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Desperation
August 5, 2010 11:15 AM   Subscribe

99 Weeks Later, Jobless Have Only Desperation. 'In June, with long-term unemployment at record levels, about 1.4 million people were out of work for 99 weeks or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.' While the Senate ponders a debate on tax cuts for the rich, jobless claims hit highest level since April. With such unemployment, frustration and despair grow as job searches drag on. 'In her well-thumbed, leather-bound Bible, Terri Sadler recently highlighted in bright pink a passage in the Gospel of Matthew. In it, Jesus urges his followers not to “worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” But Ms. Sadler’s tightening throat and halting breath when she tries to read the words aloud make it clear that she is having trouble mustering enough faith to follow them.'

"Ms. Sadler, who lost her job at an automotive parts plant in October 2008, learned last month that her unemployment insurance had been cut off. She is one of an estimated 2.1 million Americans whose benefits have expired and who are waiting for an end to an impasse that has lasted months in the Senate over extending the payments once more to the long-term unemployed.

Times have changed politically, however, and opposition is growing in Washington and abroad to deficit-bloating government spending, even for those who are hurting.

For Ms. Sadler, and many like her, each passing day has become an excruciating countdown of debts and deadlines."

"Facing eviction from her Tennessee apartment after several months of unpaid rent, Alexandra Jarrin packed up whatever she could fit into her two-door coupe recently and drove out of town." 'Ms. Jarrin is part of a hard-luck group of jobless Americans whose members have taken to calling themselves “99ers,” because they have exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits that they can claim.'
posted by VikingSword (82 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
opposition is growing in Washington and abroad to deficit-bloating government spending, even foronly those who are hurting.
posted by DU at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]




not to “worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

Honestly, I think this is a terrible attitude to have in the current situation. If your faith helps you through tough times, that's good, but right now the powers greater than ourselves (in this case, the interests running this country) have failed us. Without intervention, without help, without a real change in the power structure of this country, things are not going to get better. I think we do need to worry, and a lot - to let tomorrow worry about itself makes it very easy to pretend that there aren't people out there who are responsible for the plight of people like Ms. Sadler.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:26 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


> “worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

Not Jesus' best advice, I'd say. Are you sure it's not from the Gospel of McFerrin?

> Mr. Obama told the labor leaders they must remind their members, “this election is a choice,” between “these folks who drove America’s economy into a ditch” and the Democrats who for 20 months have “been shoving that car out of the ditch inch by inch” as Republicans stood by.

If the Republicans had just been standing by the last 20 months most Americans would probably be somewhat better off. Instead, they've been at the other end of this metaphorical car, slashing the tires and pushing it back into the ditch (while telling jokes about fags and wetbacks, but that's another thread).
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:26 AM on August 5, 2010 [34 favorites]


But she never accumulated much savings, besides $3,000 she had socked away in a 401(k) account, which she quickly ran through. She has always had a thing for Ford Mustangs and bought a used red one in 2006 that she now admits was a bad decision.

A notepad on her refrigerator lists the other outstanding bills... $30 for an end table she had bought on layaway


An end table? So she's buying cars and furniture. Granted, an end table isn't much, but that's just what she bought when she knew was already nearing the end. I don't mean to sound crass, but barely mentioned in so many of these stories is a thread of fiscal irresponsibility. Why should I be responsible for taking care of those who know how to spend but not save?

But we do it to corporations so that makes it okay?
posted by blazingunicorn at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am firmly on the side that this is important, but for all of that the post kinda reads like a personal blog post intended to incite discussion rather than something new, interesting, etc.
posted by edgeways at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2010


There is a solution to this-- a federally funded Job Guarantee. If only we had the strength to grasp it.
posted by wuwei at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile companies are telling the unemployed that they will not be considered for the job openings that exist.

Holy hell, that is absolutely appalling.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:34 AM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Why should I be responsible for taking care of those who know how to spend but not save?

Because millions of folks evicted from their homes and starving on the streets is demonstrably bad for you, even if you aren't one of them?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:37 AM on August 5, 2010 [26 favorites]


She bought the Mustang in 2006, when she had a good job. I guess I should sell everything I own and move into a tent, on the off chance that I'll be unemployed next year?
posted by jrochest at 11:41 AM on August 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


An end table? So she's buying cars and furniture. Granted, an end table isn't much, but that's just what she bought when she knew was already nearing the end. I don't mean to sound crass, but barely mentioned in so many of these stories is a thread of fiscal irresponsibility. Why should I be responsible for taking care of those who know how to spend but not save?

I'm glad that you at least weren't trying to sound crass.

I guess compassion isn't a very strong motivator for you, so I'll try to frame this within your own self interest:

Poverty hurts even those who still have a job, and are making ends meet. When this woman goes to the hospital and can't afford her bill, or when someone steals, or gets addicted to drugs because of poverty, or when their children don't get a good education, or any of the other effects that are endemic from widespread poverty, then that's more taxing on the social structures that surround you. Not to mention the fact that not everyone who's poor has bad spending habits. Do you want to make people take a financial knowledge test before they get benefits? Poverty costs everyone, since this is a society we live in, and its members are connected to one another.

The people it doesn't cost are the top 1% who like where they are and fight efforts to change the current system that's done so well by them.

It's also worth mentioning that we live in a consumer driven society. If people aren't out there buying creature comforts on credit, then things get even worse. It's the sad, fucked up truth about capitalism.
posted by codacorolla at 11:41 AM on August 5, 2010 [29 favorites]


NO UNEMPLOYED CANDIDATES WILL BE CONSIDERED AT ALL.

This can't possibly be legal.
posted by DU at 11:42 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This can't possibly be legal.

It is absolutely legal.

