I graduated from grad school with the intent to enter the workforce in May 2008. I was already employed for the fall semester as an adjunct--only a few hours a week because I only had two classes, but it gave me time to write and I intended to teach for a good long while. Teach and write. So I didn't feel the full effects of the recession until the following year, when the state was slashing the budget and gutting what they could from the higher education funding. I was a relatively new teacher low on the totem pole, so I didn't make the cut when the adjunct pool was cut by 1/3.
After that, I didn't have many options. Other than a short, but relatively disastrous, stint at a ski resort, I've been supporting myself on what freelance writing I could get and my husband's $22,000/year salary--he works at a university too and there's been a wage freeze in effect for three years now. No cost of living increases or raises. No bonuses that I can recall. Obviously, some things fell by the wayside and now my credit is destroyed. I'm doing what I can to pay my debts, but it's very, very hard...and it only got worse when my husband and I moved into different domiciles.
But then a friend, who had similar struggles, told me about his new job. At a place he really, really loved. I asked him for more information about this amazing place, and within a week, I had a job...
At a call center.
Literally the last place I ever expected to end up after investing six years and $40,000 into my education.
I was one of the unemployed people who never qualified for unemployment and was probably never counted. Thus, I'm not sure if my new job gets counted in any official job report. But I am better off than I was four years ago, and Obama is indirectly responsible for that.
Me and the other 47% of my class who survived the six weeks in training and will be hitting the floor next week to begin taking calls.
I work at a call center with multiple lines of business. Two of them are in the health insurance industry, and I was hired to work on the project specifically dealing with medicare. These past six weeks have been an amazing experience...all the more amazing for the fact that I would call it "amazing" to begin with. But I love learning about new things, and getting a full understanding of medicare beginning the same week Romney announced Ryan has been quite an eye-opening experience.
The vendor is gearing up for the busy season--annual enrollment period--and doing a big hiring blitz. Which was why the turnaround was so fast. I applied, interviewed, and was hired within a week. On the first day of mandatory training (as in, if you miss one full day, you're out) there were two full classes, probably accounting for 65 new hires. From my understanding, I was part of the 2nd wave, so there was a similarly large group before and after us (and probably one more after that). We took our final assessment this week, and our class dropped from 32 to 20. They fell away one by one, either realizing they weren't cut out for the job or running afoul the "no absence" policy.
They are probably one of the most diverse mix of people I've ever met in Utah, and I saw a fair number of college-level classrooms here. They range in age and background. I'd say half of them (hell, maybe 47%) of them have kids who they clearly adore, who they want to get back home to. They bid on their future shifts, hoping to get the one most suited for their schedule, dictated by their child's daycare or school hours. They want the early ones, the ones that will let them get home by 3, or no later than 4. In contrast, I bid for the ones that let me get to work by 12:30, happy to spend my afternoon and evening there if I can still go see my friends afterward, and sleep until a reasonable hour (also, in the winter, I feel it's best to give the snow plows a head start. And a snowstorm will sometimes end in the late morning, making an an afternoon and night commute not so terrible).
I know several of them are going to school now. Their classes have started in the last week. They head over to the campus right after work, and I see them studying on their breaks and at lunch. Half of them are traditional college age, half of them are in the "non-traditional" category, over thirty. Several of them have previous call center experience, to be expected in an area with so many call centers, and they seem to be relieved to be with our current employer. It's interesting to listen to them talk and realize I could never, ever work at their previous locations, but I actually look forward to our daily training...I'm looking forward to the actual job, too.
There are more women than men in this class. There are as many latinos as there are whites, ranging in age from 18 to mid-forties. My new friend in the class is polynesian, and she's going to go to school to be a pharm tech, but she also wants to join the air force next year. I'm impressed by this because I'm enough of a coward to know that I will not be signing up--I do not have her fortitude. I'm sure Romney would count her, and the rest of them, in the 47% he disdains so much.
