As the fight to extend unemployment insurance drags into a fourth month (and my search to find a job drags into its tenth), two conclusions are inescapable: our economy and our government are broken.
Our economy is broken because business owners (ironically referred to as “job creators” by Republicans) have colluded with Republicans to lower the cost of labor by a) shipping jobs overseas b) busting unions, and c) blocking any legislation that might improve workers’ welfare (higher minimum wage, extended unemployment insurance, food stamps, etc.)
President Obama has been a complete failure on this issue. Granted, Republicans have blocked him every step of the way, but that’s when the President should step in and use his power to get things done. Three months since unemployment insurance ended, there’s still no extension. Lock Congress in a room until they extend it! Anyone who’s been without benefits this long and has exhausted their savings is already being evicted! This is a joke!
It’s no surprise that long-term unemployment is higher than ever, especially when 90% of what they tell you to do to get a job doesn’t work anymore.
Want ads are useless. If you wait until a company places an ad on Mediabistro, LinkedIn or Craigslist, it’s already too late. That ad is going to get 100 (if not 1,000) resumes. It’s better to have an “informational interview” with someone and try to create a good impression so that if a job opportunity does come up, they'll call you. But that takes time, and time is something that people who have been unemployed for a long time (like me) don’t have.
Agencies and recruiters are useless. You’re just a piece of paper to an agency. As long as they fill the position, they don’t care whether it’s with you or someone else. Hell, they don’t care if they fill it at all, as long as they fill enough positions to pay the rent that month.
No one is going to care as much about getting you a job as you.
Add to this the fact that most companies would rather hire some 25-year-old and pay them nothing than someone more expensive but with more experience. So what if quality suffers? It’s all about maximizing short-term profits!
This entire country is run on internships! When I was growing up, the only interns were medical students who worked in hospitals…and they got paid.
You’d think our government would take decisive action when faced with a national emergency like this, but our government is broken. So here are some things we can do to fix it:
- Campaign Finance Reform: Republicans have already spent a record amount on this election and this is just a mid-term. Unless we get money out of politics, nothing will ever change. This should be our top priority!
- Redraw Congressional districts to end gerrymandering. As one of Bill Maher’s guests said recently, people used to choose politicians. Now politicians choose who they want to vote for them. How else do you explain Republicans’ ability to repeatedly block an extension unemployment benefits even when a majority of Americans are in favor of it? Or tougher gun control laws? Or political appointments? With gerrymandering, there are no politician repercussions to worry about.
- Abolish the Senate. Why should Rhode Island have as much power as California?
- End the filibuster and allow a simple majority vote in Congress to pass bills. There’s a reason why this is the least effective Congress in history.
- Abolish the Electoral College and establish a popular vote for elections. Ever since the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George Bush in 2000, we’ve been a victim of this outdated system. The Founding Fathers invented the Electoral College because they didn’t think Americans were smart enough to choose the President. They happened to be right, but then let’s not kid ourselves that we live in a democracy!
- Make Election Day a holiday or move it to the weekend. More people vote for American Idol in this country than vote for President. That’s a disgrace! Better yet, allow people to vote online or by cell phone!
We as a country deserve better than this. But unless we demand change, we’re going to get exactly what we deserve.