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Now Just Look Surprised

June 24, 2014

It gets a bit frustrating sometimes… horizons dimmed, opportunities limited, X’d out of society and living with the grand lie of economic improvement sugar-coating the rage and smoldering opinion that the government is our adversary. In the worst economic times in seventy-five years the Federal Government offers struggling, long-term unemployed Americans the following assistance programs to regain meaningful employment:


: End List

Yes, it offers them nothing, “Bye-bye! Best of luck to ya!” What should they do, catch the next rocket ship out of town? Take off for Alderaan? A government that tells its struggling people to just fuck off. If a Typhoon were to hit the Philippines, you’d see videos of smiling young Marines delivering drinking water to the victims by helicopter. Now, take an American city like Detroit. In an effort to collect its back debts, the water works is shutting off residential customers, while giving business a pass. The average bill is $75 and for the long-term unemployed $75 might as well be $750.

So in a city with an adult unemployment rate above 50%, you cut off someone’s access to water, so they must either steal it or die. Too bad, Detroit isn’t a Canadian city. They’d probably garner some attention that way. Without clean water, how do you get ready for work? How do you go out and look for work? What are we saying to these people, when we as a society do this to them? To not only deny any assistance, but to actually throw stumbling blocks in their path? The job market is already impossible, now let’s make it harder. One blemish, one run in with the law and its goodbye Charlie! Circumstances don’t matter, that’s your name on the court docket, isn’t it? And even if it was twenty years ago, we can’t be too careful, when hiring a part-time maintenance man.

If we arrested everyone in this country who ever deserved to get a DUI at one time or another, there’d be no one left on the outside to guard the jail. But what of those individuals unfortunate enough to serve as the sacrificial lambs of society, facing financial ruin to teach the rest of us a lesson? Because we’re getting tough on drunk drivers, we’re ruining their lives and making them unemployable; two beers will put you over the limit. Just about anyone who leaves a restaurant after a couple of glasses of wine is over the legal limit, yet, if you were asked, “Did you see anyone drunk?” you’d answer “no.”

Is government targeting a problem or establishing a lottery? X number of drivers on any given day, might be over the limit and some are caught in the police dragnet. Are they solving a problem or merely fleecing the sheep? Applying the legal and financial hammer to a social ill. Good job! They’ve lost their employment and gone into bankruptcy, attended the mandatory classes, lost husbands, wives and families and are still alcoholics. I think I’d try to help a dog that was sick, before I’d try whipping it; it doesn’t seem to accomplish much in the long-term scheme of things.

This month the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 217,000 new jobs, a little lower down the page they also reported 218,000 workers lost their temp jobs this month. Temp jobs, offering no benefits, no insurance and no future; 7.3 million Americans officially working part-time for economic reasons. Millions of Americans trying to live on $200 or $250 a week, no benefits no insurance and no future. College educated Americans working at the convenience store, or the ever popular “Looking for Interns with Masters Degree to work for start-up.”

“Write phony Yelp Reviews!” The catch is you only get paid if the review isn’t filtered by Yelp, which it probably will be. I wouldn’t believe a Yelp review if I wrote it myself. It so typifies our economy. Yelp offers merchants a free web page and a higher priced web page; guess which one allows them to filter comments? So hypothetically, if Jesus had a Yelp page: “I came all the way across town to see Jesus! All I wanted him to do was to touch me and would he do it? No! I felt cheated, the loaves were stale and the service was terrible.” Anyone in business knows, even Jesus would get bad reviews. In Al Capone’s day, “Yous should pays us some money fore sompin bad happens to you” was considered more of a crime, than a business model.

Half of the jobs listed on Craigslist are clearly out-and-out frauds, the other half are highly questionable. There are always these trucking jobs; go to school and learn to drive a truck and sign here. Graduate and we’ll help you buy a truck and sign here. But they advertise these jobs, all day every day. Are these job openings; are they teaching a trade or just trying to sell trucks? Sending a near endless stream of résumé’s to an endless stream of hiring managers. How do you tell them about your experience and ability, without exposing your age?  Showing up for a job interview at 57 years of age, is akin to showing up wearing a Jason mask with a butcher knife in your hand.

