How does it feel to know that you life has become a headline? In my case, and for millions of other people in the US, it is depressing. Depressing in a way that is hard to explain, but all the same your life as you knew it, the things you worked for, the things you have done with your life, they don't really matter anymore, because you have become "expendable."
We are the unemployed, the underemployed and the over 50's who are struggling to deal with the new reality brought to us by decades of conservative policies and practices.
In my case, I went back to school in my 40's and graduated with a BS in Public Relations. It was a life long dream of mine to obtain my college degree, something that had eluded me and made my life feel incomplete. The lack of a degree had become a road block to obtaining many jobs I was mostly qualified for with the exception of a degree.
And eight years later I find that my degree is worth just about the paper it is printed on, I have joined the ranks of the "underemployed," and sadly worry about becoming part of the "unemployed."
We are reading more and more about the underemployed, for instance:
More than 26 million Americans are underemployed, a class of workers economists believe serves as the leading indicator of the true health of an economy. While attention tends to focus on the government's official jobless rate, a broader measure including all so-called "underutilized" workers paints a more desperate picture of the labor market.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks three groups of underutilized workers: those who want a job but had not looked for work in the past year because they believed no jobs were available; those who had not searched for a job in the past four weeks for any reason; and those who want full-time work but have settled for part-time positions for economic reasons.
Accounting for all underutilized labor brought the nation's unemployment rate to an average of 16.7 percent for 2010, compared with the official average of 9.6 percent.
What is hard to grasp for many of us who are underemployed is the indignity of having to go through rounds of interviews for jobs that are basically entry level, low paying and with little to no room for advancement.
In my case I had been working part time while our last child was still in high school, when he finished I continued working part time while searching for a full time job. I guess my situation is lucky because after only six months of an intensive job search I found employment.
Now mind you, for my current position I had to go through three rounds of interviews, had to submit to a background check, a credit check and a reference check. And I was one of two final candidates. The job? Receptionist, the lowest paying job in the company I work for, and when I was finally offered the job I was overjoyed to once again be working full time.
Of course I was on "probation" for the first 90 days, as such did not get benefits, just straight pay, luckily I was offered the job on a permanent basis after one month.
I have continued to look for another job, however they are just not there, and additionally now that I am a receptionist (working on having the job title changed to "Administrative Assistant,") my resume doesn't look all that hot (though I am working on updating it and doing some creative editing).
Being underemployed is a ying/yang type of thing. Having a paycheck, a job, is something one is grateful for in this current climate, on the other hand, working well below your skill set is frustrating and depressing. And one wonders if this is all there is for the rest of your working life, you think about the education you worked hard to obtain, your life experience, your previous work experience, all meaningless in our current economic climate.
Worse, as many of my fellow Americans will attest to, age is rearing its ugly head and being 51 (almost 52) becomes yet another hurdle to overcome. The irony is that many of us thought that our years would become beneficial to employers, seasoned, hard working, experienced prospects to enhance a companies bottom line. Instead we find that our age is now freely discriminated against.
What I have found most difficult to accept, to deal with, is the fact that jobs just aren't there like they used to be. In the last 20 years I have never had to apply for work, never had to look for a job, the jobs always came to me. I would get a call from someone seeking my expertise for their company/project. And now? I continue to let my network know that I am available for other employment, but there just are not that many jobs out there.
Again, the ying/yang of being underemployed is knowing how many of your friends are unemployed, some of mine have been without jobs for going on two years, and they face the same issues with age, and now the added discrimination of "unemployed need not apply." And so you "accept" your current situation day after day, reminding yourself that being without a job is worse.
Reading the paper these days is like reading about my own life, story after story about the underemployed, the unemployed, the difficulties of finding a job, the cutbacks at the state and federal level leading to more economic downturns, and of course fewer jobs. The reality of living a headline is daunting, there is no comfort in knowing you are "part" of a large group, rather you become more stressed at knowing you are not alone and all that the situation implies.
And what of our youth? Most of my 25 year old daughters friends are grossly underemployed, the majority of them with college degrees. They are working retail, or other low paying jobs hoping to find something better, grateful (like me) that they are working.
As the conservatives in this country continue to destroy government, we see the "trickle" down effect of their actions, less spending by the government will slow the economy further, which in turn means fewer jobs:
Deep spending cuts by state and local governments pose a growing threat to an economy that is already grappling with high unemployment, depressed home prices and the surging cost of oil.
Lawmakers at state capitols and city halls are slashing jobs and programs, arguing that some pain now is better than a lot more later. But the cuts are coming at a price -- weaker growth at the national level.
The middle class in our nation is being destroyed by policies of the conservative GOP, we all know that because in some way EACH of us is feeling the personal effects of the policies that the GOP has imposed on our nation. Perhaps you still have a good paying job, however you have seen your home value sink, or you are paying far more for your child's college education, or your health care costs are breaking you. And yet, you would be considered one of the "lucky" ones.
The GOP as done far more then just set in motion the destruction of our middle class, they are destroying the very essence of our nation, and they have also been very successful in making many middle class Americans think that the conservative policies will somehow create a stronger middle class.
We all know the house is in fire, yet the GOP continues to claim that by adding more fuel to the fire the house will somehow not only survive, it will be better when all is said and done, problem is there isn't going to be anything left when all is said and done.
And so I, and millions of other Americans, sit here and feel anger at those voters who have placed the GOP in power once again, because we knew, we knew that the GOP had NO INTENTION of creating jobs, of helping middle class America.
Our fight is the fight of our lives, the fight for our children, their children. Corporations whose interest is not the well being of our nation have been given free reign to destroy our way of life, knowing that the more the middle class has to struggle, the less energy the middle class has to fight back.
I for one am not giving up, and even though my life is now a headline, I will continue to do all I can to change that headline, to change that which far too many of my fellow Americans are sharing with me.
We cannot ever give up, the fight is long, it is hard, it is discouraging, but I firmly believe that if we continue to stand together we can and will change the direction of our nation. We are in the fight of our life, and I for one, am not about to give up or give in.