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Want to feel worthless? Try this experiment: find a way to lose your steady, high-paying, full-time job. Run through your unemployment benefits. Lose your marriage and your job. Live off the generosity of your friends and family while pursuing a degree you hope will make you more employable. Graduate with top honors. Now, start sending out resumes. Keep going for a year with no response to any of them. Keep looking for jobs anywhere that you have not already applied to. Even to places and companies that abhor you. Still no replies? Keep going!

Keep going, and don’t worry about that ever-widening gap of unemployment on your resume. Don’t think of how much of a burden you are on your friends and family. Don’t think about not having health insurance or money in your bank account (if you still have one). Just worry about spending up to two hours at a time filling out online applications to jobs and potential employers that you know are never going to reply back. Don’t worry about those terrible thoughts at the back of your mind (What’s wrong with me? Where did I do wrong? Why won’t anybody get back to me?). Just keep going, day after day, on and on, on and on…

It’s been five years now since your last steady job, and several months since your last interview, but keep those resumes going! There’s been positive job growth for years now, just not for you. It’s nothing personal. There are still plenty of job opportunities out there, so keep going! Feeling diminished as a human being yet? Feeling ignored, shunned, and rejected? Feel like giving up? Congratulations! Welcome to worthlessness, but you’re not a lone. There are millions just like you – many of them once hard-working, middle-class people like yourself – wondering if they will ever get a good job again. Or own a home again. Or be insured again. Or enjoy financial security again.

Where's our champion? Who's our savior? Nobody speaks up for us. These days it's all about helping the middle-class, raising the minimum wage, and housing reform; all of which is great if you already have a job. What about us without jobs? Take a good look at this site or any other progressive site. Go on. See anybody seriously talking about the pain and damage caused by long-term unemployment? Not likely because the employed and government alike fear our existence. We're the inaccessible stone clogging the safety-net drainpipe. We're the glowing elephant sleeping in the capitalist playground. We're the untreated plague upon the economy.

I began writing Postcards from the Bottom when I noticed a distinct lack of discourse on the subject. So about a year ago I started posting them here to lend some insight into how distressing and soul-crushing this plague of worthlessness feels. I don’t like to be ignored, especially when it’s an issue that affects the lives of millions of my fellow Americans. I'm a human being filled with feelings and a drive to do what's right. I'll take a hint from the other side. If I yell loud enough, I will be noticed. Maybe, if I yelled loud enough, I could stir up some interest in the plight of my fellow long-term unemployed brothers and sisters.

To date, I am still disappointed by the overwhelming lack of sympathy toward our situation. We continue to wait for our moment. Marriage equality. Womens' rights. Immigration reform. Minimum wage. Healthcare. Housing. Keystone. NSA. IRS. Something. Something. Okay, what about jobs? None of us planned to be unemployed. We’re not lazy slackers out to leech off the system. We simply can’t find work and employers are unwilling to hire us. Even Congress and the President refuse to stand up and declare this is a total national tragedy. If anything, government wants us to suffer even more than we already are. Want to make things better? End discrimination against the long-term unemployed!

All we ask for is decent jobs. Honestly, we’re not charity cases. We’re just down on our luck. So why is it this way? What did we do wrong? Why are we derided for doing the right things only to wind up in the ditch? I cannot speak for all long-term unemployed, but those I do know are good, hard-working people who want nothing more than to make their honest contributions to society. We want to pay taxes! What's wrong with that? If anything, we bring to the table a hunger for redemption and a perspective of what it's like to have little or nothing. We've all hit bottom. We have a new respect for all people and the problems in their lives. Most of all, we having a burning desire to give back to those who have kept us going. Those who survive this dark stretch in our lives are stronger, more resilient, more resourceful, and far more humble. We are a benefit, not a burden!

At this point I don’t know what to do. Is long-term unemployment now the new normal? Do I get a membership card? Does this army of one have to storm Washington and camp outside the White House then hope to get noticed amid all the other demonstrators of various flavors and causes? I do not know. I’m just tired of my fellow long-term unemployed brothers and sisters being ignored. I’m tired of being ignored. I’m tired of having to rely on others for my well-being. I’m tired of my skills, desire, and experience going to waste. I’m tired of my life slipping away. I am capable of great things, but I’m just tired.

It’s as if the powers-that-be want a whole section of perpetually poor people. For what purpose? To ridicule us for our misfortunes? Our laziness? The huge gaps on our resumes? But the sad reality is we’re a ticking time-bomb. We will have a dramatic effect on the health of our economy. We will be a strain on support programs for years to come. Yet nobody sees this coming. So we’re swept under the carpet like all the other blight on the system. Congress and Mr. President, you do so not at your risk, but the risk of our entire nation. This is one problem you can ignore but, I guarantee you, it won’t go away.

More Postcards from the Bottom:

Postcards from the Bottom: Who Cares?
Postcards from the Bottom: I Give Up
Postcards from the Bottom: Acceptance, Not Money
Postcards from the Bottom: I Am a Human Being


What's a good ribbon color to show support for the long-term unemployed?

