Archive for the ‘Underemployment’ Tag

Still Fighting   5 comments

Things are looking very bad right now, but I’m not giving up. I can’t give up because of the dogs. If it weren’t for them, truthfully, I don’t know. I’ve had a tough life and I don’t see it getting any easier. And I’m tired of fighting. So damn tired.

To be honest, when I got so sick last month that I thought I might die, once I got over being scared, it was almost a relief. Not because I want to die. I don’t. But because dying would put an end to all the pain and misery and worry and stress and fear and the constant struggle just to survive another month.

Obviously I’m still here, but that doesn’t mean I’m all better. I try to ignore the pain as best I can. I can’t afford to be sick and I certainly can’t afford time off to take care of myself.

While I have no freelance work at this time, I have been able to find a job. Not a good job, mind you. No, it’s another contract job. No benefits. Part-time. I’ll be lucky to pick up twenty hours a week and I’ll make less than $10 per hour. Before taxes. Speaking of which, we were able to get an extension on filing our tax returns. We don’t have a penny to spare right now, let alone the hundreds of dollars we owe the IRS in self-employment tax.
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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 cafés 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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The Economy’s Real Confidence Problem   Leave a comment

I haven’t blogged much during the past few months because I’ve been super busy with work. The joys of freelancing are such that you can go for weeks with so little work that you’re unable to pay your bills and have nightmares about being evicted, when, suddenly, several clients want to hire you at once, and of course they all need you to get started yesterday. Since you don’t know when the next paying gig is coming your way, you don’t dare tell any of them that it’ll be a couple of weeks before you can get started on their project lest they hire someone else, so you end up putting in 12 hour days, 7 days a week.

As jobs are increasingly outsourced or replaced with temporary contract work, more Americans will find themselves in our shoes. That’s bad for workers, but it’s also bad for the overall economy. Aside from the lack of pensions, 401Ks, and health care benefits, people who aren’t confident they’ll have much income next month won’t be spending much money this month. They certainly won’t be making any big purchases. You may have had a good month or two, but since you can’t be confident that you’ll continue to get work, you save every dollar you don’t absolutely need to spend.

Of course it’s not just contract workers who lack confidence. With a lousy economy and sky high unemployment figures, those fortunate enough to have a full-time job that pays a living wage realize just how precarious their position is. If you are laid off, it could take a very long time to find a new job. Better save that discretionary income in case your job makes tracks to China or India.
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Jobs Aren’t Enough   5 comments

Every time I hear that the administration needs to focus on job creation or that X number of jobs have been created last month, I can’t help but wonder what kind of jobs people are talking about. Because it’s not just jobs we need. America desperately needs well-paying jobs. The type of jobs that will allow workers to buy more than the bare necessities. The type of jobs that make home ownership possible. The type of jobs that do not leave workers dependent on government assistance. The type of jobs that produce substantial tax revenue. The type of jobs that have been eliminated in droves to be replaced–in so far as they are replaced at all–by ever lower paying jobs.

The reason the economy–and with it the country–is going down the tubes can be summed up as too much wealth in too few hands. For a while, rising property values and easy availability of consumer credit shielded most people (and the economy as a whole) from feeling the pain associated with stagnant middle and working class wages, but the massive income inequality at the root of our problems has been in the making for at least thirty years. And it has finally caught up with us. The growing number of people at the bottom of the income pyramid are going without because they can’t afford to buy much-needed products and services, while those at the top horde much of their income because they already have far more than they will ever need. Unfortunately their greed knows no bounds, so we’re seeing 25% pay increases for senior executives, while low income workers in the same company must subsist on minimum wage.

Speaking of which, what’s the point of having a minimum wage that doesn’t pay enough to live on? At $8/hr, California’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, but it’s still grossly inadequate. According to the California Budget Project, a single adult with no kids needs to earn twice the minimum wage just to make ends meet. Note that this budget does not allow for any vacation time ever (unthinkable in the rest of the developed world), nor does it include saving money for retirement or a down payment on a house. Also not included are dental/vision coverage/care, Internet access, cable or satellite TV, costs of having a pet, travel, entertainment (e.g., movies, concerts, video games, music), or saving for emergencies (such as car repairs or the included health care plan’s $500 deductible). And, of course, the cost of having and raising kids isn’t included. Families with children need to earn three to four times the minimum wage to get by.
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Sign of the (Economic) Times   1 comment

My partner got a ride into town yesterday to do some grocery shopping, and when he got to the store, he saw a long line of people leading into the store from almost halfway down the block. Turns out the store had advertised three minimum wage positions, and word got around quickly. They didn’t even have to put an ad in the paper; a sign outside the store was all it took for hundreds of people to show up!

People around here are so desperate for work that even bagging groceries or stocking shelves for minimum wage is looking real good. Given California’s high cost of living and out-of-control rents (which, btw, have only gotten worse because the foreclosure crisis increased demand for rentals), these jobs don’t even pay enough to cover the most basic necessities. But job openings have become so rare in recent years that any time a position becomes available, the response is huge.

My partner put in an application too. Getting a regular paycheck every two weeks would be enormously comforting. It’s incredibly stressful and frightening to barely scrape by as a freelancer. Every month we’re terrified that we won’t make enough money to cover our basic expenses. While it’s usually possible to delay a past-due bill for a month, doing so makes things even tougher the following month when there’s an extra bill to pay. We’re constantly teetering on the brink of total disaster, while necessary medical and dental care is put off indefinitely. We just can’t afford it. This job won’t change that, but it would provide some security and remove some of the stress that is taking a toll on our relationship.

Unfortunately my partner has little hope of being hired due to a lack of extensive retail experience. Being overqualified won’t help either. There were literally hundreds of applications for those three positions, and there are bound to be some applicants with grocery store experience.
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