What Are the Long-Term Unemployed Doing With Their Time?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Friday’s rotten jobs report got me thinking. Hurricane Katrina, of course, destroyed what little reputation the Bush administration had for competence or empathy, along with much of New Orleans. But even now, after the latest recovery summer under the Obama administration, the number of permanently disemployed[1] — I say unemployed in the headline to appease the Google gods — is about the same as the population of Los Angeles, 3.88 million. Washington Monthly:

In February, BLS reported that nearly 3.7 million Americans were long-term unemployed in January 2014, including nearly 2.5 million Americans who’ve been out of work for a year or more. Long-term unemployed workers account for about 2.4 percent of the total workforce. … One major issue is that many of long-term unemployed workers may end up never rejoining the workforce. … Four years out, men who had been long-term unemployed end up with average hourly wages that are about 7 percent lower than when they had a job.

WaPo’s Wonkblog writes:

Long-term unemployment is a terrifying trap that, even in the best of times, is difficult to escape. And it’s a trap that you can get stuck in for no reason other than bad luck.

1. As former CEA Chair Alan Krueger found, the long-term unemployed aren’t much different from the short-term unemployed. They’re a little older and more of them are African-Americans, but they’re just about as educated and work in the same industries as everyone else who’s trying to find a job.

2. The long-term unemployed have a hard time getting companies to even look at their job applications, let alone hire them. Rand Ghayad, a labor economist at Northeastern University, has tested this: he sent out thousands of fictitious resumés that were basically identical except for how long they said they’d been unemployed and what field they’d been in before. The results? Employers preferred people without any relevant experience but who’d been unemployed less than six months to people with experience who’d been unemployed longer than that. In other words, how long you’d been out of work trumped all else.

3.There’s never been this much long-term unemployment before, at least not since they started keeping records in 1948.

It’s as if the entire city of Los Angeles suddenly vanished mysteriously, silently blown off the face of the earth, except nobody who seems to have wondered what happened to the people. That’s why long-term and permanent disemployment is Obama’s Katrina. It shows Obama has exactly the same flaws Bush did: Lack of competence[3], and lack of empathy.

And it’s bad out there.[2] How bad is it? As I wrote in 2011 (“Normalizing Disemployment Considered Harmful”):

maslowIt’s important for all humans with access to policy making — and that includes some, at least, of our “friends,” the career “progressives” — to understand that DISemployment really does cause people to die. Using DISemployment as a policy tool kills workers just as effectively as the radiation in the plant at Fukushima, although less directly, and not on the nightly news. And like radiation*, DISemployment is no less lethal for being invisible.

It’s all about Maslow’s pyramid of needs. (And isn’t it always?) For those in the top 1%, there may indeed be “shared sacrifice,” but the “sacrifice” comes from the apex of Maslow pyramid: Loss of opportunity for “self-actualization” in the form of bonuses (“Just a way of keeping score”), the sale of a second or third home, a postponed yacht (but no more!), or scaled-back cosmetic surgery

But for the rest of us, DISemployment undermines the pyramid foundations; check the chart again. Employment is right there as the basis of safety and security. And just like lethal radiation striking the body, DISemployment invisibly corrodes and destroys everything around it. DISemployment kills people. DISemployment kills people when they can’t afford health care. DISemployment kills people when they lose their property (whether homes, cars, or tools of the trade). DISemployment kills people when they end up on the street (where food, water, sleep, homeostasis, even excretion are at risk). DISemployment kills people when its economic effects (and the stigma) erode friendships, family, intimacy, all of which are major stressors, and hence lethal.

So it’s clearly immoral — taking, say, the teachings of major religions as a proxy for morality — to crash the economy, whether motivated by greed and even if “doing God’s work,” as the FIRE sector did with the housing bubble. But it’s also immoral, brutal and inhumane, to regulate the economy by “taking away the punchbowl” and disemploying hundreds of thousands or even millions of working people.

But what I want to know is this: What happened to them? What are the disemployed doing with their time? How do they survive? So far as I can tell, we just don’t know. (It’s as if we need anthropologists, but we have economists.) Here is the table of contents from a study of long-term unemployment by the Urban Institute:

1. Labor Force Concepts
2. Basic Trends in LongTerm Unemployment
3. Demographic Characteristics of the Long-Term Unemployed
4. Previous Industry and Occupation of the Long-Term Unemployed
5. Geography of the Long-Term Unemployed
6. Recent Changes in the Characteristics of the Long-Term Unemployed

What are the disemployed doing with their time? No answers here. (The only candidate for such information is the Chapter 6, “Recent Changes; I read it; nada.) Here’s another study, from Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, “Long-Term Unemployment in the United States”:

There are many possible explanations for why people have continued to look for work despite being unemployed for extended periods of time, including the extension of unemployment insurance benefits, reductions in household wealth associated with declining home values and equity markets and a reluctance to accept a lower-paying job — especially among highly skilled workers. The extension of unemployment insurance benefits during the past four years likely played a role in keeping some unemployed work ers, including the very-long-term unemployed, searching for work. Many workers simply cannot afford to give up searching for employment. Even for households where a spouse or other family member is employed, wages have remained largely stagnant while typical household expenses — food, clothing, health care and education continue to rise.

What are the disemployed doing with their time? No answers here, although we do have some theories about what might motivate them to spend some fraction of their time looking for work (or not).

Here’s another study, from the National Employment Law Foundation, again in 2013: “Scarring Effects: Demographics of the Long-Term Unemployed and the Danger of Ignoring the Jobs Deficit”. I read it all. What are the disemployed doing with their time? No answers.

Three studies is enough excitement for a Saturday night, and I bet if I read thirty, I’d find the same kinds of information: Demographics, occupation, education, age, gender, etc. But no indication of what the disemployed are doing with their time. Why, it’s almost as if the time of wage workers is of interest or has value only insofar as they are human resources and not people!

* * *

If I had to guess — and in fact, I do have to guess — what the disemployed are doing with their time, I would guess that some large fraction of the disemployed have entered System D, a style of employment familiar in other third world countries:

System D is a slang phrase pirated from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. The French have a word that they often use to describe particularly effective and motivated people. They call them débrouillards. To say a man is a débrouillard is to tell people how resourceful and ingenious he is. The former French colonies have sculpted this word to their own social and economic reality. They say that inventive, self-starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes, are part of “l’economie de la débrouillardise.” Or, sweetened for street use, “Systeme D.” This essentially translates as the ingenuity economy, the economy of improvisation and self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, or DIY, economy. …

What happens in all the unregistered markets and roadside kiosks of the world is not simply haphazard. It is a product of intelligence, resilience, self-organization, and group solidarity, and it follows a number of well-worn though unwritten rules. It is, in that sense, a system.

It used to be that System D was small — a handful of market women selling a handful of shriveled carrots to earn a handful of pennies. It was the economy of desperation. But as trade has expanded and globalized, System D has scaled up too. Today, System D is the economy of aspiration. It is where the jobs are. In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a think tank sponsored by the governments of 30 of the most powerful capitalist countries and dedicated to promoting free-market institutions, concluded that half the workers of the world — close to 1.8 billion people — were working in System D: off the books, in jobs that were neither registered nor regulated, getting paid in cash, and, most often, avoiding income taxes.

Kids selling lemonade from the sidewalk in front of their houses are part of System D. So are many of the vendors at stoop sales, flea markets, and swap meets. So are the workers who look for employment in the parking lots of Home Depot and Lowe’s throughout the United States.

Noteworthy in all the studies above is the failure to recognize that the disemployed have agency; that they might take action of some kind to better their condition, but outside the formal sector that has failed them so badly. I know people doing just that, and I bet you do, too. (Of course, if you have confirming, or disconfirming evidence for this hypothesis, I’d love to hear about it in comments.)

If my thesis is right, there are at least two consequences:

1) ObamaCare is going to **** débrouillards over hard, because of its income predicting and reporting requirements. How in the name of sweet suffering Jeebus is a guy trying to cobble together an income out of yard sales, eBay, and home repair (say) supposed to predict his income? It’s demented.

2) System D fits quite neatly into the systems offered by the so-called sharing economy; for example, those who haven’t lost their homes, yet are located in the right areas, would be very happy to pick up a few bucks renting their rooms. Services like TaskRabbit are an even closer match. I like this idea, since it would mean the “sharing economy” squillionaires are in fact parasites, skimming, scaling, normalizing, and taking a cut in rent to provide services for social relations already invented in System D.


[1] I prefer to say “disemployed” rather than “unployed” because disemployment, like disempowered or disrespected, implies agency on the part of those doing the dissing. Disemployment not some sort of natural event that just happens; it’s a social construct, in fact the preferred policy option of elites, as evidenced by the fact that other policy options that return us to full employment, like a Jobs Guarantee, aren’t even on the table. You may not like those options, but options they are.

