“Evil to the Core”

Thomm Hartman reads a heartbreaking suicide letter from a disillusioned fellow without unemployment benefits who sees “euthanizing” himself as the only way out of his desperate situation.

I’m reminded of former congressman Alan Grayson’s famous characterization of the Republicans’ health care plan: Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly. I guess the same could be said of their approach to the problem of unemployment.

20 Comments

Filed under U.S. Economy, US Politics

20 responses to ““Evil to the Core”

  1. But the share of wealth of the top 1% of earners has gone up 200% in the past 30 years, that’s something! Or at least that’s what the market cheerleaders keep telling me. No use shedding a tear for a surplus unit of an unwanted commodity!

  2. Precisely, Mr. Scrooge!

  3. What drives this story home is how close to the edge many of us really are. I often wonder how long I could survive as one of the unemployed? It’s why I rarely support initiatives to disable our social safety net. I fear I may need it myself one day through no fault of my own.

  4. No kidding. It’s one thing to tell folks to pull up their socks (or “get on their bike” as Margaret Thatcher used to say), but when you hear these stories from people in their 50s and 60s that have been let go and simply cannot find a job and get back in the game no matter how hard they try or how many applications they make, it’s kind of unsettling when you could very easily be in the same boat.

    As my Dad used to say, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

    Recent census figures indicate that 77 percent of Americans are now living paycheque to paycheque. This means in our nation of 310 million citizens, 239 million Americans are one setback away from economic ruin.

    What does American society expect these people who are deemed “unemployable” for reasons of age, health, etc. to do with themselves?

  5. What does American society expect these people who are deemed “unemployable” for reasons of age, health, etc. to do with themselves?

    Disappear and become invisible. Seeing it makes us too uncomfortable, so we’d rather whistle past the graveyard. But if the numbers keep growing (and my gut fears they will, for the reasons you cite,) the problem will present itself to the public quite quickly, and if my imperfect memory of history serves, abruptly and violently.

  6. Well, in his letter “Mark” notes that it’s kind of amazing that there haven’t been riots in the streets of America. Which, when you consider that the unofficial unemployment rate is probably around 20% with millions of people out of work and completely destitute, is quite remarkable.

    What’s Obama’s response? End community block grants and cut off the winter heating allowances for the poor.

    What a raging socialist he is! 😉

  7. hitfan

    Lesson here: save your money, so that when you become unemployable close to 60 years old, you can afford the luxury to tell your boss FUCK YOU when he lays you off/fires/outsources you.

    The letter writer supposedly worked in management for 35 years. Where did all the money go? I barely make a middle class salary and I’m able to put away 1/3 of my paycheck into RRSPs and mutual funds. And I’m not even trying very hard (I eat out constantly).

    I remember working for minimum wage after college, underemployed as a gas station attendant. I had my own apartment, paid my own rent, and I was able to save $3000 in nine months. I think if I was on welfare at the time, I could still save money.

  8. Well hitfan you’re a better person than the rest of us. Congratulations.

  9. Herold Ford

    “I’m reminded of former congressman Alan Grayson’s famous characterization…”

    Famous? So famous he got absolutely destroyed and is now out of office?

    Is that considered famous to anti-American leftist Canadians?

    Mr Rayner finds anything from he far far far far left funny, especially if it makes American’s or Conservative’s look bad.

    Some same it’s a mental disorder.

    I’m beginning to agree.

  10. TofKW

    I see the teabaggers have sent up a scout from the Yankee Tinfoil Brigade an an attempt to defend their asinine delusions.

    Herold, this board is filled with Canadian conservatives. Or as you would probably call us, socialists.

  11. Poor Herold seems to be confused over the words “famous” and/or “characterization”.

  12. TofKW

    Yes Shiner. That and Herold seems to think we are all anti-Americans here. I for one am actually quite fond of Americans, especially the founding fathers who were steadfastly anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist and against getting involved in any foreign entanglements. But then after they died off the idiots took over, and I will admit to being anti-idiot.

  13. jkg

    Some same it’s a mental disorder.

    Ah yes, the “some say” line–Tell me, who told you that? Fox and Friends?. I can play that game too. Some say knee-jerk, trollish behaviour coupled with basic orthographic errors and lack of critical reading comprehension is a sign of diminutive cognition or an absence of meta-cognition.

    @Hitfan
    I am inclined to believe that it is possible to engage in a frugality that would allow to save in this economic climate. However, while overall wealth increased, the divide is much more pronounced, I believe. This is largely because wages have not been able to keep with inflation, and I don’t believe that supply, demand, and economic growth are responsible for high ranking CEOs to now receive many orders more that what their average worker is earning. That ratio was much, much lower in the past. I think there is enough evidence to suggest that the gap is even larger between the rich and the poor.

