Monster.com recently called for the unemployed and those who support them to submit questions to the White House. I've followed the plight of the 99ers, people who've lost jobs through no fault of their own and who have exhausted their benefits, and have become increasingly concerned at the treatment and discrimination I've witnessed against what once was the American middle class.
My question of the White House (link):
The White House has avoided using the term 99ers. Why? There are millions who've lost their jobs and have exhausted benefits through no fault of their own. How can the economy ever come back if 99ers, many middle-aged middle-class, are kicked farther under the bus. Ads say: no unemployed need apply. Age discrimination is rampant and obvious. Mortgage companies will not modify for the unemployed. Even if you get the economy going, how many millions will be forced into poverty that would otherwise be the bulwark of democracy if they were helped now?
Austan Goolsbee's reply came today:
This is not casual interest or a reporter's curiosity. Journalism has been savaged by this economy. I know more reporters and writers out of work than with work. Many who've lost their long-term benefits have no safety net. Others could be called 1099ers for those who didn't qualify for UI and for how long they've been without an income. These are talented and good American citizens who would do anything to work and apply for everything that comes along -- mostly to no avail.
It's not just anecdotal. As a writer, an executive project manager, and publisher of a public interest magazine (everyone donates their efforts), I have my own challenges with this economy. When I research the various industries for which I am extremely qualified, I find exponentially more applicants than available jobs.
What must it be like for those whose industries have all but collapsed or have been outsourced? The prospect for the middle class, the heart of America that has kept us strong, who fought World War II and saved us, who manufactured us into a super power, is dimmed. I've never been so concerned for my country.
99ers, unlike Glenn Beck's and Rush Limbaugh's attempts to demonize them -- the weird psychological shift that's happened in the country to applaud the lack of empathy and scorn those who've been disenfranchised through no fault of their own -- are in a no-win scenario. Job postings state the long-term unemployed need not apply. Coded language makes it clear the employer is not interested in the associated costs that come with middle-aged employees.
It's bad business (unless your business is ratings). As Austan Goolsbee points out, as many other experts have referenced repeatedly, unemployment benefits are stimulus. The people receiving them spend the money. They don't get enough to survive long-term on them. They're not lazy. They're not discouraged from looking for work by receiving unemployment benefits. THEY DO LOOK FOR WORK, exhaustively, incessantly, and in many cases, without results because the sheer numbers of unemployed competing for the open positions are against them. It's an insurance policy to keep the middle class in place. It's a middle class and small business which depends on their spending that's under attack and their enemies are winning the war.
How are they winning? By making sure the long-term unemployed will either be discouraged from voting or will vote against the Obama administration and Democrats out of anger. It's clever, it's cynical, and it's working because, as the Economic Policy Institute has pointed out, the U.S. economy would need to add 11.5 million jobs to make up for the shortfall due to the recession. In September, 2010, the private sector added 64,000 jobs.
The media is complicit in this, as well. Very few outlets have reported accurately about 99ers. The exceptions: the Huffington Post (thank you, Arthur Delaney and co.), Ed Schultz, one segment from 60 Minutes, and a new broadcast from CNN.
That leaves those who watch Fox News to be told the 99ers are unAmerican. That leaves the members of the Congress and Senate who don't use the term 99ers. That leaves politicians and members of the media who talk about legislation to renew tiers 2-4 as if it were more encompassing and let an unsuspecting public assume that it will cover those who've exhausted their benefits. It will not. The only Senate legislation that will extend UI for 99ers is Debbie Stabenow's S.3706 which was blocked by the GOP from coming out of the Finance Committee. It's not up for consideration and Senator Stabenow is not heard using the term 99ers herself much anymore.
The time has come to ask those obstructing legislation such as S. 3706 -- especially those who are pushing for a renewal of the Bush tax cuts at the same time -- are they doing it because they're concerned about fiscal policy or because they want a permanent underclass with the resulting depression of wages? Do they want a Third World America?
They must because it's what they're creating.
60 Minutes: The 99ers:
Ed Shultz on the 99ers:
Arthur Delaney's Huffpost on the 99er's legislation blocked in the Senate.
More at THE ENVIRONMENTALIST (please support the writers there).