I am one of millions of unemployed people in America. I cannot discuss why I quit my job because I signed an NDA (non disclosure agreement) and took a small severance and the employment attorney I consulted said that was the most pragmatic course because my alternatives were…tough. I can say that the UI (unemployment insurance) determination was that I was forced into a position such that I had to resign and I was awarded UI. I am not one those people, and yes, I’m using that phrase, but not in a “raciss” way. I’m not one of those people who hops in and out of jobs, who rides the UI system, who does things at a minimum to remain on the government dole. Please understand, I am not a parasite on society. I have contributed to the social welfare taxation scheme in this country for 26 years of my life, throughout my working lifetime. I was employed at my last position for 8.5 years and thought I’d be there until I retired.
So now that I have that introduction out of the way, I want you to know my extreme humiliation.
I recently lost my emergency unemployment benefits. Throughout the past almost 9 months, I have whittled away at my severance (and used the UI) to cover costs that my kids incurred. I ate away at that tiny nest egg, taking care of business, all bills paid, kids fed, clothed, and sheltered. All this while, I was so positive and upbeat about the chances of finding a new job. I’m stable, I’m smart, I work hard, I learn quickly, on and on. I mean, yes, it sounds like I’m tooting my own horn, and I apologize for that, but I am a good worker bee, a highly employable person.
And nothing. Nothing. I have had one interview in all this time, at a competitor to my previous company. Apparently, I would have fit in great, except I lacked the ability to let the systems do the job (no thinking required, thankyouverymuch), instead of understanding the ins and outs of production from materials to end product and knowing the costs each step of the way and intuitively understanding how it all fits together in cost analysis. Trust me, even the recruiter who sent me on that interview was confused beyond belief on my rejection. Anyway, every day, I scour the job boards, I apply for positions which are extremely close to my skills, up to and all the way out to not even a remotely conceivable “good fit.” And the rejection emails, they make my face flush hot with humiliation. My heart beats really fast when one comes in and then I skip through to get to the meat of “sorry, you’re REJECTED.” And then I get sick to my stomach, but I drive on, ever hopeful that the next one will net me an interview or at least a second look.
When I lost my emergency UI, and while I wait to see if the Democrats can find the money to sustain the program instead of just passing the buck along to future generations, I still have to feed my kids and pay my bills. It’s been about 2 weeks since my final UI deposit and I’m working through all the possible financial impact on me, my retirement nest egg, everything. Again, the humiliation is almost unbearable. I just got off the phone with a wonderful USAA investment advisor who helped me through cashing out some of my IRA to make sure I pay my mortgage on time. Yes, I started crying because she was so sweet and sympathetic and understanding of the situation. It’s very hard to be brought so damn low.
But even that is not my lowest.
My lowest is the fact that I have a meeting on Friday to formalize my “activity plan” to receive my W2 benefits. W2 would be the welfare program in Wisconsin. I will get “paid” about $4/hr to continue seeking a job, researching employers, doing what I do anyway. But I will have become a Welfare Queen. I have also applied for free lunches for my children at their schools, and yesterday, it was my first use of my EBT card. You know, food stamps.
I am nauseous typing all of this out. I have become a burden to my fellow Americans. They are feeding my children and paying my bills. It is the ultimate in embarrassment and humiliation. I am being a good caretaker of your money though. When I bought my food using your tax money, I used coupons and sales, I saved over $60 on my bill because it is not my money to spend frivolously. It is your money to be spent as frugally as I can possibly do it and I promise you, I am very conscious of each penny. My goal, my challenge to myself, is to have a balance on the card at the end of the month. Not only is it a challenge to myself, it is my commitment to you.
I am paralyzed about other benefits. I have been uninsured this whole time. I am very fortunate to have a great working relationship with my family physician and I can usually email him, therefore avoiding any office visit or charge. The Medicaid paperwork sits here, uncompleted, because with all of the other programs I am using, it’s making me more and more reluctant to move further down that road of being a burden to you all.
I have to tell you, I just want to work. I want to work, pay my bills, raise my kids, live a normal life. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to live like this. Every day, every moment of being on the dole eats away at me, eats away at my pride and self-respect. I cry at night because I just want a job. I’m over qualified for minimum wage, especially since companies know I will be out the door the moment I get a better offer and I’m under qualified for a myriad of positions such as manufacturing and assembly. I saw a great flyer at the job center and you need pneumatic tools experience. I work on my own car, I do repairs around the house, I fix my small engine appliances like my lawnmower and snowblower. I’m not afraid to get dirty. I’m not afraid to work hard. I just want someone to give me a chance to prove myself but requirements like that, when you lack, it’s the circular file for your resumé. They can find 10 people with the skills for every one like me without them.
The President and his party have destroyed our ability to create jobs for people like me. They have burdened small and big businesses alike with onerous legislation, increasing costs, increasing regulatory requirements, even looking to increase labor costs through raising the minimum wage. All of this at the expense of taxpayers like you, who support we unemployed, and at the expense of we unemployed, who want a job and an opportunity to move on from this devastating economic period of our nation. The Democrats have created a Humiliation Nation, through their hubris and hunger to fix things that will self-correct if left alone. They meddle and tweak, cajole and ultimately, force upon us their philosophical position that the Nanny State is the solution.
Leave us alone. Quit trying to “help” and let the small business owners, capitalists, and entrepreneurs fix this situation through investment, job creation, innovation, and the American Can-Do Spirit. Get out of the way, Mr. President and Congress. Let us work, let us feed our families through our own labor. Let us move forward.
Since I am in this position, I am very well aware of the need for some sort of safety net. But please, don’t make this safety net so safe it is comfortable to stay here for those who have no ambition, no drive, no self-respect. I have seen and heard things in the social welfare offices that get my blood boiling. The sense of entitlement and resentment for having to “work” for the welfare money, as Wisconsin’s welfare program is designed, was almost too much to bear. I refused to make eye-contact with those who complained about how high the expectations were in order to receive aid. Working for your money, even if it is filing at the offices or actively seeking a real, permanent job, is not too much of a burden!
I know this is long and maybe a little rambling. I wanted to share my experience because there are two very distinct groups on the dole. Those of us humiliated to be here, and those who abuse the system. Please don’t judge all of us the same. Please understand that it is damn hard to be here in this place, emotionally and financially, and please know that I am grateful for the help. I am grateful for the temporary aid during these trying times. I just fielded a call from a recruiter and said yes to everything, yes I will commute over 60 miles away, yes I will take a pay cut, yes I understand this is a contract job for a limited time frame, yes, please, please give me a chance to talk to your client face-to-face in an interview so I at least can continue to hope that I will go forward in life.
I leave you with this graphic. That declining graph shows all of those who have lost hope. There are so many who have been broken down, lost, given up and stopped hoping that things will get better. I don’t want to be one of these people. And to those who have wished me well, thank you. I appreciate it. Not even my friends and family know I am in this position. I guess I have outted myself, and that’s ok, because I want you to know that I owe you all for this brief time where you have carried me and my family. I pray it ends soon, and when it does, I will be on the other side of the table again and I will have a better understanding and sympathy for my fellow Americans who choose to get the help they need, if only for a short while. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.