A Tale of the Long-Term Jobless on Jobs Report Day:
If there's one benefit to being unemployed for well over a year, it's that Sam doesn't smoke anymore. "Cigarettes are too goddamn expensive," he says. So he quit. He'd been meaning to quit for a long time now, so, hey, why not save some money in the process? Especially now that it's so, so tight.
Sam lost his marketing job in November 2012, shortly after Superstorm Sandy laid waste to the place where he worked. It was a damn shame, since he had gotten that job after losing his last one when the company he worked for was bought out by a bigger one and decided they only needed one marketing department. Sam is 57-years old and out of shape. "I go into an interview, and I know they're bullshitting me," he said. "Some kid at a desk is looking across at me. You know he's thinking I can't keep up. I can. He doesn't believe that, but he doesn't say that." The Rude Pundit told Sam he should call out the next young person interviewing him. What does he have to lose? Sam said he'd think about it.
Sam's unemployment benefits ran out at the end of last year, as it did for over a million people. Every time there's a chance for an extension, he follows the debate closely. He's a Democrat, but he's more of a "Fuck both your houses" kind of liberal. He blames Republicans, as well he should, for the loss of his income, for his inability to find jobs. "Why the fuck should I blame Obama?" he remarked. "They didn't pass his jobs program. So why should he get the blame?"
That's logic that's hard to argue with. From the first stimulus to now, we have essentially existed in an economy that is the narrow alley of opportunity that Republicans have allowed. They blocked any effort by the President on programs that might have made things better, from infrastructure spending to job training to extending unemployment insurance. All they have offered is the Keystone XL pipeline and its temporary jobs. Oh, and more tax cuts for the wealthy, which never works, no matter how many times we try it. Well, unless you're wealthy. Then it works just fine. But no doubt the President will get blamed for the mediocre jobs report just released.
Sam's wife went back to work after staying home to raise their two kids. The idea was to get a little more income so the kid going to college wouldn't have to take out loans. Now, her job is their primary income, and it's not near enough. Luckily she has had health insurance through work, but they've looked into switching to Obamacare so she can leave the sales job and update her certification as a nurse. The younger kid is in high school. She gives some of the income she makes babysitting to the household.
They've considered selling some of their possessions, like their car. They've talked about selling their apartment, but they'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else to live as affordable. They have always lived humbly, in a one-bedroom with part of the living room converted into a sleeping area for the grown-ups.
When he's not cribbing together a little scratch from some small commercial acting gigs (one advantage of having been in marketing is that he knows people who produce ads), Sam does volunteer work for a local political candidate. He hopes that his devotion to the candidate will yield a job if the candidate wins. He's trying to stay hopeful. He trawls the online job sites and newspapers, keeps his ear to the ground, his finger in the wind, his chin up, attempting to find some place to work the rest of his years.
Sam had a great, solid middle-class life, one he's trying to keep going, one his family cobbles together, but one that is fading fast as the American dream dies slowly, as we meander every further into the gloomy depths of this dim, dingy century.