Archive for the ‘Safety Net’ Tag

Tax Code Insanity: Couple Living Below Poverty Line Faces Higher Tax Rate Than Romney   4 comments

When tax time rolled around in April, my partner and I had zero income and were facing homelessness, so asking for an extension was a no-brainer. We were hoping we’d be in a better financial position in October. What else could we do?

We are indeed both working now. In fact, we work so many hours a week we almost never see each other and rarely have time for anything beyond working, sleeping and eating. Which is also why I haven’t been blogging. No time. It’s a pretty miserable existence. It’s also a precarious existence.

Since we’re both classified as independent contractors, we don’t qualify for the minimum wage, overtime, workers comp, health insurance, or unemployment benefits. And we can lose what little we have at the drop of a hat.

Despite this, we are doing better now than we have been in a while. As long as my partner puts in at least 72 hours a week and I work 30-40 on top of the uncompensated work I do around the house and taking care of the dogs, we can usually cover our rent, food, and bills. Unfortunately there’s nothing left over to see a dentist or buy a winter coat, and the only reason our beloved Balou is still hanging in there is that some kind, compassionate people are paying for his meds.
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Freelance Nation: How Protections for American Workers Are Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant   2 comments

Once upon a time you could be fairly certain that investing the time, money, and effort required to earn a four-year degree would allow you to land a good job with medical/dental/vision benefits, a retirement plan, and paid vacation time. In the event of a bad break, you could count on being covered by worker’s comp and unemployment insurance. While you may never get rich, you’d be comfortable, with no trouble financing a new car or qualifying for a mortgage. In fact, go back far enough and this type of security and lifestyle was even available to many people without a college degree.

Those days are increasingly behind us.

While big companies have spent the last 2-3 decades offshoring jobs to countries with low labor costs and few worker and environmental protections, businesses of all sizes are in on the latest trend to impoverish American workers and strip them of protections. What am I talking about? The rise of freelance nation.

Companies have figured out that in a labor market where demand for jobs far outstrips their supply, there’s no need to put workers on the payroll when it’s so much cheaper to just hire them as independent contractors. Pay only for the work you need, and then it’s adios, baby.
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More Evidence that the Real Economy Is Getting Worse Instead of Better   2 comments

Whenever I leave my little corner of the web and venture over to one of the big Democratic cheerleading sites, I’m told that we’re in the middle of a slow but steady economic recovery. Strange, I think to myself, because it sure doesn’t look that way from where I’m sitting.

Until the beginning of this year, my partner and I were at least getting by. Our freelance business wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but we were able to cover the basics. This year, however, virtually every one of our repeat clients has disappeared. Since two-thirds of our clients are repeat business, this is huge. And replacing them with new clients has proven extremely difficult. Not only are there far fewer projects to go around, but the small businesses we serve have become increasingly price-conscious, frequently expecting freelancers to work for next to nothing. If they hire anyone at all, that is. A substantial percentage of projects is simply canceled.

This is why we’ve been desperate to find full-time employment. Every day we comb the newspapers’ Help Wanted sections and the online job boards, and every day we notice how few jobs are available. So I wasn’t surprised to find the following statistic on the website of one of the large job aggregators:

In our area, there’s been a 49% drop in job postings compared to last year.
Nationwide, there’s been a 32% decline.

Source: Indeed.com (a site that aggregates job postings from newspapers, job sites, associations, and company career pages)

So much for that recovery, huh?
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Dear Dick   Leave a comment

As if you needed any more evidence that congressional Democrats are completely out of touch with the needs of the people they are supposed to represent, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who is close to Obama and frequently thought to be signaling the President’s positions on issues, announced yesterday that massive deficit reduction is “the challenge of our generation,” urging fellow Democrats as well as Republicans to “seize [the] moment” by supporting a truly “historic” package that would, without question, include deep cuts to social safety net programs. Because what we really need in this country is even more desperate people who are unable to make ends meet.

If Dick Durbin thinks debt reduction is the preeminent challenge we’re facing, all I can figure is that he must be living in some alternate universe. Which I guess he is. Durbin and the rest of the millionaires’ club in the Senate are so far removed from the lives of the people they were elected to represent that they might as well be from another dimension. The deficit that so concerns Durbin and the DC establishment barely even registers as a concern for the people in my community. Indeed, the only reason it registers at all is the ruling class’ relentless propaganda campaign.

Let me tell you, Dick, what people in my California community are concerned about. Our county’s official unemployment rate is 14.7%, but the real unemployment rate in our neck of the woods is at least 10-12 percentage points higher. Sometimes a whole week goes by without a single “help wanted” ad appearing in the local paper (not counting “make thousands stuffing envelopes from home” schemes and the like). Jobs are so scarce and people are so desperate for work that a supermarket putting up a Help Wanted sign for three no-benefits, minimum wage positions received hundreds of applications in a matter of hours.

While at least one in four are unemployed, many more are underemployed or stuck in low wage jobs that don’t pay enough to cover the basics. The lack of discretionary income in the area has devastated small businesses. The barbershop that used to cut my partner’s hair, the Mexican restaurant we occasionally stopped by for takeout before our car broke down and we couldn’t afford to get it fixed, the two Internet caf├ęs we visited a couple of times per month to escape the unbearable slowness of our dialup connection–they’ve all closed their doors. So have countless other businesses during the last few years. You can’t run a business without customers, and most people in our area have no money to spend.
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