Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Unemployment Diary: Burn it down boys

Americans are divided by what they believe is the appropriate size and role of government. Conservatives, not true conservatives, but people who watch Fox News and vote Republican, believe that Democrats, liberals, and progressives (Aren't they all the same thing? No.) want a big, meddlesome government that snatches most of your money in taxes and micromanages the lives of Americans and business like I micromanage the Pussies for Peace at mealtime. They also believe that they (PWWFNAFR) are voting for small government that allows Americans mind blowing freedoms so vast that we can be a regulation-free, tax-free heaven on earth if only government (always the problem) would just stay out of the lives of Americans and corporations and stop stealing their money.

Except neither is true. Instead of focusing on legislation that would provide the needed carrots and sticks to persuade business to create jobs or doing something big and audacious like the works program from the 30s, Republicans in Congress and in any number of state legislatures are wasting taxpayer money meddling in the uteri and sex lives of its citizens and debating whether adults should be able to buy alcohol on Sunday.

The only demographic enjoying small government is big business and they enjoy the pleasures of having their diamond fruitcake and fucking it, too. Government stays out of their way long enough to allow them to amass huge fortunes through sketchy business practices and when that scheme blows up, they turn to Daddy government to cover their tab all the while declaring their ability to handle continuing lack of oversight because this mess wasn't really their fault anyway. It was those awful consumers who caused the world economy's meltdown. Buying big houses and shit they didn't need. The nerve. Not that anyone profited from that spending spree. Oh no.

So smaller government means smaller for business, but not just business, but specifically big business. What's good for them isn't always good for small business as anyone struggling to get credit for their business can tell you. But smaller government as defined by current Republican leadership also means that individual freedoms are curtailed unless it comes to taxes. But even that is a big lie. We cut taxes for the top and the problems become local. Local governments raise fees and lay people off to cover their nut. Yes, the government has shrunk but so has its ability to deliver services and so has the number of employed people in your community. So far no business - big or small - has rushed in to most places to fill the gaps.

But here's a way in which yes, I admit, I want a bigger government. I want a government that sees something wrong and uses the tax dollars to help people and to shape society into something better.

On the state's department of labor website, there's a job posting for an on-site housekeeper that (1) Required the person to live at the hotel/motel/Holiday Inn* (say what?); (2) Paid minimum wage $7.25; and (3) Would deduct the employee's weekly rent from their paycheck.

Again, say what?

A little quick math.

Assumptions: The lucky person who gets that job works 40 hours per week, claims one deduction for state and federal and gets paid weekly. He or she (most likely she) will net $247 per week.

Now, let's say that her weekly rent for the room is $100. That leaves her with $147 per week on which to live. Sounds okay, right? She doesn't have to pay for her utilities because that would be covered by her rent at the hotel/motel. Fine. But let's look at this monthly. She has $588 a month with which to pay for the following:
Food and her personal care and laundry items (she can't steal soap, shampoo and detergent from her parsimonious employers, can she?)
Quarters for her laundry
Car payment, if she has one
Auto insurance
Health insurance & doctor visit copays
Dental care
Phone bill

That $588 is stretched. I can't even fathom what it costs for an individual to buy medical insurance these days. Let's hope she's healthy and without any pre-existing conditions. And I included tithing because people here consider religion a vital part of their lives.

So getting back to the government. This job is posted on a state website that is monitored by state employees. Here's what I want from my government in this regard:

Pick up the phone and say to that employer in the sweetest voice you can muster "Hell no, this is bullshit, this is not Dickens' England, are you fucking kidding me? We're trying to get people to earn living wages, not slave wages. How can this person help stimulate the economy, thus creating demand which creates more jobs, if they don't have enough money in their pocket for the essentials, much less disposable income? Really - are you fucking kidding me? If you're going to require the employee to live on-site then you should provide free housing, free use of the laundry and a written contract that outlines their hours and overtime. And once more - are you fucking kidding me?"

