Posted in History, Politics

Couldn’t Have Said it Better Myself

10 Thoughts On America’s Unrecognized Scourge: Joblessness

from WGBH Radio, Boston, MA

” Thanks to a cocktail of factors – deregulation, globalization, deindustrialization, automation – wealth in the 21st century has become uncoupled from work.”

Auto factory worker
Still working…fornow.


1. A specter is haunting America – the specter of joblessness. Between Bill Clinton’s Washington exit 17 years ago and Donald Trump’s recent inauguration, about 10 million jobs across the nation have disappeared. Poof. Gone.

2. Friday’s report from the Department of Labor that the economy added 235,000 jobs is good news. “Robust,” is how NPR characterized it. But it’s a gloss on reality. It doesn’t reflect that somewhere between 20- and 40-million able-bodied people of working age have been displaced or dropped out of the workforce.

3. There are huge social, economic, and political implications attached to this still under appreciated phenomenon. The two most obvious: Brexit and Trump’s election. It would be gross over simplification to attribute these tectonic shifts to disappeared jobs alone. But it is reckless and irresponsible not to factor it into public thinking.

Read the rest of this article.

Then resist, with all your heart and will.

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Art For The Times

Well, in the space of two days I've had to tell two sets of parents about about mutual job losses. Now I've got myself, a husband a mother, a mother-in-law, a father and a father-in-law to worry about. No, I kept telling them, we'll be fine. Don't worry, don't stay up at night (bad enough one of us is doing that). And, for God's sake, don't send money. You need it!

Gaaah. My parents really do worry. They also don't really know what's going on in the wider world outside of them, so this kind of thing is a double shock to them.

Some days I feel just like this picture.

As if I didn't have enough to worry about.

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Jobs May Come And Jobs May Go, But Dinner Never Fails Me

I decided to get off my duff, at least for a while, and cook up some Italian sausages I got at Whole Foods last weekend. Silly me: in my rush of assumed employment I actually spent money there. Guess I'll get a medal for supporting the economy. Actually, though, the Italian chicken sausages were on sale so I guess it wasn't too bad of a move.

WF has good meats, albeit expensive. Whenever I'm feeling flush I'll walk home with some chicken sausages and did so last weekend with a pound of sweet Italian and a pound of garlic and herb. I decided to put together a pasta sauce tonight, with the old standbys: onion, garlic, green pepper, mushroom and canned chopped tomatoes. The sausages are quite flavorful, so no additional seasoning of the sauce is necessary. Just chop up whatever vegetables you desire and sautee. I usually start by sauteing the sausage and, since it's quick-cooking, I remove the meat and finish the rest of the sauce before adding it back. Added some vermicelli pasta and had a good, easy and quick dinner.

Given the way things are going with the economy, it may not be too long before we're boiling up our boots and twirling the laces, Charlie Chaplin style, with a big spoon:

Yum! Join me over the next open fire next to a railroad car. We'll boil up the shoes and patch our pants, darn our socks and bum the rails to the next town.

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Times Is Hard

Yes, they is. I've just re-joined the ranks of the unemployed, believe it or not, after a two-day stint as a fill-in for someone going out on medical leave. That person got either bored or insecure and called to get their job back, part-time. How they're going to do it, given the medical condition, is beyond me. My recruiter called yesterday afternoon when I got home from work to tell me the bad news.

My head is still spinning. I feel like a puppet whose strings are being pulled in totally opposite directions. Remember that scene with the horses in "Braveheart?" Snap.

Well, I still have my sense of humor, along with the realization that everyone else in the country (or so it seems) is going through this. I heard this on NPR tonight, a song by Loudon Wainwright III and it spoke for me, as it does for millions more. You can hear the song here:

Times Is Hard

Times is hard. Times is tough.
Nothin's easy. It's all rough.
There's not much right; so much gone wrong.
All I can do is play this song.

You're watchin' the news. It all looks bad.
The worst half-hour you ever had.
What in God's name is goin' on?
All I can do is play this song.

You're losin' your job, your house and your car.
Hittin' rock bottom don't feel that far.
Nothin' good is gonna come along.
All I can do is play this song.

Folks are scared watchin' that news.
Folks feel bad. They're gettin' the blues.
My poor stomach, it ain't that strong.
All I can do is play this song.

Times is rough. Times is hard.
Take a pair of scissors to your credit card.
Circuit City just said, 'So long.'
All I can do is play this song.

Who's at fault? Who gets the blame?
Let's string up Bernie what's-his-name.
And ask Alan Greenspan to come along.
All I can do is play this song.

They want your gold, and they'll pay cash.
The only silver lining is the price of gas.
Money's short and the odds are long.
All I can do is play this song.

The factory's closed. The bank is bust.
On the money it says, 'In God We Trust.'
So pray for all your stocks and bonds.
All I can do is play this song.