Welcome to the United States of America!
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


If you were unemployed because you'd just had a baby or something, I wonder if you could manage a discrimination suit? The article implied that the only way it was illegal was if it disproportionately affected minorities and it wouldn't shock me if that were the case, but no matter what it is just a horrific, horrific thing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:45 AM on August 5, 2010


My solution to this is simple and I feel quite elegant. Replace our current, cumbersome scaled unemployment benefits system with a one-time flat payment of $1 billion, tax-free.

This would have several beneficial effects. Obviously it would solve the laid-off worker's problems permanently. Almost all of these workers would immediately remove themselves from the active workforce and so would not drive up unemployment rates. And, most importantly, it would immediately make them billionaires. This means that, unlike smaller payments to working class citizens under the current system, giving them massive government subsidies would not increase the deficit at all - but would in fact reduce it by spurring economic activity and job creation.
posted by Naberius at 11:48 AM on August 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


Pretty sure it's perfectly legal. It just also happens to be perfectly stupid.
posted by fusinski at 11:48 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


compassion isn't a very strong motivator for you

Yes, it is. But I am also frustrated because lost in this discussion is talk about the underemployed and freelancers who are not eligible for these kinds of benefits to begin with. When I was really struggling last year, having acquaintances talk about unemployment benefits seemed so... unfair. After taking risks, spending more and making less, I found myself completely cut off from the web of social benefits.

If people aren't out there buying creature comforts on credit, then things get even worse. It's the sad, fucked up truth about capitalism.

True. Besides, who said life is fair?
posted by blazingunicorn at 11:49 AM on August 5, 2010


This can't possibly be legal.

In the private firm legal job market, which has experienced heavy layoffs, I know for a fact that many firms are not considering candidates who are currently unemployed for non-entry level positions based on the assumption that if you were laid off or fired from your previous job that you are less skilled than attorneys who made the cut.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:49 AM on August 5, 2010


Applicants and employers both need some sorting strategies enn. I'd imagine that particular employer strategy gets used when employers need competent engineers but lack competent human resources people.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:50 AM on August 5, 2010


Does anyone know what the justification behind not considering unemployed people?
posted by Irontom at 11:50 AM on August 5, 2010




> When I was really struggling last year, having acquaintances talk about unemployment benefits seemed so... unfair.

So instead of working to expand benefits the solution is cutting back on what other people get?

See also: working class opposition to unions.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:51 AM on August 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


True. Besides, who said life is fair?

The concept of a society run by laws and justice says that life should be fair for the people who are born into it. Cutting off the benefits of people like those profile in the FPP doesn't make you any better off, it just seems vindictive. I'm sorry that the system didn't work for you, but I don't see how gutting it further is supposed to make that better.
posted by codacorolla at 11:52 AM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Probably depends on the state, but I don't see why it would necessarily be illegal; the unemployed aren't a protected class. Still, it seems like a dumb idea: if you're poaching candidates from other employers, you have to beat their current salary by a significant margin to get them to move. But if you hire someone who's currently unemployed, you could theoretically pay them far less than the going rate and they'd stick around. (Of course, once the economy rebounds they'll probably leave if you don't give them a raise.)

So it seems pretty self-defeating on the part of the companies doing it.

I tend to wonder if there's not something else at work ... maybe the job postings are being sabotaged on purpose. I've heard stories about people waiting for internal promotions and having to wait for HR to screen external applicants before they could move up, because of rules against stealing personnel from Department A and sending them to Department B, unless Department B could show that they couldn't hire anyone else to fill the position. It seems dumb as a bag of hammers to me, but it could be that eliminating most or nearly all potential applicants is exactly what they're trying to do.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:52 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was really struggling last year, having acquaintances talk about unemployment benefits seemed so... unfair. After taking risks, spending more and making less, I found myself completely cut off from the web of social benefits.

This is probably more of an argument for expansion of the social safety net rather than an argument against its existence.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:52 AM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


blazingunicorn, do you honestly have enough money to get you through 99+ months of unemployment? I would be shocked if this would be representative of more than 5% of the population under the age of 40.
posted by fusinski at 11:52 AM on August 5, 2010


Yes, it is. But I am also frustrated because lost in this discussion is talk about the underemployed and freelancers who are not eligible for these kinds of benefits to begin with. When I was really struggling last year, having acquaintances talk about unemployment benefits seemed so... unfair. After taking risks, spending more and making less, I found myself completely cut off from the web of social benefits.

And yet you chose to voice this distaste by berating a desperately poor woman for buying a $30 end-table on layaway.

This is an odd hill you've chosen to die on.
posted by Mayor West at 11:54 AM on August 5, 2010 [21 favorites]


Does anyone know what the justification behind not considering unemployed people?

The theory is that the market has already filtered out the great employees from the bad ones (for the most part). The great ones are still employed, and the bad ones--low performers--have already been identified via being laid off / fired / what-have-you.
posted by fusinski at 11:55 AM on August 5, 2010


In short, the corporations are making out like bandits. Now they’re sitting on mountains of cash and they still are not interested in hiring to any significant degree, or strengthening workers’ paychecks.

Yet on every media site I see, everyone wants to blame President Obama. The people who get abused by Corporate America won't say a word about their employer who laid them off, but they love to blame the government. They really want to see corporations get more tax cuts and they think it will increase hiring instead of going straight into management's pockets.
posted by anniecat at 11:57 AM on August 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


We need to start talking about it - the jobless situation is being deliberately exacerbated by business leaders for political ends. Instead of growing their businesses, they're putting away a war chest, and wringing even more from their overworked labor force. The hope is to force out the Democrats in a '94-style populist revolt. They may keep it up until after the 2012 elections, depending on how many of them break ranks between then and now, and if the economy double-dips - they may not be in a position to stall recovery the second time 'round without ruining themselves.

They can get away with it, because trust-busting is now way down the list of corporate malfeasance being investigated, and the labor movement has been gutted and left to rot.

I have no idea how to fix this.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:58 AM on August 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


And yet you chose to voice this distaste by berating a desperately poor woman for buying a $30 end-table on layaway.

