Showing posts with label unemployment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unemployment. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2020

To hell with social distancing: Let's loot the liquor store!

Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on Memoria Day. Riots began in Minneapolis on the following day and quickly spread across the country. Within a week of Floyd's death, more than half the states had called out their National Guard.

Dozens of police officers have been injured over a week of rioting. In New York City, almost four dozen police cars were damaged or destroyed. In Chicago, a policewoman was assaulted by rioters who tried to keep her from making an arrest.  In Minneapolis-St. Paul, more than 250 buildings were damaged or destroyed by rioters, including a police station and a post office. 

All this mayhem was triggered by the unjust killing of a black man, but I think there are other causes for all this violence. After all, there are 40 million Americans who are out of work.  Surely some protestors are on the streets simply because they are unemployed and bored.

For example, while watching the television coverage of the riots last week, I saw a slightly obese white guy in his fifties who was out on the streets of Minneapolis.  A television camera captured the man verbally abusing a police officer from a distance of about six inches from the officer's face. Does that guy have a job, I wondered? 

I don't wish to disparage the motives of the people who are demonstrating in our cities, but I think there would have been a lot less vandalism, arson, and looting if there were not so many jobless people.

A dude with a job would probably turn down an invitation to set fire to the post office. "It's a lovely invitation," he might say, "but unfortunately, I have to be at work tomorrow by 8 AM." 

He might also beg off from joining an expedition to loot the local liquor store. "I wish I could join you," he might explain," but I have to get the kids off to school tomorrow morning.

Requiring people to wear masks when they appear in public is also playing a role in all this chaos.  Many states passed anti-mask laws back in the 1920s to help bring down the Ku Klux Klan. But this past week, thousands of protesters were wearing masks that cloaked them in anonymity should they decide to throw a firebomb at a police cruiser.

George Floyd's death has fueled legitimate anger all over the United States. Everyone realizes that. But in my opinion, these riots will not be quelled so long as millions of Americans are jobless and required to wear masks when they are on the streets.

Burning police cars: requiring people to wear masks is part of the problem.



Wednesday, April 15, 2020

As the economy spirals downward,take charge of your mental health


Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor

Hard Times
Stephen Foster (1854)

Make no mistake. America is spiraling downward toward a major Depression. Seventeen million people have already lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate will undoubtedly rise later in the year. Many unemployed people won't be able to pay their rent or make their mortgage payments.   Laid-off workers who had employer-provided health insurance will lose it and find they can't afford to pay for it themselves.

Financial stress has mental-health consequences and people who have suffered financial setbacks will be understandably depressed.  Thus, if you are one of the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs or a substantial part of their retirement savings, you need to pay close attention to your own mental health.

First, if you find yourself slipping into clinical depression, let your doctor know. Depression is a fairly common malady and is treatable. Your family physician can prescribe an antidepressant that can alleviate this medical condition.

Second, get some physical exercise, but don't overdo it. You don't need to run a marathon to get the benefits of physical activity. Just take a walk or ride your bicycle. Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and depression, and relief is usually immediate.

Third, pay attention to what you eat. If you are down on your luck and scraping by on unemployment checks and food stamps, you may need to cut your food budget. But try to continue eating foods that you enjoy.  A good meal, especially a meal shared with family and friends, helps relieve depression.

If you are pinching pennies, you will probably stop eating in restaurants. But you can buy a cheap grill and broil hotdogs in the backyard.  You can also learn to cook inexpensive food so that it tastes delicious. I once swore I would never eat collard greens, but my wife cooks them so well that greens taste like a gourmet dish. 

Fourth, don't neglect relaxation. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, people went to the movies, which provided cheap entertainment. Today, a movie, a soda, and some popcorn will set you back about fifteen bucks.

But a Netflix subscription doesn't cost much, and you can see a new movie every night of the week. Don't cancel that subscription to cut costs unless you are desperate.

Fifth, take up a hobby.  If you are poor, you will probably not take up golf or skiing. But you can plant a small garden, even if it is nothing more than a potted tomato plant by your back door. You will find it immensely satisfying to grow and eat vegetables you grew yourself.