[2] I know there are distinctions that are important to statisticians between the long-term disemployed, who are still in the work force, and “discouraged workers,” who are not. The Urban Institute writes:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies individuals as unemployed if they are without a job but have been actively looking for one in the preceding four weeks. If individuals have been searching for a job for 27 weeks or longer, then they are considered long – term unemployed. As a comparison group, we refer to unemployed workers who have been searching for a job for fewer than five weeks as “newly unemployed.” Together, all unemployed and employed workers age 16 and older make up the labor force. Outside the labor force, there are also many workers who have lost their jobs and have given up searching. Although these discouraged workers are not officially considered part of the labor force, many would like to return to work if given the opportunity. Discouraged workers are defined as those not currently in the labor force because they do not believe jobs are available, but who have actively searched for a job in the past year.

From the wage worker’s perspective, these are distinctions without differences. “No job and no money” equals “no job and no money” at 25 and 28 weeks. And if I got a job part-time job at Walmart restocking shelves after, say, having a good job at the mill, I could mighty “discouraged,” which is why the “discouraged workers” language always grates on me. So for the purposes of this post I’m going to put the two populations in one class.

[3] “Competence” in the sense of running the executive branch to promote the general welfare, or to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and other such public purpose expectations. Both Bush and Obama are highly competent and very effective in other areas; just at in the duties that they were (in Bush’s case, ostensibly) elected to perform.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Income disparity, Social policy, Social values on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Ben Johannson

    Hitting the streets and talking with people is not something the applied mathematics and physics majors ruining the field can be expected to accomplish: instead they would sit at their desks and think about what they would do if they were long-term unemployed, assuming they bother to ask the question at all.

  2. proximity1

    Well, having been out of any paid, regular self-supporting work for the past thirteen years, I’ve used my time to study, read books, journals, follow what was best on radio and post comments and criticism about political and social affairs, science and literature. No one has ever paid me so much as a single cent for any of my comments–anywhere, ever. It’s an entirely self-directed activity which I do for my own sake and the sake of what, in my imagination, I can posit as a sympathetic reader.

    1. santi

      When I have been in a similar situation (I have been in and out of DISemployment for the last 6 years, and currently DISemployed), I tend to give voluntary time to social and political initiatives that undermine capitalism and neoliberalism, such as ecological, cultural, sharing or left-hand politics. Specially here in the NO-EURO-ZONE, where the IMF and troika are “taking care” of us better than the mobs used to… Take this as suggestions about how to productively (for a certain sense of “production”) you can spend parts of your time…

      1. just bill

        Went through this myself in the Seventies and Eighties. After three or four years and hitting forty, I entered the Cosmo Kramer economy. Rented out half my NYC apartment, walked dogs, moved cars parked on the street, ran errands, speculated on stock options, gave low budget legal advice, represented penny stock promoters and fleeced investors, divorcing women. Didn’t have an office or need one either., Never looked for a job again. When I think back I remain amazed how easy it was. I think if I were in this position today I would become a handyman; fix all the crap that starts falling apart as soon as one gets it home. Do it on a contingent basis at a premium- no fix, no fee.

        To expect this degraded system to supply enough jobs is to misunderstand how it is designed to work. The only realistic answer is self help. The only available jobs involve collaborating with the enemy.

  3. jrs

    I imagine it depends on how much one needs the income. If one was in a relationship where two people worked, maybe only one works now (might also be motive to get into such a relationship). If one can find family that will take one in, maybe one does. If early retirement is at all conceivable, even an impoverished one, and one is near the age then definitely some have gone with early retirement. There’s ways of kicking the can like going back to school and I’m sure many did, but that has to pay off eventually or else. Then the number of homeless openly begging around here seem to have tripled since 2008!!! And yes some of them are still people with serious mental problems, but some could pass for grad students. In their prime (late 20s/early 30s), healthy, able bodied, entirely normal, like someone I’d end up meeting socially. To a degree that I even wonder if they are grad students under cover (doing sociology research). These are my guesses based on what I’ve seen.

    I don’t know that unemployed people in this recession end up doing great things with their time. A B.I.G. would allow that, but not the anxiety of unemployment in the current system. It’s not that the “devil finds work for idle hands to do” (except the idle rich, who do seem up to devilish things) but just being unemployed in this system without a B.I.G. or other safety net is completely crazy making. But if they’re at least working outside the system, I can’t help but think: good for them!!! High five!

    In prior recessions some unemployed people did try to start white market businesses (might even be a common time for businesses to start up), but I suspect that while that is hard enough in your average recession, that conditions are pretty horrible for that in this permanent recession.

    1. Moneta

      I know a lot of people I their 50s who could not find interesting work in the tech industry’s so after a while they just applied for their benefits and retired. Many do freelance work here and there to stay busy and don’t have to dip too much into their savings.

    2. Moneta

      IMO, this time is different because those in their 30-40s who would have started a business in the past can’t because they have too much debt… housing + education. Plus a large cohort is pushing 60 and not really looking to start a business in an over-regulated (especial for small business) environment.

    3. John Zelnicker

      I have read elsewhere that some of those homeless do have post-graduate degrees, but they are not undercover doing research. They are homeless for the same reasons as most of the rest: no jobs, no friends or family able to help, no safety net.

      I have also seen reference to studies indicating that the countries with the highest levels of entrepreneurship and new business formation are those that have the better safety nets. It’s much easier to take the chance on starting one’s own business when one knows that failure will not mean total destitution.

      1. Paul Handover

        This comment jumped out for me. For in a previous life, I was a mentor for the Prince’s Youth Business Trust (PYBT – Prince Charles – now known as The Prince’s Trust). Teaching youngsters who had no jobs and very little prospects of finding a job the principles of forming and running your business: being an entrepreneur in other words.

        Over many years the results were clear and unambiguous. Even though many of the young people never ran their own businesses, their efforts at finding work were vastly more successful.

        Millions of the disemployed have worked out the basics of being self-employed.

      2. nobody

        What you have read is correct; there are recently former graduate students among the homeless population. In fact, there are people who are employed and with the word “professor” in their job titles who are living out of their cars (and not for research purposes). There’s even the occasional current graduate student who is homeless.

    4. Crazy Horse

      Conversation with a guy I met at a party—–
      “I’d really like to pay income tax, but I can’t figure out how to do it. I have my 70 acre farm, a new D-8 Cat that I used to dig my trout farm, and all my plants are on computerized drip feeding systems. As long as my wholesale buyers don’t go out of business or get taken over by the Zetas I’m fine.”

      Thank God for Oregon’s largest remaining crop. Without it we’d face serious economic problems.

  4. Skeptic

    “It’s all about Maslow’s pyramid of needs.”


    From another angle. How many Americans, even in the “good times”, who had the wherewithal to self-actualize, ever actually did? Very few. Most of them just continued on working as drones. They either continued on the consumption path and/or saved their money for “retirement” which is not self-actualization but probably its opposite. So, millions upon millions of Americans had the capacity to get off the Treadmill, be relatively free but chose not to do so. And millions more Americans choose the Treadmill today who could self-actualize. This is the real tragedy of our times: people will choose the Treadmill over Personal Freedom even when given the choice.

    As for the 3.88 million in question, some of those who had retirement funds/resources may have been forced into self-actualization and may be better off for it. Most of the others fill their time with celebrity-watching, infotainment, sportz, cellphone thumbing, fats food consumption, etc. Their leisure time is well planned by the 1%.

    (Personally, I took Maslow to heart and adapted his theory to my own situation.)

    1. TheCatSaid

      Great comment.
      I think you’re right re: self-actualization (people choosing not to) and the various distractions taking up their time.

    2. John Zelnicker

      See my comment just above. To “get off the Treadmill” one must have the resources for the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and medical care until the self-actualization process is providing enough to cover those needs. With something like 90% of all new businesses failing within the first three years, it’s a scary prospect to give up the security, however ephemeral it may be, provided by those Treadmill jobs. Especially when there is little or no safety net and failure can mean total destitution.

      1. RepubAnon

        Indeed. Another name for System D is “going off the grid.”

        I’d also note that one shouldn’t mention the idea that highly-skilled people are reluctant to accept lower-paying jobs without also noting that employers are reluctant to hire over-qualified applicant. Employers face a cost in the interviewing and hiring process, and are reluctant to hire someone who they think (rightly or wrongly) will leave as soon as conditions improve. The thought that conditions may never improve hasn’t sunk in emotionally yet.

    3. sd

      If the US had national health care available for all, I would have started my own business. However, I can’t afford to for the simple reason that I’ve had some minor medical issues over the years and I support the household. I know I am not alone in making this kind of decision, 60% of bankruptcies are because of unpaid medical bills.

      I’ve also chosen to live in one of the 5 states in the US that offers temporary disability – I’ve been injured on the job twice, once requiring an ambulance. My spouse was tboned by a texting teenager, the car was totaled and subsequently lost one year of employment going through physical therapy.

      I see the choice as safe, practical and necessary.

  5. John

    Obama has been a definite disappointment. Had he spent his political capital bailing out Main Street versus Wall Street we would now be in a different world.

    Folks must understand Obama has not been a total disaster…. at least for the 1%. Inequality was not a mistake but a straight forward policy which Obama and others helped ensure happen. The rich have never had it better.

    1. Brindle

      I guess “folks” now has a kind of “these are not the droids you’re looking for” meaning. When “folks” is used it implies a misdirection, feint and also contempt.