I think $30 is the monthly payment she has on the table. It's more than $30 because she put it on layaway.

I thought if you put it on layaway you have to make all the payments, then you get the end table. Does she even need the end table now? Does it make sense to make payment on it?
posted by anniecat at 11:59 AM on August 5, 2010


In the private firm legal job market, which has experienced heavy layoffs, I know for a fact that many firms are not considering candidates who are currently unemployed for non-entry level positions based on the assumption that if you were laid off or fired from your previous job that you are less skilled than attorneys who made the cut.

That's interesting--the point one of the HR people made in the article, that they're getting so slammed with resumes from unqualified people that they want to focus on people who will presumably actually have the skills they're looking for made at least a tiny bit of sense to me.

Though I suppose from a purely coldblooded hiring manager perspective, looking at people who still have jobs on the theory that they were better employees or more qualified (or even, if layoffs went by seniority, more experienced) makes a certain kind of ruthless sense as well.
posted by not that girl at 11:59 AM on August 5, 2010


In it, Jesus urges his followers not to “worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” But Ms. Sadler’s tightening throat and halting breath when she tries to read the words aloud make it clear that she is having trouble mustering enough faith to follow them.'

I've heard of this lovely place called Big Rock Candy Mountain...
posted by KokuRyu at 12:03 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know what the justification behind not considering unemployed people?

The rationale I've most commonly heard is that unemployed people are more likely to be just looking for a paycheck, and will go work for anyone. Once the economy gets better, they're more likely to leave for greener pastures than someone who wanted to work for that company bad enough to leave another job.

I think it's bullshit, incidentally, but that's the rationale I've heard.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:05 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's interesting--the point one of the HR people made in the article, that they're getting so slammed with resumes from unqualified people that they want to focus on people who will presumably actually have the skills they're looking for made at least a tiny bit of sense to me.

I would think they could data mine for the information using uploaded copies of resumes.
posted by anniecat at 12:08 PM on August 5, 2010


I think it's especially bullshit if they are explicitly trying to coax people who have jobs away from their current employers; simply by working there, these are people who do not have a demonstrated history of loyalty.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:11 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cutting off the benefits of people like those profile in the FPP doesn't make you any better off, it just seems vindictive. I'm sorry that the system didn't work for you, but I don't see how gutting it further is supposed to make that better.

I'm sorry, when did I say that I wasn't for expanding benefits?

And yet you chose to voice this distaste by berating a desperately poor woman for buying a $30 end-table on layaway.

Dude, I'm not dying on a hill. I'm now involved in a large share of related pro bono and non-profit services. Sometimes you just need to vent, ya know?
posted by blazingunicorn at 12:13 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Robert Shiller on direct government employment - "Big new programs to create jobs need not be expensive. Suppose the cost of hiring a single employee were as high as $30,000 a year, several times typical AmeriCorps living allowances. Hiring a million people would cost $30 billion a year. That's only 4 percent of the entire federal stimulus program, and 0.2 percent of the national debt."

The Birth Of A Political Coalition? - "What's happening now, with the increase in duration of unemployment, is that you're starting to get large numbers of people with good organisational skills and lots and lots of time on their hands. And they're spending enough time without jobs that they are beginning to self-identify as unemployed, and to form bonds with others in the same situation. This is a phenomenon that I don't think has been seen in America since Martin Luther King's marches against poverty in the 1960s, if not since the Depression, and it will be interesting to see what comes of it."
posted by kliuless at 12:21 PM on August 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


We need to start talking about it - the jobless situation is being deliberately exacerbated by business leaders for political ends. Instead of growing their businesses, they're putting away a war chest, and wringing even more from their overworked labor force. The hope is to force out the Democrats in a '94-style populist revolt. They may keep it up until after the 2012 elections, depending on how many of them break ranks between then and now, and if the economy double-dips - they may not be in a position to stall recovery the second time 'round without ruining themselves.

They can get away with it, because trust-busting is now way down the list of corporate malfeasance being investigated, and the labor movement has been gutted and left to rot.


This! The private sector gets to play innocent victim, pointing the finger at the administration for not "creating more jobs" despite what should be the very obvious fact that it's almost solely within the private sector and Wall Street investment capital's power to actually create jobs--and there are plenty of signs they could be creating jobs already, but are opting not to for political reasons (or what they spin as a "mood of uncertainty" around regulatory and tax issues).

I posted this in a previous thread, but it's relevant here too:

Mort Zuckerman: If Obama Isn't Nicer to Us Rich People, We Will Destroy America

We're seeing a similar push-back from the business community on the local level here in Florida too, most recently with the business community led by the Chamber of Commerce pulling every trick in its book in attempting to block an authentic grassroots ballot initiative to give local communities veto power over changes to approved local community development plans. The initiative has gained steam because of shady land-use exemptions that have been costing a lot of communities here far more than advertised over the long run.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:25 PM on August 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


edgeways: "I am firmly on the side that this is important, but for all of that the post kinda reads like a personal blog post intended to incite discussion rather than something new, interesting, etc."

So -- why are you in here... discussing it?
posted by symbioid at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2010


People need to get over the woman's goddamn end table.
posted by blucevalo at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


I am firmly on the side that this is important, but for all of that the post kinda reads like a personal blog post intended to incite discussion rather than something new, interesting, etc.

What new about this would interest you enough to call this postworthy?
posted by blucevalo at 12:33 PM on August 5, 2010


I would go out on a limb here and say that the biggest segment of workers affected by the recession (and out of work for the longest) are folks formerly employed in the construction industry, followed by manufacturing. The work is just not there - for most people a hiring manager/HR manager's assessment is not why they are not working.