Outta luck. Outta hope.
I'm wonderin' why I even cast that vote.
I took that sign offa my front lawn.
All I can do is play this song.

There's a new man down there in D.C.
They say he's gonna help you and me.
They sure know how to bang the gong.
All I can do is play this song.

Last man in D.C., he had eight years.
Now the whole damn country is in arrears.
We got two, three, four wars goin' on.
All I can do is play this song.

Times is hard. Times is rough.
I guess you folks need some cheerin' up.
Well it ain't me babe. You got that wrong.
All I can do is play this song.

You heard it here. I sang it first.
Don't feel so bad; things are gonna get worse.
Consider yourselves all strung along.
All I can do is play this song.

All I can do is …


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A Day in the Life

Signed up for Unemployment Insurance benefits, a grand total of $301 per week to pay bills and maintain my household. In other words, not enough for squat. I was on hold for almost an hour because the volume of callers was so high.

On the bright side, I do have some time to work on other projects, such as writing and further training in the tech industry. Guess it's time to polish up that resume and put those new references from my now-old job to use.

I'm not quite sure how we're going to handle health insurance costs, though. There is a program for people collecting unemployment. I'm not sure how long I'll be out of work. If it's going to be a while, we'll need help with that cost.

Thank you, President Bush and your fellow Republicans. I'd like to line you all against a wall, or at least swap pay checks with you.

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Ready, Aim, Fired

Damn, I wasn't expecting this bit of news: I work as a contractor for a hospital in the Boston area and a rather unexpected round of budget cuts equaling job cuts was just announced. Guess who got laid off? Yep, you guessed it.

To add insult to injury, they're pushing for immediate terminations of support staff throughout the hospital. My last day will be tomorrow. Now, remember, no one had any idea this was going to happen – including the department head and my supervisor – this morning. One day to go from having a job to not having a job.

Well, fuck. I wonder if any of the people making these budget decisions stop to think about their impact on those affected. Can't they even stretch it out to the end of the week? One day?

Who are these people? Do they have families to feed, mortgages to pay? Will the world come to an end if an employer extends to people who are hired and who work in good faith a few days to make preparations?

What the hell is this world coming to? Or, more to the point, what the hell HAS this world come to?

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Stressed out: Women more likely to feel economic pangs

An interesting article I saw while browsing the Reuters news website:

By Terri Coles

TORONTO (Reuters) – Stocks are tumbling, the U.S. economy may be in recession, and don't even look at your 401K. It's little wonder some people are stressed out, but women may be bearing the brunt of it.

In a recent survey, women expressed more fear about the economic situation than men and reported more physical and psychological effects because of related stress.

"Women are sometimes more aware of the stress they are feeling," said Stephanie Smith, a psychologist and public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association (APA).

"They are often more willing to talk about it and admit to the struggles they are having," she said in a statement.

The survey, conducted by the APA, showed that 84 percent of women expressed fear about where the economy is going, compared with 75 percent of men.

One reason could be the primary caretaker role many women hold in their families, Smith suggested. A financial crisis can become even more worrying if you are responsible for caring for children and older relatives than if you are just taking care of yourself. As well, although surveys have shown a shift toward a splitting of chores between genders, women still carry a heavier burden in maintaining the home.

"As much as things have changed over the years, women still tend to do more of the household work," Smith said. "Taken together, these things often lead to more stress in women because they just have more things to be stressed about."

Stress is considered a risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease, bowel illnesses like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and mental illness. It causes biochemical changes in the body that can compromise the immune system, and makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar.

A recent study found that some types of stress, such as that caused by financial debt, can increase the risk of preterm delivery, and another showed that people who are chronically stressed are three to four times more likely to suffer heart problems. They also have a 53 percent increased risk of high blood pressure or stroke. A long-term study out of Finland discovered that uncertainty about your role in your workplace can up the risk of a heart attack over time.

The first key to reducing stress is recognizing its symptoms, which include irritability, sadness, changes in sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, difficulty concentrating and restlessness.

Most people likely already have the tools to cope with stress, said Smith. "One of things we often do is abandon our good coping strategies," she said. "The first and easiest coping mechanism is to keep up your good habits." That means trying to stick to your existing schedule for social activities and taking some time during the day to focus on yourself.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also suggests making an effort to get adequate sleep. A lack of sleep could make stress worse and lead to other health problems like weight gain and reduced immune function. Exercise and a good diet will help you stay healthy, and talking to friends and loved ones about your worries can also help you work through your anxiety.

If stress is affecting your quality of life, the American Heart Association recommends speaking to your doctor to find ways to cope and reduce your risk of stress-related health problems down the road.

Are you feeling extra stressed because of the economic crisis? Tell us about it:

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