Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Strategies" for the Long Term Unemployed (Whatever)

Much of what I write about in this regard is - admittedly - wishful thinking, even if somewhat organized and carefully considered! However, there's a different set of realities in the present, which need to be touched on in this post, if only to let go of the burden for a while. Sometimes, people can "get by" being unemployed for months or even years at a time. It is widely assumed that once long term unemployed, always long term unemployed. If only that were readily feasible, for communities, individuals and the sake of all concerned.

Unfortunately, this assumption does not account for the fact that remaining in these life circumstance is a larger gamble all around than it may initially appear. As a result, some breathe a sigh of relief when the long term unemployed die and get it over with - that's just a lot less "messy" than intentional eugenics, isn't it. Maybe this is why Northerners (at least) appear better about inclusiveness - it's just too obvious to ignore when people are left out in the cold. Not to say that survival (or well being) with a paycheck is "guaranteed", by any means. Apologies in advance, for a bit of grousing and a few caustic observations in this post!

There are too many unknowns in today's complex economy for anyone to be completely prepared for. However: with paid work, one has the chance to at least save for contingencies. The great irony of our time - at least in the U.S. - is that some people actually believe government exists as a safety net for when people fall through the cracks.

It's a shame that unemployment payments were ever concocted as a "solution" to unemployment, when those checks were the most ill begotten approach imaginable. They were strictly a lazy way to exit a needed solution set which no one wanted to confront: one where people actually seek to make certain they have ways to continue meaningful economic interchange of all kinds with one another. At the very least, unemployment checks served some purpose when they gave people the nerve to start their own businesses. Now they are mostly a means by which to delay the inevitable approach of a no employment reality.

Government assistance mostly holds true for those who have specific forms of illness, so as to guarantee trips to the doctor and money for one's daily expenses. Government provisions in the U.S. no longer hold true in any broad sense, for those who expect to be able to provide for themselves in the course of their lifetimes. Unless - of course - one is already employed in which case subsidies may apply. Wait...what?

Certainly my dad agrees: whatever health issues I have that nonetheless hinder employment, would not realistically qualify for government assistance of any kind until retirement. Long story short, I need to be working in the paid arena, regardless of whether anyone would be willing to hire me or not. Unfortunately for baby boomers with no paid work, government can become the unexpected enemy, when property taxes often triple and quadruple from the tax rates paid by one's parents. One can be responsible till the cows come home, with unpaid work. But that is not going to help pay the bills - let alone tend to one's reputation as a human being in the 21st century U.S.

Basically, there's no new group strategies for anyone who expected to play by the rules of the game for the course of a lifetime, only to be blindsided by unexpected difficulties in the path. Everyone goes on pretending no group strategies are needed, and leaves it to the unemployed to sort out and worry about why they are not able to remain responsible to others. Everyone who is gainfully employed is content to point fingers at someone else and say "why don't you think outside the box for a change". But thinking outside the box is mostly a fool's game, because when someone actually does so, the discourse is treated as an odd curiosity.

Or worse, the person with ideas is considered an affront to the existing systems which are supposedly doing just least when push comes to shove. Complaining about the system is as far as anyone dares to go until it's too late and the good options for starting fresh have been lost. It's all a game which has no reasoned plan of action for anyone who loses. Few dare to fall out of line, because solitary confinement isn't just something that happens behind bars.

What everyone basically hopes for, is that they can get by somehow so that they don't end up on the streets, or otherwise succumb to serious illness and/or addiction. Some are "fortunate" enough to be married and/or receiving government payments for disability, or perhaps even pacing restlessly behind bars. Prison must be "wasted on the young", for the authorities let people out just about the time the restlessness and energy decline and fear starts to really set in...

But what if none of the above presently applies, and someone knows full well that they need to once again take their chances outside what little "security" exists in the present? How do they explain the rationale (such as it is) to potential employers re their years of absence? How do they deal with their gnawing fears that they might not even be strong enough anymore - what with approaching old age - to do all that a job requires, through the course of a day?

It takes a leap of faith on the part of the unemployed hopeful, to responsibly (or is that irresponsibly?) move to "God knows where" for a chance at finding and then maintaining paid work. It also takes a leap of faith as well on the part of the employer who decides to take a chance to see if such an individual can still function in the workplace. Presently, the unemployed need to figure out their own strategies because much of the world is damn tired of thinking about their predicament, hence has basically moved on. Even if one's sanity is maintained through the ordeal and hard won wisdom even generates personal victories, few really notice or care.

So what is the broadest societal component of this unfortunate circumstance, monetarily speaking? Tight money or NIMBYism writ large: okay if you don't think it's tight, that's your prerogative. As Scott Sumner indicated, the idea that tight money might even be a problem is not a central component of the economic domain. Likewise, for the rest of society, attention has long since moved past the ones who were left behind by recession, to the daily issues that people with jobs still face, be it impulse control or whatever one chooses to do with spare time.

What about those moments when the rest of the world does still takes notice in the unemployment predicament? Oh that's right, there's still complaining to be had whenever the unemployed still need to follow through on existing obligations, duh. How to keep from getting in the way of the plans of others? How, indeed. When we are told that we are grossly irresponsible, and yet we have few means within our grasp by which we could realistically be more responsible...what can be done? I honestly don't know. And people who have unemployed as family or friends, are tired of hearing any philosophy about the situation. Can't really blame them I suppose.

No one else is able to give much thought to strategies for the unemployed or soon to be unemployed, either. Everyone has to concentrate on maintaining their own position, which invariably ties into the "way things are". We used to hear "the poor will always be with us." Will the unemployed also always be with us? This could be why it's so easy for economists and central bankers to continue tight monetary policy. Are they simply following the lead of the crowd? This post does not have a particularly bright ending, but for any new readers I am not normally this coarse. Hopefully the next post will be more upbeat.

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