BTW, I am in no way implying that former construction and manufacturing workers *deserve* to be out of work. I lost my job late last year, and am only just starting to pick up the pieces, so I can relate to the depression and desperation, although I think I am far luckier than most.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 PM on August 5, 2010


blazingunicorn: "compassion isn't a very strong motivator for you

Yes, it is. But I am also frustrated because lost in this discussion is talk about the underemployed and freelancers who are not eligible for these kinds of benefits to begin with. When I was really struggling last year, having acquaintances talk about unemployment benefits seemed so... unfair. After taking risks, spending more and making less, I found myself completely cut off from the web of social benefits.

If people aren't out there buying creature comforts on credit, then things get even worse. It's the sad, fucked up truth about capitalism.

True. Besides, who said life is fair?
"

1 - That's not how compassion works.
2 - On the one hand - HOW FAIR IS IT THAT FREELANCERS CAN'T GET BENNIES??? WAH WAH (not that I don't think they should - I 100% support bennies to ANYONE who can't get a job)

But...

"Life is fair! Suck it up!"

Which is it complain about the fact you can't get shit and how unfair it is that others get something you don't or, when others are hurting, tell them "oh well, life's unfair".

Little cog-dis, no?
posted by symbioid at 12:50 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


"What's happening now, with the increase in duration of unemployment, is that you're starting to get large numbers of people with good organisational skills and lots and lots of time on their hands. And they're spending enough time without jobs that they are beginning to self-identify as unemployed, and to form bonds with others in the same situation. This is a phenomenon that I don't think has been seen in America since Martin Luther King's marches against poverty in the 1960s, if not since the Depression, and it will be interesting to see what comes of it."

There's enough money and talent and good-will right here on metafilter! I say we buy a few blocks of Detroit, open it up for some urban farming, keep a few buildings, and live as self-sufficient monks keeping the light of civilization (in this case, internet cats and firefly discs or something) burning while everyone else races back to the feudal system so fast the dilate time.
posted by The Whelk at 12:53 PM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


We need to start talking about it - the jobless situation is being deliberately exacerbated by business leaders for political ends. Instead of growing their businesses, they're putting away a war chest, and wringing even more from their overworked labor force. The hope is to force out the Democrats in a '94-style populist revolt. They may keep it up until after the 2012 elections, depending on how many of them break ranks between then and now, and if the economy double-dips - they may not be in a position to stall recovery the second time 'round without ruining themselves.

They can get away with it, because trust-busting is now way down the list of corporate malfeasance being investigated, and the labor movement has been gutted and left to rot.


Sometimes I like to think the world is a little more complicated then a political cartoonocotpus labeled BIG BUSINESS enslaving the world but these days.....
posted by The Whelk at 12:55 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


...and what about her dog? I say until she eats her dog she doesn't get the end table.
It's only fair.
posted by Floydd at 12:56 PM on August 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


fusinski: "do you honestly have enough money to get you through 99+ months of unemployment"

Weeks, not months. 99 weeks is roughly two years. If you keep 3-6 months of living expenses and contribute to retirement funds, you may well have it. Whether or not the average American does this or not I can't say. But it's not a recent observation that people who spend when they should save because Madison Avenue told them to destabilizes capitalism itself.
posted by pwnguin at 12:59 PM on August 5, 2010


"Big new programs to create jobs need not be expensive. Suppose the cost of hiring a single employee were as high as $30,000 a year, several times typical AmeriCorps living allowances. Hiring a million people would cost $30 billion a year. That's only 4 percent of the entire federal stimulus program, and 0.2 percent of the national debt."

Yeah, but that would be Socialism. [ooga booga]
posted by Joe Beese at 1:07 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The sole reason I find it extremely difficult to find sympathy for people like this is because 99% of them are goddamned fucking Jesus-loving Republicans. Well, where's your God now, you homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic morans?
Greta, like you and like many of your viewers, I'm aware of the supremacy clause in the federal constitution. But what we have here is an unprecedented uprising of the people and of the elected representatives of the people. The attorneys general of 20 states now are challenging "Obama care." This cannot be ignored!

I agree with Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame in Tennessee, the legal scholar at the University of Tennessee, who says this is the forth great awakening in American history. We are rediscovering our constitutional roots. We are rediscovering the primacy of limited constitutional government. We're saying no more to an overreaching, overweening federal bureaucracy.
You want to get rid of health care? Fine. Have fun playing in your 6-foot ditch.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:10 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


3-6 months of living expenses is not 99 weeks, though. If you are recently in the job market, you might not have a large retirement fund ready, and if you do have a retirement fund, the recent large crash in the stock market has likely not helped the size of your fund. Don't get sick, either.
posted by jeather at 1:11 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Some of us are ambitious risk takers, and want to have live our lives with maximum freedom to succeed or fail financially. But most of us are risk averse and would rather have less money and less stress. I don't see why we can't it compromise on an opt-out safety net. Here's how it would work:

Everyone, by default, would be part of the safety net to start. You'd have generous European-style unemployment/disability/vacation/maternity/education benefits, all paid for through a high "safety net tax."

You could opt out of the safety net, and the safety net tax, if the records show that you've paid much more in to the system than you have received in benefits (you could make extra payments in order to make this true). After opting out you'd be free to sink or swim on your own, as long as you want. There would be a long wait (at least 5 years) before you could opt back in again, to prevent you from only using the safety net when times are bad.

This kind of two-caste society also be an OK basis for a sci-fi novel.
posted by miyabo at 1:12 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


They really want to see corporations get more tax cuts and they think it will increase hiring instead of going straight into management's pockets.

Please look into research on the incidence of corporate income taxes, and their distortionary effects with regards to investment.

While you're at it, try comparing America's corporate tax levels to those of other nations commonly regarded as much more progressive (Nordic countries, UK, Ireland).

I think you'll be surprised on both counts.
posted by ripley_ at 1:15 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]



This kind of two-caste society also be an OK basis for a sci-fi novel.


