Here’s an idea: under-employment insurance


COLLEGE PARK, MD- AUGUST 10 : Thera Larson is currently employed but lives with a fiance who is not. She is blogging about her experiences for the Washington Post. Photos taken at the University of Maryland campus, which is near her workplace. (Michael S. Williamson/WASHINGTON POST)
September 7, 2011

I am so tired of the unemployment topic.  It’s everywhere suddenly – like the big secret is out of the bag.  Wannabe presidents and even the president himself are all suddenly deeply concerned with jobs.  It’s the new bandwagon.

All I have to say to these politicians who are finally waking up to what millions of Americans have been crying for is where were you one, two or even three years ago?  People have been drowning in this country for quite some time but now that an election is almost a year away, you all finally deign to speak about putting people back to work.

Some folks may ask me why I am complaining about getting a spotlight on a topic I’m so personally attuned to.  Well, it’s because the politicians are using it as a platform to get or save their own jobs.  It doesn’t feel sincere.  I have become so bitter that my belief is when these men and women are finally elected or reelected, the big topic of jobs will once again be returned to the closet and those of us losing everything will still be left flat.

President Obama gave a speech this week hinting at his plan to create jobs.  He mentioned that over one million construction workers are itching to “get dirty.”  He says he wants to create public works projects repairing infrastructure to put them back to work.  That sounds good on paper but I wonder about its execution.

Who are the construction workers who will get these jobs?  Will it go through the unions so many men and women are part of (and before anyone starts screaming about unions, please remember that when a person is trained through union schools for a specific trade they are obligated to work for that union for a certain number of years)?  What happens to those men and women who are part of the construction industry who aren’t trained to pave roads or repair bridges?  Will they get jobs?

And what happens after the projects are completed? What will they do then? I suppose that won’t matter by then as the elections will be over.

These suggestions are great but they’re short-term solutions.  Why doesn’t anyone seem to be thinking about the long term? 

There are jobs out there -- yes, I’ll admit that.

But let’s get real for a minute. Who is going to take a job that pays minimum wage ($7.25/hour or $290/week - if you’re lucky enough to get 40 hours - BEFORE taxes) when unemployment insurance from the government pays up to $420/week in some states?  Where’s the motivation?

Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t the government offer under-employment insurance to those people who have been out of work long term? If a person takes a job making $290/week and the government contributed enough money to make up the difference of what unemployment insurance would have been, don’t you think people would jump at the chance to work?

Yes, there will always be people who want to ride the system but most individuals I know who have been out of work for more than a year just want a decent job that will pay the bills. 

Fear, depression and frustration all make up the unemployment experience but if one of those factors could be alleviated then the other symptoms might lift and suddenly the population’s morale may shift.

I know I’m dreaming. To most people under-employment insurance sounds ridiculous.  But wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage people to work anywhere than to have them sit at home collecting a check?

President Obama set down a challenge to his opponents by telling his audience that "we're going to see if we've got some straight shooters in Congress. We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.”

Well, let me tell you something Mr. President: I don’t care about party anymore.

You all can challenge each other with your senseless rhetoric until you’re blue in the face.  What I want to ask of our congressional leaders is where is your humanity?  Can any of you put aside your dirty campaign politics long enough actually accomplish anything?

Thera Larson, a 33-year-old from Bowie, Md., is the fiancee of a union sheet metal worker who has been out of work for more than a year. Read more about her here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.

Read more updates from Thera Larson here.

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