Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Austrians, Republicans and gratuitous cruelty

As we all know, the Republicans refused to extend unemployment benefits during the last Congressional session. Their notion, apparently, is that all those unemployed slackers are just taking a vacation with taxpayer money and need to just get a job, already, despite the fact that there are four unemployed applicants for every job opening in America meaning that three of them aren't gonna get the job no matter what.

The GOP is, thus, fundamentally a subscriber to the Classical/Chicago School notion of the Great Depression as the Great Vacation, where millions of hard-working people world-wide inexplicably decided to go on long vacations for a decade until the outbreak of WW2. The notion is that if you're unemployed, it's voluntary, because you could always get a job if you lowered your wage demands. There are two practical problems with that theory -- a) there is a practical floor on wages in that wages insufficient to sustain life will not be accepted because if you're going to starve to death anyhow you might as well do so with some dignity, and b) I as a small business owner am not going to hire another employee for any wage other than "free" unless there is demand to justify it, because as a capitalist my job is to make as much profit as I can (meaning with as little payroll as I can get away with), I'm a businessman, not a charity. I.e., lack of demand, not wages, are why I'm not hiring.

So anyhow, that practical stuff gets ignored by people who are in love with the elegant theories of the Austrians despite their utter lack of applicability to *this* universe. Which is one reason why WASF.

-- Badtux the Practical Penguin


  1. The major ideological problem Righties are having with unemployment is that the solution to unemployment doesn't hurt. They want it to hurt. They want belts tightened and hairshirts worn, and suffering and wails, and people dying in the streets.

    Well, that stuff is the result of the problem, not the result of the solution. The solution, people getting jobs, is going to feel fucking fantastic. It will involve rewarding (a job) to people who don't deserve it (because, they are jobless, i.e. lazy.)

    It will feel very good, for a very large number of people when we have enough jobs that salaries go up, which will raise the whole economy because demand is shooting through the roof, which creates the need for more jobs...

    And that good feeling is part of why they oppose anything that might work.

  2. Hell, speaking as a former manager, there were circumstances where I would not want an extra worker even if they were working for free because they sucked up mentoring/monitoring/training time that was better spent elsewhere.

  3. I do know ONE person who's getting unemployment bennies and not making any effort to get a job. It's my wife's best friend, just up the road from you in S.F. She quit her job in a tax accounting firm that catered to big-time options traders when the owners tried to cut her pay by 20% and give her half-again as much work to do. That was two Februarys ago.

    This friend had a good amount of money saved up, and her house in an OK section of S.F. is probably mostly paid off. (We're not sure what her exact financial status is because like most people, she's more willing to talk about her sex life than she is about her money life.) She didn't like the accounting work, and she was in such a specialized tax-form prep job that she couldn't transfer her skills elsewhere. So she's been taking classes for almost two years to become a massage therapist. No job searching, but she has gone on holidays to Europe with her boyfriend three or four times since leaving her job. Obviously done on savings instead of UE cheques (we hope that she's not doing it on debt).

    Anyway, I can't believe how complacent this friend is about being unemployed. She might be more panicked about doing something that would earn money if she wasn't getting Cali UE. OTOH, she might be completely in denial about what's going on -- she doesn't watch the news and didn't know there was a hurricane named Irene until a couple days before landfall, when my wife told her about it. I don't know if she's going to string things along until her money runs out and then suddenly realize that being a newly-minted masseuse in her late 50s during a permanently down economy is not a good situation.

    My point is that there are some unemployed people who are as delusional about life as the people who believe that eliminating unemployment benefits is a good thing. So many people in the U.S. have their heads up their asses. I fear an epidemic of smothering when the shit hits the fan, or hits them in their faces.

  4. While I agree that there are certainly people who probably would find their lives were improved if their unemployment benefits were cut off, I don't think that applies to the majority of people receiving benefits. I mean, of the hundred or so friends recently laid off from a local bookstore company, one of them spiraled into a deep depression and only came out of it when it started to become obvious that the money was going to stop coming. But otherwise, the benefits generally did what they were supposed to do and a good number of those people have found other jobs.

    But for those who are having trouble finding other jobs, the benefits are a lifeline. Even with them, people are losing their houses left and right. As someone who used to work with many people who are currently unemployed, I can tell you that these are not employees or anything like that. Mostly it comes down to a skills issue. If what you know is selling print books and you just hit that market with a few hundred other people with the exact same skills, well pickin's are slim. It might take a few months to learn some new skills. It only makes sense to have a decent safety net in place so that these kinds of changes in the labor market aren't devastating to people. I've known this since the 1970's when it was autoworkers who were laid off en masse (around here anyways) without the skills to get a different job.

