ELDER MUSIC: Route 66 - Songs from the Mother Road
The Media's Take on Elders

Labor Day 2009

There is hardly anything for working people to celebrate this Labor Day.

It has been a year since the financial crash of 2008. Although layoffs have been going on for a decade, they accelerated beginning in 2007 and in the past 12 months, the unemployment rate, which is undercounted, has increased from 6.2 percent to 9.7 percent. Some say the real number is somewhere around 16 percent, give or take.

According to official numbers, about 15 million Americans are unemployed and that doesn't count the underemployed and the discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs.

Have you ever been unemployed for an extended period of time? It's awful. No money coming in, but the bills are still due every month. If you happen to have a home equity line of credit, you dip into that. When it's used up, you start cashing out 401(k)s at a terrible tax bite. Soon you're robbing one credit card to pay another.

You cancel every service you can – magazines, newspaper, cable TV, online subscriptions, club dues. The only good news is that the dry cleaning bill goes down when you're not going to work every day.

You cut living to the bone. You stop seeing friends for dinner or movies because you dare not spend the money. Before long, they stop asking. You become more isolated. In time, you can't afford COBRA premiums any longer, so you can't see a doctor without paying cash, which you no longer have.

It's discouraging every day. Almost no companies acknowledge receipt of resumes anymore. They might as well be going into a black hole. You're told to network, but your colleagues are out of work too and those who aren't, stop taking your calls; they can't help and feel guilty about it.

That was the good news about unemployment until a year ago. Now, home foreclosure is common, cars are repossessed and if you have anything to sell, there is no one to buy.

After discouragement comes despair and if you are in your fifties or older, there is soon the realization that you are unlikely to ever have a job again that pays as well as before.

It is the American corporatocracy that is to blame for all this. Long before they destroyed the economy by giving away, often fraudulently, mortgages buyers could not afford and by buying and selling worthless swaps and derivatives, they cut pension plans and health coverage, refused to give raises and offshored millions of jobs. In the decade preceding last year's collapse, salaries lost ground, not even keeping up with inflation which was relatively low during that period. Longer ago than that, they destroyed the unions in the U.S. which had been the little leverage labor had with management.

So here we are on this Labor Day with 15 million unemployed, many of the employed forced to take pay cuts or enforced, unpaid furloughs while Wall Street executives, with the consent of government that bailed them out with hundreds of billions of workers' money, continue collecting their million-dollar salaries, awarding themselves ever larger bonuses and the health care arm of the corporatocracy spends more millions to make sure there is no meaningful health care reform.

Happy holiday, everyone.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Alzheimer's: Part 5 – In Response to Comments Here


Sometimes I'm glad I'm old. But then I realize that my Social Security check might be in jeopardy if things keep getting worse.

Then there's my single daughter, mother of two, who has not found a job in two years. She still owes on her student loan that paid for the degree that seems to be worthless.

Everyone can tell stories like this. It affects us all in one way or another. It sure feels like the second Great Depression no matter how they keep telling us it has bottomed out and things are getting better.

I think I'll go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. :-(

I'm with Darlene.

How can there be a real recovery with increasing unemployment?
I'm with Darlene and Kenju.

I agree with both of you. I knew things were getting bad when cashiers at our local grocery store told us they worked 'on call.' Everyone of them were/are part time. I haven't been able to make the full payment on my student loans since they came due. They have either been on income contingency payments or totally deferred because of unemployment. And the degrees are worthless.

Related article on NYTimes online.

Mornin' Ronni,

As I read:
"You cancel every service you can"
Did that

As I Read:
"You cut living to the bone. You stop seeing friends for dinner or movies because you dare not spend the money. Before long, they stop asking. You become more isolated"
Yep! Done and doing

"Almost no companies acknowledge receipt of resumes anymore."

All of these are experiences of mine begun 20 years ago and counting. Now I have more company, Not Good.

A generation goes by quick.

Chit with ya',

Peter Lott Heppner

Thanks 4 the post. I am living all the above. I took off all dates from my resume so I actually get calls for phone interviews. I pass that with flying colors. Then I walk in the door and I see the look on their faces. When companies hire, they hire young and cheap. Can't say I blame them but am getting sick of it.

Health reform? Hah, with the silent minority of ultra conservatives organized, not silent, and controlling the media, not to mention depressing all of us with their views as the solution to our problems, and you want to turn off the TV, not read news.

Add to this, the ridiculous and enormous pundit crap about a President wanting to encourage school kids to stay in school and you have the perfect storm.

Happy Labor Day indeed.

May I add something positive to this discussion without being thrown out? Now before everyone starts saying I don't know what I am talking about...I do, been out of work, funds, home..have lived in my car. Never took a drink, drug, or smoked in my life, so addictions were not the reason.

What I have learned that only talking and reacting to the negative only make it grow stronger. I prefer to react to the positive things in life more so they will go stronger and better. 85% of the people are working. Yes, many only part time, but believe me that is better than nothing. I will not go on and on, but I will take time to count my blessings and that of the USA today.

I love your term "corporatocracy," but I don't agree that they are the ones who shattered unions. They did it with the full cooperation of most of the American people. If we don't stand up for ourselves--and each other--it's not surprising that no one else will, either.

