The Hungry Writer

An unemployed writer keeping sane during The Depression II.

Posts Tagged ‘earnings’

Defending your life.

Posted by The eDater on January 29, 2009

Like this, but the pasta's fattening.

Like this, but the pasta's fattening.

It’s perhaps the most dreaded aspect of unemployment. We can all do without the money, you can get used to homelessness, and health insurance is over-rated for all those with intact achilles tendons.

But, in a society where what you do is often who you are, an unemployed shlub faces the withering cross-examination sooner or later. Prepare as you might, it takes saintly patience – and faith – to escape this well-meaning attack.

And I don’t claim to have either.

It hasn’t really begun yet – my grandmother isn’t in town, after all – but the set-up is there. First, suggest gaining some skills. Throw some job leads out there which have absolutely nothing to do with your experience, interests, or aptitudes. Tell stories of someone getting lucky and imply that should be you. Suggest random careers that graze an interest – but, but, they pay pretty well. Ain’t that enough?

Sooner or later it may be – but the worried closest often descend the Degrees of Desperation faster than the subject. After all, it’s just a job title to most of them. Only to you will it be your life – or a huge mass of hours therein.

And refuse these suggestions at your peril – you’re unemployed, after all! I’m not sure unemployed folks really get that big a say, do they? Beggars and choosers and all – right?

In the depression, one of the commonest complaints wasn’t the hunger – it was the feeling of impotence. The inability to provide. You’re going to feel this at some point, if the jobless state lasts long enough.

And in this market, it will.

And when that feeling comes – well, you’ll be ready to do anything.

So, how should you defend your life? In my opinion – don’t. Take all the suggestions. Act on a defensible number. Re-examine your inner kernel often enough you can hold it steady, but no need to mention it. Just graciously accept everything coming in, almost apologetically – too bad you’ve created this uncomfortable social situation, sorry, but I sure do appreciate you braving it to help.

And then do what you want, anyway. Often, what you want and what is offered will cross over – and then, if haven’t been too busy defending yourself, you’ll hear it and run.

Now, see if you can get all those emotions and contradictory ideas to work together – without snapping once, without doubting once. Saintly indeed.

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Good News For People Who Like Bad News

Posted by The eDater on January 25, 2009

(with apologies to Modest Mouse…)

Donuts vs. pancakes - I'm not sure which I'd choose.

Donuts vs. pancakes - I'm not sure which I'd choose.

One of the curious things about the freshly unemployed is the muscle memory of certain habits. For instance, I’m no longer a business writer – perhaps I’ll do some freelancing on that front, perhaps another job will go that direction, but I’m more interested in travel anyway.

Yet, every day, I’m still checking the financial news. I’d say it has something to do with morbid curiosity, but it’s more than that. I’ve been reading the financial news for a couple years now, first thing in the morning, and until I change my set and setting (next week), I expect that’ll continue.

Anyway, in my perusals of the news of business, I came across this lovely gloomy summary of our current earnings season. There are still plenty of people out there who think this is just a particularly nasty recession. Maybe it’s my love of drama, my quest for grandeur in all aspects of life, but I don’t see that.

As you can tell from this page, I think we’re in the early part of a full-blown depression. In the 30s, the depression was in high gear for 4 years, and then the economy sorta limped along for another eight or so before it got moving again (with WWII). I think we’re looking at something more like that, than the dot-com bubble bursting. The scale is too big this time, with too many aspects that cut to the core of the economy.

Basically, although it wasn’t set off by this (but by the credit crunch), the underlying problem is we’ve got too much debt. And now, with everyone either laid off or scared of being laid off, no one’s going to spend anything until they’ve eliminated that debt (the average American cardholder carries between $6,600 and $9,900 in credit card debt (the median is much lower, and the mode much higher) – never mind other kinds of debt, like car payments and upside down mortgages).

The problem here is, of course, when people don’t spend their money but instead pay off old debt or save for rainy days, then companies don’t sell as many products. When companies don’t sell as many products, they lay off workers. Those people spend even less than before, hurting profits, causing more layoffs, and on and on.

It’s an awful cycle – one which has deflation as a symptom (though deflation itself is not the problem, not at the core). And once you really get into the cycle, it’s tough to break. Last time we really got into it, we had to have a world war break us out.

Well, I think we’re now locked into the cycle. We tampered with the free market and pushed our natural recessions back too many times, until the wave became so big no levee could hold it. Layoffs are accelerating. New jobs are nearly non-existent. The unemployment rate is officially 7.2% – although that’s a doctored number, dropping out many groups, like the chronically unemployed or the underemployed. If measured the way unemployment used to be measured – so you can compare apples to apples looking back at the depression-era – then unemployment is just under 14%, and going up fast.

In the worst of the 30s, unemployment hit 25%. We could – unofficially – hit that by the end of a bad 2009.

Occasionally I’ll talk about this good ol’ depression – it’s momentous, and momentous things are always interesting. Besides, my business-writing muscle memory remains, so I need to exercise now and again.

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