Mention that you don’t have a car and you might as well announce you’re the Grand High Priest in the Church of Satan! Your application goes in the not-in-a-million-years file with the ex-cons. “Oh, you smoke cigarettes on your free time? Well, that’s it for you then, out you go.” If I smoke cigarettes and you’re not offering any benefits anyway, what’s it to you? I don’t smoke cigarettes or play the cello, but I’m not offended by people who do. Nowadays, even legal activities can ban you from employment. If they wanted to they could say, “Oh, you square-dance, I’m terribly sorry, but this is a no square-dancing workplace.”

Now say that you’ve been laid off for six months or so, and trying to live on $250 per week unemployment. On Monday, you get hired for a job that won’t begin to pay you for two weeks. You’re broke, something’s got give, someone’s not going to get paid. How do you put gas in the car when unemployment checks stop, the first day you’re hired, not the day you get paid? Now if you fudge a week, do you know what you are? You’re under investigation, Bud!  Now US banks lost some $13 trillion and got bailed out and the Pentagon loses $9 billion and nobody seems too upset. Try being over fifty years old and a member of the long-term unemployed club and owe the state $250 and watch how excited people can get!

Is it really any wonder why the suicide rate for older Americans is at record levels? Can they even be called suicides? The nation’s food pantries report food demand has doubled in the last five years. How is this supposed to work again; if I succeed, it’s because capitalism allowed me to succeed, but if I fail, it’s all my fault? Capitalism takes all the credit; it takes everything… except responsibility?

There are 9,799,000 (officially) unemployed Americans, up by 46,000 this month.

There are 7,269,000 Americans working part-time for economic reasons, down by 196,000 this month. There are 2,827,000 discouraged workers or only marginally attached this month, to the labor force. A minimum of 19,895,000 American adults living hand-to-mouth, with five million more Americans working temp jobs, never knowing if there’s going to be another paycheck after next week, trying to keep a roof over their heads or an old car running, keep shoes on their feet or get a haircut. The average length of unemployment this month is 35 weeks, down from 38 weeks, last May. That’s the average number. If you happen to be over 50, have ever been in trouble with the law at anytime in your life or have bad credit, only have public transportation or are vastly over qualified, or have health problems or smoke, it might take a little longer.

In the worst economic times in seventy–five years, the Federal Government offers to struggling, long-term unemployed Americans the following assistance programs to regain meaningful employment.


: End List

Now just look surprised, when people do something crazy.


About the author: David Glenn Cox is a senior staff writer for TLR and an award winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel, “The Servants of Pilate.”


8 Responses to Now Just Look Surprised

  1. David Cox on June 25, 2014 at 5:17 am

    There are all kinds of revolutions,not all are violent. We have a one party state which is economically untenable. We, people like you and I are building that new Party with our daily lives

    • pvequalkt on July 7, 2014 at 11:19 pm

      “We, people like you and I are building that new Party with our daily lives”

      I hope so, David. But we’ll have to FINALLY start voting smarter. Voting for someone else, like Green or some kind of Socialist is best (IMO). Not voting is not quite as good, though in enough volume it might send a message. Continuing to vote for democrats cannot possibly help. Giving democrats money is sheer idiocy… unless you are an uberrich radical capitalist warmongering fascist goon, who they serve.

      Thom Hartmann and I KNOW that another crash is looming. The conditions have not changed, except that the casinos are backed by federal debt now. The Japanese are in the nose of the plane, we are in first class (where else?) and the EU is riding coach as we auger in… again. One presumes that, soon enough, fundamentals must prevail and our era of vapor capitalization cannot thrive. When the poor and middle have nothing left to take, government cannot borrow… one would think.
      As with all holes… because we kept digging in 2008, we’ll be in it a lot deeper when (not if) it collapses in on us… maybe by 2016.

      • Macrocompassion on July 8, 2014 at 7:58 am

        Once again an article which is all emotion and instinct but very little real meat. If our situation with regard to the working of society is so poor, then we surely need to do something about it! But today we don’t REALLY know what to do–indeed our knowledge of what it is and how it works are minimal, so how can we be expected to support someone who claims he/she knows how to proceed? Yet this is how leaders of political parties get elected and find themselves in charge of our national policies.

        There are two things to do. Firstly, we should be spending our time learning about our social system, about what it is and more importantly about how it works. A doctor who has insufficient knowledge cannot be expected to treat sick people properly. It’s the same with macroeconomics and to make this matter worse there is a movement to limit the amount of knowledge that is being taught and spread about this subject, because if heaven forbid, we really did have the key to the problem of unemployment it would cause the big organizations to lose their powers of exploiting our frail, poorly paid workers and would-be workers too.

