Unemployment: the Full-time Job that Doesn’t Pay

“Work” and “job” are not the same thing. One is an assignment to be productive in a particular way, the other is a position of security from which you can be productive (and get those assignments).  Lots of people that don’t have jobs work full-time. They may even be paid for some of that work, but getting work is nothing like getting a job. I’ve noticed that my own interaction with the general public does not reflect the seeming downward trend of unemployment. When we get news reports, we generally hear about the official unemployment rolls as well as what employers have reported in gains or losses. What we don’t get is a clear picture of how our economy has morphed from one of family and financial security – like we experienced in the 50s – to one of frightened desperation.

When you get “work” but have no “job”, you basically have to put in exponential amounts of time for every dollar you actually earn. The unemployment numbers put forth by the mainstream media do not reflect folks that have fallen off of the unemployment rolls due to exhausting their personal benefits, folks that work part time, folks in temporary positions, or severely underemployed people.When you add in these numbers – of people wanting, waiting to work full time at what they are good at – the unemployment rate is over %15. That sounds closer to what you experience in the country, more than one out of ten people are scrambling to find income.

Trying to get a job, networking, re-creating yourself to fit a niche, re-writing resumes, putting feelers out, volunteering, working for free (so they can get a sample), interning, trying a venture – all of these are extremely time consuming and can be expensive. No employer wants to hire desperate people or hear your story. They don’t want to know that you are struggling to keep your home (or freshly kicked out), they don’t want to hear about how your car is usually dependable, they don’t want to deal with any illness that might impact their bottom line. You have to fake it till you make it if you want a decent job; don’t let on that buying a cup of coffee  or glass of wine is a luxury to you, or that you can’t afford a “power lunch”. As the saying goes, it takes money to make money. It is extremely difficult to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you hocked your boots to pay the rent.

When person is laid off (demoralizing and a shock to most), many time their skill set is no longer required due to outsourcing, a glut of similar applicants, or automation.  The culture already exists in businesses not to hire unemployed people, so the odds are already beginning to stack against the unemployed. That person then starts adjusting to living a more austere life, but there is no “normal” there. There is no point that the unemployed person can relax into any aspect of their life, everything hinges on regular income. So even if they can get by on unemployment, a figurative wolf is constantly breathing down their neck because if they cannot return to the wage earning power they once had – and fast – chances are good that they will lose their house and any semblance of normalcy for their family. This may mean moving, changing schools, moving in with relatives or friends, and many times the stress can break a family apart (which starts a new cascade of logistic difficulties).

When unemployment runs out, the worker has no choice but to take any type of work that comes their way – this is in addition to still trying to network, schmooze, beg or otherwise throw yourself at any decent job prospect that materializes. What is more important? Making a dollar today or trying to secure a sustainable income? This is the choice unemployed workers make day to day, moment to moment. Meanwhile their lives are marching on and they still want to keep their friends, be there for their family, and participate in their community – but it’s harder. You can’t afford the luxury of consistency and dependability because you are always ready to spring into action in case one of your leads for a job (or work) materializes. While in this state of depletion of spirit, money, and time, you are supposed to figure out how to remake yourself to  adapt to this market.

Revisiting your education and skills training takes time and money.  People living on unemployment or making no regular income are worried about paying their bills for the short term – as well as the duration. This is an impossible situation of two “top” priorities. “Work” is much easier to come by and it may pay some bills, it hardly makes sense to turn it down when you have no job, but at the same time, it can cost you in lost opportunities for furthering a career with much more desirable salary range.  Those that have been unemployed or severely underemployed for a long time are left floundering, trying not to slip into the quagmire of issues that come with poverty. One can only grin and bear it for so long before permanent patterns of discouragement, stress, and exhaustion take hold. The situation is fatal for the American Dream.

The Republican meme is that unemployed people are lazy (as I pointed out in my post “Get a Job! and Other Cruel Jokes“). I would counter that employed people get much more relaxation time – at least mentally – than the unemployed if for no other reason than knowing that they have provisions for the future (at least for now). The truth is that laziness cannot be measured by employment in a marketplace like we have now. The rules have changed and some folks – the ones most influential on making the rules – are making out like bandits, while others struggle to survive.  This frightened and desperate state of the job market suits Republicans just fine, they would rather have a submissive work force than an empowered and thoughtful one. Once again they strive to prove how those sitting on piles of cash are authorized and deserving, those that aren’t…well, they must be defective or they are being punished (deservedly) by God. Ironic since Jesus spoke out against the hoarding of any treasures on earth.

