Job Summit

by francine Hardaway on December 3, 2009

The past few days have been my personal Job Summit.
One of my former foster kids, now a mother with a husband and three children, called me on Dec. 1.
"Do you know anyone who needs house cleaning?" she asked.
"Not offhand," answered. "What's the matter?"
"The rent is due today and we can't make it," she said. "I'm willing to do anything."
I couldn't think of a way to help, short of referring her to Craig's List, which she had already been using. She moved from Sierra Vista, a small town south of Tucson, to Phoenix because her husband had been laid off and there were no jobs in Sierra Vista. They were sure they would find something in Phoenix, so they upended everyone's lives and moved in with her younger sister, who is a shift supervisor at Starbucks's and is herself a single mom.
After a month, the sister asked her to leave, because she was already letting their youngest brother live with her. He's 22. He's out of work as well.

The next morning, I got a call from another former foster kid, who is in community college and has been out of work since May, right after he got married. His wife works at Costco. Her father, a long-time teacher, was RIF'ed last spring from the school he had been teaching at for years, and was just laid off from his temporary job. My foster son cried on the phone: "I didn't get my emergency unemployment funds and our rent's due. He was upset because he knew his wife would be mad if he couldn't pay his part of their expenses. She gets terrified, because she has never had money worries before.

The state of Arizona has begun making it difficult for people to collect their benefits as promised, because the state itself has to borrow money these days. It is operating off a line of credit.

Telling him that the squeaky wheel got the grease, I made him go down to the Department of Economic Security and ask what happened. He texted me that the company he had been laid off from had ceased operations, and that created further paperwork before his benefits could be extended.  It would be another month before he received them. He has gotten to the final interview stages of several jobs, but no one pulls the trigger — people are very skittish about hiring anybody in this environment.

So that was yesterday. This morning I went to the park with my dogs and met up with two women who often walk with me. Slightly younger than I (well, maybe ten or fifteen years), they got laid off from their full-time jobs last winter. For the past year, one has been giving massages to make money (fortunately, she's trained and licensed), and the other has been doing some part-time consulting. Neither has health insurance. One is drawing from her 401k. Both of them shop at the Goodwill, formerly the choice of my foster kids who are undereducated and unskilled, now the choice of middle class families whom I suspect are using it as a kind of swap shop, trading things they can't wear for things someone else couldn't wear. Not much money changes hands.

No one I know has escaped dramatic lifestyle changes, including myself. If nothing else, we are de-leveraging as a population.

So today was Obama's Job Summit. While it was taking place, Bernanke was assuring members of Congress that he was urging community banks to lend and making it easy for them to do so, while Congressmen were telling him that wasn't happening with his regulators on the ground. Those regulators are covering their butts against the kind of meltdown that occurred from easy liquidity in 2005. Bernanke's employees are busy fighting the last war.

I've totally lost faith in the government to understand what's happening in the street, much less do something about it. Half of them talk a good game and do nothing; the other half talk about reigning in the deficit. In the mean time, the most recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has decided to throw a few hundred billion more away in Afghanistan, building hospitals and schools in a foreign land where people would just as soon we left them alone.

Only a true sense of community will get us out of this. We all have to work together to build something for the future. If we innovate and then collaborate (not one without the other, please), we can come back. Without innovation, or without collaboration, we will all hang separately.

Posted via email from Not Really Stealthmode

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