        So although the rest of this comment contains the answer, it is very unlikely that anyone whose knowledge of macroeconomics is of the average limited level, will ever be able to appreciate it or even want to, because the political leanings (including our mistaken socialism) of us make us blind to being sufficiently objective to appreciate the actual truth.

        The cause of unemployment is because one of Adam Smith’s three factors of production, namely the land, is being held out of use for purposes of speculation in its value and selling price. As a town grows and the community develops, there is a need for the local authorities to collect taxes and to spend them on improving the infra-structure. This covers road, sewers, public health, education facilities, various emergency services, etc. This expenditure make the land more useful and productive and so its price rises. Speculators in land values gain income indirectly from these tax payers. But it is worse that this!

        The speculators in land value including the banks willingly create/lend/borrow money for such investments. (There is an element of corruption here too, since the news as to where the latest development is going to occur has high value to these future land purchasers.) When the development land has been secured and partly withheld from use, there is a higher demand for the un-hoarded land that is presently available, so up goes its price. (Look around your town and see how much land opportunity is being wasted!) This makes it more expensive to use this land productively, due to the greater amount of ground-rent that some producers and entrepreneurs are now able to pay for the right of access. It also makes land previously in use more costly to have access to.

        The goods that come from this limited level of production cost more and as a direct result the demand for them is reduced. Thus speculation in land values drives up the cost of goods and reduces that ability to make good use of them. Then the producers will cut back on what they are making and this causes the unemployment. Consequently the whole system of our society is held back by the greed of the speculating banks and land owners.

        If the value of the land was taxed and less corresponding tax were paid on incomes, the situation would be very different because it would no longer be worthwhile to speculate in land values. Its cost for access would be lower and more people would find work due to the lower cost of the produce and the associated raised demand. This proposal was first proposed 135 years ago (by Henry George, which one should look up), but it has been regularly opposed by those in political power, whose speculation in the capitalist system includes that in land values.


  2. Macrocompassion on June 25, 2014 at 3:29 am

    You really need to understand how our macroeconomics system workd and is badly distorted, before shooting off your mouth in such an ineefective and undisciplined manner.

    • David Cox on June 25, 2014 at 11:29 am

      Understanding as in living it? Or understanding as in what a book says?

      • Macrocompassion on June 26, 2014 at 10:07 am

        Your question suggests that the difference between micro- and macro-ecomomics is not clear to you. Macro- is not simply scaled up micro- but a subject which deals with the aggregate behavour of the larger elements of the whole social system. We are discussing Macro- here (as in books).

    • The Editor on June 26, 2014 at 11:19 am

      So Macrocompassion, what’s your point? So far you haven’t made an argument, just an unnecessary insult (the common modus on right-wing websites, but not here). Everyone who writes/comments here typically knows the difference between macro and micro economics (first day, Econ 101), and David certainly does. The article addresses some of the effects of the real economy on people — a street level view, at times. Your ‘argument’ comes off a little like this analog: Pedestrians maimed in crosswalks by speeding automobiles should not complain because they don’t understand traffic flow dynamics. ;-) If you want to challenge the assertions in articles/comments, please make real arguments, without vitriol if possible. Thank you.

  3. Albert Kapustar on June 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I am not surprised I have been predicting this disaster for years and its only going to get worse.When you have 3 or 4 major parties,the Democrats and the republicans and their 2 satellites all paid for by the corporations you know the working man and the unemployed are going to get screwed ,plain and simple.What we need is a new third party with some teeth but that takes money and all the money is going to all our corporate parties.This next election we will have a choice between a crazy republican Fascist and a practicing corporate Fascist in Hillary Clinton.Big deal,we lose.And besides the money,all media is now owned by big corporations who will blast any real third party into submission.The only real choice is a revolution but then our overpriced army will blast us into Fascist submission with drones,firebombing and their new sound destruction devices.Complain all you want but until people stop believing the propaganda spewed at us dailey,until we can find a few real sugardaddys to back a real candidate,until people back away from their boob tubes and see what is going on we haven’t achance in hell of any real change except for the worse and as I have said it will get even worse no matter what corporate stooge is elected

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