The income gap has moral implications. When either income extreme gets too far apart, democracy and the American spirit suffer.

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3 thoughts on “Unemployment: the Full-time Job that Doesn’t Pay

  1. Luke Haskins says:

    The thing about this article is that it does exactly the same thing that it accuses the conservatives of: assuming. We assume that many Americans are unemployed because they are lazy. You assume that many of the unemployed are so based on a biased system that only sets them up to fail. The thing about this, though, is that we are both right!

    What we disagree on is this: I believe that the conservatives’ solution fixes both!

    There are obviously many hard-working people out of work right now. I have many friends whose parents are out of work because of unions or employers who couldn’t afford to pay them what they needed. It’s sad, and we need a solution. The ideal world, in my perspective, is that the Americans out of the love of their hearts. The assumption is that the conservatives just don’t want to help those people. It’s not like that at all, we do! In fact, though, using the government to fix the problems of unemployment DOES NOT WORK.

    Other countries try it, and all it does is take from the rich to pay for the GENERAL poor. It does not separate the hard-working from the lazy, so to some, it is a safety net (hammock). Many times, they don’t really care. If every time I taxed the rich I got lots of money to keep, along with the knowledge that a very small percentage had to be payed to the poor (making me a good person), I’d LOVE taxes too. But that doesn’t make it right.

    If I was to do in the private sector what the government does on the federal level, I’d be writing from prison right now. As an American citizen, I’d rather give voluntarily to a charity that gives ALL of its money to the HARD-WORKING poor, or even tithe to the church (by the way, majority of churches, you haven’t been doing your job as of late), both of which having an incentive to not just give it to the guy out back with the cardboard sign that reads “NEEDS MONY FUR DRUGS.”

    That way, the hard-working are able to get back on their feet, and are able to find enough to stop needing to panic and figure out what their options are, so that they CAN be able to reap the rewards of their hard work, and eventually make their way to earning exactly what they deserve for their families. Meanwhile, the lazy poor start freaking out that they’re about to fall off of the cliff. And as soon as they see it, they WILL do what they need to do to survive, put their video games away, and will work at least hard enough to put food in front of them. When all of this is the reality, America can once again be a land of opportunity, that people can look up to and imitate. That is what will create a utopia of peace, love, and justice, for which this broken world has been looking. The liberal plan will get us nowhere but more of what we have now.

    One more note, my Christian apologetics kicking in:

    Your point about being punished by God: God tests those who follow him to strengthen, not always to punish. And as I’m sure you will agree, struggle really does strengthen.

    Your point about Jesus saying to not hoard treasures on earth: That’s God telling you not to grow so attached to your money that it becomes an idol, not a charge to your neighbors to steal your money from you and give it to the 5 poorest families in the neighborhood.

  2. lokywoky says:

    @Luke Haskins:
    The Conservative solution doesn’t work unless the following conditions are met: 1) The private/charity sector can provide needed services and care to as many people immediately and at the same level as the government can; 2) The private/charity sector can provide these services and care to these people without demanding that they convert(or renounce) to a certain religious belief or political ideaology in order to access them, and 3) that the program(s) have the ability to remain stable over long periods of time, particularly when times are tough – as they are now.

    The private/charity sector has been hit as hard by this recession as individuals have. Their resources have dried up as the people who used to be the donors are now the supplicants. And this negates item 3 right off the bat since they don’t for the most part, have the resources to continue offering the full range of services through a deep recession like the one we have just come through and are still not completely out of.

    As to item #1, there is no charitable organization, nor even a collective of organizations across the country that is large enough to provide services to the millions of people in this country who need it at this moment. And finally, unlike the government, a lot of charitable organizations require some religious or idealogical commitment (or renouncement) in order to access services.

    This is why the people of this country asked our government to provide these services – because ‘we the people’ made the determination that relying on private/charity organizations didn’t work – it never has. The “government” is not some faceless non-entity somewhere like a machine in a cloud. It is us. WE asked for the government to do things. The fact that you don’t like these things doesn’t change the fact that THE PEOPLE OF THIS COUNTRY DECIDED WE WANTED THESE THINGS AND WE WANTED THE GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE THEM!