The Diamond Age has this, without strong governments people join Phyles -non-geographically linked communities with thier own laws, social nets, values etc. People without a Phyle, Thetes, are basically the lowest of the working classes who subsist on the free (but completely shitty) food and devices produced by the nano-fabricators.
posted by The Whelk at 1:15 PM on August 5, 2010


Sometimes I like to think the world is a little more complicated then a political cartoonocotpus labeled BIG BUSINESS enslaving the world but these days.....

Haha. Harley Davidson is leaving Milwaukee to break its unions once and for all. But, in the main, I agree, it's not Big Business that's doing the harm, here. It's medium and small businesses, owned by CNBC and Fox News and WSJ enthusiasts, who name their companies after characters from an Ayn Rand novel (just got called by John Galt Staffing today, looking to headhunt. No lie.) They're talking over beers at the bar after the Kiwanis or Lions Club meetings, trying to figure out what to do about the Democrats and the "Climate of Uncertainty."

It's pretty obvious they figured out what to do. Starve America into submission.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:19 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see why we can't it compromise on an opt-out safety net.

Because people with higher incomes would tend to opt out and there wouldn't be much in the way of wealth redistribution.

(I call that a feature, but most people here would call that a bug)
posted by ripley_ at 1:31 PM on August 5, 2010


I think you'll be surprised on both counts.

Corporate tax rates are irrelevant, without stricter rules generally governing how corporations are taxed.

Goldman Sachs famously had an effective tax burden of only 1% in 2008. You know very well that corporations routinely shop around and formally relocate their assets to countries with lower tax rates in order to lower their tax burdens, not to mention enjoying the advantages of tax sheltering and various other tax-liability reducing mechanisms and loopholes.

That's not a reasonable argument for lowering corporate tax rates here because it's just bloody common sense that a nation the size of the Unites States is going to require more tax revenue to provide basic services than, say, a small island nation like the Caymen Islands.

The rules should be designed to prevent corporations from engaging in that sort of race to the bottom if they would like to have continued access to US markets. On the individual level, they should be designed to discourage long-term capital hording: the argument from the upper end of the economic ladder is often that the wealth holders alone are wise enough to invest their money in ways that will create broader economic prosperity. Well, I say, okay then, put your money where your mouth is: invest it in ways that will contribute to economic growth--actual real investments that create economic opportunity--or we'll start taxing it beyond a certain point.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:36 PM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


miyabo: "I don't see why we can't it compromise on an opt-out safety net. "

How does this plan address adverse selection? If my family history and genetic testing suggests I'm not at risk for diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses, this safety net isn't so necessary. You portray me as some kind of Randian Risk Taker, but the reality is I just know more about my risks than the insurer. If the insurer loses low risk people, the expected payout of insurance rises, as does the cost.
posted by pwnguin at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2010


Someone upthread mentioned chronic unemployment bringing together people to see themselves as a group...

http://www.unionofunemployed.com/

They've been around a while now. I don't know how active they are - most of their FB feed is just news re: unemployment and the usual comments of hate on republicans and an occasional "lousy democrats" (a lot like -- ok, maybe we got more "lousy democrats" comments here, heh).

Anyways, they're trying to do a grassroots organization for unemployed people. If anyone here is unemployed, maybe it won't hurt to look into it? Hopefully there is some real concrete organization going on (I think the AFL-CIO is behind it? I can't remember, but I thought there was some big union backer(s) for this, which is good, IMO)
posted by symbioid at 1:49 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fine. Have fun playing in your 6-foot ditch.

Civil-Disobedient, I hear you. I do. Except that lots of those people have kids, who are trapped in their parents' situation too.

And poverty can, sometimes, act as an eye-opener. My brother was a conservative anti-taxer, until he had to buy his own health insurance after age 40. Now he thinks socialized medicine is the best idea ever.

And a good friend of mine is now a liberal (struggling to start his own business after getting laid off) who used to be a libertarian until his health issues made it impossible for him to hold down a job.

Of course, there are those who have the cognitive dissonance to shriek about socialism whilst drawing govt. checks.

I don't know how bad it has to get before there is actual social unrest, of the unemployed-marching-on-Washington/bread riots kind. We're a lot closer than I ever expected to witness, though.
posted by emjaybee at 2:01 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


the argument from the upper end of the economic ladder is often that the wealth holders alone are wise enough to invest their money in ways that will create broader economic prosperity

More persuasive: corporate income taxes are generally passed on to workers, and income taxes (including the corporate one) reduce the rate of return on investments. Higher consumption taxes (with progressive social spending if that does it for you) are a much better way to fund spending.

I wish people like anniecat would consider tax policy on a deeper level. Just because a tax has "corporate" in the name doesn't mean its burden only falls on corporations, and it certainly doesn't mean it's efficient.
posted by ripley_ at 2:02 PM on August 5, 2010


Some of us are ambitious risk takers, and want to have live our lives with maximum freedom to succeed or fail financially.

The US is already pretty incredible on this front. This is probably the best place in the world, the best place there has ever been, for the intelligent and ambitious. You can build a fortune from nothing (it isn't easy, but it's never easy). Opportunities are nearly unlimited. The rich have a vast percentage of the nation's wealth and it's been growing over the last few decades.

If something is holding you back I don't think it's the nanny state.

Snark aside, I don't see how this can work in any real society. Do the opt-out folks get to use the roads that are paid for with tax dollars? Do they get to hire people who were educated in public schools? Do they get to breath the unpolluted air? They they are benefiting from the "opt ins".

Oh, okay, you just want to opt out from just social security/medicare/medicaid? Fair enough, but you still benefit from the fact that this is a society that has it. People of my age don't spend as much time and money worrying about their aged parents, because their aged parents have some income from social security and have medicare. No, it's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. My kids can go to college because I have some money that I'm not spending keeping my parents alive (or, if I don't have kids, I buy big screen tvs). This provides a new crop of educated people that you, Mr. Opt-Out, can hire.

