layofflist on June 4th, 2011

The following is a guest post from Jason Tabrys, who writes the National Liberal column for Examiner and at his own site

America’s Under and Unemployed Battlefield

“You cannot choose your battlefield, God does that for you; But you can plant a standard where a standard never flew”-Jonathan Crane

Earl James is one of the underrepresented. Once completely unemployed and past his maximum allowable benefit period he is now underemployed, working part time as a contract employee.

A veteran, 66 years old and still scrapping, still fighting; Mr. James first became unemployed in the fall of 2006 and then again in the spring of 2008 through 2009 and 2010.

“My 99 weeks of unemployment compensation ended in mid 2010, and since my part time work is contract work, the employer doesn’t pay into the unemployment fund, so I won’t qualify for that again if I lose this job for any reason.”

It shouldn’t be this way for Earl James and the countless others like him. A well educated man, a man who has carved out a career, carved out a life.

We need a person like Earl James to succeed, need his hard work to be worthwhile for the sake of everyone who has played by the rules, and everyone who we expect to in the future.

And yet as this man pushes on with unfair burdens pushing down on his back there is a sense of optimism,  “My personal situation is not totally dire” he explains adding that he is newly engaged and receiving some help from the VA and the SSA.

Still he worries about others struggling to navigate the suddenly hostile landscape of this country, specifically veterans who have given, in Mr. James’ words “part of their lives in defense of this nation and its way of life”.

“When I was unemployed in 2009 and receiving VA health care and unemployment compensation, I was not on Medicare. When I received the VA letter recently telling me I had to show medical deductions for 2009 that would bring my income for 2009 under $29,000 or I would have to reimburse the VA for some services rendered in 2009, it was the same day that the news about GE not paying any taxes on several billion dollars of profit came out.  I became incensed not so much for myself – I am getting by – but for other vets who are not old enough to access Medicare or social security and are unemployed, or underemployed, or for any American in that situation, vet or not, for that matter.”

At a time when all we hear about is austerity some forget those most in need of our investment, assistance, and repayment; Americas children, languishing unemployed, and veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan to 11.5% unemployment among their ranks.

There are those that fight back peacefully though, those who strive to point out hypocrisy and inequity. Among them the 99ers and US Uncut, two groups working together and separately, two of the many factions unified against misguided priorities and institutionalized misfeasance.

Mr. James, who has worked with both groups explains, “US Uncut’s mission is critical to bringing America’s unemployed back into service to our economy” continuing “Without extended unemployment compensation, Americans are left out in the cold, becoming more and more unemployable as each year goes by, and ultimately becoming permanently marginalized, all the while fat corporations like GE pay no taxes”.

This country has been unquestionably broken for a time with people like Earl James pushed to the bend of their knees and the bow of their heads. Every day they fight on a battlefield not of their choosing in the hope that they can bring into the light a standard of fairness. Question is, Democrat, Republican, or none of the above–what are you fighting for?


About the author: Jason Tabrys is the creator of, an established freelance journalist and author, he now brings his unique brand of liberalism and punditry to For comments, questions, complaints, praise, assaults on his patriotism, and accusations of socialism please e-mail Jason at or you can follow him on twitter at jasontabrys.


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The April 2011 BLS employment report showed a gain of 244,000 jobs, which was trumpeted by the Obama administration and the mainstream media as a continuation of a rapidly improving jobs market. While job growth is important, it’s also important to realize the jobs hole that needs to be filled. Over the past four months more than 800,000 jobs have been created, but in January 2009 alone, more than 800,000 jobs were lost. Since February 2010,1.8 million jobs have been created, but 8.8 million jobs were lost prior to that period. That’s a job shortage of 7 million and that doesn’t include the 125,000 jobs each month that needed to be created to simply absorb new entrants into the workforce.

Additionally, the unemployment rate increased to 9%, since more people began looking for work. Returning job seekers is often considered an improved sign of job availability, but if they aren’t hired, they will go back into hiding and the unemployment rate will decline. Because of returning job seekers, the number of officially unemployed increased 205,000 to 13.75 million, which is still historically high when compared to other jobs challenged times.

One of the few honest assessments of the current jobs market was offered by Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute:

At this point, coming out of a recession this deep, we should be getting unambiguously huge growth, of 300,000 to 400,000 [new jobs] a month,” said Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “And it’s just nowhere near that.” She concluded: “We’re still in a rocky place.”

The job market is admittedly improving for some, but it’s not improving quickly enough for millions of jobless, especially the long-term unemployed. In April, the ranks of the unemployed who have been out of work for 99 weeks or more increased by 21,000 to a record 1,920,000. That equates to 14.5% of all unemployed.

Other long-term unemployed fared a little better in April compared to March. Those out of work for 26 weeks or more decreased from 5.839 million from 6.122 million in March. But their percentage of the overall unemployment rate remained elevated at a near record level of 43.2%. The percentage of those out of work for more and 52 weeks increased from 31.5% to 32.8% of all unemployed.