      1. sleepy

        I understand the rhetorical and contemptible usage of the word “folks” by politicians and others.

        At the same time, I was born and raised in the South where the word was used all the time in a non-contemptuous way–with no attempt at all to be “folksy”.

        1. Brindle

          Yea, I meant Obama’s usage–particularly his “we tortured some folks” etc. Like you say, it is used in a very benign way in the South and other places.

    2. Carla

      From Lambert: “Both Bush and Obama are highly competent and very effective in other areas; just at in the duties that they were (in Bush’s case, ostensibly) elected to perform.”

      Bush may have been “elected” to perform such duties; Obama was “selected” for same.

      If necessary, I will write in someone for President before ever voting for another “major party candidate” again. Achieving and retaining ballot access for other parties is a continual battle. Any time a Green or a Socialist is on my ballot, they will have my vote, and I’ll consider independents and other parties as well.

      Obama, as the latest example of a ruling class selection, has ably demonstrated the utter folly of believing that the outcome of a presidential election can and will improve the lives of ordinary people. That ship has sailed. Thank you, President Obama, for opening my eyes in 2009 with the way you began and proceeded with your signature policy: “health care.”

      1. TheMotherlode

        The last time I voted for a HORRIFIC judge who ran unopposed, I wrote in “Satan” as a voting option. I wanted that judge to know that I would rather have Satan in his position.

        1. David

          That is a good one. I have on a number of occasions wrote the URL
          of Naked Capitalism as a write-in candidate.

      2. LifelongLib

        In the 2012 presidential election here in Hawaii, the Libertarians got more votes (0.9%) than the Greens did (0.7%). Of course this is Obama’s home state so maybe those numbers are low compared to most places.

    3. digi_owl

      Obama was a one project president. His only reason for getting there was “Obamacare”. And he had to pretty much gut it to get it accepted at all.

      After that he has barely reined in the most blatant security apparatus excesses, and coasted along.

      Frankly it would not surprise me if every US (and perhaps elsewhere within the US sphere of interest) leader gets presented with a summary of the dirty laundry the security-industrial complex have on said person, with the unstated threat that if said complex is every really threatened by that leader the laundry will make its way to the media.

      I have seen oh so many recent leaders around the world go from lion to carpet within the first week of being elected to power.

      1. LifelongLib

        Possibly, although I lean toward the view that politicians just say what they need to say in order to get elected, often knowing full well they won’t actually be able to do the things they say.

    4. neo-realist

      I tend to think more that Obama didn’t really make inequality happen, but inherited the conditions and the policies of his predecessors and merely functions as a manager who continues the policies reinforcing the conditions and acts as a elite puppet mouthpiece who throws out reassuring soundbites and engages in public relations shenanigans to ensure his pop culture hipness to his political base.

    5. Propertius

      Obama has been a definite disappointment

      Not to anyone who was really paying attention in 2007-2008. He has done exactly as I expected.

  6. abynormal

    “I have often wondered whether especially those days when we are forced to remain idle are not precisely the days spend in the most profound activity. Whether our actions themselves, even if they do not take place until later, are nothing more than the last reverberations of a vast movement that occurs within us during idle days.

    In any case, it is very important to be idle with confidence, with devotion, possibly even with joy. The days when even our hands do not stir are so exceptionally quiet that it is hardly possible to raise them without hearing a whole lot.”
    Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Life: New Prose Translations

    1. diptherio

      “I have often wondered whether especially those days when we are forced to remain idle are not precisely the days spend in the most profound activity.”

      “The wise see action in inaction, and inaction in action” ~Bhagavad Gita

    2. MikeNY

      In a similar vein to Rilke and the Gita, polymath genius Blaise Pascal:

      “All of man’s troubles come from the inability to sit still.”

      1. James Levy

        I have no problem sitting still and am almost never bored. Nevertheless, my wife and I are under incredible stress because we are working on one income and it does not meet our bills. And if you are looking for work and can’t find it, the process eventually leads to self-doubt, anxiety, confusion, and fear that you are washed up. If you need to work and can’t find anything, the long-term effects are toxic–they have literally been shown to be deleterious to one’s health. I constantly ask myself as I apply for yet another job: what the hell am I doing wrong?

        1. optimader

          Good luck to you James, I’m sure it latently stressful. The notion that there is some honor in sitting around if you are hungry is BS best left to well fed philosophers.

        2. MikeNY

          Good luck, James.

          I’m sorry if the Pascal quote seemed insensitive; the context is indeed pretty far from long-term unemployment. Probably too far.

        3. Ulysses

          You’re not doing anything wrong!!! The cowardly, ignorant people who feel threatened by your obvious intelligence, and capacity for doing great work, are doing something wrong! I wouldn’t presume to suggest anything to relieve the stress of your own, unique situation. I will say that in times where I have felt frustrated (not so uncommon since I left the comfortable academic world I knew all my life) relief has come from doing something, anything that allows me to feel competent and productive. Tutoring a kid, painting a garage, playing my trumpet in the park and appreciating the smiles and beer money dropped in my hat. You are a scholar who would probably enjoy doing some kick-ass new research– into some woefully understudied byway of history. Maybe you could write a novel!
          The fact that you contribute so many thoughtful ideas to the discussion here at NC tells me that you are supremely successful as an human being, the only important definition of success.

        4. abynormal

          1st…James my heart goes out to you and your wife. You are not alone. In 2007 my daughter asked me ‘how big is this mom?’…i pointed to the wall atlas above her head remarking, ‘this will rearrange that atlas’. Since that ‘glib’ answer I’ve come to realized the ‘grey’ area we would live while the atlas shifts. We are revisiting our needs and values…by no means an easy feat. I was raised to stay busy during hard times or when things didn’t go my way. For me, ‘Busy’ redirected my emotions, negative actions and necessary contemplations for change. Another words my anger and frustrations were hyped with furious busyness. For the last few years I can’t help but notice the importance in ‘Watching’…Ive fought this idleness but its slowly becoming my friend. Idleness has helped me avoid landmines my friends and family continue to search and stomp. I do plenty to relax my mind…paint, read, walk, fish and care for the sickly around me. I still have moments where I freeze in terror for what I will do next…where and how will I fit the through this mess. Idleness allows me sincere contemplation as opposed to physically destabilizing anxieties.
          The other day my sister looked me in the eye to say ‘I have no hope’. I contemplated her present ‘hopes’ while looking around her…in context she had plenty of hope. Hope for ‘things’ and the way life use to give her what she wanted, when corporate made it so. I’m formulating a deeper hope…that our recognition for today’s realities are short lived so we can adapt and create necessary changes. Maybe hope should be ‘a tall order’…or its worth remains frivolous.
          Whenever my daughter complained of boredom I’d smile and suggest she embrace it…Life is Valley’s & Peaks and we need the lull in the valley’s to store strength for the Peaks to be climbed. Today’s Peaks are higher and closer together…my hope is for you, myself and many more to help each other climb.

          “For his part, Blind Seer had no difficulty accepting idleness. A wolf proverb stated: “Hunt when hungry, sleep when not, for hunger always returns.”
          Lindskold, Through Wolf’s Eyes

  7. Banger

    I like the system thing which is nothing more than the underground economy of semi-legal and illegal work. Some of it is sex-work, drug dealing, selling illegal cigarettes and liquor, various criminal activities, cash day labor, SS disability, street corner evangelists, and so on. Personally, I like this sort of economy since it is off the books and out of sight to the authorities who are, generally up to no good.

    1. scott

      Back in April I went to a local bank branch to get cashier’s checks, twice. Both times I had to wait in line for half an hour. Every single person in front of me was walking out with cash, on the average of $1200 I estimate. The lowest was $800 and the highest was $9000 (no questions asked). I could tell because the teller would count it behind the thick plastic window. Last time I tried to get a few thousand in cash I was given the runaround.
      Anyway, it look like the underground cash economy is large and getting larger in the US.

      1. Banger

        I’ve seen that as well. I think the unofficial economy is a good thing–I’m in both economies myself. I try do use cash and receive cash as much as possible.

  8. Faye Carr

    I lost my last real job ahead of the curve (advertIsing & marketing) I started learning how to grow food. When my husband lost his job and his next one was $20k less we got serious about it. This particular learning curve is STEEP!

    Making just enough money at it so it pays for itself. And we (our family and friends too) eat really well, and can still afford paper towels.

    If (when) he gets laid off, we’re ready to gear up to a commercial level.

    Yep, we’re in our late 50’s. Hoping to hang on to 62. We aren’ gonna wait for 70.

    1. Faye Carr

      SIDE NOTE: Naked Capitalism has been VITAL to us staying in front of our economic diasters. We did the bankruptcy just a hair before the legislation went into effect.
      The reporting on the housing collapse got us into position to purchase our wee bit of land & housing mortgage free.
      The political POV of NC reminds me daily, that I’m not insane either.
      There are more of those kinds of things that have saved our bacon than I can tell you here.
      We raise our own bacon & eggs now, BTW. LOL.

    2. Charles Yaker

      Faye Carr can you share -web site or something- lots of old – probably productive farmland in US – abandoned because it isn’t economical to farm here any more but Disemployed squatters might be able to make it profitable in System D if not evicted. Not to mention abandoned lots or other spaces on fringes of cities.