Society is not an a la carte menu, from which you can pick and choose your benefits. It's all connected.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:05 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could opt out of the safety net, and the safety net tax, if the records show that you've paid much more in to the system than you have received in benefits (you could make extra payments in order to make this true). After opting out you'd be free to sink or swim on your own, as long as you want. There would be a long wait (at least 5 years) before you could opt back in again, to prevent you from only using the safety net when times are bad.

That would not work. The only people who would be in would be too poor to afford it on their own, which would make risk pools difficult and funding pretty much impossible. Social services have to be a shared burden or they aren't effective.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2010


Saulgoodman:
You know very well that corporations routinely shop around and formally relocate their assets to countries with lower tax rates in order to lower their tax burdens, ...

That's not a reasonable argument for lowering corporate tax rates here because it's just bloody common sense that a nation the size of the Unites States is going to require more tax revenue to provide basic services than, say, a small island nation like the Caymen Islands.
Umm... of course the U.S. is going to require more revenue. But the U.S. also has more taxable persons and activity. It's not at all "bloody common sense" that the U.S. should require higher effective average tax rates in order to achieve that revenue. Furthermore, one might very well expect that economies of scale would make deliverying some services cheaper on a per capita basis.

Its Never Lurgi:
Society is not an a la carte menu, from which you can pick and choose your benefits. It's all connected.
It's true that some benefits can't be opted out of, but many benefits (for which premiums are paid) in the United States can be opted out of. Medicare part B for retirees for example, or the National Flood Insurance Plan for residents of Moderate-to-Low risk areas. This works when the cost of the premiums is lower than the cost of the program (that is, the program is already subsidized from another revenue source) and the externalities of allowing opt outs aren't too great.
posted by Jahaza at 2:48 PM on August 5, 2010


We know how to fix this, but the Dems have drank too much of the Republican's Cool Aid about free markets regulating themselves. The government could PUT PEOPLE TO WORK rather than waiting for businesses to hire people. We could be building levees along the Mississippi river as well as other rivers to prevent catastrophic flooding. We could be building infrastructure in Louisiana, as swell as off shore, to allow the deep water port to be world class. We could re-install all of our inefficient, century-old water delivery systems. We could run fiber optic lines across the USA...EVERYWHERE. We can train people to grow and can their own food.

We can do a lot of things...but we aren't and probably won't and in each passing day, frustration grows.
posted by zerobyproxy at 3:02 PM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


An end table? So she's buying cars and furniture. -- blazingunicorn
She bought a car two years before she was laid off. I know math is hard but the fact that 2006 is a smaller number then 2008 ought to be pretty obvious.
Yes, it is. But I am also frustrated because lost in this discussion is talk about the underemployed and freelancers who are not eligible for these kinds of benefits to begin with. When I was really struggling last year, having acquaintances talk about unemployment benefits seemed so... unfair. -- blazingunicorn
Unfair? Unemployment insurance is paid for by taxes on our salaries. It's your choice that you chose freelancing rather then getting a "real" job, so how can you go about blaming other people for their own choices while at the same time bemoaning the effects of your own?

---

Anyway, what's interesting is that the GDP has gone back up. Why? Because productivity has gone way up. And how did that happen? Companies laid lots of people off and forced the remaining to do everyone else to do all the work. Harley Davidson in particular is giving out a lot more overtime, rather then keeping more people employed.
Yet on every media site I see, everyone wants to blame President Obama. The people who get abused by Corporate America won't say a word about their employer who laid them off, but they love to blame the government. They really want to see corporations get more tax cuts and they think it will increase hiring instead of going straight into management's pockets. -- anniecat
Obama deserves a lot of the blame here. In particular, the stimulus at the beginning of his administration was way to small. There was "aide to states" but it wasn't enough to cover the loss in state revenue. preventing jobs from being lost ought to have been the most obvious way to stop problems, and preventing jobs in state governments would have been the easiest, least 'corrupt' way to go about doing it. But there wasn't enough money to go around and huge numbers of unnecessary unemployment was the result.

Yes, corporate America deserves a lot of the blame here. They're pinching pennies and trying to extract as much work as possible from the fewest employees to save money. But that's what they are going to do. It's the government's responsibility rein in these abuses, and it isn't happening. And, I don't think I need to remind you that the democrats control the house, the senate (with a filibuster proof majority for much of the time) and the Whitehouse, and Obama is both the president, and the leader of the Democratic party.

You can lay blame on a handful of recalcitrant dem senators who join the republicans in filibustering, but it only takes a simple majority of senators to get rid of the filibuster in the first place. There's also the reconciliation option and other tricks to get around it. Reconciliation is absolutely a possibility when it comes to simple spending of money, which is what stimulus would be.

But because in Washington the needs of the rich and powerful define what's "politically possible" we get bullshit like deficit commissions and talking about balanced budgets and tax cuts for dead rich people.
The sole reason I find it extremely difficult to find sympathy for people like this is because 99% of them are goddamned fucking Jesus-loving Republicans. Well, where's your God now, you homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic morans? -- Civil_Disobedient
Wow, that's one of the stupidest fucking things I've ever read? 99%? I don't know but I'd bet that a majority of these people aren't even white, let alone xenophobic republicans. Misogynistic? At least half of them are women, including the person featured here. (your links have nothing to do with unemployed people)

Do you know anything about the makeup of the electorate? The poorer you are, the more likely you are to vote democratic. The overwhelming majority of poor people are democrats, and of course lots of poor people are minorities, who you seem incapable of thinking about, for some unknown reason.
posted by delmoi at 3:37 PM on August 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Umm... of course the U.S. is going to require more revenue. But the U.S. also has more taxable persons and activity. It's not at all "bloody common sense" that the U.S. should require higher effective average tax rates in order to achieve that revenue.

