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Daveparts still Donating Member (614 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 10:30 AM
Original message
The Invisible
The Invisible
By David Glenn Cox

We are a society on wheels; we go lots of places and yet we see very little along the way. Our attention is focused on the bumper in front of us or we're chillin' out to the tunes. Our food, our meals are prepackaged for convenience but that hides as much as it shows. The fast food combo assures that we get the large fries when maybe we dont need them. Our media presents us with a sound bite view of the world. Unemployment 10.2 %. Gee, thats too bad, but I guess it could be worse, huh?

Details are unimportant and our paths are smoothed to ease the mental strain and make the days go by comfortably. We get packaged entertainment, mainstream, mundane and droll, to ease us into a nightly stupor, and then do it all again tomorrow. In the ten months that I have been without a car, I walk pretty much everywhere I go. I cant leave my hovel without seeing others in the same predicament as myself, or in worse.

I saw a younger man, maybe thirty, hiding in the bushes between the McDonalds and the QT. He was sitting on the curb trying to be invisible to the management at both establishments. He carried a small sign, like a four by six index card, that said only, Hungry Please Help. But what struck me as our eyes met was the fear, the real fear. His eyes became wide when he saw me, as if I were management or the cops. If I had had a dollar in my pocket I would have given it to him, but I didnt.

I sold my wedding ring for grocery money, forty-two dollars and fifty-five cents. The check was drawn on Bank of America and thats where I was headed when I saw the man there with a three day beard and probably a three day appetite as well. I had spent my day pouring over the December employment numbers, a Rubiks Cube of numbers designed not to explain but to mystify. They quantify, categorize and vaporize until the man with the deep-set eyes disappears.

He wasnt on drugs; I have enough background in that field to know. He wasnt a scammer with a fast story about running out of gas and needing five bucks to get home. He was a young man who was hungry and afraid, afraid of the management and afraid of the cops and afraid that he wasnt going to get anything to eat. Hunger is one thing when we can see an end to it, but the fear of hunger is something else entirely. It gnaws and rumbles and loosens the mind just as much as the stomach. The stomach will give up after a time, but the mind will not stop. It will remind us of hot biscuits with butter, pancakes with syrup and sausages. Every meal is remembered fondly and with guilt as we ask, did we savor it enough? Did we appreciate it enough? Will we ever get to appreciate it again?

So, you might ask, why would anyone spend the day going over the December employment numbers? There is an expression here in the South, That boy aint right! Well, I guess I qualify. Ive always been a bit off center and feel that Im slipping a little more every day, and Im happy about it. A symptom perhaps, or a revelation? I feel myself being pushed into the outer, darker orbits of society with the comets and meteors and accumulated refuse left over from creation.

As I went over the employment numbers, many things jumped out at me, so many in fact that it was hard to fathom. For starters, the average wage earners' wages rose only .03 cents per hour and the average worker works only 33 hours per week, so they made .99 cents more per week before taxes this year than last year, that is if they still had a job.

The number 7.2 million unemployed since the depression started is bandied about, and here is where we begin to play Twister with the numbers. If we assume the depression began in December of 2007, any idea how many people have graduated from high school, trade schools and college, or have been released from the military since then? When you are separated from the military you travel from a government employee to the box marked civilian employee. Since you didnt have a job in the civilian market in the first place, youre not counted as unemployed. The service men and women receive unemployment benefits but are not counted in the civilian unemployment statistics. Neither are students or graduates. All in all that's about one million four hundred thousand who arent counted.

Between November 2009 and December 2009 the civilian labor force shrank by an astounding 661,000. Those people not considered looking for work or who have exhausted benefits or are hiding in the bushes outside McDonalds rose by 843,000. The number of employed workers dropped by 589,000 in thirty days, yet they go round and round in the old number cruncher and come out as 10.2% unemployment. The true picture emerges that there are only two types of people in this economy, those that havent been affected yet and those that are dropping out of the economy and becoming invisible.

