Friday, August 30, 2013

My Life as a "Poor" Person

I feel like I'm living in the middle of an experiment.  I have heard of writers "embedding" with their subjects.  I have read "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," by Barbara Ehrenreich and recently started to read (had to return to the library before I was done; I hate that!) "The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table" by Tracie McMillan. But these are authors who took on their embedding by choice.  I'm in it and I didn't choose to be.  

I only wish it was experiment.  The truth is, like 11.8 million people, or 7.6 percent of the American labor force (as of 8/1/13) we are part of the capable but unemployed ( U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just released its monthly Employment Situation Report which includes the headline unemployment rate. Headline, or U-3, unemployment is a measure of how many members of the workforce— defined by the BLS as the set of Americans who are both eligible and willing to work — are actively seeking employment).

Actually, that is not entirely true.  Having a small business, we do bring in a paltry bit of money which technically puts us in the category of  U-6 "which counts not just those job seekers included in the U-3 (headline) rate, but also those who are marginally attached to the workforce (underemployed) and people working part-time for economic reasons. This measure of unemployment hit 14.3 percent in June, half a percentage point increase from May but down from a peak of 17.1 percent in April 2010." ( My boldface emphasis included.  So, we're really like 22.2 million people.  But that's just one statistic.

There are more grim ones.  According to the Huffington Post, economists estimate that on average, just 35 percent of the jobless have collected benefits over the past 22 years. We are now a part of the 65%.   Politicians like to make headlines by spouting off about ES fraud and claim that many unemployed workers choose just to stay on unemployment benefits rather than look for work but the real truth is that if you can qualify for and receive unemployment income you are still limited as to how long you can receive it.  And, based on the stats, that's a big "if."

"No wonder people turn to crime." 
"I don't know what you mean by 'turn to crime.' It seems to me that this is a crime and you are in the middle of it."

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