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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/22/11

The Truth about Unemployment Benefits

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MYTH: According to the Republicans, receiving unemployment compensation discourages people from seeking work. 

FACT: I looked for work every day. It wasn't until months AFTER I exhausted all my unemployment insurance did I finally give up looking for work. It was only THEN did I lose hope and contemplate suicide.

So what do the Republicans say to those like me whose benefits have already expired over a year ago, and still can't find any job at all? There are several million other people just like me. What jobs are we refusing? Did 14 million unemployed Americans really refuse to take 14 million jobs? And so therefore, those 14 million people must also be lazy and should all be drug-tested? Should all Republican politicians, who are also on the "government tit", be drug tested too?

For some reason the Republicans are saying 14 million people are refusing to take jobs, but at the same time they blame Obama for not creating 14 million jobs. Whose fault is it? Obama's, for not creating jobs? Or ours, for refusing to take jobs?

Here's how it really works: When you're first laid off, you don't take the very first job you can find if it doesn't even pay the mortgage and car payment. You look for the best paying job you can get. You can't just decide one day to live in a cheaper house or apartment, or buy a cheaper car, if you're already locked in to a financial obligation with a bank or a rental agreement such as a year's lease.. Also, if you take a temporary job paying much less than your previous job, then get laid off again, your UI benefits are recalculated to pay even less than before.

If you want to move into a cheaper apartment, the new landlord asks to see your last two pay stubs. People aren't just refusing jobs to get a free ride, they might need a little extra money to feed their kids too. If they don't meet child support, they could lose their drivers license in many states, and lose visitation rights...and go to jail. There are many other things to factor in. Its not as cut and dried as the Republicans would like you to believe, it's much more complicated than that.

When most people are first laid off, they look for work in a field they're familiar with, or trained in, or went to school for, or are qualified for. A nurse doesn't look for a job delivering newspapers any more than a CEO would look for a job in the mailroom. They first look for a job paying a compatible wage, close to what they were previously paid.

It's only after many weeks (or months) later, and after many applications and rejections, do they start lowing the bar and their expectations, a little at a time, incrementally until they are finally reduced to just taking ANY job at all.

People like myself who were first laid off in late 2008, might have thought it might be the same after 911, when we had layoffs, but then the economy quickly recovered, and companies began calling workers back. No one back then (me included) would have ever thought the recession would have lasted this long. If I had known, I would have immediately stopped making my car payments and bought an old clunker while I still had cash in the bank (and to hell with my credit-rating).

People who were laid off 6 months ago, or even a year ago, had a much better understanding of how bad things really were, and they also had much more time to plan and save. The first people hit (like myself) had no idea what was coming, had no time to prepare, and was just winging it as best we could.

First you start out assuming that you'll get a comparable job. When that doesn't happen, you start thinking about what you can give up. You give up premium cable channels, magazine and Netflix subscriptions, and any other pleasurable pursuits. You stop going to movies, going out to dinner, buying take-out. You don't fix or replace broken things. You keep those socks with holes in them. You cook at home all the time, buying generic brands. You eventually decide which credit cards are more important to pay than others, until enough time goes by that you realize that you can't afford to pay any of them...and all the while you continue to look for work, any work, so that you can stop the freefall.

But then it begins: the downward spiral where you can't pay anything at all...and wind up losing your home...and your car and other possessions. And finally, because you're horrified at the thought of becoming homeless, like me, you might consider ending your life.

I was a casino bartender for 20 years, so naturally I sought a similar job. Two years later I was applying for busboy positions at the local restaurants and I even applied at a truck driving school. It wasn't until months later after my unemployment benefits expired (and I depleted my life's savings) did I quit looking for any work at all, and went through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I accepted the fact that I was not going to find a job (any job) and I would soon be evicted from my home. I also accepted the fact that I was not going to be a homeless man either, because from "day one" that was never an option for me. And because of that, I accepted the fact that I wasn't going to live much longer.

Because you see, after being older at 55 years old and being out of work for 2 years by that time, it just made my prospects even dimmer, if not impossible. It was only when my unemployment benefits ran out, did I lose hope and give up looking for work - because I realized that not long afterwards, I had already reached my "point of no return" - that even if I had found a job, it was already too late. I had already lost my self-respect and confidence, my health was in decline, my car was towed away, and I was already behind in the rent and utilities. I realized that because I had been without any income at all for several months after exhausting all my unemployment benefits, surviving became almost impossible by that point.

I am so sick and tired of hearing people dismiss and disrespect the long term unemployed by giving them the "take any job" speech. There aren't "any jobs" to refuse if you're not even being considered for an interview. If a Republican wants to know the truth about something, they should just stop being so damn lazy and go to the source, and talk to a REAL unemployed person, rather than using their silly anecdotal stories about people "gaming the system" (talking points they get from their conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation).

Wealthy "conservatives" such Bill O'Reilly, Paul Ryan, Sean Hannity, Eric Cantor, Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum, Rupert Murdoch, the Koch bothers, Jim DeMint, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, John Boehner, Paul Rand, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Mitch McConnell, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Steve Doocy, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, and all the rest of them know damn well that one man (Obama) can't create 14 million jobs, any more than they themselves can't magically create 14 million jobs. But yet they still blame Obama for the jobless numbers, while at the same time accusing the unemployed of being lazy drug-addicts and refusing to take jobs.

Businesses don't create jobs, only people who have money in their pockets to spend can create jobs. The "job creators" (corporate America) enabled people in China to become the real job creators by moving their factories there and putting money to spend in the pockets of Chinese citizens.

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Bud Meyers was born in California and has lived in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Germany, Hawaii, and most recently Las Vegas Nevada - where he has lived and worked as a casino bartender since 1989 until 2008 . Besides blogging, Bud also (more...)
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