You're missing the point. Every company that operates in a particular market increases the regulatory and other infrastructure costs in a way that's grometrically proportional to the size of the market. The complexity in maintaining adequate regulatory systems increases exponentially, not linearly.

The bigger the market, the more complex the regulatory environment has to become just to maintain the same level of service that a much simpler regulatory system might be able to provide in a smaller market. In other words, you can't maintain the same tax rates in a country the size of the US and expect those taxes to go as far.

Economies of scale don't provide the same benefits to regulatory systems that serve larger markets because scaling these systems up in many cases necessarily requires increasing the number of regulatory personnel--which means adding administrative and management overhead to increase the system's capacity, all without any guarantee of recovering the costs in direct returns.

There quite simply is no rational basis, IMO, for attempting to shoehorn public sector issues into private sector models in the way that your remark about "economies of scale" suggests. That particular economic concept might apply usefully to the public sector in certain very narrow circumstances, but ultimately, public sector services are just not sensibly analogous to private sector services because they aren't driven by the same motivations. The public sector has to make investments whose returns aren't measured strictly in terms of revenue generated.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:31 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Posts like this scare me. Not just in the "it could happen to me" sense, but also in the "oh God what if the Malthusians were right" kind of way. I don't think we as a society have really considered the ramifications, or even the possibility, of permanent joblessnes for a large amount of the population.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 7:34 PM on August 5, 2010


So this one company won't hire the unemployed. I'm not terribly concerned. First of all, I'm sure this already frequently happens, even in this economy, and at least they've told people not to waste their time. Even in good times, they tell you you're better off not quitting your job before looking for one. Second, it may well be a deliberate attempt to constrict the number of applications, especially in this market, which could number in the hundreds or thousands from across the entire country. Third, it could be somewhat justified in terms of needing fresh skills; I don't expect to get work again in network security, something I haven't done in half a decade now. Fourth, there may be other fears they have about the unemployed, ranging from credit scores to job-hopping as soon as the economy ticks up. Fifth, and here is the main reason for me, I think this type of decision is, for want of a better word, transitive. That is, Company A will only hire the already employed, so they poach from Company B. Perhaps Company B has the same policy, voiced or not, or perhaps Company C or Company D does not. Eventually, an employer who will hire the unemployed, for whatever reasons, will have to do so.

In short, I don't think this actually affects the overall labor or job supply much.
posted by dhartung at 9:03 PM on August 5, 2010


Weeks, not months. 99 weeks is roughly two years. If you keep 3-6 months of living expenses and contribute to retirement funds, you may well have it.

Retirement funds are not living expenses. There are significant penalties to early withdrawal, unless you're drawing principal out of a Roth, but even then you're stealing from your own future. What happens after you drain your retirement? What happens when you're 65?
posted by krinklyfig at 9:16 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Posts like this scare me. Not just in the "it could happen to me" sense, but also in the "oh God what if the Malthusians were right" kind of way.

"Neo-Malthusian theory argues that unless at or below subsistence level, a population's fertility will tend to move upwards"

The opposite case has proven to be true.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:19 PM on August 5, 2010


Posts like this scare me. Not just in the "it could happen to me" sense, but also in the "oh God what if the Malthusians were right" kind of way.

This has nothing to do with running out of food. But the vast majority of people are employed in fields unrelated to things actually related to survival. Even if we had 95% unemployment, we would still have enough food too eat. I think something like 2.5% of the workforce is involved in agriculture.
posted by delmoi at 9:46 PM on August 5, 2010


What's becoming obvious is that there will be no full recovery for America from this recession. Things will probably get a little better, and companies will do some token hiring, but from my experience of working in corporate America (pretty far down the totem pole, natch) most of these businesses are happy to have a justification for expecting 50-60 hour working weeks with no over-time, an increased authority to treat workers like shit, and a growth in the paternal attitude that a company "owns" you (and your family for that matter).

To put it another way, who needs America any longer? What makes it so unique? What can it do that China or India won't be able to in ten years or so?

There are still some strengths to the American economic system, but they will directly benefit future masters of the universe, not workers.
posted by bardic at 10:20 PM on August 5, 2010


well, it seems to me that a company that won't hire the unemployed ought to enjoy an old fashioned sit in of unemployed people

it seems to me that millions of unemployed people could, in fact, figure out ways to truly screw things up for the society at large

if this goes on, all hell could break loose

if this country doesn't work for everyone, those who are left just might find ways to make it work for no one

i'm employed - and if i lose my job i'll do my damnedest to find another one - but if all that fails i WILL NOT go gently into that dark night

people really don't have to take this shit, do they?
posted by pyramid termite at 11:01 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


To put it another way, who needs America any longer?

Who needs any country? They're all a lot less important than you think.
posted by aramaic at 5:53 AM on August 6, 2010


Wow, that's one of the stupidest fucking things I've ever read?

Honestly, is there any reason to be verbally abusive to Civil Disobedient? You could take out the meanness in your post and still express yourself.

Yes, corporate America deserves a lot of the blame here. They're pinching pennies and trying to extract as much work as possible from the fewest employees to save money. But that's what they are going to do. It's the government's responsibility rein in these abuses, and it isn't happening.

What do you suggest they do?
posted by anniecat at 7:34 AM on August 6, 2010


Every company that operates in a particular market increases the regulatory and other infrastructure costs in a way that's grometrically proportional to the size of the market. The complexity in maintaining adequate regulatory systems increases exponentially, not linearly.

Do you have any evidence of this? It conflicts with basically everything I've ever heard or read about regulation and governance, and if it's true would seem to suggest that a large country like the U.S. is basically ungovernable: that rather than trying to regulate from the Federal level, we should instead push the regulation down to state levels. If the relationship between 'resources necessary for regulation' and 'size of market being regulated' is truly nonlinear, it would be far more efficient to have 50 state regulatory agencies, each operating on a small market, than one big one.