The Congress, the Obama administration and most media outlets are silent about long-term unemployment. How do they reconcile the fact that 244,000 jobs were created, but 21,000 additional workers have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks? How do they put on a happy face when a near record 5.893 million or 43.2% of all unemployed workers have been jobless for more than 26 weeks? How do they rationalize their cheerful statements of job improvements with the facts that job creation is very weak considering the trillions of dollars pumped into the economy to support Wall Street and fund tax breaks? How do they high-five the economic recovery when the labor force participation rate — the share of people over age 16 who are either working or actively seeking work — is at a low rate of 64.2%, a rate not seen since 1985? They can’t. They generally ignore the issue; long-term unemployment is the elephant in the economic recovery room.

What is being done legislatively to address this elephant in the room? To date, nothing. The GOP controlled House has been busy attempting to cut the deficit, repealing healthcare funding, and restarting offshore oil drilling. The Republicans, with the help of some Democrats, are working to weaken Wall Street regulation legislation, end net neutrality, and are arguing the Defense of Marriage Act. They are pandering to their base, acquiescing to their corporate overlords and obliging their big-wallet campaign contributors.

Congressional leaders are more concerned with ideology than reality. They have not presented a jobs bill or employment training legislation, conducted investigations on how to solve long-term unemployment, or offered tax incentives for companies to hire the long-term unemployed. They have ignored legislation, such as Rep. Barbara Lee’s H.R. 589, that would help millions of long-term unemployed, the 99ers, who have exhausted all unemployment benefits. While most of the blame can be placed at the door of the GOP controlled House, the Democratic controlled Senate and Obama have been suspiciously silent about the long-term unemployment problem.

Long-term unemployment is not only a national tragedy, but it is a personal tragedy as well. Rochelle Sevier was laid off in October 2008 while working as a recruitment coordinator for a biotech firm. Since that time, “I started my job search immediately. In addition to my job search, I attended various workshops at my local career center. As part of my search I attended job fairs, partnered with temp agencies, posted my resume online, and also submitted my resume to various positions.” During the past couple of years Rochelle took part-time temporary positions that included folding sweaters and stuffing envelopes. Her unemployment benefits ended in September 2010 and she didn’t find another job until January 2011 when an administrative position became available. Unfortunately that job ended six weeks later, “I finished out my 6th week and now I am back to square one. This rejection affected my emotional and mental state. I started to feel hopeless and depressed because I now feel like I will never work again.”

The long-term unemployed are also part of the growing ranks of food stamp recipients, personal bankruptcies, foreclosures and healthcare uninsured. Ellen Turner, who was laid off from her job in December 2008 has struggled with healthcare costs since her COBRA plan ended in June 2010.

“Now I have nothing. Hoping I can stay fairly healthy till I reach 65, and I can get Medicare. I have one knee without cartilage that has to be replaced… at a cost of 10k. Can’t do it. I have severe osteoporosis; I need fusions of reclast every year. This year, the pharmaceutical co. provided the reclast, I only have to pay for the doctor visit and lab fees: $136 bucks total. I am fortunate that I can pay this, while others at my age cannot. I turned 63 on May 10th.”

Ellen is now one of the more than 50 million Americans who do not have healthcare.

Susan R. sent the following cry for help:

“Any idea on what is happening with HR 589? My unemployment ends end of the month and I cannot get a job. I have tried everywhere. I used to be a legal secretary but now they want college which I do not have, Now you have to apply for stores, etc. online and I never hear back. I think my only hope is to kill myself. There is no hope. Also they keep saying things are getting better but I don’t see where and neither does anyone I talk to. Everyone says things are bad!!”

H.R. 589 is legislation designed to help the long-term unemployed by extending Tier 1 unemployment benefits 14 weeks. Those 14 weeks could be a financial lifesaver for millions of unemployed. Although the legislation has been discussed for months, moving it forward in a Republican controlled House will be challenging. How challenging? House Republicans are hoping to introduce legislation that could cutextended unemployment benefits in favor of lower business taxes and allow states to spend that money on other programs: The Ways and Means Committee passed a bill by 20-14 today that lets states shift some of the $31 billion they are set to get for extended unemployment aid to prevent the tax increases, pay back federal loans or fund job-training programs.

While those are all commendable options, they are long-term rewards that won’t help those that need immediate financial assistance. Oil companies have reported record profits, but the GOP favors giving them billions in taxpayer subsidies while at the same time forcing the long-term unemployed to suffer without any financial assistance.

The latest H.R.589 update comes from Crew of 42’s Lauren Victoria Burke; the news is both positive and disappointing:

The good news for 99ers: The president mentioned he wants to possibly attach the 99ers money to some other big piece of legislation somehow… which piece, how and when is unclear…The bad news for 99ers: The president does not seem deeply motivated to to actively support unemployment benefits in general terms.

Congress needs to address the elephants in the room, since millions of Americans are being sidelined by a relatively weak job market. That needs to change quickly and dramatically or more hard-working individuals such as Rochelle, Ellen and Susan will continue to bare the financial hardship and personal pain of long-term unemployment. Open your eyes now, Congress. The elephants in the economic recovery room won’t simply go away if your eyes remain closed.