That's what I want. I want a government that is looking out for us, too, not just the corporations who that have the stated goal of making the most profit possible no matter what. In fact, it's because that's their mission, and I don't blame them or fault them for that, but that's exactly why we need government to regulate them, to look out for the individual, to make certain that we aren't going back to the old days of the company store and company housing. It's enough to be beholden for your income and health insurance, but to be at the mercy of employers for housing, too? Bad idea.

Now that imagined conversation goes against my preferred method of catching more flies with honey than vinegar (sorry, vinegar, in this case you lose), but I am willing to set aside my pseudo-Southern charm and passive aggression long enough to clap that ballsy employer around the earhole.

Because here's the thing - that employee who is putting in full time hours (likely more without overtime pay) and playing by the rules is still going to require government assistance for things like health care. She'd possibly qualify for Medicaid here in Georgia. So the taxpayer is subsidizing this employer who gets off the medical insurance hook.

That's the kind of taxpayer and employee abuse that I think government should put a stop to. An employee must make a living wage and taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize employers through the backdoor. We need regulation because employers use these kinds of methods for increasing their profits. And it flies in the face of what's good for our society as a whole. There's no escaping the fact that the quickest way to create jobs is to create demand for goods and services. Put money in the hands of the people who will spend it et voila! We want! We need! Here, take our money! Continue to concentrate the money in the hands of the few and well.....(looks around, shrugs).....this is working out well for the top 1%. Yes, yes, but the wealthy will invest! Uh huh. So where's the evidence that that idea is working out?

Sadly, instead of creating incentives (a stick, not just a carrot is needed) for business to pay living wages and put some money into the hands of the many (who will spend it), our government is rigged through a pay for play campaign system to protect the needs of the few.

As that famous philosopher Spock said, "We're fucked."

I do understand that businesses have to keep their payroll low in order to stay afloat, but there are also basic human rights that must be honored. And since business - small or large - can show spectacular displays of being incapable of doing this, government must step in.

For those of you wondering, no I didn't apply for the job. I'm not qualified. Another neato thing employers are doing is upping the experience requirements for any and all jobs. You want to know why someone like me just can't go out and find any old job? Well, that lulu of a position requires that you have a minimum of twelve months of housekeeping experience and they expressly note that cleaning your own house doesn't count.

Right - because snaking drains, making old, cheap faucets shine and learning how to remove cat vomit stains from carpet and red Georgia clay from white baseball pants aren't transferable skills.

*Not a Holiday Inn for real. At least as far as I know.


  1. Good post. Where this BULLSHIT of the Uber-Rich investing and creating jobs breaks down is that say they invest in stocks. The stocks they invest in are the ones whose stocks are rising in price. The ones whose stocks are rising in price are usually the ones that are laying-off people and working the remaining people harder. So no gain in employment, unemployment rate still high!!

    I've been saying this for the last 15yrs, if I can figure this out, why the hell can't everybody???

    Can't believe I got the first comment. Saw the new post on my blogroll yesterday, but couldn't get at it until now and had trouble doing it today. Had to click on the post title. When I clicked on blog title, didn't get latest post. Either got previous post or error message. Blogger is doing some weird shit these days!!

  2. Bravo.

    How are we to build our nation when our heads are collectively up our arses (sounds nicer, no?)?

    What keeps me up at night is seeing how many are feeding us just the right info to stir the pot, getting the right celebrities for/against them, to utterly prevent us from focusing on the issues that do matter. Not enough people even know what they are anymore, too busy wondering how Sarah Palin is doing on her platform, I mean reality show. The distractions are working.

  3. Thanks, Kulkuri and Lyra.

    K - I found some typos yesterday and it took me a day to edit this and then I posted and saw another and fixed that. You may have been caught in that in between stage.

    Lyra - Yes, if most of us stay distracted, the system serves the masters well. It makes one wonder just how bad it has to get before people wake up. The answer to that could be very disturbing in theory and practice.

  4. Amen, and amen. I just wish that those who need to understand this (those Fox propaganda-watching, librul-hating, small-guv'ment proponents) could actually open up a few brain cells to do so.

  5. hmmmm, maybe it wasn't a job posting at all but an advertisement for the hotel trying to lure sketchy government types a place to stay while practicing their less-than-appropriate-affairs on tax payers dollars.

    now that is savvy advertising!

