The persecution of the unemployed must end

Feb. 16, 2013 @ 04:29 AM

Have you heard the radio ad of the job recruiter who advises employers not to waste their time checking out resumes of the unemployed? The recruiter brags that she can help employers nab the “cream of the crop” — the actively employed — who have proven their value by not losing their jobs.

You know, I’ve finally reached a place where I can accept, albeit very grudgingly, that not a single culprit behind the financial crash of 2008 is ever going to wind up in jail for it.

But what I refuse to accept is this continued shaming of the crash’s most direct casualties.

It’s been going on for years now, and not just by insensitive louts like the woman recruiter on the radio. Certain politicos have been hounding the unemployed ever since the first round of layoffs kicked off back in 2009.

Granted, there was a brief lull this past election season when they switched from agitating for slashed benefits and drug testing to decry the anemic pace of job creation. But once they were safely back in office it started right back up again.

And that’s how we ended up this week with legislation that effectively turns North Carolina’s unemployment insurance program into a quick pit stop before welfare.

This isn’t an exaggeration.

The bill cuts payments to a weekly maximum of $350, which relatively few will likely even get, and decreases the time period a claimant can receive payments to as little as three months. Twisting the knife a little deeper, it also prevents the jobless from receiving federal benefits if they’ve been unemployed for longer than six months.

Who can support a family on $350 a week (or whatever’s left after taxes)?

And when was it last the norm in North Carolina — and most especially, in Rutherford County — to land a good-paying job within three to six months?

To my knowledge, not since the Great Recession began. By the way, you don’t need a background in finance or economics to understand the fallout from that cataclysmic event — some estimates say that between 40 and 45 percent of global wealth was completely wiped out — is still happening.

But one might need a degree in psychology in order to understand why, instead of helping the millions of Americans who took the direct hit for all of us, some chose instead to utterly demean them.

Like the politicians who proposed legislation that would require the unemployed to take drug tests.

Like the scammers who contacted the jobless with fake employment offers, then obtained their personal financial information to clean out what was left in their bank accounts.

And like the companies who put out job ads with the caveat “the unemployed need not apply.”

Some years back, an American soldier was asked why he blew the whistle on illegal abuse of prisoners of war instead of participating in it. Was he somehow immune to the stress of war that presumably made his fellow guards disregard the military’s official code of conduct?

War doesn’t make a person’s character, the soldier replied. It reveals it.

If you have a tendency to be cruel, he explained, war will give you plenty of opportunities to be even crueler. If you believe in basic decency and honoring the rules of engagement, well —your sincerity on both will soon be tested.

I would say a similar character test could be applied in the aftermath of a major financial disaster that wiped out millions of livelihoods and set the stage for years of high unemployment.

And some of us haven’t passed.


Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email