Tag Archives: unemployment

Double Trouble for Service Workers:  No Jobs and Little Unemployment

 Pearl River     There was a peculiar piece in the Wall Street Journal that left me scratching my head and then trying to remember, somewhat successfully, high school algebra.  The article talked about the gap between service workers and professionals getting to work at home and often keeping their jobs.  Ok, sure, but what had caught my eye were two graphics that accompanied the article, but were never mentioned in the story by Ben Eisen at all, which was too weird, especially since several were hammer blows to the head and heart.

The graphic illustrated the results of Barnard College Professor Elizabeth Ananat’s survey of 1000 service workers in the Philadelphia-area.   Her findings powerfully underline the pandemic and economic disaster with some frightening twists.  She found that of the 1000 workers, 40% were laid off.  That’s 400 workers.  Of those 400, 87% applied for unemployment, that 348 of the workers.  Of those 348, only 65% actually received benefits.  That’s 226 workers, and that’s a scandal.  On those 226 workers, only 77% or 174 workers actually received the $600 special stimulus money, and that’s another outrage.  Let’s review.  Of the 40% of service workers laid off, less than half, just 44% of those jobless workers actually got the unemployment benefits with the stimulus.

Remember please that unemployment is based on insurance that workers and their employers are paying.  It’s not a giveaway.  That more than 1 out 3 workers applying for unemployment are blocked from receiving their benefits, underlines how the state-administered programs are robbing huge numbers of eligible workers of their entitled benefits.  Once qualified, the fact that a too inept federal government, once again trying to push money to the jobless through too frequently incompetent, tight-fisted, and out-of-date state unemployment systems, picked the pockets of another almost 1 out of 4 of the workers actually receiving benefits.

If it’s not enough to contemplate the horror of government bureaucracies at war with their workers even in an economic disaster, for the sake of argument, and since there are no better figures out there, let’s extrapolate Professor Ananat’s numbers, as if they applied uniformly throughout the rest of America’s service sector.  We know from Bureau of Labor Statistics that 30 million workers were getting unemployment benefits at the end of July 2020.  On the success rate of applicant to recipient she had found, that would mean more than 46 million service workers had applied for unemployment with 30 million making it through the system.  Of those 30 million at the same 77% ratio, 23.1 million might have accessed the extra $600 in supplemental benefits.

Incredible, and it gets worse!  At the same ratios, that means 52.5 million service workers were laid off with 46 million plus actually applying for the benefits that they had earned and paid for.  Of 108 million service workers as of July 2019, that would be way too close to half of all service sector workers finding themselves unemployed during the pandemic with only 44% or 23.1 million getting the full benefits of the stimulus payments.

The other unexamined, but invaluable, graphics with the article were as telling.  One showed the soaring level of hunger and food insecurity now, but given the figures just discussed, who could be surprised.  The other detailed the surge of spending that had accompanied the receipt of stimulus money based on workers who had received the benefits and had Chase bank accounts.  In another cruel irony, it is clear to me that if all the unemployed had received benefits and the stimulus money, consumer spending and much of the economy would be roaring right now, rather than slow walking through the depression.

Why unemployed workers are not breaking down the doors of unemployment offices in the states and pounding on the office walls of their federal and state elected officials to fix these scandals that have hijacked their money and benefits is a mystery to me, but only highlights the strength and pervasiveness of American and corporate ideology that continues to rob American workers blind.


Driving through the Pandemic with Antifa

Decatur, Texas     In the predawn, the three-week long veteran night clerk at the Motel 6 along Highway 287 in Decatur, Texas north of Dallas confirmed, “it’s rough out here.”  Looking for a cup of coffee, walking back from my truck, I mentioned that I had inadvertently woken up two different carloads of people sleeping in their cars in the parking lot.  He said that was common in the crash of the economy.

The US had just recorded our 19th straight week when over one-million Americans had filed for unemployment.  The US had also managed the worst single economic quarter in our history with over a 9% drop in the GDP.  Driving through Texas was one thing, but since most of our trip had been through the Navajo Nation’s reservation, southwestern Colorado, and then the northern, Hispanic tier of New Mexico, we had also been seeing a footnote of the worsening pandemic in the southwest, even as cases and fatalities have dropped in the northeast and New England.  As the Washington Post reported,

“When the virus first swept across the country, it devastated Black communities, killing African Americans at a disproportionately high rate in nearly every jurisdiction that published race data. In recent weeks, Hispanics and Native Americans have made up an increasing proportion of covid-19 deaths. The disease now accounts for nearly 20 percent of all deaths among those groups, higher than any other race or ethnicity in recent weeks, according to a Post analysis of the CDC data.  The count now is reaching 150,000 deaths with many uncounted.”

Our destination had been a visit to Palo Duro Canyon, a spectacular Texas State Park south of Amarillo.  We had camped there in the past.  I once held a staff meeting there for ACORN’s western organizers.  Five miles out, we saw a sign saying on-line reservations were required.  We implored the ranger at the gate window that we were only passing through for an hour, but she was adamant.  Noticing that another state park, Copper Breaks outside of Quanah was roughly on our route, we pushed on.

I hit four bars on my phone as my son took his driving shift, and I scrolled my messages.  One seemed more urgent than the others.  An independent fact checker was reaching out.  The message was brief:

There is an audio host named Dave Weinbaum, who, among other things, insists that ACORN is supplying weapons and funds to a new Red Army of Antifa supporters.

No matter how ridiculous, it seemed like I needed to help him get the facts out there.  We fell out of coverage after my first call, but trying again 20 miles later, I connected with Eric Ferkenhoff of Lead Stories in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who was monitoring the panic-demic of conspiracies that the president with the help of far-right zealots is trying to create to save his faltering campaign.  How could I deny something so bizarre?  Simply and straightforwardly, was all I could figure.  I briefed him on ACORN’s current work, none of which fell within a million miles of the radio reports that he described.  I also mentioned that hallucinatory drugs were now legal in many states, and that might be part of the source for this story.  I added, perhaps unnecessarily, that anarchists organizing an army seemed a bit of a philosophical contradiction for the right whacks to get their heads around.

This arch conservative fascination with ACORN continues to intrigue me.  We really got under their skin and, frankly, seem to still be scaring the bejesus out of them.  The Louisiana legislature recently added a couple of sentences on a pandemic relief bill to make sure none of the money was going to ACORN to distribute.  Probably a notion one of Weinbaum’s hyped up listeners planted.

All in a day in these strange times in America.  Copper Breaks was a nice relief and the park staff there was the best.  We had an hour before closing, greatly enjoyed the park and our experience riding their back-canyon trails to new adventures.  We made it to the gate three minutes before their 5 PM closing.

America the beautiful, no matter how much some folks like to ugly the scene with death, despair, division, and destruction.