Finally, remember that the financial hardship you are experiencing is not your fault. You are the victim of twin evils: corporate greed and the coronavirus. 

If you've been laid off precipitously, told to clean out your desk, and walked to your car by a security officer, you have not lost your human dignity or the capacity to live a rewarding life. Do everything you can to take care of yourself and your family, and remember to manage your mental health.


Monday, April 13, 2020

Fighting for milk: Now is the time to take any kind of work you can get

In the movie Cinderella Man, Russell Crowe plays the part of James J. Braddock, a professional boxer who breaks his hand in the ring, forcing him to leave his chosen profession and work as a common laborer. Then the Depression comes, and Braddock's family faces starvation. Braddock returns to boxing with ferocious intensity and winds up winning the World Heavyweight Championship.

In the movie, a reporter asks Braddock to explain why he had become a better boxer. Braddock answered that he was a better boxer because he had discovered what he was fighting for.  And what was that, the reporter asked?

"Milk," Braddock replied.

Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary made a similar point to people who have been laid off or furloughed from their jobs.  "Apply for any kind of work," she advised. Despite the economic downturn, some companies are still hiring, and all jobs bring in at least some money.

There was a time when experts advised people not to take menial jobs if they had been laid off from a professional position. A stint as a restaurant worker does not look good on the resume of someone who applies for a job as a financial analyst.

Also, many employers are reluctant to hire people who appear to be overqualified for the jobs they are seeking. Unemployed lawyers, for example, have difficulty getting employed as paralegals because the law firms believe that a licensed attorney working as a paraprofessional will be perpetually dissatisfied.

But these are desperate times, and they are becoming more desperate. If you have a home and a family, it makes sense to take any kind of work at all--any money you earn helps protect what is important to you.

After all, as the cinematic version of James Braddock showed us, working for milk is a dignified occupation.


Russell Crow as James J. Braddock: Working for milk

Monday, March 23, 2020

This Recession is different: Unemployed Americans should be wary about going to graduate school

Traditionally, graduate school has been an excellent place to hang out for people who are unemployed or clueless about their life's vocation.

 In the old days, tuition was cheap, and a grad student had a good chance of picking up an instructor's job or a research assistant position to help pay the bills. The cost of living was low in a lot of college towns, and there were plenty of bars, live music, and sexually active young people.

Not a bad life! And you could tell your parents that you were in graduate school instead of admitting that you were out of work.

It's not surprising then that in the recession of 2008-2009, a great many unemployed Americans flocked to graduate school.  Graduate school seemed like the right place to park until the economy rebounded. And a master's degree, students told themselves, would help them get back in the job market.

To meet the growing demand, the universities ramped up their graduate programs. Like a medicine-show huckster at the county fair, the colleges rolled out all sorts of new master's degree programs in such fields as sports management, emergency management, hospital administration, criminal justice, and law enforcement.

And of course, the big lure for a lot of young people struggling in a faltering economy was the MBA degree.  All the elite universities have had MBA programs for years: Harvard, Stanford, M.I.T., etc.  But, a few years ago, the regional public universities and second-rank private colleges got in on the act. Some rolled out online MBA programs or so-called "executive" MBAs that offered classes on weekends.

Unfortunately, many of the people who got graduate degrees over the past decade saw little or no economic benefit. So many people obtained them for a time that employers saw them as nothing special. As The Economist observed in an article published almost four years ago, "Simply put, MBAs are no longer rare, and as such are no longer a guarantee for employment."

But the most significant danger of going to graduate school is cost. Under the Grad Plus program, students can take out federal student loans for the entire cost of their degrees, including living expenses, no matter how much tuition that a college or university charges.

The University of Texas, for example, now pegs the cost of getting an MBA degree at its Austin campus at $100,000 for its two-year program. Graduates who borrow the entire sum will enter the job market with $100,000 in debt.

So if the current Recession throws you out of work, don't go to graduate school without giving it a great deal of thought. A master's degree might improve your chances of getting a good job, but it might leave you with no prospect of a job and a mountain of student-loan debt--debt that is virtually nondischargeable in bankruptcy.


Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and sign up for our prestigious executive MBA program.