  6. This is an excellent piece, Lisa.

    Never underestimate our penchant for voting against our own best interests. Mike over at Too Many Mornings has an excellent 3-part series on wealth inequality. Here's the link. Some good people hang out there, too.

  7. I'm standing on my swivel chair in my office cheering. This was so well said. I wish I could convince my more conservative friends of this, but they are SO afraid of government.

  8. "As that famous philosopher Spock said, "We're fucked."

    Yep. That about says it all, huh?

  9. another great post Lisa! You tell it like it is and we all know it. However, those big business types have wads of money stuffed into their ears so they don't have to hear it. And they've paid some assholes (Bayh, I'm looking at you, you dick!) to go on Fox to lie up a storm and confuse the people.

  10. The Rapeublicans would counter your $588-a-month argument by saying that an industrious person could earn extra pocket money by going out and working a SECOND job! Or thjey could have their spouse/children work too. Because it takes 100 hours of minimum-wage labour to have a half-decent standard of living. And that's the kkkorporate desire, to have legions of low-paid semi-slaves around to polish their golden scrotums.

    I was talking to a Spanish dwarf at the gym the other day who gets it better than most Americans. (Guy's not literally a dwarf, but he's like 5-foot-3, shaped like a barrel and hairy as a Barbary ape. Smart, though!) He immigrated to Canada in the early 1970s, and he has enough of a class consciousness to go into a rant when we started talking American politics.

    "What made America great is that they had a big middle class," he said. "What they are doing (we were chatting about the Wisconsin situation) is going to kill the middle class. And sooner or later it will kill the upper class, because the people will have a revolution."

    I find that people in other countries have a clearer view of what's going on in the U.S. than most Americans. But hey, there's not going to be a revolution in the U.S. until YOU, dear blogger or reader, get so desperate that you're willing to put your ass at risk the way that people in Cairo and Benghazi have done. Not happening any time soon, eh?

    As for me, sorry to say, I didn't consider America worth fighting for. If you read Howard Zinn's "People's History" you'll see that it's never been as nice in reality as it was in myth. Thankfully, I had the option to flee. There are a lot of decent English-speaking countries out there. I'd rather flight and switch.

  11. I'm with amy g. Requiring the employee to live on-site makes me wonder how kosher this posting is to begin with. Leave it to the government to cause suspicion right out of the gate.

  12. Lisa, I read your blog everyday like I read the news. And you know why? Because you tell it like it is better than any news out there. Period.

    As for the end of this piece -- "and cleaning your own house doesn't count" as experience -- well of course it doesn't count! Nothing done at home to raise a family and to make sure everyone is clothed and sheltered and educated and fed and that somebody is trying their damnedest to get the red clay/dirt stains out of the baseball pants, not one iota of that ever counts.

  13. So when are you running for office? I just hope it's in a jurisdiction where I can vote for you.


  14. Unbelievable. And on top of that you're not experienced enough to get this job that's worse than having no job. This country is truly falling apart.

  15. Hi Lisa, I linked over here from your comment on Jayne Martin's site. Terrific post. You'll get no argument from me. I look forward to reading more of you. Following.

  16. Great post. I agree ... why is government looking out for the big corporations that basically cheat consumers. They need to help the individuals out.

  17. For all practical purposes, such as advancing the freedom and the well being of its own people, the American republic has collapsed. Nevertheless, the uber-rich still see ways of making even more money by privatizing the public lands and infrastructure built and paid for by taxpayers. Their main trick has always been divide and conquer which has been managed beautifully by corporate media. What a scam.

  18. When I first went out on my own in the fall of 1978, Lisa, I was making $3.05 an hour working in a belt factory (much like the one featured in American Zen). I cleared just about $100 and change every week net and my rent was $25 a week. That meant 25% or less of my net income had to be earmarked for rent.

    I didn't have kitchen privileges so I had to eat out every day, three times a day.

    I was also buying books like crazy back then (I was 19 and just discovering English literature out of Mr. Taussig's English Lit class in East Meadow High School).

    I didn't smoke or have a car or a girlfriend or kids but still, with a $100 a week income and having to pay for food, rent and endless books, I was still actually able to put money in the bank.