    And finally, you said:
    “Your point about Jesus saying to not hoard treasures on earth: That’s God telling you not to grow so attached to your money that it becomes an idol, not a charge to your neighbors to steal your money from you and give it to the 5 poorest families in the neighborhood.” No, you have this wrong also. It is God telling YOU to GIVE your money to the 5 poorest families in your neighborhood!

    • Luke Haskins says:

      My response to the conditions:

      1. The government isn’t an efficiant moneymaker, if that is what you are implying. As I said, it not only forces the rich to give to the poor, no matter whether or not they are the hard-working poor or lazy poor, but very little of it actually goes toward the poor at all. Charities are local, and if more were created by people like you and me, it could get across our country. Why isn’t the media doing something like this? Why isn’t Disney Channel telling kids to work with their parents give to charities, or create charities, or something like that, rather than spending their time recreating paganism? Because they remain uninformed, the media is too lazy and liberal-minded to do anything, and the people are told that the only way to help is by giving wads of cash to the federal government. But if the government lowered taxes, and the poor and needy had to look to other options, charities and churches would do what they were supposed to do. The government wouldn’t even need to get involved.

      2. Like what? The church? How many churches are there that would say, “You’re poor and needy, but because you aren’t a Christian, I won’t help you.” Those churches need to learn the phrase “good Samaritan.” That is a problem with some churches, but maybe I’m out of the loop as to how many churches or charities do that. Could you give me some kind of idea of how many charities or churches actually deny people resources based on their religion?

      3. The fact is that no matter who the rich is, there will always be a rich class, and there will always be a poor class. But the rich, at least those of whom this recession isn’t completely wiping out (except for what the government is doing to them), should still be given the charge to give to charities and local churches other than those with the problems illustrated in my responce to requirement #2. This isn’t only limited to who the recession isn’t really affecting, but they do need to be given the charge to do what’s right, for honor and love’s sake. They should be encouraged to help, not be forced to give. Americans do have hearts, and have shown time and time again that they really are willing to give to their less fortunate neighbors.

      The government’s job is to protect rights, and the only reason the people have thought otherwise is because there is so much stupidity in the education system as of late. You’re right, many Americans want free money. Where does it come from? Who cares; it’s free! I’d like free money too, if it was simply presented to me as free! But unfortunately, I’ve done my homework, and I know where this will end. The government’s job is to protect Americans’ rights, not to try to please everyone. A screwdriver shouldn’t try to function as a hammer. It CAN be used as such, but it would do a lousy job, since that’s not what is there to do. Maybe instead of indoctrinating the citizens of America, the teachers and media might take a little bit of their time educating the people of what REALLY happens when the redistribution of wealth comes into effect. Maybe then the people wouldn’t be suckered into the same tricks again and again.

      And finally, the bible verces referenced in the original post, Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus’s sermon on the mount:

      “‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
      ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
      ‘No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.'”

      No, no, I’m pretty sure he was talking about making money an idol.
      Although, I do agree that God calls me to give my money to the MOST NEEDY families in the neighborhood, and maybe even more than just 5 if I’m truly called to do so. The solution? All of the neighbors get together and vote that one of my neighbors will takes some of my money, then distributes it to the poorest people in the neighborhood. At first, I don’t really care, because he only takes $10, so I let it slide. He does it the next week, and this time, he takes $20. It’s getting worse, but again, since some of it is going to the needy, I let it slide. Meanwhile, the neighbor is a local hero. Every week, the amount doubles. I keep letting it slide. More and more people are crying out for my money, so I feel like I’m doing something right, even though I am A LOT poorer now. One day, I see that my neighbor has bought the most expensive new car on the market, and I get upset. So I go to his house and tell him that I’m going to stop letting him rob my house and take the money that I work hard for. A little while later, I hear a knock at the door. It’s all of the neighbors, who have taken 5 minutes off of their video games to come and scream at me, asking me where the money that they deserve is! So I’m either the evil rich man who is too stingy to give to his fellow neighbors, or I let my neighbor rob me to my grave. Why can’t I actually do the right thing voluntarily and show love to the needy rather than having to be “evil” or rebelious in order to do so? That’s what God calls me to do. God calls me to be a servant for others and do the right thing because I’m supposed to do the right thing. That’s where the problem lies.

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