People are going off a cliff and we’re not really doing anything about it. That’s not great public policy. – Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project

This “99ers” unemployment crisis is a giant iceberg lurking under the political water line, and the Democrats in Congress don’t seem to understand they’re dancing on the Titanic. Since Wall Street is happy, and corporate America is happy, they assume everything’s fine.

Many Americans still think the last extension vote was intended to add additional benefits, and thus aren’t swamping their representatives with calls and emails, so our political leaders happily doze at the wheel, assuming everything’s fine.

It isn’t. You know when they’ll figure it out? The day after the November midterms. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In the meantime, if you’re one of the lucky duckies whose unemployment ran out, please fax or email your resume to your Congressional representatives:

Karl Schafer says he has tried for hundreds of jobs since he was laid off from a truck factory more than two years ago. Still waiting to get hired, the 52-year-old Ohio man has suffered the indignity of applying for food stamps and asking his elderly mother for help.

Weary of her own job search, former customer service representative Wagma Omar, 40, of Mission Viejo is thinking about applying for a dangerous civilian job in Afghanistan.

And in California’s wine country, Kay Stephens, 56, is frantically looking to cut her living expenses so her unemployment doesn’t become a burden to her 30-year-old daughter.

Schafer, Omar and Stephens are among the increasing number of unemployed Americans whose burdens just got heavier: They’ve exhausted their 99 weeks of jobless benefits and must now figure out how to get by on ever more meager resources.

In California, state officials estimate there are nearly 100,000 people who are still looking for work but can no longer draw an unemployment check. Federal labor officials could not provide a number nationally, but private-sector experts say it could easily top 1 million.

What is certain is that, as the jobless rate remains stubbornly high, more Americans will have to face the challenge of making ends meet without a monthly check.

“People are going off a cliff and we’re not really doing anything about it,” said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project. “That’s not great public policy.”

Once unemployment benefits run out, people are eligible for general relief — but that pays a maximum of $221 a month in Los Angeles County, compared with as much as nearly $2,000 a month for unemployment. Only workers with dependent children are eligible for welfare.

Worried that they could lose their homes and get put out on the street, thousands of “99ers,” as they call themselves, are banding together to agitate for another extension. On Friday they’re kicking off a “Mayday SOS” campaign, faxing and e-mailing Congress their resumes, along with pleas for more benefits.

[…] People who know they’ll keep receiving benefits “don’t rush to find new employment,” said Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at the conservative Cato Institute. Data show that the long-term unemployed often find a job just as their benefits run out, he said.

Talk about “receiving benefits”! All this Cato fellow has to do is keep parroting the heartless conservative dogma, and he’s set for life.

And really, isn’t that how it should be?

8 thoughts on “TODAY: Mayday SOS

  1. Politics as usual, suck up to the $$$$$ and screw the little guy, boring as hell and predictable…………………….the day after mid-terms, no less!

  2. Add this one to your list – Monday I start a week-long ‘re’-certification process as a Wildland Fire-fighter. ‘re’ cert because thirty years ago when I fought fire there wasn’t any ‘certification to it. If you were a Logger, you were a fire-fighter. If you were helicopter logging, as I did for fifteen years – you were Helitac, pronounced hell attack. Ask me about volcanoes.

    Fifty-six years old (come Kent State four o), Master of Science Information Science and Technology, Bachelor of Science, three times an Associate of the Arts, MIS at a lawfirm, College Instructor and all around support ‘geek’… damned happy for the Spanish required in the California Schools forty-ought years ago.

    It may kill me, and that’s just the way I want it… but not this time.

  3. Ten Bears: And 10 to 1 protecting expensive homes that were built during the bubble that should never have been built in the first place. I feel for you, since I’m pretty much where you are.

    Susie: What we need, as policy, is a jobs guarantee. Everybody who wants a job should have one. Period.

  4. You know, it’s not as if there’s nothing to do. Communities MUST start organizing to begin preparing vacant lots for agriculture (growing veggies and such) & clean up the blight: tear down (or “deconstruct”) abandoned buildings, clean up the neighborhoods streets, plant trees, put everyone to work and BE a community. Once gas gets scarce or too expensive we’re going to need locally grown food. This is a block by block approach and there are plenty of on-line help blogs, like:


  5. Well I am already a 99er and really did think that last vote meant six more weeks of benefits. And Reynolds has a tiny point quite apart from the one on top of his head. Because I probably can get a job. But since I am 53 and have an assortment of ailments beyond those normal to middle age people, I don’t know that I will be able to keep it, it being a little difficult to adapt to being the on-call third-shift and week-end fill in at your local warehouse or Safeway once you start your sixth decade.

    I have been in the information business for decades, I got paid to retrieve and interpret information and to answer questions, and was damn good at it. But it is kind of crappy preparation for being the junior man in a manual labor occupation. I am prepared for the low-pay, I got a plan for that piece, but I don’t have a plan to be 28 again.

    And I am not alone, I am a peak boomer, in fact I think more people were born in 1957 than any other year. And it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was educated in what was the finest bottom to top system of public education in this country, that of California, to see it and now by extension my whole class reduced to what is approaching second world status is—. Well I literally can’t find words. It sure as hell isn’t the New Frontier and the Great Society we were promised. In the sixties most of us believed that if we could just skate past that nuclear exchange, and maybe get a handle on the Population Bomb, that the 21st century would be something special. Instead it is steadily looking more like post-war Britain. Except without the dole.

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