    The point you make is a valid one, except here in MA rents on even rooms are outrageous. In 1980, right before I joined the Navy, my rent in another rooming house here in Hudson was $26 a week. Cigarettes were .70 a pack, gas a little over half a buck a gallon.

    I went back to the same rooming house two years ago when my bitch girlfriend gave me just a few weeks to find a place. All the furniture had been moved out and replaced with kitchen appliances and some of the rooms were going for as much as $700 a month, about 70% of what my net pay would've come to.

    My current apartment was originally $600 a month before my new girlfriend came up from Florida, which was still 60% of my net pay before I lost my job a month after signing a 12 month lease.

    Back then in 1978, my Dad told me to pay for everything in cash and live within my means. No one told me I'd need a credit check to pass a job interview or that I'd go for 2 years at a time between jobs. No one ever told me not having a credit card and living beyond my means could actually hurt me or that 70% of my base income would have to go for rent. I blame the banks for this and their usurious home lending practices.

    You want to know why so many 20- and 30-something people are still living at home? They cannot afford the rent.

    I don't know what the fuck happened to my country but I want it back. I want it back now.

  19. as usual, Lisa, WELL. FUCKING. SAID!!! I wish you're blogposts were syndicated to all the newspapers for non interweb folks (ie, my parents & their friends) to read....

  20. I work in a low pay "working poor" job. I have been there just over 5 years & a co worker asked how could I stand it?
    The true answer is there is nothing else to go to.
    I see shittier wages with NO BENEFITS. But even then the corporate bastards found a way to screw us over.... the rate of the health ons will stay the same this year- that was a rarity. But a few days later came a memo- Ooops! After you make your co pay you will now pay an additional 20% of the total bill.
    How's THAT for magic? The rate of ins stays the same, but you will be forking 20% out of your wallet. My wallet does not agree that a rate hike did not just occur. You can bet the job you wrote about also comes with seasonal variances-- when it is slow there will be less hours ($ flow) & the worker will still be required to pay that rent, and at the drop of a hat, when they are in peak season, the employee will be expected to pick up the extra time, regardless of what is going on in their life.
    What floors me is having the $ meltdown so recently, how can you sell a *less regulations* package when Wall Street just shit all over this country w shoddy practices, ravaged people's 401K retirement $ (the small people's years of hard earned money to try to save for retirement), took the keys to the Federal reserve to be bailed out, then paid big fat bonus money. Our memory is so short term, we think deregulation should be on the table.
    That goes for deep water oil drilling too.
    How could we forget these disasters & support the smaller government B.S.??

  21. Businesses are not keeping wages low to "stay afloat." They are doing it so the top handful of executives--and particularly the criminal sociopathic CEO--can get paid more than any human should, at the expense of the workers AND the shareholders, many of whom are probably workers themselves who are invested in these companies through mutual funds/401ks. It's criminal and has to stop. I think it will. Much as the mainstream media tries to placate the masses, the story about the ongoing European protests against austerity cannot be hidden (500k protesting in London yesterday). The people in Wisconsin are mobilizing to fight back. Etc. Change is coming, and not from that liar in the White House nor the whores in the Capitol.

  22. Yes the Rethuglicons expect people to take jobs that would result in either abject poverty or bankruptcy.
    Damn right I won't take that job! What do you think I'm stupid?

  23. Hey! I got my .13 cent raise for the year. I am one of the "lucky ones".

    For the record that would even cover the cost of the garbage pick up rate hike!

  24. THIS! This writing is your forte! You oughta be writing this kind of stuff for a living, sister. You get it. You nail it. You rock it!

  25. Most excellent post and one that you hit squarely on the head. The distraction elected officials wanting to barge in and remove all sorts of programs that help angers me. I would much rather see this focus on getting the economy going by creating jobs, not taking them away.

    The no liquor on Sunday is one I know all too well here in Utah. We have our own start to prohibition going on here (which I will blog about at some point) that makes me wonder why the people that claim to want smaller government are willing to still hang onto programs that the government runs (like liquor sales).


And then you say....

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