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An Insensitive Look At Unemployed Americans

27 January 2010 11 Comments

Despite the fact that we hear the economy is recovering, there is still economic misery all over.  I’ve recently read a few interesting reports of families that are really struggling.  Now, my initial reaction to these stories is one of compassion.  I believe in charity and giving to those in need, and I do.  But, there’s another side that IS necessary to discuss.  The other side is one that shows the complete failure of so many people to prepare for a time when things would not be so good.  By ignoring this other side of the equation, we will fail to be better prepared for the next economic downturn (assuming we get an “upturn” first of course).

Paycheck to Paycheck

A few years ago, with very full levels of employment and a booming economy, still there were insane amounts of people living paycheck to paycheck.  This meant that they were spending everything they made, and in some cases, more.  Assuming “boom” times would go on forever, hardly anybody prepared for a rainy day.  The appropriate course of action of course would have been to be saving money diligently.  So many people could have easily put enough money away to fund their lifestyle for months, maybe even years.  Most people opted for granite counter tops instead.

Idle & Unemployed

Moving to today, many people who are unemployed are diligently working towards finding a new job.  However, there are also many people who are doing the bare minimum to find a new job.  As if somebody is going to find it for them.  Not only that, while they wait for a job that they may or may not get, they sit idle instead of getting out there and earning some cash on a part time basis while you wait for employment.  I don’t care if you have to do some really crappy jobs.  They should do what it takes to put cash on their table.  Unfortunately, this is a side of government assistance for the unemployed that prevents people from actually working hard to get some cash flow going.

What if unemployment stays high around 10% for years?  Most people think that the government has this giant warehouse of money ready to be distributed like payday loans and therefore, unemployment payments are no problem.  We could potentially be  paying for people’s lifestyles for years on end.  Inflation anybody?

Furthermore, isn’t it interesting how many unemployed people still buy a pack of cigarettes a day?  Or, talk on their iPhone each day?  Or, go out to eat?  They could drastically cut their expenses and get by on much less, but they choose not to.  Again, maybe a byproduct of unemployment assistance.


Again, my point here is not to tell you that all unemployed people are losers.  They’re not.  But, I’ve witnessed with my own eyes the things that I discuss here.  Sadly, I think it’s a symptom of the disease that is rampant in this country that somebody else will take care of me and I’m entitled to this or that.  Self responsibility or the concept of working for what you have is a rare commodity these days.

Furthermore, I’m not saying we shouldn’t help unemployed people.  But, there’s got to be a better way.  Any ideas?


  • Keith said:

    Unfortunately this isn't what people want to hear, so you will never see a piece like this from a larger news outlet.

  • John B. said:

    I think your exactly right about the rampant disease of "somebody else will take care of me" in this country, but this disease has spread to the upper echelon of society too. Just look at every major bank, car company etc. that received a chunk of the biggest government handout in history after "living beyond their means" in their own way.

  • 20smoney said:


    Completely agree. The corruption at the top is insane. I've always said on this blog and elsewhere that the problem extends everywhere, from top to bottom. AIG shouldn't be bailed out and the average Joe should not have unlimited unemployment compensation. Just my opinions, though.

  • Matt said:

    While I think you have a lot of very valid observations about unemployment, I feel I've got to throw my 2 cents in as a recently unemployed individual. First, I think the government system is completely necessary and completely flawed. The biggest aspect that needs to be reexamined is one you mentioned. There simply needs to be a better way to encourage part-time work. I'm not sure I could devise a better system, but it does put way too much trust into the individual to not take advantage of what shouldn't be a long term solution. This mentioned, I think there are a couple aspects of unemployment that should also be discussed. When one is unexpectedly laid off, especially the "provider" of a family, it is beyond depressing, it is a complete shock to the system. Thoughts like "what did I do wrong?" "why me?" run rampant.