      1. Ulysses

        For those who have a little cushion, or affluent friends and relations willing to help out, a return to the land can be a great option after losing a corporate, government, or academic job. Small farming is very hard work, though, and not everyone can stick with it. In the Trumansburg area I know several families who do O.K. with a combination of farming, and occasional “System D” work house painting, landscaping etc. Some of them happen to be excellent musicians as well!

        In the big cities the rents are so high that many people hustle just to make enough money for food and clothing, and have to “couch-surf,” among friends and relatives to sleep indoors. Thus they are always one argument, or other disruption to the ability of others to provide a bunk, away from being out on the streets. I know more than a few people in this state of “near-homelessness,” and a couple who have slipped into actual homelessness in the last year.

      2. ambrit

        Being lucky or connected help a lot. That’s why I respect Mormons. They have by and large, built inter family self reliance and assistance into their culture. (Perhaps it comes from having the Federal government and Organized Religion in general try to exterminate you in the near historical period.)
        The System, (not D,) is getting hip to this trend though. Florida has just made it mandatory that a home be connected to a water and sewer system. (http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/03/09/florida-makes-off-grid-living-illegal-mandates-all-homes-must-be-connected-to-an-electricity-grid/)
        As a result of a consent decree with the federal EPA, the coastal counties of Mississippi have been hooking everyone up to centralized water and sewer systems, and destroying the previously used private wells and septic tanks.
        Some urban and suburban communities not only ban livestock keeping, (which isn’t so far fetched after you’ve been woken up at daybreak by the neigbhours roosters a time or two,) but also home vegetable plots. (http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/illegal-front-yard-vegetable-gardens-zb01302zrob.aspx#axzz3CdyaJn6g)
        Yet again, we come back to the need to find a community of like minded people, or creating one.
        It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

          1. optimader

            Outlawing self-reliant sustainability is just raw evil
            I have a highschool friend who dropped out of commercial art school +35 years ago and focused on being a highly skilled craftsman (goldleaf lettering, matting, framing light restoration art restoration) to support his classical artist self training( oil painting, watercolor etching/lithography, fine furniture building). Basically started by developing skills that required modest tool/$ outlay to more sophisticated endeavors.

            Lives a very nice life, never filed a W-2 all cash and barter. He is on his third home restoration, will sell it take the cash put half on the side and downsize into a 1920s vintage 700-900sqft cottage +garage on Lake Michigan and restore it to original presentation..
            He had vision to never do debt, live a lifestyle that never got in front of revenue and has always been frenetically learning high level craft skills to support his passion for producing fine art in the methods and media of the old masters. . A serious fresh food cook. He essentially uses his money to buy his time back to do what he is passionate about..

          2. Brooklin Bridge

            Agree 100% pure 100% evil. I’ve been trying to find out if Massachusetts has any law requiring hook up to a grid and can’t with a somewhat shallow search. One lawyer said he thinks that as soon as the power brokers notice a 5% drop in consumption or greater that they can trace to off-grid trends, they will shut it down in any given state.

      3. Faye Carr

        Our community looked at abandoned properties, fallow land, and city lots to start using them for food production. Legal issues came up almost immediately! Those who tried to get ‘permission’ from the legal owners (banks mostly) were turned down or ignored completely. There was talk of “Seed Bombing” but it never got done.

        We did manage to put together a FOOD MAP with fruit and nut trees with public access that anyone could pick from. Not sure how up to date it is at this point. Some of our homeowners who were foreclosed just before the harvest, shared the locations of their gardens & orchards and food was gleaned where possible.

        There is one huge success though. Florida Organic Growers acquired a 1/4 city lot and started Porters Community Farm (http://www.foginfo.org/our-programs/porters-community-farms/) which grows food, teaches small scale vegetable production, shares the output with our homeless shelter, and manages enough to also sell – to keep the Farm economically sustainable.

    3. jim in SC

      Faye Carr:

      You are right about the learning curve for growing food. It is steep. It’s interesting that for decades farmers have been described as yokels in popular culture. What they do is hard, if done in the old ways, and requires a lot of intelligence and savvy. My father’s family became farmers after the Civil War. Eventually the farm was so efficient that they produced everything except their shoes, but the interstate highway system put an effective end to farming as a career. People tend to plant pine trees for pulpwood and lumber now instead of farming, whereas sixty years ago, it was a lower return venture than farming, and was reserved for marginal land and challenging topography. Agribusiness provides a lot of cheap but marginally nutritious food. What you grow is doubtless a lot better for you. I hope you can make a success of it as a business if you choose to go into it.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’m not sure “success as a business” is the requirement and may be even a detriment. Try to grow enough to eat and especially to have solutions “when the trucks stop” would be my advice, along maintaing the soil to pass something fertile on to the kids.

        Being a peasant, which is what this amounts to, is hard work. There’s a reason people sought other work. On the other hand, debt is a major factor in driving people off the land, so it’s not only the bugs that eat everything, and the hail, and all that. The people of Adam Smiths time had to be driven off their land, and there’s a lot to be said for making your own shoes and getting loaded on your own beer, especially if you’ve got the Internet, too.

        1. Jim in SC

          Lambert: I figured that if they were successful as a small business more people would benefit from their knowledge and hard work. Also, I think the reason people left the land is that the profit was wiped out for all but the biggest, most highly capitalized operators. People were sold on the idea of leaving the land by capitalists desperate for labor. The cotton mill operators in the South would move you, your family, and your cow from the mountains by train to come work for them.


          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            That’s all true. It’s a big spectrum that goes all the way from dilletante gardeners and popularizers like me to back-to-the-landers. I’m really trying to both minimize barriers to entry but also give people permission not to “bet the farm” as it were until their sure that’s the way they want to live their lives.

            1. Faye Carr

              Exactly – we’ve seen too many just jump into it – after reading something about “back to the land” in glossy magazines. Which can work, if you can throw a ton of cash into it. Which is NOT the point.

        2. Faye Carr

          Lambert, one of the most incredible things that has come together in my area is the collaboration of local food issue organizations. As well as the gathering of many many backyard ‘farmers’ and small scale food producers. To learn from each other, share tools and equipment, working together to barter and sell amongst ourselves outside the farmers market system. There is a Meat Collective – where very small scale meat production can share processing work and equipment. And to help find private customers (for PETS ONLY LOL) rather than retail stores or restaurant sales.

          Incredibly there is now an astounding network of garden & farm workers to help establish new gardens, or to help small homesteads to maintain what is already producing there.

          We’re also welcoming small local business with specific skill sets that are willing to trade or accept reduced fees (yes to a profit – no to gouging). We already have an auto mechanic, various health care workers, garden designers, woodsmen for tree removal, fence installers. Metal fabricators, and artists of every sort and kind.
          We are still searching for somebody to make shoes! Although we HAVE found people who know how to process leather and various natural fibers.

          There are people working on organizing alternative transportation systems, wilderness emergency care & networks. Water catchment & potability issues.

          There is even a small group of people watching the political aspect of all this and keeping a sharp eye out for the ‘food police’.

  9. trishf

    a good post. ahead of the game, as always. and re “as if the time of wage workers is of interest or has value only insofar as they are human resources and not people!” not sure you even need to include the “human” part.

    Yes, disemployment (I prefer “dys” because it “speaks” “bad” or “ill” “evil” but I like your reasoning re agency) undermines, eats away at the whole pyramid for those without riches. every part.
    even in minor ways we don’t tend to think about. take work relationships- often minor but important social relationships (even if also a source of annoyance or worse, there is often commiseration etc) that offer a balance to home. perhaps shallow, but there’s conversation, shared experience. And belonging. that’s big. how we define a “worthy” person in our society, for better or for worse, so personally ie self-esteem and socially there’s stigma (though today a safety in numbers?).

    depression has got to be a big consequence for many (in with all the health issues) and there’s likely a possible synergistic effect as well.

    re débrouillards- tells people how intelligent, resourceful, and ingenious. scrappy is a term I’ve always used for people like this whom I’ve admired.

    but one must be careful because people are complex in their combined histories, temperament, personality, age, social support structures, resources (many don’t have rooms to rent etc). and resources applies to emotional too. we shouldn’t judge, cannot judge, I think, if a long term unemployed person doesn’t gravitate toward an “esprit débrouillard” or “débrouillard-ism” or whatever. that becomes another burden, another blow.

    And a stressor multiple effect must be considered. what in all are you having to deal with along with unemployment (or under the umbrella of?), along with what resources do you possess including emotional?
    and again, synergy.