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| 35 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thganks for your story... (7+ / 0-)

    ...and your perspective.  Long-term unemployment really is a cancer eating at not just our economy but our country, as well.

    I'm curious as to what field you were working in before unemployment hit.

    The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

    by TheOrchid on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 06:48:49 AM PDT

  •  It just has to be unimaginally horrific. (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you; and hang in there. Bookmarked.

    Look into mindfulness meditation.

    Two things to focus on:  

    What is good about my life? and
    What is to be done?

    Warren/3-D Print of Warren in 2016!

    by dov12348 on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 06:55:27 AM PDT

    •  My creativity... (0+ / 0-)

      ...and my friends and family keep me going. I am forever indebted to them for their kindness.

      "Know that it is easier to get into something than it is to get out of it." - Donald Rumsfeld

      by teej on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 08:00:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It is hardest to get a job when (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    you are unemployed, especially if you have been unemployed for a very long time. Employers like to hire people who they feel other employers would also like to hire. Thus you are better off taking a job below the best you can get, even if the pay is poor, and then striking out to find something better. Over time, with diligence you can work yourself back into the type of career your education warrants. But looking endlessly for a "suitable" job while not working will make it progressively more difficult to actually get that job.

    •  Would take ANY fucking job (10+ / 0-)

      Are you dense??
      You think people who've been out that long aren't trying to even flip burgers??

      We are NOT getting even that chance.

      Too experienced. . Too educated. .  

      Oh, but,

      No experience in the field. . (even when having gone thru retraining)

      When you cannot get even an interview, when fully qualified, even over-qualified, then shit is fucked up.

      The long term unemployed are NOT being given a chance at ANYTHING.

      Which makes following your condescending advice a tad difficult, at best.

      True wealth is a measure of what one gives.

      by WiseFerret on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 07:02:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've tipped both comments in this exchange (6+ / 0-)

        because I see wisdom in both.

        In fairness, I don't think doc2 was too patronizing. Here.

        On the other hand, I fully understand WF's indignation. No, I do. I have done everything "right." For years. And I am still flat. Heh, you want to hear about a "perfect storm of awful"? Try being in your late 40s and liable for student-lone debt you took on to train for a public-sector career you chose very much on purpose. One that no longer exists.

        Like a growing number of the long-term unemployed, however, I'm refusing to view this as sign of a personal weakness.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 07:27:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  had this experience (0+ / 0-)

        Got out of school. No jobs in field. Tried freelancing. Not enough work to live on. Applied for every damn job under the sun. Got turned down for low-level work due to being "overqualified." Cleaned house for two clients. Looked for three years. Nothing. You really can't get hired to flip burgers, if you have any kind of degree - they don't want you. It is very demoralizing and hard not to take personally.

        Finally went back to the low-level job I had before I went to school - was just pure luck that my replacement decided to leave and I happened to hear about it. Been there ever since, but only work three days a week.

        Not sure about the future. Freelancing must be the only real option, so now...trying to figure out what to do, how to make that work. Or what skills might be marketable for low-level intermittent gigs. Maybe try to sell mugs with pictures of cats on them. Know what I mean?

        You are definitely not alone, and I think the older you are, the worse it gets. Underground economy, ways to scrape by, cut back. "Involuntary simplicity." I know an out of work architect who sells roasted nuts on the street corner. Not kidding. And my spouse will not even bother to try to look for a job any more - just mopes around. Both in our 50s. I look for meaning outside of work in my creative life - always have. But survival is key, and it is frightening when the future looks like old age in a cardboard box. I'm lucky I have some impoverished and formerly homeless friends who can give me their survival tips. Relationships matter, and can save your life.

        •  I'm in a good place (0+ / 0-)

          I have people that care, but it hurts like hell that I depend on them for my existence. I do my part helping out, but I didn't get a MS to flip burgers. That sh--'s just wrong.

          "Know that it is easier to get into something than it is to get out of it." - Donald Rumsfeld

          by teej on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 08:04:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  problem is (5+ / 0-)

      many of the long term unemployed have spent their lives building a career. What do you think it looks like to go from a senior level job career position to an hourly job that needs little prequalification? Its not a question of being too good for any kind of work, its a question of people trying to maintain some tattered shred of a career in order to get back into their field somewhere near the level they tumbled from. Going into a senior career professional interview and explaining away your two year stint as a fry cook is about as effective as getting "loser" tattooed on your forehead. And the idea of patience and diligence is good advice for someone early in life... you can easily spend 5 years getting back on track or changing course when you are in your 20's and 30's but its a hell of alot harder when your older. If it were as easy as that everyone of these smart and hardworking people would be doing it.

  •  I voted for Rust ... (6+ / 0-)

    It seemed an appropriate color (condition) considering the current state of our country, its politics, unemployment and our infrastructure. Good luck, Teej! ... I enjoyed the diary and I agree with you!

