Greenspan's Walking Dead

We regularly post the stories of Greenspan's Body Count, people driven to suicide or murder by the economic depression created by the crash of Greenspan's Bubble. But sometimes the stories of the survivors are just as harrowing. Maybe more harrowing, because it's easy to see ourselves in the victims' position.

PBS asked for and received stories of the "99ers", those who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

Just one typical story:
I am a 44 year old man from Northern Illinois, just southeast of Chicago. Like so many long-term unemployed, I am a "99er." I have worked my entire adult life (the past 22 years in Information Technology), earned a comfortable living and always paid my taxes. That all changed in January of 2008 when my position was eliminated from the advertising company in which I worked. I was aware that the economy was struggling at the time and the job market less than ideal, but I had no idea just how difficult (or impossible) finding a new job would be. I was certain that with 22 years of experience, letters of recommendation and the vast network of colleagues I had, I would not be unemployed long. How wrong I was.

As of today, I have sent out well over 1,300 resumes and have received only two phone calls, neither company ever called me back a second time. I have used all available savings and even borrowed thousands from relatives to stay afloat, but to no avail. I have since lost my house to foreclosure, after 17 years of making on-time payments, and had to move in with relatives. My wife, daughter and I only survive now by their good graces and food stamp assistance provided by the state.

In the last several years of my career, I earned at or near 6 figure income and never had to worry about my bills, my credit score or a way to care for my family. Now, that has all changed. Aside from a temporary place to live, we now have zero income, food stamps and the need to file bankruptcy, which I simply can't afford to do at this time. Meanwhile, my credit is completely ruined and I have the foreclosure on my record, not to mention all of our past due debts are still being reported as late and unpaid. I currently have several judgments against me as well. Prior to losing my job, I have never had to claim a single penny of unemployment, have never been sued and have never had to rely on others to care for my family.

When we lost our home, we had to give up our cats, who we loved and cared for as family. We downsized from 2 vehicles to 1 and the remaining vehicle is now down and in need of repair. Again, no money to pay for the repairs. We eliminated cable TV and cell phones in an attempt to hang on, but in the end all efforts failed. Our mortgage company made the comment that since our home was worth more than we owed, they were better of taking it from us. No offer to work with us at all. Their estimation of our home's worth was also clearly way overvalued and we couldn't even short sell.

The future not only looks bleak, it appears that the American Dream has vanished entirely for us. The stress has been nearly unbearable and our health is collectively taking a hit too.

Put simply, I have always been a proud American and believed I lived in the greatest nation in the world. Since becoming unemployed, I have arrived at a very different conclusion. When the U.S. government hands out tax breaks to the rich, war funding, bailouts to corrupt banks, auto manufacturers and foreign entities without so much as a second of hesitation and then plays political games over "pay-go" rules where U.S. citizens and their lives are concerned, it makes me literally feel sick. I am not typically one for entitlement, but when our own government allows such a disaster to occur and then dismisses it lightly, I feel they should work hard to correct it. It is no secret that the economy is not recovering at a suitable rate and many have and will continue to wind up like myself and my family or possibly worse.

I feel that Congress should be tried as a whole for crimes against humanity ... As it turns out, we clearly live in one of the most clueless, corrupt and seedy nations in this world. One that cares very little for its own citizens and far more about money, politics and power.

I can't even begin to predict what will come of us going forward, but in being honest, it won't resemble the American Dream at any level.

I certainly appreciate your interest in and willingness to cover this unpopular topic. We as 99ers need people like you and Michael Thornton to continue to bring this very real problem into the spotlight. Without coverage, it would be even easier for the U.S. government to sweep us under the carpet. They allowed this mess to unfold and they should be forced to deal with it just as the rest of us do.

Read them all. Despite the government's ability to make GDP growth go marginally positive by running 10% GDP deficits, understating CPI, and giving the banks free money, this is still a depression. Plan, spend, and save accordingly.


Negocios Loucos said...

Being an IT professional myself I concur with the recent commentary that it is bad news to spend so much time out of the game as far as your chances of finding a new job. If I get into that situation, one thing I'm planning on doing is volunteering my programming skills to a school or church or non-profit just to stay in the game. Just so when I go to interviews I can show that I am working on the technology. I am hitting against real pitchers, so to say.

My point and recommendation for anyone in the IT world in this situation is - be humble and just work. Even if it is for far below what you perceive is market value, stay in the game at any cost, at all cost. If I see a resume that shows the person hasn't worked in a year then sorry-for-you-to-say, it's not something I'm going to consider if I have a choice.

~ NL

Charlie McDanger said...

The difference between this depression and the last one is the sense of entitlement among the jobless.

When the buggy-whip factories went out of business, no one expected the government to offer jobs in a new buggy-whip factory.

Fat overpaid Americans doing IT--and a lot of other things--is the next buggy whip. Save yourselves, you suckers at the government tit, and get some skills the world can use.

W.C. Varones said...

Easier said than done, Charlie.

What kinds of jobs do you think the world needs millions of extremely overpaid Americans to do?

Jr Deputy Accountant said...

Here's what we do... instead of tearing up asphalt because we can't afford to keep roads maintained, we give all the unemployed jobs doing menial shit like paving roads for minimum wage - that's all they are making on unemployment anyway, right?

Going by Obama's math, we should get a good 200% return for our troubles... by saving $35 an hour that would have been spent in stimulus money to pay some overpriced Caltrans idiots to do the work.

There are all sorts of things that need to be done around here... the Eisenhower freeways are falling apart, monuments need to be polished, the White House lawn needs to be maintained... etc etc. Someone's got to shine the emblem on Obama's Towncar, right? Why not some unemployed guy?

The problem IS the sense of entitlement. Granted, the REAL problem is that the banksters made off with the jobs and the cash and we're left holding the bag BUT we cannot change that reality and just have to accept that America is on its way to becoming the third world, if it isn't already (I live in San Francisco, I can say that because if human excrement in the street isn't third world I don't know what is). Therefore we better get used to stitching up Nikes for India's elite and stop bitching.

The dumbing down of America backfired. At least in the 50s we were stupid but skilled enough to punch widgets at the factory. Now we're so dumb we can't even figure out how to do that and they've since outsourced widget-punching to some factory in Shanghai where workers will happily lose fingers for $2 a day.

Whoopsie! Really bumbled that one, didn't we?

W.C. Varones said...


That's what FDR did in GD I with the WPA and the CCC and a whole bunch of other BS initials for make-work jobs.

When this depression started, I thought Obama would do the same thing. But no, he's just bailing out the banks and the public employee unions and letting the little people sink.

Anonymous said...

They should pay unemployed people their old salary the first week they're unemployed, then lower it 10% per week.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even bother looking for work, I just started two new businesses. Sure I'm not making much now, but that could change. There's far more hope and enjoyment rather than hitting one's head against a wall. Sending out 1,300 resumes wasn't too bright. First you start with a few hundred to see what the responses are. Then you readjust your strategy.

B-Daddy said...

This story is certainly tragic, but also cautionary. Some of your commenters have already made good points, but I also note that there are jobs going begging, if someone is willing to get the training. At some point you have to take any job and count on your skills and tenacity to allow you to work your way up the ladder.

When I left the Navy, I took a significant pay cut, even counting my Navy retirement check. I could have clung to my Navy career for a few more years but I would have been forced out eventually. I saw the need to start a new career and took it. When I started my new position, I put a midshipman (naval cadet) anchor on security badge lanyard to remind myself that I was starting over and I wasn't entitled to anything, no matter what I had previously accomplished. Sometimes the right attitude goes a long way.

Happy Super Tuesday!