  10. craazyman


    I see them fishing along the East River up the FDR drive. Mostly Hispanic men in loose baggy shorts, T-shirts, sneakers, faces hard and unshaven. They’ll lean their rods against the iron railing on the barrier wall above the water and sit in a folding chair, smoke a cigarette and stare. Sometimes they sit in groups talking and laughing on folding chairs in the grass strip between the river and the highway. I rarely see any catch a fish. I never see any with a fish. You’d know since they have big white plastic buckets that are empty. Who knows what they do? They go to the river when the tide is right and fish are running and put up their rods and stare. Sometimes they go just to go. It passes the time and when they go as a group they have company and companionship doing something that men do. That’s enough to get from day to day. If they catch a fish it’s something that produces a delerious joy and a drama to relive over and over in the mind and celebrate next week and next year. People work their lives for money for that sort of thing, but these guys, they get it for free. Too bad it’s not enough. ecce homo

    1. casino implosion

      I ought to hand out fishing rods in Washington Heights, because here everyone is just playing dominos and drinking rum all night & day under my window while blasting reggaeton from doubleparked cars.

      1. ambrit

        I hear ya. You can baffle them immensely by getting your own blaster and playing them some Yusef Lateef or Bonfa. H—, some straight ahead jazz will do.

        1. Carla

          Our neighborhood UDF (“United Dairy Farmers”) convenience store used to be a magnet for bored and disaffected teens, who hung around inside and outside the store, sometimes harassing other customers. For years now, the UDF broadcasts classical music inside and outside the store. The kids pop in to pick up their soda or chips, and skedaddle as quickly as possible. A friend of mine discusses the merits of Sibelius with the cashiers. I suggest fighting fire with — Beethoven.

      2. neo-realist

        One of the few things I don’t miss about NYC, the constant noise from the streets–too loud music, chattering, screaming, gunshots. Made it very hard to think, relax, read, inhale, exhale.

    2. Fíréan

      craazyman’s story of the fishermen reminded me of the famous ‘Mexica Fisherman Story”, for the benefit of those not yet familiar I’m posting here.

      An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

      “How long it took you to catch them?” The American asked.

      “Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

      “Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

      “I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

      “But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

      The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor.”

      The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

      “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

      The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

      To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

      “But what then, senor?”

      The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

      “Millions, senor? Then what?”

      The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

    3. Fíréan

      Though one of a very minute percentatge of the unemployed, of I know of one long term gentleman who spends a large amount of time studying the subjects matters of which websites like this one here give much coverage – when he’s not actively looking for work. He presently survives on a soon to expires small unemployment pay from goverment sources.

      craazyman’s story above of the fishermen reminded me of the famous ‘Mexica Fisherman Story”, for the benefit of those not yet familiar I’m posting here.

      An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

      “How long it took you to catch them?” The American asked.

      “Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

      “Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

      “I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

      “But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

      The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor.”

      The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

      “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

      The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

      To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

      “But what then, senor?”

      The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

      “Millions, senor? Then what?”

      The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

      I know of one long term genlelman who spends a large amount of time study the subjects matters of which websites like this one here give much coverage, when he’s not actively looking for work. He pre

  11. Noni Mausa

    Self actualization? Ingenuity? Energy and ambition? WTF are you fellows talking about? How about scrambling, desperation, shame, living off relatives, and shoving the long term poor out of their own traditional survival niches?

    And not just the poor. How about platoons of younger, amateur workers performing, out of their homes, cheaply and badly, services that now compete with struggling professionals with tax paying staff and rent paying shops. The amateurs, scrambling for cash income, don’t have to pay for salaries, insurance, good equipment and so on, and generally have a supplementary income, another wage earner or disability pension or something. These people are shoving small business professionals out of the market because, in part, their shared customer base has a reduced income and so will pay for inferior services.

    In an economy like this, you end up with disemployed, “retired” power engineers in their late fifties, walking dogs or working four three-hour shifts a week at the big box store. They can do these things because they still have shreds of wealth remaining from their pre-depression employed life — a car on the road, a paid off mortgage perhaps, an extended family in okay financial condition. Plus, they can tell the inquisitive that they got a buyout, or early retirement, and are just doing these little jobs to get out of the house. But it’s not true.

    Proximity1 describes a life that previously would have been called genteel retirement. I knew a fellow who followed that lifestyle for years, reading widely, perfecting his cooking skills, working out at the Y daily, sitting on the porch reading. Sounds idyllic, eh? Until you fill in the picture. He read widely at the public libraries because it was warm and free — like many desperately poor people, he couldn’t even afford a weekly visit to the coffee shop. He perfected third world cooking skills because he couldn’t afford first world ingredients. He read on the porch because on his disability pension he used as little electricity as he possibly could. He had a Y membership (provided by the city) in order to bathe because his landlord never got around to replacing the 50s era water heater.

    As a woman, I read mens’ descriptions of the perfect contemplative life with a critical eye, looking for the missing bits. Like Mr. Sensible from A Pilgrim’s Regress, the typical writer along these lines assumes a competence of wealth, good health, and servants as unspoken prerequisites to the good life. But if a person is freed from the burdens of the working life, in order to pursue self-actualization, you can bet that someone is still doing the laundry, cooking the potatoes, and raising the next generation of little Drudges. Not too many mendicant zen sages in this country — oh wait, we call them “homeless.”


    1. John Zelnicker

      Noni -That is a great explication of the point I was making in my comments above. The needs on the lower levels of Maslow’s pyramid must be fulfilled before one can move up to self-actualization.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        To SOME extent. I think socially and politically, that’s true. FDR understand that; todays parties don’t. I think on a personal scale, it’s like a test where you have to pass all the items on the lower scale before “advancing.” Highly self-actualized artists starve in garrets. (I’m not saying that’s a good thing, just that it is.)

    2. Banger

      Interesting. I like your comment very much. The fact is that without and “economy” of jobs people would be in a position to live in a convivial way. Most jobs suck and are created to suck. For me they sucked not because I didn’t enjoy what I did but because I could never align with the purpose behind what I was doing. We know, at some level, that great work needs to be done but it can’t get done within the confines of today’s political economy. The tragedy is that there has never been as great a disconnect between purpose and our work lives and many people who are not part of the elites and don’t align with elite goals feel this intensely and it hurts very deeply.

      Good points about the fact someone has to do the laundry and so on–I know a few women who support men who don’t contribute–a problem that my wife is trying to help by encouraging a more conscious and assertive stance on the part of many women–and female empowerment is a big part of her life these days.

    3. diptherio

      Excellent comment, Noni. Made me remember this comic:

      How the Feminist Revolution Wasn’t Completed

      I know a lot of people who no longer hold out any hope of retirement. They know it’s going to be work until they can’t–until they drop, literally. These are the same people that, before the crash of ’07/’08 were living it up, firmly middle-class (upper-middle, if you asked them) and whom I felt profoundly out-of-place having extended family dinners with. Then the economy crashed, they lost everything, and now we’re all in the same place, financially and (surprisingly, largely) politically as well. The silver-lining is that they have largely recovered their compassion and empathy, which seemed to go on hiatus while they were (supposedly) getting rich flipping houses.

      And then there are other sorts of folks. Like this guy I know who retired with a great pension from the USG recently, hung-out in his wood-shop for a year and then went back to work as a consultant, out of boredom (and because he was being offered good money). Now I don’t want to judge the man, but all I could think when I heard that was, you’re supposed to be moving out of the way so young engineers can find work! Instead, I just said, that’s great.

      1. Banger

        I’ve seen that phenomenum as well. Old guys going back to work in the field they were working in out of boredom and taking jobs from the young. At a certain point in your life you are supposed to done down the materialism and open up to other possibilities–mentoring the young, contemplating creation, working for positive change etc. A lot of that has to do with immaturity that is considered a virtue in American life for obvious reasons.

        1. roadrider

          Old guys going back to work in the field they were working in out of boredom and taking jobs from the young. At a certain point in your life you are supposed to done down the materialism and open up to other possibilities

          Your comment disgusts me. You’re just promoting generational warfare and the notion that older people should be pushed out of work they enjoy and are good at because – ????.

          If we had an economy that was creating enough jobs to support the working age population this would not be an issue. You’re saying we should just surrender to the kleptocratic, austerity economy. Fuck that.

          And who the fuck are you to say what people are “supposed” to do at certain points in life? Are you just so enlightened and self-important that you can just fart out proclamations that everyone is supposed to follow because you said so?

          1. roadrider

            And not everyone who is older seeks to work because of “materialiasm”. For many its a question of survival or to obtain health benefits until they reach Medicare eligibility – and no Obamacare is not the solution to that.

            1. James Levy

              Banger did not say, and has never maintained, that people shouldn’t work because they need to survive. If you think about it a minute we have not reorganized society to deal with the fact that 65, which was old in 1935, is no longer old. Fewer people are worn out from a life of hard physical labor and a poor diet. Many, many more people are living to what was considered old age. The population of the United States went from 220 million in 1970 to 310 million in 2010. Computers and automation are doing away with more jobs than they are creating. We have abandoned any collective attempt to deal with these issues and left it all in the hands of the Magic Market Pixies. This has led to a zero-sum situation of older workers holding on to jobs they need and blocking the natural replacement of old workers with young ones (a process which used to be accomplished by death and incapacitation). To report on that reality is not to declare “generational war”, but to point out the obvious and call for something to be done about it. You can’t solve a problem unless you identify and define it. Right now, with worker participation rates falling for younger and middle aged Americans and chronic unemployment being built into the system, we need to talk seriously about how the young can be gainfully employed and those that wish to retire can.