But I'm not sure that history really has borne this out, and the tendency (e.g. Europe) has actually been towards movement in the other direction. But if it was true it would be an interesting argument for anti-Federalism.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:28 AM on August 6, 2010


It conflicts with basically everything I've ever heard or read about regulation and governance, and if it's true would seem to suggest that a large country like the U.S. is basically ungovernable: that rather than trying to regulate from the Federal level, we should instead push the regulation down to state levels.

Unfortunately, I don't think you can push it down to the state level, because in my opinion, that creates too much potential for inconsistent rule-making and encourages rule-shopping behavior on the part of regulated entities. There's a reason so many real estate scams and banking fraud happen in Florida: we have exceedingly lax regulatory standards compared to other states.

Also, I don't think it's clear that it means the US is ungovernable, it just means that as the size of a particular market increases, the regulatory environment approaches absolute ungovernability as a limit.

As someone who's worked on and even helped manage public sector projects as a consultant at the state level for more than eight years, I've seen the effects I'm describing in action firsthand, and on a certain level, it's just rationally self-evident that there's often a non-linear relationship between the size of the market served and the cost of public services. Every new regulated entity operating in a particular market creates more workload for regulators. That much should be obvious without need for further proof. So if you accept the rationale for the necessity of regulatory systems at all (which I do), the rest of the argument below follows naturally from there.

Now, it should be noted that, in reality, we haven't even come close to keeping up with the growth in demand for regulatory services in this country. But for purposes of this example, let's ignore that fact. Let's also not waste time dithering about differences between state/federal regulatory regimes for the time being, because the basic point I'm arguing applies just as well to regulatory systems at any level of organization.

Let's consider one simple example: the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), one of the responsibilities of which is to perform safety inspections on products imported for sale to end consumers in America--checking incoming items for dangerous chemical content, like lead or other toxins, before they reach market. They've recently begun taking a more active role in this responsibility under the current administration, but let's ignore the contingent stuff for the sake of argument, and consider them as simply an abstract representation of a regulatory body fulfilling an important regulatory function.

Well, it should be obvious that a new entity that enters the US market importing products subject to CPSC inspection, assuming overall participation in the market otherwise remains flat, creates some additional workload for CPSC inspectors. It should also be a safe inference that how much more regulatory workload is created depends on the volume of business the entity does in the US, and that in turn depends on the size of the potential market in the US. A large consortium of importers entering the market all at once could create a significant workload increase.

Just to keep the example focused narrowly on demonstrating how regulatory costs increase non-linearly, let's just think about the inspectors. Let's also assume that they are all already operating at optimal efficiency--meaning, any increase in an individual's workload would diminish the quality of the inspector's work. So, as the overall regulatory workload of the CPSC increases, we'll need to add more inspectors in order to maintain the same level of service.

Well, it's been demonstrated that as the number of subordinates in an organization increases, the complexity of the relationships that have to be effectively maintained and coordinated increases exponentially. Think of each inspector as a node in the network of the CPSC organization. Adding one new node also requires establishing and maintaining multiple new relationships between the new inspector node and various other nodes within the network of relationships that defines the organization. So each new inspector added to our idealized CPSC increases its organizational complexity exponentially (more detailed discussion of how/why this is, and at least one supporting cite are offered below).

In the private sector, this exponential increase in complexity can, to varying degrees, be mitigated by organizational changes that push control down to the lower-levels (in this case, giving the individual inspector's more authority and leeway), by creating efficiencies through diminishing the level of services, by downsizing or by deliberately giving up market share. But just throwing more bodies at a problem after a certain point doesn't yield a linearly proportional return in output, because organizational challenges associated with managing and coordinating the efforts of all those bodies quickly leads to diminishing returns.

Public sector entities by and large don't have the flexibility to take any of the kinds of steps available to private sector entities because lowering the level of service provided, or decentralizing decision-making authority aren't options for them.

There's some general discussion of these organizational problems here. Below is one relevant passage:
A chart based on the table demonstrates that, as the number of subordinates increases past four, the complexity of the relationships increases exponentially. This owes primarily to an increase in the number of direct group relationships created by adding a member to an existing group. For example, as noted above, adding a fifth subordinate roughly doubles complexity, increasing the total direct plus cross relationships from 44 to 100. Adding a sixth subordinate more than doubles complexity again, increasing the number of relationships from about 100 to 222. For 12 subordinates, the total number of relationships that might demand a superior's attention is an astounding 24,564.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:22 AM on August 6, 2010


Actually, on preview, the quoted passage is about scope of control, and refers to subordinate groups in the hierarchy of a management structure, but the point still applies, because private sector entities don't really have the flexibility to flatten their organizational structures in the way private sector entities can. So they have no choice but to add subordinate groups, leading to the exponential increase in organizational complexity, etc.

(Sorry this went so long. What the hell. It's Friday.)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:28 AM on August 6, 2010


Bah... weeks/months typo. Point still stands. I don't think the vast majority of the middle class has two years of living expenses socked away in a liquid fashion. And for those who have it in a retirement account, raiding that sucker is just bad on so many levels.
posted by fusinski at 1:56 PM on August 6, 2010


krinklyfig: "Retirement funds are not living expenses"

If the choice is starvation and homelessness vs. retirement, I know which is more important. It's not fun, and not the best of all available options, but I'm not about to chastise my father when he did the same thing to keep the family in the house and food fifteen years ago.
posted by pwnguin at 2:30 PM on August 6, 2010


If the choice is starvation and homelessness vs. retirement, I know which is more important. It's not fun, and not the best of all available options, but I'm not about to chastise my father when he did the same thing to keep the family in the house and food fifteen years ago.

Nobody is suggesting you chastise your family members. But I am saying that it's rather glib to suggest people drain their retirement accounts in order to support the idea that being unemployed for two years is not that long.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:55 AM on September 5, 2010


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