Thursday, December 9, 2010

What Would You Do?!? - Could You Survive Off $300 A Week?!?

Among the silliest excuses made against extending unemployment benefits is the assertion that giving folks this money serves as a deterrent to getting a real job. This talking point, that giving unemployment keeps the unemployment rate down, has been repeated ad nauseum by Conservatives all year long to essentially demonize those who accept such benefits. Even the usually level-headed Juan Williams recently got in on the act.

Williams, of course, just got a multi-million dollar contract extension with Fox News. Clearly, he can relate to the subject at hand.

No need to lie, I actually can't relate. I've been blessed (thank you Jesus!) to be gainfully employed my entire adult life. I make much more than the average unemployment payout of $300/week, and can't even begin to fathom having to suddenly feed my family of four with such a small sum. Even when I was back at my HBCU and sharing an apartment with CJames, my workstudy stipend (When I actually got paid. You know how some black colleges can be) was more than $300/week. And this was waaay back in the early 90's when a gallon of gas was less than a Miss Winners Iced Tea dollar.

All that said, I simply don't see how anyone who was once gainfully employed in anything better than a minimum wage gig could suddenly make ends meet with the typical unemployment payout. If you had a decent gig paying $45,000/year or so, and suddenly lost it, chances are your monthly expenses far exceed what the gubb'ment pays you. Even if you slash all non-essential household expenses (cable, lawn care, internet access), chances are you're going to barely make it most months. Rent alone (even if you live in the Deep South) is probably going to take most of this. You still gotta eat, pay utilities, put gas in the car and have an operable phone to look for a new job. You probably can't afford the luxury of healthcare, even with COBRA. Chances are you'd probably have to start tapping into your savings/401k assuming you even had one to cover any overages, and likely incur some serious penalties for pulling your money out early. If you have no cash reserves, you're probably maxing out the credit card. I'm obviously assuming there are no kids to feed, which would throw this whole equation out of whack.

Yeah, that sounds pretty spoiled to me too, Sharron. BTW, how's that unemployment thing working out for you?

Again, I'm trying my very best to walk in shoes I haven't been in for some time, but it's very difficult for me to imagine anyone in this scenario not wanting a job back.[1] The GOP also often asserts that people in this scenario wouldn't take the first job available, even if it pays worse or roughly the same as their unemployment benefits. Trifling as this may seem to some of you, I'm wondering "why would I?"

If I could get $1,200 a month to sit on the sidelines and actively hunt for a well- paying job, or make $1,100 a month working staggered, unpredictable hours at K-Mart, why the hell would I?

Yes, on principle alone, actively going out and working a real job makes sense. But logically speaking, money is money. The 40 hours a week I'm spending stocking shelves are either preventing me from looking for a job comparable to the one I lost, or preventing me from retraining myself to find another good job. Yes, in principle working makes more sense, but principle doesn't pay Pepco.

Personally, I'd prolly sit at home watching Judge Mathis just collect unemployment while looking for another job rather than taking the first thing that comes up if that pays worse. If that makes me, or the millions of other Americans doing the same thing right now lazy gubb'ment moochers, then so be it. Again, I can't pay my mortgage with GP. GP is severely overrated.

I pray I'm never in that predicament, but the last thing I'd do is cast aspersions of laziness on the very people who are. Too bad those in the GOP are too heartless to look at this from another person's perspective.

Need I remind you, not everyone unemployed is a Democrat.

Question: If faced with working for $1,100 a month or collecting $1,200 in unemployment, What Would You Do? How would suddenly having to live off $300/week effect your lifestyle? Do you think the demonization of people collecting unemployment benefits is going to have a backlash on the GOP?

[1] Wanting a job, and actually getting one are two completely different things. There are currently 5 unemployed applicants for every new job opening. It ain't that easy.

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