              1. psychohistorian


                A problem is to put this situation in a more global context. Internationally, there is a race to the bottom going on with countries competing for jobs for their populations. As you indicated, technology is eliminating many jobs and a real fact we need to raise into the public consciousness is that if we don’t redefine and institute a global safety net we are going to experience what some would call genocide as those at the bottom run out of options and global compassion.

                How many will die before society is motivated to change our social organization rules?

          2. Banger

            As an old guy I can speak for some of us. My point is that people who don’t need the money shouldn’t get back to the rat race. Most jobs, as it is, are various degree of useless or harmful. Better to mellow out and change your focus and help others rather than keep piling up the self-indulgence. For others, we have to work in Babylon, to be able to live and I put no blame there. As for generational warfare–we’re all in this together and ought to see it that way.

            You seem easily disgusted.

        2. diptherio

          Oh, he does all of that too. Works with Engineers w/out Borders, lobbies for Trout Unlimited, etc. He’s no slouch…just can’t help himself from taking interesting work when it’s available.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          “Taking jobs from the young,” forsooth. On the ego level, with things as they are, I don’t plan to write myself my own death warrant by playing shuffleboard instead of working. On the policy level, with things as they should be, jobs guarantee; problem solved.

          Let’s not promote intergenerational warfare, mkay?

          1. jrs

            I’ll play shuffleboard, my job is killing me (metaphorically as in spiritual death, but also it does tend to lead to unhealthy stress and behaviors). Only $$$$.

          2. The Motherlode

            I don’t think it was his intention to create “inter-generational warfare.” He simply stated that the elder workers need to do work like: mentoring the young workers. That is still work and it allows for the younger generation to absorb all the great ideas and work ethics of the older generation while still providing both work.

    4. proximity1

      “Proximity1 describes a life that previously would have been called genteel retirement.”

      genteel [jen-_teel_] : adjective
      1.belonging or suited to polite society.
      2.well-bred or refined; polite; elegant; stylish.

      True, I did. But I chose not to mention the details which should have belied that conclusion because I prefer not to be an object of pity or curiosity in a such a public venue as this. And, though I post under a pseudonym because I value my privacy, that pseudonymous feature does not, in my opinion, afford me the opportunity to elaborate about my personal circumstances, past or present in a public blog.

      I’m interested in political and social affairs–issues of social and economic justice, poverty and civil rights and how these are related generally on a local, regional, national and international level rather than a personal one. So, suffice it to say that there is nothing genteel about my living arrangements other than the topics of my study interests–science, literature, politics, history and economics–to mention the main subject-heads. Financially, I’d qualify as poor and the only next-step downward for me would be directly to living on the street. I pursue my interests to the best of my very limited means and now, that means using a public library rather than my own, carefully built over years, an stored away and unavailable. That is as much as I’d care to reveal about my personal circumstances other than the fact that, compared to many other people have been much, much, much unluckier than I have been. I grew up safe, secure, in a middle-class home, had a middle-class education, and, after college, devoted myself to improving its enormous deficiencies. But I never had or earned any money to speak of and still have little of that now. Elegant, stylish and refined, I am not–except by some purely intellectual notion of these. Language and literature do matter greatly to me.

  12. sd

    A comment on Obama. Speaking for myself, I’ve come to despise Obama because of what I’ve seen – he robbed people of their hope. In my eyes thats much worse than the open cruelty of Bush and Cheney.

    I was not optimistic about Obama. In fact, he’s proven to be exactly the kind of neoliberal leader I thought he would be.

    1. Brindle

      Yes, I also have more disrespect for Obama than I do Bush. Bush didn’t present himself as much more than a Texas Yahoo, whereas Obama consciously tapped into a real yearning for change in this country to get elected and then once in office told them to go eat some P.T. Barnum—-“There’s a sucker born every minute”.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        +1000. Give me a frat-boy towel snapper over a con man who boasts he’s “good at killing people” any day.

        Actually, since that’s a LOTE argument, give me neither, please.

      2. optimader

        I have the same criticism.

        Bush may have been utterly incurious and a heroically bad decision maker but at least he was predictable . He believed the nightmare that were his council’s intentions. the entire wagon of shit was most often exactly on message to the point of saturation for anyone w/ a shred of ethics to call time out.
        Whereas BHO is completely misrepresentative. Nonetheless the inconsistent BS platitudes were sufficient TWICE and the American electorate bought into and gave this Dbag the thumbs up. Its as much about the electorate the representation settle for at a premium.

        BHO is the classic vaudeville skit joke about Do believe what I say or your lying eyes?

        1. optimader

          …the electorate the representation settle for… HA Freudian slip?
          … the representation the electorate settle for…

    2. timbers

      Don’t know what the solution is to get Dems to stop voting for the likes of Obama & Hillary. Dems support Obama, despite his doing in plan sight things they say they are opposed to (ex: wage freeze & pension cuts to millions he has actual control over, his federal works, as he pretends to be for raising wages).

      Liberals like Digby and Arios recently posted they do not criticize certain figures (Obama) because it would affect their bread and butter. Atrios is very good at simplifying bad policy in basic, easy to understand terms, but almost never says a bad word about Obama. Digby will, with nuance. Yet, recently Digby expressed delaying immigration action again (we’re not into 6 yrs of delay from Obama) is probably ok as long as he does it after the election.

      This is very foolish. Done right, immigration action by Obama could win millions of potential future votes for Dems. Couldn’t believe she said that.

      1. Carla

        “This is very foolish.” — But not as foolish as ever voting for a Democrat or Republican for President again.

        1. wbgonne

          Both parties are abject, absolute failures for Americans. The fact that Democrats may be marginally less bad doesn’t matter since they are failures too. That being so, political partisanship in America today should be classified as a thought disorder, cognition distorted by delusion. Let’s face it: figuring out the truth isn’t easy. And it is downright impossible when you afflict yourself with a thought disorder.

          1. Carla

            Actually, I consider Democrats to be marginally worse. Because hypocrisy.

            The Republicans tell us they’re going to f**k us over, and then they f**k us over.
            The Democrats tell us they’re going to help us, and then they f**k us over.

      2. Brooklin Bridge

        Interesting comment! I used to be a fan Hullabaloo when Digby had a comment section and before she invited that odious mood marketing Dem, Atkins, to troll through comments looking for potential rebels with his insipid, “I must be cool guys, because folks on DKos tell me I’m too radical.” Talk about creepy people…

        Pre-Atkins, Digby tolerated all manner of points of view in her comment section at just the time when people started recognizing what a traitor Obama was in particular and the Democrats were in general and lessor-evil-ism protest was starting to gain a clearly articulated outline by some very sharp commenters – particularly on her site. She even wrote a post one time about how we needed messy confrontation and conflicting pov -in comments- to deal seriously and in depth with what was going on. Back then, I was amazed at people who would use her generosity to simply trash her with pointless, if not totally inaccurate taunts and jabs, since she was very up front about being a Dem apologist and the need to stick with the process, but was amazingly liberal about allowing all pov. The only thing she wouldn’t stand for were gratuitous personal insults and mud slinging contests. But she came down into the cellar (comments section) so rarely, however, that there were some real doozies anyway – some of them even quite instructive if not constructive. It was fascinating to see how the commenters self regulated. It was clunky, but effective in a broad sort of way.

        Then she got Atkins in (I guess out of exasperation with the noise and insults flying around whenever she lifted the door open a crack, but also because it was getting towards election time and Atkins was probably instructed to go offer “to help out”.)

        That’s when the technique of ghosting became prevalent. People who offended Atkins, or Digby, would write a comment and assume it was posted, but no one else could see the comment. They had been relegated to “ghost status” based on IP address. When this became known generally, there was a lot of objection to the sneakiness of it on various sites besides Hullabaloo. Shortly thereafter, Digby took advantage of withdrawal of support by the company that provided her comment software to remove the section altogether.

        Your comment above indicates she is still peddling more and better Dems which strikes me as sad and somewhat pathetic. Whatever her internal heart felt pov is, or her degree of selling out, she is a prodigious and remarkably perceptive writer.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          “I must be cool guys, because folks on DKos tell me I’m too radical.”

          It might have been Atrios rather than DKos, I forget. It was one or the other, though, and I loved (as in loved to hate) that line about other’s opinions of him that Atkins would brag about at the drop of a hat as if it were a badge proving his status as rebel rousing lib-a-rul.

          1. Brindle

            Funny about DKos, I rarely go there but earlier decided to see what’s going on. I read parts of a comment thread about some Dem party candidates and it was like those people were speaking another language. The “bean counter” mentality is dominant there, no depth—just pitter-patter ramblings of those accepting of Dem party offerings.

            1. wbgonne

              Life is simple when you reduce it to rooting for one team against another team. Avoids all the messy thinking.

              (Sorry for the duplicate comment above.)

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yep. Give me a towel-snapping frat boy over an artful con man any day. It’s like Bush damaged our hearts, but Obama stole our souls.

      I realize this is a LOTE argument, so really, give me neither….

  13. Brindle

    I like Atrios somewhat more than Digby. He is a little more onto the game the Dem elites play. Digby removed the comment section a few years ago when she couldn’t deal with people calling her out over her soft-pedaling of Dem sleaziness—that might have coincided with her getting writing gigs at establishment outlets.