Like the mother who was in class the day her child had a minor surgery--she would have rather been there herself, obviously. But she couldn't afford to miss a day--if they didn't let her go, they would bump her to another class. Or maybe it's the other mother who was faced with a similar choice and chose to go to the hospital--she wasn't there today when they showed us to our computers on the floor. The only exception I saw made was for a young woman in the national guard, who was ordered to muster on a weekday. I heard the occasional rumble about her ultimate fate, but she made it through this week and she'll be "nesting" with the rest of us next week.
Is she one of the 47%er he disdains so much?
What about the man with a young child at home who spent the day desperately searching for somebody to trade shifts with because he's also going to school, and he needs to be free Tuesday and Thursday nights? My new friend became his hero when she agreed to switch with him...but to facilitate that shift trade, I made it clear to her that I would be there to help her when it was time to register for her classes (so she could take the courses she needed that would fit in her schedule) and when she started writing her essays, I'd be more than happy to act as her tutor. We've only known each other for six weeks, but there's always a spirit of community and cooperation. But I would do anything I could to help her anyway. Her plans were delayed several years when her father became ill and she took over his full-time care. He's passed away now, and she's refocusing on her goals and plans. She's also a good, active Mormon, but she's confided to me that she will not be voting for Mitt Romney and she hopes she can talk her family out of voting for him.
I'm nervous about the calls. I know the systems. My instructor asked me what I thought was going to happen, where would I fail, and I couldn't say any specific thing. I'm just nervous. But it helps that we're working with medicare because maybe it'll help if I'm talking to somebody's grandma. I'm excited about providing help and guidance...and that is a major part of our job role. Our employer is very, very serious about providing exceptional customer service that's pro-active and full of personalized guidance to improve the member's health and life. It's very clear that they're not joking about it. And it's very clear to me why that's the case.
When that 700+ billion was redirected to Obamacare, the insurance companies didn't lose out forever and ever. They can get some of it back...but they also stand to lose even more if their members are unhappy. See, with ACA the government actually cares about the sort of care our senior citizens are receiving. Insurance companies are surveyed, graded, and ranked, and the ones who do not meet certain standards lose funding, and in at least one case I know about, lose their contract with CMS (Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services). My employer gained a couple hundred new members this year precisely for that reason.
My job role is directly influenced by CMS, which is enforcing the changes Obamacare require. With Obama in office, medicare is not at risk and that makes my life better even if I won't qualify for medicare for another 35 years! Because of President Obama, I can explain to our members that the coverage gap is already shrinking, that they can get their brand prescriptions for 55% off and their generics for 84% the actual cost. Next year it'll be 77%. The way Medicare D works is insane. If Obamacare does nothing except clear up that bullshit, then it'll be a job well done that we'll all benefit from.
I'm going to be speaking to part of the no-tax-paying 47% every day. I've been specifically trained to meet certain standards, to treat our members in a certain way, to guide them as much as I can, provide support, answer questions...because that's exactly what they deserve, what they've earned over their long lifetimes and careers. I don't think Romney will personally care if they're treated well or treated like shit...but Obama obviously cared. I know it had an impact on my employer...I've seen the ratings between 2011 and 2012. I'm proud to say that they improved and they have a pretty clear plan to get to a perfect score.
Politics are personal. The personal is political. I've always believed it, but I've never lived it before. Now I'm working with people who see this job as the first step towards a better life, people who need this job, people who take great pride in themselves and their lives. We will be helping the very same people Romney and Ryan want to harm with policies that could very well destroy what's left of their lives. I'm surprised by how many members receive Limited Income Subsidies to pay for their scripts--what would happen to them under Romney? Or the number who are dual eligible for medicare and medicaid...what of them? He doesn't care if they live or die, it's not going to cross his mind to be concerned about making their access to healthcare easier/greater.
I'm glad Romney is falling behind in the polls. I'm glad his campaign is in such disarray. I'm very glad that Ryan was booed at the AARP event today. Because I can see the little ways that life is getting better...I'm witnessing progress. And Romney would stomp it out for the same reason a kid stamps on an ant hill...because he can. Because he thinks it's funny to watch the tiny creatures squirm and race around as their little lives are plunged into chaos.