What adds to the scary numbers for me is that the unemployment rate in young males-- teens and twenties is even higher, as much as 25% and rising. This is a group that should be employed, building careers and instead they are idle. It seems to me this will lead to more crime and social disruption. Stock markets often think unemployment is good as it drives down wages, but for anybody looking at it from any other perspective these numbers should be very upsetting

I would love to hear from Ronni's readers who are or who have been in hiring positions. How did you feel about age in an applicant? How did you act about age in an applicant? (I'm keeping my input anonymous, for obvious reasons.)

Personally, I've rarely been "sole authority" in hiring; but, I've been de facto the hirer. The first person I ever hired was a 65-year-old woman who had just completed a master's degree. I later had to maneuver her into resigning when I found that she was sleeping (actually!) on the job and that mail was piling up un-opened (with checks and bills). We promoted a 35-year-old woman into the position. (Had she been willing, the position would have been hers in the first place. It took this bad experience to convince her.)

The second and third people I hired were 21- and 22-year-old men who had just earned a degree or who had one year of experience. They were smart and fit my budget. One worked out OK, technically, but told me what he thought I wanted to hear - true, or not. The other took over the technical tasking when I moved on a couple of years later. The third, also a 21-year-old, didn't work out at all. He had no drive. A 58-year-old man (a retiring O-6 in USAF) was hired, next, and took over the management of the group when I left.

Much later, I hired a 62-year-old man (whom I had to talk into retiring a year later when it had become obvious that he had no interest in keeping up with the technology of the position) and a 20-something man whom I had to fire for dishonesty and malingering.

I hired a 38-year-old woman who had just completed a degree. She drove me nuts because she took my directions as suggestions. She wanted to look at a bigger picture than our charge entailed. However, she was smart and a hard worker, and after a few years transferred into a different group where she did a fantastic job. Her "big picture" view was a perfect fit. She tells me that she will always have a soft spot for me because I took a chance on her.

I've observed that older and younger work out at about the same rate - at least when I am the one doing the selecting. Younger people cost less money, but take more of my time to train - a trade-off that works different ways in different situations. In my field, the average time it takes for a person to get to the point where they "earn their pay" is six months. It usually takes about that long for me to judge a person, too.

This post is the story of my life. I am trying to remain optimistic, and actually things are starting to look up after 3 years of severe under-employment. I hate to think that ageism is a factor in my inability to find work, but for the first time in my life it has been difficult.
Thanks Ronni, I love your blog.

George was laid off in June. He bought the book you suggested, has told to wait 3 months for one job and keep in touch....if another job appeared he would take it. He's only had three interviews tho he sends one to four applications a day. He's a car guy, and the automotive world is silent.

There are a thousand applications for each job, and there is no one left to network with. Even at the museum where he volunteers, his fellow docents are all unemployed or retired.

Weight watcher dinners and balanced vegetarian meals stretch the budget. We don't drink. We don't smoke....imagine that sum. We let all our memberships lapse, darn it. We still eat out but share meals. We both kept our Y membership going as it does no good to physically fall apart. The house payments are 500 a month, the car and truck are paid for, and the bills are minimal tho rising. Cobra is 400 a month, but I will move off it and onto Medicare in January. I should have done this earlier years ago.

My retirement and his unemployment are working for the moment. Never before has he been unemployed for such a long period of time. I know depression hovers despite support groups and friends.

I'm no fan of the "corporatocracy" that has driven this country into the mess we're in but forgive me if I refuse to call a "digging implement" anything other than a spade. We did bring it on ourselves by condoning and sometimes practicing greed and a total lack of responsibility for our own actions. Going into debt over our heads and trying to make a quick buck by flipping houses. Everybody seemed to be in a get rich quick mode and nobody was accepting responsibility for the consequences. Then we allowed the most god-awful collection of cheap gangsters to maintain control of our national legislature.

Still wondering how we got here?

Your post is right to the point and nothing will change until financial reforms are enacted.
Here is a link to a NYT article that says it all


Some might believe your post is too downbeat, but I think it's right on. I used to "hire and fire," and also found that people worked out, or didn't, at about the same rate regardless of age. Age discrimination is totally silly, but with so many young people out of work, they are the ones who will get hired, if anyone is.

God help the unemployed in our society. The recession will last a long time. Companies aren't going to hire until people start buying, and how are they going to buy stuff when so many are either unemployed, or afraid they soon will be?

We hear grumbling that "high union wages" forced employers to send jobs overseas. Nonsense. The workers who sewed clothing, hats and shoes in the South didn't make much money, but companies figured out that desperate people overseas would work even cheaper. None of these workers will ever be hired back. Their jobs are gone. They have to line up hoping to get a scarce job that will pay minimum wage.

What a post and string of comments to read before bed! I haven't worked since 2000 because we can get by on my husband's salary as mid management with the State of OR. We live in fear that a downsizing will cut his position. In the meantime, we haven't had a vacation since 1999, haven't painted the exterior of our peeling house, and I'm budgeting carefully to pay off the Lowe's credit debt from a self-done bathroom remodel two years ago and energy windows installed last year (the year when it didn't qualify as a deduction on taxes, of course). And this week I will shop sales for three kids, former neighbors, whose family has been hit hard and cannot afford school clothes. We all need to do what we can to keep others afloat while not sinking ourselves...

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