  14. BobW

    What I did – got out of tent, scraped up 55 cents (or not) for senior coffee at fast food joint ’til homeless center opened. Breakfast, shower and shave there. Used center-provided monthly bus pass to get to free community lunches at churches. By then into the afternoon. Difficult to look for work when half the day used in finding food or riding bus. BTW, better now – SS at 62, part-time job, apt & even a car! This community is much better than others in the country for unemployed or homeless – I can’t imagine how bad it would be in some places.

      1. Jim in SC

        I’d like to second the congrats to you, BobW.

        I think a large part of the rise in homelessness in the US has been because of the relentless upward march of real estate values since the Great Depression; it has been compounded by the failure of the public schools. We’ve continued to spend more and more on public education, in the deluded belief that better educated students will be able to acquire better–but currently non-existent– jobs, and the money for that has come out of property taxes, which is a large expense for both homeowners and landlords. (In our state, landlords pay almost three times what homeowners do in property taxes, which of course gets passed on to tenants) If we had a more flexible regulatory environment, such as is developing in Scandinavia, then we’d come a long way towards solving the homeless problem.

        1. hunkerdown

          Ah, no. We’ve spent more and more money on public education *administrators* and *purchase orders* and *charter schools*, none of which has any but a tenuous, indirect connection to “better educated students”. But you can’t sell your line by being honest, can you?

    1. ambrit

      I remember when my family was sort of down and out, several times. The support of friends and family was of inestimable help. Sometimes strangers would help without being asked. That is when true wonder and joy break through into the worst of situations. It really is about the allocation of resources. “I have this much, but only need so much. What do I do with the rest?” That’s where Government comes in. When done right, Government redistributes excess resources to where they do the most good. Determining what constitutes ‘good’ is the political struggle. Most of the people here accept that formulation. Our internal struggle reflects the disagreements over how to achieve this ‘noble’ end.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I know others doing just this; bright, skilled, good-hearted people thrown away like garbage. It’s shameful. But good for you to ride it out and come to a better place.

  15. Aaron

    My comment is too late to be part of the discussion really. I am employed, but I mark this as my last year of professional employment. I could remain in my job for several more years at least, but many of my experiences over the last decade have influenced my thoughts on whether or not that’s a smart move–whether any sort of employment is wise in the long run. More and more I’ve become quite the socialist anarchist and I see the act of deliberately stepping away from a capitalist society as part of a war over who’s going to shape the culture that follows it. Part of that is the difficult personal process of stripping away the neuroses and expectations acquired over decades in American society and becoming able to genuinely cultivate those elements of life found in the top three layers of Maslow’s pyramid of needs while living with very little or no money and the access and status that it provides. I’ve known of many people who live a “system D” way of life as happy and well-adjusted individuals, and there’s a nagging notion in my noggin that I might not be able to become one of them. There’s only one way to find out, and I’m not getting any younger.

    1. trinity river

      I am new to the term “System D” and followed this discussion up with googling it. I am not against it per se.
      At first system D sounds good, but many people have fine tuned it in the U.S. over the years. Primarily some groups of immigrants. System D implies a cash business. But it is not well known among the majority who work for companies and receive a pay check that many cash business owners enter the very upper reaches of middle classdom through not paying fed taxes. Typical among these are dry cleaners and restaurants. One young 27 yo I knew owned one small nondescript dry cleaners. Since he paid his help minimum wage with no benefits, he pulled out $110,000 yr (1990) and reported $12,000 on his income taxes. He paid all cash for autos and home. He was on his way to owning more sites. He went overseas to marry and had difficulty getting his wife into US only because his income was so low. His father, a retired multimillionaire, worked in his shop mending clothes. Another dry cleaning owner I know told me that the dry cleaning business has made more millionaires than anything else. I also know another millionaire dry cleaner owner who gets the local subsidy when buying a new car and laughs about the irony. Income tax forms don’t tell the whole story.

      I now understand that what the govt spends is not dependent on fed. taxes, but why should my income be reduced w/o some equity. And on a local level, I resent paying more than my fair share for the roads, police & fire protection, parks, etc. This “System D” is more complicated than it sounds.
      I know I am late to this discussion, but hope for some enlightenment here. This needs to be thought through more than it has so far. Justice is not an easy concept.
      I agree with the discussion, but am concerned that we may be supporting a short term good for a long term consequences.

  16. TheMotherlode

    THIS long-term unemployed has been suing the banks for the last two years as a pro se and winning! Best use of federal unemployment I believe has ever been spent. In fact, I have job offers now from foreclosure defense attorneys to work for them once I finish these fraudulent bankers off.

        1. GuyFawkes

          While I was proofing and editing my motion which I was going to file in my current lawsuit (while in a bar having a beer) I got into conversation with a “financial compliance officer” of all people (I didn’t know the financial industry HAD compliance officers, but whatever!). He told me “EVERY American should be suing the banks.” This, in my humble opinion, is the absolute truth.

          This is what I’ve done: When you sell your home, please READ the contract whether it be a mortgage or a deed of trust. In a section called “Reconveyance” the contract states “upon payment the lender shall surrender all notes evidencing the debt and the security instrument to the trustee prior to reconveyance.” Well, in my humble opinion, amend the escrow instructions that the seller gives to the escrow office to close the purchase transaction. DEMAND that the pretender lender provide all the original notes evidencing the debt and the original security instruments before they are allowed to have the money! If the banks don’t provide you with the original documents to CANCEL, I don’t know how you, as a seller, can warrant title after all the shenanigans the banks have played. Use their game against them. And READ the law and your contracts. Make them unwind the contract PER THE CONTRACT! (BTW, This is not legal advice. I am not an attorney. Check with an attorney to get adequate representation and legal advice. This is just what I am doing. This is a personal recitation of the avenue I have taken.) And sue these bank bastards and WIN! We need to bring 5000 lawsuits per city and crush the banks by sheer litigation.

      1. The Motherlode

        If the banks are claiming you are in default, FIGHT IN COURT. Screw the banks. They cannot provide legitimate documents because all of the forgery, back-dating and other unlawful documents have not been stopped by any enforcement agency (thank you to our wonderfully collusive government!) So, challenge their authority to foreclose! Challenge everything! I also am not an attorney, I just play one in court. Seek true legal advise from a licensed attorney.

        1. TedWa

          Thanks for replying – I’m thinking of starting in that direction by getting the NOLO law book on fighting foreclosure. I’ve used NOLO for personal cases and won, even when lawyers would not take the case. Any books you might recommend?

          1. TedWa

            Actually, I used NOLO for A personal injury claim (mine) and won when no lawyers in town would even take the case. Just wanted to clarify that I didn’t mean “cases”.

    1. proximity1

      The exact title is apparently “Débrouillez ou” from the 1977 album, Cé péché– and the French is Haitian, and given the quality of the recording, and the head-phones, group singing, and the loud music over the vocals, I can’t hope to follow the details of the song’s lyrics–nor can I find them in any search in French ( “paroles “Débrouillez” mini-all stars” ) for the lyrics. Sorry ’bout that.

      See also: http://musique.haiti.free.fr/haitian%20records%20vol%2001/fiches/miniallstars00pagedr.htm

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        “Débrouillez ou” sounds like, “Débrouillez vous” which means, sort of, “kick the sh*t out of your own bed”, or “manage on your own”, or “I don’t care how you do it, just get it done”. Not sure that helps, you may already know that as well as I do, but there it is.

        1. proximity1

          Yes, “se débrouiller” (infintive., Reflexive verb) and “débrouillez-vous” (imperative) means to “manage on your own,” to figure one’s way without formal tools, aid, instructions, etc.– especially, to adopt unofficial means to solve some difficulty or practical problem– all of which is that to which système ‘D’ ” refers.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            Not that it matters to the album above, but se débrouillier is closer to your definition of using one’s ingenuity or one who is able to make do with little than the phrase, Débrouillez-vous (I’ll leave the cut and paste of grammatical summary to others – but the imperative form if you prefer), which in general usage has a negative aspect as in the boss who says, “Make it happen”, or “just get it done and don’t bother me.”

            1. proximity1

              While it often carries a distinctly authoritarian tone in the imperative (& formal) form, Débrouillez-vous!, (Figure a way!)–especially when said by the boss– that isn’t necessarily the case. A loving parent can say –and does sometimes say–to his or her young child, “Débrouille-toi, chéri(e)” ( “toi”, polite informal form rather than “vous” ) without any exclamatory tone in the voice, to indicate that the child should keep trying rather than looking for a parent to solve the matter at hand.

              1. Brooklin Bridge

                Context is indeed important; affectionate usage (regardless of tu or vous) can take the sting out of most anything. Moreover, one can easily push differences in meaning over the edge. But it suddenly occurs to me that the phrase might be generally more popular with libertarians and those on the right who see the residual “sink or swim” which is always present in the imperative form as a more positive thing.