    If I took efficient market theory at face value, gaps like this would be acceptable insofar as the interactions and economic actors played in a field in which it was possible for substantial mobility given the right conditions. Nuanced defenders like Joseph Heath who wrote Filthy Lucre would argue that this is just inherent in the system. We cannot avoid a bank run much less economic calamity because those are byproducts of individual action at the larger scale. However, this deterministic cycle of wealth destruction assumes that there will be that phantom equilibrium and the efficient allocation of resources. Yet, mispricing still occurs as economic actors act irrationally and anyone who has accumulated wealth rarely will accept the primacy of the market when it involves losing their net worth. This adds up to an asymmetric framework in which special conditions are actively created to avoid incurring losses that should have been sustained by the economic actor. The neoliberal obsession with quasi-Randist egoism does ends up creating a protected hierarchy, and given the rejection of the class systems in Britain be American neoliberals, it is quite ironic that an analog is defended in the American sphere.

    And let us not forget: In this globalized economy, a manufacturing much less an agrarian economy is a fading memory in the North American economy. Given the economic crisis, we could have had a Volcker equivalent of high interest rates that would have unilaterally flushed out the excesses of credit and prompt a savings rate. However, the absolute necessity for developed economies to rely on consumption and services as a means of accumulating wealth while dividing labour to keep employment low (though underemployment is probably high) made that nigh impossible.

    In short, the conditions, I think, much too different to achieve the great savings rate for the early eighties and the subsequent economic recovery. The relative purchasing power of consumers in the middle to lower bracket is just too low. If there is anything a neoliberal corporate mogul in the consumer discretionary sector fears the most, it is the “Paradox of Thrift.”

  14. Harold: It’s famous insofar as being well known, which is kind of the definition of the word. If you’ve got a problem with that, take it up with Mr. Webster.

  15. Hitfan: I’m glad you’ve been able to sock away enough money to provide you with a cushion should the bottom fall out of your life or you hit hard times for one reason or another, but not everyone is so fortunate – or fiscally responsible, for that matter. But it’s not always because they’re reckless spendthrifts. Sometimes “shit happens” in a person’s life – sometimes a LOT of shit happens. Without knowing exactly what the financial circumstances of this fellow are/were I’d be reluctant to speculate on them or pass moral judgement of any kind based on that. And even so… Is it right that people should just get tossed into the ashcan of society as worthless bums and homeless beggars because they weren’t very good at managing their money when they were employed?

  16. hitfan

    jkg: you raise some very good points. Whenever I choose financial decisions in favor of frugality, I jokingly tell myself that I’m some parasite who is riding this gravy train of everybody else’s willingness to go into debt in order to keep the economy growing.

    It’s true that if the majority of the population started to adopt my personal financial philosophy, this consumption and debt-based economy would collapse.

    redtory: I was already familiar with this letter from this desperate man that was making rounds on the internet. I did feel for this person, but because we’re not given the entirety of this person’s circumstances–in my defense, we are given incomplete information. My comments do come across as being heartless, but I just have a very different way of thinking.

    Frugality is practically in my DNA. It probably comes from my mother who grew up in a subsistence farm in the 1950s while living on welfare. She told me of stories of hardship where they would often go without Christmas presents (a tearful anecdote where everybody cried tears of joy when they received oranges).

    It is evident that in his increasingly globalized and technological world that the value of unskilled labor is increasingly losing value. China’s current business model is that they’re just acting as the lowest bidder for cheap labor. I think it’s quite valid that we re-organize our society.

    Reading that person’s letter reminded me a lot of a scene in Michael Moore’s “Capitalism” where a family was being evicted. As much as that family’s story was heart-wrenching I swore to myself that I would never, ever be like them.

    My motivation for frugality and drive for financial security/independence is that I don’t want to be desperate for a minimum wage job when I’m old or be thrown out of my house.

  17. hitfan

    jkg: I reread what you wrote. My RRSP and mutual fund investments are a fairly recent thing. My mutual funds were a bit high risk, but they’re a safe bet during a time of economic growth. I’ll probably pull out and convert them into safe GICs when I can sense another downturn.

    But I imagine that whoever manages the mutual funds that I invested in, is looking for companies who are able to reduce costs (those who announce layoffs along with pay and hiring freezes) while being able to increase their sales.

    That’s the paradox–as much as I’d like to get a raise at work, my very investments discourage companies from giving their employees rewards. I recall a story several years ago where a union pension fund protested that one of the companies they invested in wanted to unionize.

  18. This is why the RRSP Pension Craze of the last 35 years is fallacious – in order to maxmise returns, the pressure is to reduce costs (investments), which in turn deflates the economy.

    Government pensions backed by fiat would have been a better counterbalance – and structured properly, would have encouraged demand.

  19. Hitfan: Heh. I wonder if the irony was lost on the union pension fund manager in that instance. Of course, their mandate is maximize return for the investors, but still… That’s pretty damn funny.

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