  • Matt said:

    I consider myself blessed that I viewed my time of unemployment as an opportunity for spiritual renewal and growth. I forced myself to take this path because I knew the alternative was a downward spiral. This being said, I think many people without a spiritual foundation find themselves in a very real emotional hell. "Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" can feel like an unachievable joke. This might be an opportunity for the government to spend less on financial benefits and more on community counselors. Next, I think it was fortunate that I had both a degree and career experience. Many of the individuals that I was laid off with had spent years working their way up the ladder to counter the fact they had no degree. Now, unemployed they find themselves in a position of being viewed as unqualified for parallel positions because they again are seen as someone without a degree..which opens up the conversation of unskilled workers. Also, It should be noted that I was formerly with a very large corporation, specifically Dell Computers (I suppose I shouldn't feel the need to hide their identity).

  • Matt said:

    Lastly, I think it should be noted that the foresight to save for a rainy day is much different than saving for a thunderstorm. I consider myself both frugal and responsible with my finances, but I would've most likely found myself with exhausted savings around month 9 or 10. My former co-worker with an advanced degree couldn't find work for nearly a year while actively searching and interviewing for a new position. The job market, currently, is ugly. Perry County, about an hour and a half west of Nashville, has an unemployment rate of 27%. That's approximately 2,500 of the 8,000 residents..individuals that most likely don't have the means to simply move or fill their gas tanks for long commutes. I wish I could wrap this up with a terrific solution. I don't know that there is a quick one. I'm sure if there was one, any president would push the "button" to make it happen. My hope is that we'll make lemonade out of lemons and begin pursuing advancements in new green energy alternatives and other technological advancements that would ultimately create new job markets and bring us forward as a nation.

  • 20smoney said:


    The pain of unemployment is real. Uncertainty is very uncomfortable, especially for a "provider" as you mentioned. I think what I'm doing, however, is splitting the unemployed into two groups. Those who react (cut expenses & aggressively pursue another job) and those who sort of ignore reality (keep spending irresponsibly & pursue another job casually). I'm not naive enough to think that if you aggressively pursue another job, you'll magically get one. But, that combined with doing what it takes w/ regards to a budget, I think that person has a good chance of getting through a very tough season.

    With regards to the politics, there is no magic button. Unfortunately, I think we're in too deep to have an easy solution out of this. Even green energy alternatives, while promising, probably won't be the end-all solution to a new American economy.

    For those of us employed currently, I think we should all take a hard look at what has happened in recent years and prepare, assuming that we could easily lose our income in the near future (ignore the naive economists who say we're back on the road to happy days again). Strict money management and preparation for tough times ahead is wise in my opinion. If things get better, that is fantastic. If not, we're prepared. Prepare for worst, hope for the best! Good luck to all of us.

  • Financial Samurai said:

    I really don't think we can fairly criticize or comment on the unemployed if we've never been unemployed ourselves. Some many not seem to be trying their hardest, but it's their choice. Maybe they were trying hard, and just couldn't get anything.

    It's brutal out there if you are one of the very best unemployed person. If you're unemployed, best to make the best out of the situation!

  • Rick said:

    Just to add to this great discussion, I'd like to point out that "adversity can also breed opportunity." There is no point 'crying of spilt' milk or blaming someone else for one's predicament. Assume responsibilty… take action! Examine you skill set! If you're an unemployed mechanic and you've been a mechanic all you life, find out how you can use your skill set in Internet marketing. Or, use the Internet to find out if there are any opportunties like consulting or other areas that you might be qualified. Be creative. Think outside the box. Keep pressing forward and you'll find that next opportunity. That's what this country is all about.

  • @NishiHundan1 said:

    You wrote this in 2010, but here we are in 2012 and the situation is the same. A lot of unemployed people ARE in fact huge losers. They're stupid and lazy and have a delusional sense of self worth. I don't think I've ever been out of a job for more than 3 months. At my place of work we have several positions that have been open for months because we can't find anyone who isn't a stupid dense blockhead to fill them. We're not even talking about difficult jobs, but everyday office jobs. But the resumes we are getting look like they're from 8th grade students. How did this country become so full of friggin stupid people?