    2. proximity1


      Part of my ” système ‘D’ ” includes this music:
      http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=3689688 (A compilation of African pop music.
      –especially tracks 13: “Miyaabele”, 14: “Anasisidi” : & 16: “Sama Amie”. I could listen to them all day–if I still had the CD and something on which to play it. Fortunately, for track 13 & 16 there’s Youtube. Enjoy!

        1. proximity1

          One more for the road—-


          More musical gems save one from insanity in a world gone to hell—-

          Rachid Taha’s album, “Diwân” –everything on it is brilliant. But esp. the tracks,
          “Ya Rayah” ( an Algerian “chaabi” song composed and performed in the 1970s by Dahmane El Harrachi (Amrani Abderrahmane) ) and “Ida”.

          I gotta go back to reading the collected journalism of a certain martyred Russian muckraker.

            1. lightningclap

              NC is becoming my one-stop website, I won’t have to open a new window to play reggae anymore. What a coincidence, dealing these same records is MY “System D”.

              Mash down Babylon, indeed…

  17. jgordon

    I take credit for originally bringing System D to your attention. And I originally heard about it on the extraenvironmentalist podcast #50, Markets by Other Means – http://www.extraenvironmentalist.com/tag/system-d/

    To elucidate a bit more on the concept, I find the idea of not officially participating in a morally bankrupt and corrupt society that’s determined to commit suicide to be an over-all net benefit. Those people who are not working at corporate/government jobs are living and practicing a set of resiliency skills that will serve them well in the years ahead. For myself, I’m about halfway into System D myself, in addition to working a low-paid corporate job. I don’t see the transition I’ll have to make when I eventually do lose my job to be especially painful anymore.

    As for Obamacare… well by definition System D means that the government does have any inclination as to your income (these kinds of jobs almost always involve strictly cash or bartering). So it’s normal around where I live for people involved in System D economies to on as many social programs as they can qualify for, including Medicare. I see this as a very intelligent and forward-thinking way gaming the system in the short-term, as well as being incredibly corrosive and destructive to the system in the long term. That’s known as “stacking functions”, or accomplishing multiple positive goals with the minimum effort/inputs.

    1. LifelongLib

      I knew a handyman who did a lot of work for cash (sort of semi-System D I guess), and made a fairly good living. But when he had to start collecting SS at 62 (bad back) he hardly got anything because his official income was so low. System D may work as a stopgap but until it provides for people who can’t fully participate (which of course is in part what our “official” system should be doing) that’s all it will be.

  18. Jesper

    Well, as soon as people are no longer paid to report how many jobs they are applying to they stop reporting. How many feel it worthwhile to do something for nothing? If the government want to get the report, then pay the unemployed to report :-)

    As for how the long-term unemployed are treated? A survey was done in Sweden, 88% of employers surveyed would be reluctant to (code for not) hire a long-term unemployed. Or in other words: almost 90% of the applications from long-term unemployed goes straight to the bin. And the applications that are left will have to compete with every other applicant. Good or bad odds? Demoralising?

    & why are the applications of the long-term unemployed discarded? Simple answer and more than a few commenters here have shown to have that opinion: There must be something wrong with the long-term unemployed. If there wasn’t anything wrong with them then someone else would have hired them already…..

    1. ambrit

      One of those self licking ice cream cone thingys. What’s not to like. Merely a function of labour ‘oversupply.’

      1. Jesper

        Yep, the recruiters version of the involuntary singles lamentation: Why are all the good ones already taken?

  19. John

    The school to prison pipeline has an impact on the low labor participation rates for blacks. Unfortunately, there is not much empathy from a public that demonizes such people.

  20. wbgonne

    Life is simple when you reduce it to rooting for one team against another team. Avoids all the messy thinking.

    1. LifelongLib

      The articles use the term “economic freedom” without really defining what it means. In the U.S. it generally means the chance to participate in a wealth lottery that most will lose at anyway, rather than (say) the government paying for health care, education, and maybe even basic housing, which would be enormous freedom for the vast majority.

  21. cwaltz

    I wonder how much of the economy is underground these days. In a lot of these countries that wound up in trouble- underground economies seem to be something that was prevailing problem for the governments.

  22. Jacob

    “DISemployment kills people when its economic effects (and the stigma) erode friendships, family, intimacy, all of which are major stressors, and hence lethal.”

    It’s interesting to note that formal psychological definitions of “self concept,” in most cases, do not explicitly mention one’s employment and income security as a determinant of how a person thinks about himself or herself and how he or she is perceived by others. In fact, if I remember correctly from college Psychology 101, income security and the nature of one’s job were never mentioned in any way in the textbook nor by the instructor. Nor was gainful, secure employment mentioned explicitly in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In fact, one’s job and/or workplace is the primary source, both directly and circuitously, of relationships with others. It’s fascinating that, in our capitalist culture, friendships and intimacy are determined by one’s employment or unemployment and that they tend to disintegrate rapidly if the person becomes “chronically” unemployed. This suggests that our friendships and availability of intimacy are subject to external influences which the individual may be completely unaware of.

    1. Jacob

      In fact, employment security IS one of the fundamental needs shown in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. “Self esteem” depends on security of employment and on all the other needs shown below self esteem in the pyramid.

  23. val

    Mental Illness and Unemployment. I wonder about the unemployed who get support and resources when they are diagnosed and received medication and those who are unemployed and not diagnosed and are not receiving medication, support and resources? To be poor and unemployed with no support of any kind daily is beyond harsh. You have to wonder where is the Solutions or Outrage?

  24. William

    They comprise a large percentage of those who inhabit, police, and unleash their spleens upon thousands of website (eg., youtube) comments areas and chat groups (eg., craigslist).

  25. nohomehere

    Disemployed débrouillards, Well before the age of tracking every little cent existed, way back some 45 or 50 years ago , alot of things were done this so called D way! so why all the clamor? When I first tasted working for dough it was sweet, cash, moola, coinage, green, ching ching ,wampum ,hay, bread samolians ,smackers and I wasn’t afraid of work I could paint fast and could make five d’s before lunch piecework I was a smart little sht could count change faster than a old time cash register didn’t need a ss card oviously I was only 11, 15 boxes of vegis to offload to several thousand exiting employees, all had cash 5’s 10’s a dozen apples was 50 cents or 5 cents a piece I didnt have a little change holder just a apron I guess I sold several hundreds of dollars in a matter of an hour some guys would forget change on a twenty for a half dozen oranges . I wasn’t greedy just fast I had a another job collecting scrap metal and yard work and I was tall I got a job in a restaurant wasin dishes some times seventy hours a week night shift at 12 or 13 i made 1 D per hour plus I had a music band I was manager and was lead what ever cause all the amps and mic’s i bought with my bank roll but we made that back playin bars ahum at 20 bucks a night fry’d’s sat’s untill closing and did I mention I was tall for my age, anyway I was not born into money nor do I have but work i did I was a debroudillard out of need! so as years went buy everything got more and more seperated I mean the cost of things and the dollars it took to buyem until one day 50 years later I could not work hard enough and i wasnt educated cause i spent all my time working as a youth. so now I get this business that Work has to be a company with taxes and payrolls as to qualify as a person counted in society . I have been around and know a scam when I see one some one who wants your dough without working for it . but the money is already gone it devalued to nothing and you are not making anything just motions, let’s see a apple is now almost a dollar and half dozen of them japaness suckers is about five bucks, so if you earn minimum of 7 d’s your paying almost an hours sweat for a few apples we arent making peanuts ha ha I made a dollar an hour and with it could buy 1/2 gal milk 55 a coke10 a babyruth5 a pack of smokes 22 and a pack of base ball cards with a five thousand dollar mickey mantle inside and i flipped him for a 8000 dollar babe ruth go figure and where was the IRS in all this illicite ill gotten gain , to me it was just good fun nowadays I could get no fly listed and capital controlled and audited before my 15th I would be more famouse than dillinger and younger than jessie james I suggest we are all in deep do do about now disemployed or employed no matter how you debroudillard it

  26. SJB

    I come from a former steel/textile mill town in PA, so I grew up seeing people being temporarily, and eventually permanently losing jobs. In fact, it is one of the reasons I left home, and went to college, and ultimately graduate school (both of which were at the time cheap enough to attend without going into debt). Over the years, I have had many friends lose jobs. In the past, some of these friends were able to go to college or otherwise retrain or change professions. But now I know people, even some in my family who are unable to find work, and will mostly likely never work again, even though they are in there 50’s.

    My sister is one. She does some odd bookkeeping jobs for my dad’s business, and lives with my niece, for whom she is basically a nanny and a housekeeper. A brother in law and my cousin had health problems and were eventually able to go on disability. I have known other people who clean houses. Some have made crafts that they sold at flea markets. Another does odd landscaping jobs and helps on his family’s farm. My sister in law took an early retirement. And sadly, the sister of a good friend committed suicide.

    1. Yves Smith

      Suicide is underreported generally and no one seems to have done work on how many long-term unemployed are killing themselves. It spiked in Greece, particularly among men.

  27. lightningclap

    The depression is very real, my family does not hold much respect for my new path. Luckily my close friends are not judging me (and are of great help). Personally I have been determined to maintain a healthy self-image despite lack of employment. An occasional W Coast meet-up is a huge boost as well!

Comments are closed.