Every category of employment is hemorrhaging jobs; only in healthcare and business services is employment rising.

Goods-producing -81,000
Construction -53,000
Manufacturing -27,000
Service-providing -4,000
Retail trade -10,000

These numbers are per month, November to December 2009. Remember back in the good old days when employers hired for Christmas? Not this year! But more to the point, very little is being done about it. Almost three times the number of Americans lost their jobs last month than were killed in the Haitian earthquake. Im not trying to compare one misery to another, but one prompts a worldwide airlift of relief supplies (and so it should), while the numbers of the invisible grow and not a word is spoken about that.

We speak in sterile terms of percentages and about long term job growth opportunities, but meanwhile Americans are growing hungry. Kroger stock prices have fallen 16% on reduced sales; people dont just voluntarily decide to eat less. One in four American children are at risk of hunger and the numbers seeking food assistance have grown by 25% in a year.

The number of workers unemployed for more than 27 weeks rose to 6.1 million. Four in ten of the unemployed have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, and their prospects, to put a word on it, are bleak. The job market is still contracting and the Labor Department has the nerve to crow about construction job losses only being down 53,000 because the six month average has fallen to 41,000, forgetting that there is nothing left to pour out of an empty bucket. Down is still down and down cannot be up. It means that there are that many more unemployed construction workers this month to add to the previous total of 1.4 million construction workers plus the 2.1 million manufacturing jobs lost. Averages are wonderful, when my income is averaged with Bill Gates', Im a friggin' millionaire. Averaged out over the next fifty years, most of us will all be dead.

I made it to good old Bank of America but they wanted six bucks to cash my forty-four dollar check. I explained that cashing the check wasnt doing me a service but was doing their customer a service. The woman explained that business customers are given no-cost checking accounts so all fees are borne by the customers without a Bank of America checking account. That sounds altogether fair and proper for the American banking industry, doesnt it?

Ive learned my place in this cosmos; I could sense her finger easing towards the panic button as I raised my voice, but six dollars out of a forty-four dollar grocery budget was a little too steep for this astronaut. Im no longer a property owner or an auto owner, Im just a cranky old guy on foot in dirty tennis shoes. But when you lose everything your pride is the last thing to go. Id rather walk for miles than to give Bank of America a six dollar profit.

But as Ive said, despite it all I am happy. Im in a place without illusions where I see things as they truly are. I may be invisible, but the world is displayed clearly before me.
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Jim Sagle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 10:45 AM
Response to Original message
1. Hang in there, if you can.
We're going to turn this around, somehow. We have no choice.
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Daveparts still Donating Member (614 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 11:04 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thanks but,
Don't worry about me worry about the guy in the bushes. If there is one for every mile of highway the numbers add up.
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DemReadingDU Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:36 PM
Response to Reply #2
6. It's a nice gesture of government to help Haitians

No doubt the money is borrowed and added to our already trillions of debt. How about the government dropping water and MREs to the people in the bushes by McDonalds in America? I do so worry about these people whose numbers will be growing.

Excellent essay, thanks.
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DemReadingDU Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:32 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. There is no choice, depression is already here

Just ask any of those who are unemployed, homeless and hungry. The rest of us will see depression soon enough. There is no stopping the global financial Ponzi from imploding.

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cutlassmama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 01:40 PM
Response to Original message
3. I think unemployment is much higher than they are reporting. One in four don't have a job
and no resources. How many hungry, homeless and dying will it take for someone to notice?
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Lost Jaguar Donating Member (193 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:07 PM
Response to Original message
4. Thanks.
Once again I extend my gratitude to you, Daveparts, for reminding me of what's really goin' on. I still have a TV to distract me, so I need a watchdog to howl in the night. I haven't sold any jewelry yet, but that just might happen before February is out.
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:47 PM
Response to Original message
7. You know, what really annoys me is that it would be so cheap to fix this.
To see that everyone has food and shelter, and yet "the richest country in the world" is too cheap to suck it up and do just that little bit.
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