  5. I am sure you will find examples of people taking advantage of any system or circumstance. If you look for the negatives in anything you will find them. The problem is that there are people who look for the negatives and once they find them will proclaim them to be the rule and not the exception.

    The vast majority of people who find themselves on "unenjoyment" would much rather be working. Making a fraction of a normal wage for most people isn't exactly a "good time".

    Sure, some people who have a lot of savings in the bank or assets they can liquidate, can take their time getting into another job. Most people aren't able to do that.

    I've been on UE a couple of times. After the first month, I was in such a hurry to get back to making a real wage, that I would jump on the first opportunity that presented itself. Most people are like that.

  6. I used to be a software engineer. I spent two decades doing that, sometimes enjoying it, and not enjoying getting laid off. I tended to choose small companies as employers, and they tended to run out of money and close.

    I've been living off my husband for eight years now, first being a caregiver to my parents and then going back to school. School is over VERY soon (thesis due 10/31) and I'm looking at how to make some money as a contract GIS specialist.

    I'm too old (51) ever to get a regular job again in a professional field.

    And then there's the time, approaching soon but not here yet, when Husband's parents will need care, and he's the only one of his siblings who can afford a non-working or part-time-working spouse to take up the task...

    Sometimes I feel used up.

  7. Nan, yep, right-wingers are S&M queens at heart. They lurves them some pain -- for other people. Makes'em wet (if they're women) or hard (if they're men).

    Fester -- It's calledBrooks' Law and has been well-known since at least 1975.

    Bukko -- I couldn't even pay my rent with California UI, I'd have to move out and live out of my Jeep. This person you're talking about is either living off her husband or had a *lot* of savings. And if she isn't currently seeking employment, she doesn't receive UI anyhow, because you have to submit the names of everybody you've applied to within the past week in order to receive that week's UI check.

    Lynne, you're not counted as unemployed in the current stats unless you're actively seeking work. See above. Of course, this means that people who've given up -- or aren't actively seeking work -- aren't counted, but they're not receiving UI either.

    DJ, especially interesting is that the exceptions that are being pointed out are people who are breaking the law, which requires people on UI to be actively searching for and applying for jobs. Are Republicans saying that the majority of Americans are law-breaking criminals? Projection, you think?

    Karen, know what you mean about job prospects at your age. I'm not far from your age. After my current job, all I'll be able to get is contract work. The only good news is that thanks to Obamacare I'll be able to get health insurance for a reasonable price with no pre-existing condition exclusions, at present I wouldn't qualify for individual insurance due to pre-existing conditions.

    - Badtux the Employed Penguin

  8. @BadTux - Yes but people can look for work and go to school at the same time :) Some students really are officially unemployed. Nevertheless, it would be better to have a way to more formally help people learn new job skills.

    @Karen You are scaring me. I work for a small company. Granted, the big company I used to work for went bankrupt this summer so lucky me for jumping ship when I did. Still, I worry about the job security with a small company and about my age. I know that 50 is the magic number so to speak and I hope that being a loser in my early 20's may eventually work to my advantage in that my college graduation date is later than one would think and I look a bit younger than I am. But man, wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a world where there was just a little less competition for jobs or where older people had some value?

  9. you have to submit the names of everybody you've applied to within the past week in order to receive that week's UI check

    Interesting. I'll have to see if I can ask her about that, work it into a conversation gently. She's not married, but she did save a lot. I just hope she hasn't gone into debt with her house's equity.

  10. Lynne,
    Tux and I live in Silicon Valley, where any hire over 30 is suspect unless s/he is a Guru in some subfield. I'm lucky to be married to such an engineering Guru.

    Depending on where you are, you might not find age such a barrier to work.

    Having retrained in another field -- come December I will be a genuine geologist with an MS degree -- I hope to make a living contracting GIS, a service that is artificially difficult to learn; not enough human engineering has been done to make it easy for most people. I've been working with similar things under the broad umbrella of "computer graphics" for many years, so it's second nature to me.

  11. Tux and I live in Silicon Valley, where any hire over 30 is suspect unless s/he is a Guru in some subfield. I'm lucky to be married to such an engineering Guru.

    Here you would have to be either Indian or Chinese on an H1B visa.


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