From the excellent Working In These Times, Roger Bybee writes quite movingly about the growing despair of the unemployed.
It's important that we keep the heat on Congress about this, because it looks like the only unemployment politicians care about is their own:
"[Layoffs] are the opposite of life-giving; they literally deplete life… Layoffs diminish the ability to restart. You can have all kinds of people like spouses and friends say you are terrific, ... but in the core you say, I am not, and I have big evidence that I am not."
—Prof. Kim Carmon, psychologist, University of Michigan
For anyone who has ever been out of work, Kim Carmon's statement captures your innermost feelings of worthlessness that "literally deplete life." Unemployment exacts both an enormous toll on both one's self-esteem and physical health, as Prof. Peter Dreier and Dr. Harvey Brenner have documented, respectively.
When I wrote last week about the plight of America's 4.8 million unemployed, it triggered some powerful responses from unemployed workers. They're excerpted below.
The economic situation is especially dire for the 1.2 million jobless Americans who face a loss of benefits if long-term unemployment benefits are not extended beyond February 28. Many people, like this man who responded to my column last week, have already exhausted their benefits and are barely managing to scrape by:
I lost my job through no fault of my own when the economy went south. It’s a spit in the face to move up the ladder and then go from making $800 a week to $350 before taxes. My benefits recently ran out and I’ve still had no luck finding a job.
The frustration of the jobless is now being intensified by Congress' inability to accomplish four relatively simple things:
- Develop a jobs bill commensurate with the massive problem unemployment crisis we face.
- Extend unemployment compensation benefits due to expire on February 28, along with the provision where the federal government covers 65% of otherwise-unaffordable COBRA health insurance payments.
- Provide aid to state and local governments that are looking at a combined deficit of $142 billion for next fiscal year, starting July 1.
- Remove the outrageous federal income tax on unemployment benefits, which kicks in after $2,400 in benefits. For many of the unemployed, that means the tax starts being collected after just six checks.
However, as Art Levine wrote on this website, the Democrats—particularly in the Senate—seem to be on a suicide mission as they're fumbling the opportunity to merely pass am appropriately-sized jobs bill and extend unemployment and COBRA health benefits.