My daily hangout for morning coffee is a very busy place, more or less the “crossroads” for the commuting class in my community — a community which would be considered fairly prosperous and definitely middle class.
I am at my station every morning, so I can see the comings and goings. I’m just a creature of habit, I guess.
It occurs to me that, except for the panic days at the end of 2008, the normal clientele of the coffee shop have scarcely missed a beat. It is impossible to tell that there is major concern about unemployment or the like. Sure, a guy I used to see — a small builder who built higher-end homes one at a time — no longer shows up, and I heard he went bankrupt, but people still come through the doors, order their designer drinks, chat a bit, and are pleasantly on their way to wherever.
Life seems good, if viewed through the coffee shop “lens.”
In the same town, between the coffee shop and my house, is a homeowner I know well. He is, in fact, a relative.
He was laid off last March, then was lucky enough to get a state job which, while only supposed to last a year, at least provided some wages and benefits. Before Thanksgiving he was angling to refinance his house to get lower interest and thus lower payments, and things looked promising.
Tuesday before Thanksgiving he was laid off again — his work was not quite up to standards, and there’s plenty of people who need jobs. Exactly what he didn’t do right, I don’t know, so I can’t judge. His job was taking phone calls from unemployed people and redirecting them. Somebody who listened in (“this phone call may be monitored for quality assurance”) apparently was less than fully satisfied. He wasn’t fired, just let go.
There is no appeal process.
So, the person is back on layoff and unemployment again.
And the refinance has now fallen through. He has no job, and thus is of no interest to the people who would have refinanced his house.
The homeowner is in the minority of us — they say roughly 10 percent are unemployed. Unemployed have no clout, but they are the underbelly of our economy and if the country goes down, their lack of work and thus lack of money to spend will be a big contributing factor.
There needs to be a better way.
After writing the previous words, we stopped at a newly opened dollar store in our town. While my wife shopped, I waited.
I overheard one lady ask a manager about jobs at the store — there was a hiring sign posted outside.
The manager said, no openings. Corporate said no new hires.
One of those little dramas repeated thousands and thousands of times each and every day.
Now, apparently, the rich will get the tax cuts they don’t need continued. Those same tax cuts didn’t help the economy earlier in this decade. Why should we expect differently now?