Monday, December 13, 2010

What Happens When the Jobless Give Up?

From CNN Money. The article spends a great deal of column length fretting and wringing hands about losing income and personal productivity, so I only brought over the pertinent parts to the article.

"The cost of not working

Whatever the right mix of reasons, the fallout is crippling. Economically, long-term joblessness means fewer dollars for consumption. For deficit control, it means fewer taxpayers contributing to government revenues and tens of billions more spent on unemployment insurance. Then there is the psychological toll on individuals and families -- and on the nation.

Early on in the recession, popular culture seized on the romantic notion of tightening our belts and looking inward to frills-free fun with our friends and families, after a decade of borrowed hyperconsumption. Now we need to ask a less romantic question: What happens when millions of Americans lose the habit of work, a habit that lends balance, structure, dignity -- and, of course, economic support -- to lives?

The longer people are unemployed the less employable they become. Skills become rusty; managers look more suspiciously at someone who has been out of work for years than a candidate already employed. I remember an old conservative saying: Graduate from high school; get a job -- any job; get married -- stay married; and (statistically speaking) your chances of landing in poverty are practically nil.

Even if that was once true, that calculation has lost some relevancy in this far more complex economy. But the concept of getting people back on the ladder, even if it's on a lower rung, is a worthy one."

Then the article goes into more hand-wringing over the upcoming tax bill vote, and whether or not unemployment bennies will be extended. What nobody's paying attention to is the fact that the federal unemployment program is structured so that the states with the LEAST amount of unemployment relative to the national rate will get LESS MONEY. This means even if the bill does pass, hardly anybody will qualify for more money, unless they are newly- or recently unemployed--the so-called "99 weekers" won't see a dime. Only states with the same or higher unemployment percentages as the national average will see federal extension money, which means states that have 9.8% or higher unemployment levels will be the only recipients of federal monies, and surprisingly, many states are doing much better than the national average--Vermont, for example, is in the 5% range.

Also, this article misses the point of frugal living and calls it a "romantic notion"--when done properly, there's nothing romantic about frugal living. In fact, I've never been busier or more determined to save money in my life!

Anyway, what they haven't seen yet is the savings from NOT working. Just in tax credits and deductions alone, a SAHS (spouse) is worth at least $40k in writeoffs, and maybe more now, with new and inventive ways of cutting spending (you're welcome). Just because the job isn't outside the house, you don't work any less, and your work isn't worth any less--you're just as productive, but you don't answer to any boss but yourself.

Ahhhhh...that might be the problem!

Some people need a higher authority to answer to, and are uncomfortable with a lack of overseer. Throughout generations, we've been slowly trained to accept the bit of occupation and production, and now we get nervous when the bit isn't there. These are people who lack self-confidence or self-assurance to accept becoming their own boss over a different list of things to get done.

The economy has changed, but the psychology remains the same, and that will be the greatest downfall of the long-term unemployed. People haven't been trained to work INSIDE the home--only outside. Time (actually, PAST time) for some retraining.

To answer the title question "what happens when the unemployed give up?", the answer is find a new job--even if it means staying home and doing housework, yard work, wood working, or whatever. You finally have a chance to answer YOUR OWN priorities first, instead of someone else's, and Uncle Sam pays you handsomely (more than a stinkin' unemployment check ever will). BTW, this program isn't subject to the whims of Congress.

Here is the REAL cost (or rather, savings) of not working.


Post a Comment