of the institutions upon which we have depended. We have created a new level of poverty that we wish away or of whom we cannot simply grow tired. 
taxing poor people more, call for asking those who are suffering most from the recession to help pay the country's way out of the recession so that we can lessen 'burden' on those who are doing quite well! 
“People collecting unemployment aren’t lazy. We all want full employment, but sometimes it’s hard.”

"Al Antanavage, an unemployed salesman in Alburtis, Pa., knows how hard it can be. Recently, a recruiter told him he’d missed out on a sales job because he’d been jobless for more than 90 days."
"“I don’t know where they get off thinking that if you’re over 90 days unemployed, that you’re a liability,” said the 53-year-old Antanavage, who was laid off more than a year ago. “We’ll give $20 to a guy begging on the street with a cardboard sign and he’ll run straight to the liquor store, but we’ll bash people because they can’t find a job? It’s insane.”"

'Insane'...I can't think of a better word. 

No comments: