23 January 2012


I think it bears repeating that being un- or under-employed is incredibly stressful. I have a great undocumented, unofficial safety net of friends, family, and a partner who buys my groceries; but that's all it is, a safety net. I'm not building reserves. And I've had to accumulate debt on my credit card again because last month I had an only somewhat expected, but totally uninsured loss at my home.

A news item the other day mentioned that women are more likely than men to experience mental illness (MSNBC). How is this report surprising? When you jump through the right hoops, you do all you're supposed to do -- I put myself through law school so that I could double or triple my administrative professional's salary and show my daughter a better life -- and you get jack for it. What kind of jack? I serve on a volunteer committee with a guy who graduated below me in my law school class, who can't figure out how to calendar meetings on the iPad his Biglaw job gave him and who can't meet a deadline to save his life, and yet I'm the one who knows that, right now, I have $68.17 in the bank. This guy takes home six figures a year from his office; in my office, I get asked for free advice on how to legally force a grant-making foundation to give money to an organization that hasn't even applied for its determination letter yet.

I applied for dozens of jobs in 2011, landed a half-dozen interviews, and made less money in the past two years than a relative of mine spent in six weeks to finish their basement.

My friend Bee Lavender on American poverty and the lack of will on the part of political leadership to address it:
[E]normous numbers of people are forced into bankruptcy because of the egregious and parasitic [health] insurance industry. Others are trapped in jobs and relationships that restrict their aspirations, usefulness, and profitability, because they need the insurance. Health care reform hasn't happened in a fashion useful to me, and I very much doubt that it will in my lifetime. Not for lack of need, or care, but because the political will does not exist.

But instead of talking about the reality of poverty, and what it means to be poor, we get to hear presidential candidates shit talk our brothers and sisters, wives, husbands, children.

They say we're poor because we're lazy. I say I've never met a lazy poor person, though I have met quite a few rich people who lie and cheat and steal.

The esteemed Republican presidential candidate does not seem to grasp some basic concepts about life, work, or economics. Repealing child labor laws would certainly not have helped me as a child (my absenteeism being the result of cancer, not a bad attitude). My parents were already forced by necessity to take any job on offer, no matter how demeaning or low paid.

My dad is a janitor; Gingrich says we should fire janitors and make kids do the job. I would like to ask him what my father is meant to do? He is sixty-two years old, and has the best job he can find. If he loses it, there is no alternative career path.
This is crazy-making. In the face of ad-hominem attacks from politicians who blame the poor for their condition, and yell "look, Elvis!" to successfully draw the media's attention away from government policies that allow incomprehensibly high corporate profits to go untaxed while social services, public education, and the nation's infrastructure crumble, it's enough to make an un- or under-employed person crazy.

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