  •  I have thought about the long-term unemployed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for many years, since the 1980's when I was laid off from a job I loved.  What skills do you have that would make you a suitable home health aide and/or personal assistant for the elderly and disabled?  People want to remain out of nursing homes as long as possible and clearly are willing to pay reasonable amounts per day or week to do so.  Many long term care insurance policies pay for home-based care.
    Presumably you have been doing some chore type things that the people who've been helping you could provide testimonials for.  Develop a free lance business plan that aims you in this direction.  Print resumes and distribute them to churches, senior and disability groups, and hospital social work departments.
    One or two patient clients' needs could provide fulltime wages albeit low ones.  But once you come out of your isolation, if only to be with one or two people every day, you will be exposed to more opportunities.  Grateful families of the disabled and elderly will extend your range for finding better positions.
    If you have a phone and a car or public transportation you can do this.  You will find great personal reward in this type of work.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 07:14:08 AM PDT

  •  I am sorry (9+ / 0-)

    I just want you to know that I hear you, and I am so sorry for what has been happening to you. I was a teacher in adult education during the chaos of the last five years. It tore at me every day to watch very capable and talented people who had wonderful work ethics struggle with losing everything. All I could do was help with English and math skills. I listened a lot, though, and I hope it helped a bit.

    I wish I had more to offer, but I wanted you to know I have been aware of the very real struggles of all the good, hardworking people I met. I also have tried to tell those who have it "good" what it has been like for those who lost so much.

    •  I'm still trying to figure out... (0+ / 0-)

      ...what I want to be when I grow up. I'm 45. I'm running out of time. I loved working in the arts. When that caved, I thought teaching was my calling. I lasted through seven weeks of hell and now I just don't know. Maybe it was a bad placement, but it nearly killed me. I'm still trying to recover from a couple of decisions I thought would further my career and, instead, appear to have ended it.

      "Know that it is easier to get into something than it is to get out of it." - Donald Rumsfeld

      by teej on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 08:10:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Most Long-term Unemployed I know (9+ / 0-)

    are over 50 and will never work regularly, or for decent pay, again, because employers don't hire entry-level 50 year olds for the money a 50 year old needs to live.  They just don't and won't, and as long as capital prevails over the interests of all other elements of society, they never will.

    One little bit of truth:  if you were fired, laid off, let go, and depend on the ability to sell your labor power to an employer to make an income, you're not middle-class and never were.  Middle-class people, lawyers, architects etc. can just as readily go into business for themselves as get hired by someone else.  There's another, technically much more accurate term for those who depend on the needs of employers.  Working class.  It is what it is, and once one escapes the myth-making of "the middle-class society" things become more understandable, if not more tolerable.

    Clap On, Clap Off, The Clapper!

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 07:14:47 AM PDT

    •  If you're 50+ (0+ / 0-)

      you're as good as dead in the eye of the employer.

      I went through the process of resumes, filling out applications on line, and day after day, month in and month out...Nothing. Actually, a couple of lame interviews where I was quizzed over and over why I really wanted the job.

      Something else though. I have been battling a back condition that keeps me from performing many tasks.

      My last job I was working through the pain, but it was impossible to hide after awhile. I was continually taking breaks to stretch and relax my back and the employer didn't much care for that.
      It is a long story, but eventually I was let go.

      I also have epilepsy that is controlled quite well with medication, but that same medication makes me tired as all hell.

      For years I worked. I worked because I really wanted to work. It is who I am. Plus I needed the money.

      After losing my last job I knew it was going to be difficult. But honestly it was impossible to find work that I could perform. Employers didn't want anything to do with me and when the gap in unemployment became larger no one would even acknowledge me. I had in essence been kicked to the curb at 57.

      After a couple of years and a lot of prodding from my family I went on SSID. Didn't want to. Had to.

      Someday when I am up to it I may write about it all. What I learned was this. When I hit my 50's, employers just didn't care to talk to me, let alone hire. I certainly was not dead, but to the employer I was already considered 6 feet below the ground.

      "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis Brandeis

      by wxorknot on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 01:08:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I freaking hate that. (0+ / 0-)
        Actually, a couple of lame interviews where I was quizzed over and over why I really wanted the job.
        Umm, because I need money to live, and you're willing to give it to me in exchange for my time and labor?

        I fucking hate that question on interviews.

  •  One suggestion (4+ / 0-)

    I manage a grocery store I got to this by way of a lay off, my husband becoming terminally ill and dying kept me out of the job market for two years. When I was ready to go back to work I started out merchandising. They were the only ones who would hire me and I also have a degree, mine is in engineering.

    The vast majority of the beverage industry (coke,pepsi, beer distributors) and the snack food industry (Kellogg, Nabisco,, rito Lay, Pepperidge Farm) order and stock their own product. There are also contract companies like Advatage sales and service, The national association of retail merchadisers also has a website that lists jobs available. Right now is reset time so you can get 8 to 10 hours a night of reset work pretty easily. This is a good place to start.

    I thought I would suggest it as most people don't even realize these jobs exist.

    You will not get rich it pays only 12 to 18 and hour maybe less in other places. The work is almost always part time but it is a place to start not a career although I found one because of it you never know. If you get involved treat it as a business always be looking for a better gig and when they show up take them.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 10:19:35 AM PDT

  •  boycotts (0+ / 0-)

    Any time you happen upon a company who outsources labor to a foreign country, don't buy from them any more. They are giving our jobs away.

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