Tom Toles - GoComics 5-12-11



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Crewof42 released an H.R. 589 update:

Today the CBC met with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley for about an hour. During the meeting the issue of the 99ers and unemployment extensions was discussed.

While there have been many meetings between Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and legislative leaders about moving forward on H.R. 589, all those efforts have yet to produce any concrete plans about how the legislation can move toward passage.

Facebook 99erAID member, Rochelle Sevier, sent an H.R. 589 update after calling both Rep. Barbara Lee and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI):

I spoke with Rep Barbara Lee’s office re HR589 and was told there is no date to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. This means we need to keep the heat on Rep Dave Camp. His office phone# is 202-225-3561. I called Camp’s office and they are logging calls with respect to the bill.

Thanks, Rochelle, for making the effort to keep the pressure on Congress to act quickly. It’s vital that H.R. 589 or some other assistance is made available to the growing ranks of the long-term unemployed. Last month an additional 127,000 unemployed were determined to be out of work for 99 weeks or longer. The official BLs estimate of workers unemployed for 99 weeks or longer now stands at nearly 1.9 million, which is a record level. The 1.9 million BLS estimate doesn’t include the unemployed who have exhausted their state maximum unemployment benefits in states that allow less than 99 weeks of benefits.

One of the most highly respected and influential financial experts, Mohamed A. El-Erian – CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO – has a clear understanding of American unemployment, he calls it a crisis. In an excellent article, Sleepwalking through America’s Unemployment Crisis, Mr. El-Erian paints a picture of American leaders refusing to awaken to the unemployment crises which rises brightly before them:

Let us start with the facts:

·         At 8.8% almost three years after the onset of the global financial crisis, America’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly (and unusually) high;

·         Rather than reflecting job creation, much of the improvement in recent months (from 9.8% in November last year) is due to workers exiting the labor force, thus driving workforce participation to a multi-year low of 64.2%;

·         If part-time workers eager to work full time are included, almost one in six workers in America are either under- or unemployed;

·         More than six million workers have been unemployed for more than six months, and four million for over a year;

·         Unemployment among 16-19 year olds is at a staggering 24%;

With virtually no earned income and dwindling savings, the unemployed are least able to manage the current surge in gasoline and food prices, they are effectively shut off from credit, and many have mortgage debt that exceed the value of their homes.

The statistics alone are disturbing, but when those statistics are combined with the realities faced by for millions long-term unemployed, the problem morphs into tragedy.

Mr. El-Erian concludes:

The US government has little time to waste if it is to avoid an even more protracted and entrenched unemployment problem. It must move now to address the problem’s sources through multi-year programs that range from educational restructuring and worker retraining to productivity enhancement and housing-sector reform. And it must do so while better protecting the long-term unemployed, many of whom bear little responsibility for their current, once unthinkable, and unfortunately long-lasting predicament.

It is past time for the US to wake up and confront in a holistic fashion its unemployment crisis. As everyone who has ever had an unpalatable job knows, shutting off the alarm and pulling the blanket over one’s head is not a solution.

Unfortunately, the GOP controlled House is asleep at the unemployment wheel and has done absolutely nothing to further job creation or advance critically needed unemployment assistance.

What legislation is the GOP House currently considering?

OpenCongress: If you need any more evidence that the House Republicans have given up on serious legislating for the year, look no further than the schedule for their first week back from recess. Votes are planned on repealing potentially popular parts of the new health care reform law, restricting federal funding to health care providers that provide abortion services even though no federal money is used for the abortion services, and expanding oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Not a single mention of jobs or unemployment legislation is being considered by the House, or the Democratic controlled Senate for that matter. America’s most vexing issue – unemployment – is receiving zero attention from an out-of- focus Congress.

H.R. 589 or other immediate assistance is literally becoming a matter of life and death for many long-term unemployed. This past week a very active person in the 99er community tried to take his life. For privacy reasons, he is identified as 99erX. His roommate and best friend sent the following, in part:

It’s with a sad heart that I’ve returned to let people know that we nearly lost one last night. You all know him as 99erX. I know him as a roommate and best friend. I found him unconscious and barely breathing at a little after 6 this morning from a nicotine overdose. He was rusted to the emergency room and is expected to make a full recovery physically. Emotionally I’m not so sure. He’s one of the strongest people I know and he’d reached the end of his rope. I should have seen it coming with the way he’d become distant, even with the kids. Just figured it was a ‘phase’ or something. He left a simple note that just read: ‘I’m sorry’.

He’s sorry. 99erX has no reason to be sorry, it’s a dysfunctional unemployment system, overseen by clueless high-level bureaucrats and controlled by inept and shortsighted state legilators and congressional representatives that should carry the weight of being sorry. I have had contact with 99erX and he is a very talented, personable and intelligent individual. He is someone who certainly deserves better than he has received from a dispassionate Congress that finds it easier to bailout crooked and corrupted bankers using trillions of taxpayer dollars than to assist millions of vulnerable Americans who have lost jobs through no fault of their own. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for 99erX.

While Mr. El-Erian states that America is sleepwalking through the unemployment crisis, the unemployed are living with the sleepless nights and reoccurring nightmare of unemployment. Wake up, Congress, the time to act is now.

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