I am resurfacing because this needed to be said.
I have been seeing increasing disdain for #OccupyWallStreet from people from all walks of life, mainly circling around the idea that they are wasting their time and not working hard enough on their own lives – basically framing them as whiny.
This reminds me of the notion that unemployed people are lazy – something politicians were talking about a year or so ago when they were debating long-term unemployment aid, and something I frankly find very offensive.
I have met many who are very talented who are aggressively job searching and have just been unable to find a job. Many times they have a high level degree – an MBA or PhD – and employers simply do not want to pay for them right now. In some cases, as in many of the stories I see on TV, they don’t have the right tools. Sending out a million resumes cold, or showing up to a job fair is not going to land you a job, but they don’t know how to do it any other way. And let me tell you from personal experience the career services centers provided for the unemployed are no resource.
I completely agree with #OccupyWallStreet critics notion that there is an entitlement epidemic in this country. I swear if I see one more sad sob story on the news of an unemployed worker who can’t feed their family with a large flat screen behind them or complaining they can’t pay their cable bill I will scream. These are luxury items. People need to learn to live within their means – however meager they may be. As someone who has been through dual unemployment twice I know how suddenly incomes can change, but you make adjustments and keep going. Sometimes things get bad really quickly and that’s what social services, friends and family are for. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it.
Many that are giving the “dig yourself out of your own hole” message either are more intelligent than the average person, or have had opportunities that most haven’t. Because my parents helped put me through college, I have had more opportunity. I know both my husband and I much more well off than most. Read more about a metro Denver couple who had an income of $100,000 a two years ago and is now living in poverty. Or Corbyn Hightower who lost her corporate job and now sustains her family on pedal power and food stamps. This is America.
Those of us who went to public schools were at one point surrounded by all types of people in our society. Some poor, some rich. Some book smart, some not. Some good with their hands, others good with their minds. In any event, all these people need to all go out into the world and work somewhere.
Working hard, as I have learned first hand, does not mean you will get a job right now and that’s what the #OccupyWallStreet protesters are saying. There are five people for every available job out there. You do the math. And that’s assuming you are qualified for the job. There is a great job skills mismatch in this country. Workforce Investment Boards have been saying that for two years now. Instead of focusing our efforts on how to retrain the workforce, politicians and unions seem focused on grasping at shadows of jobs that have no future, and closing borders to educated immigrants who can create living-wage jobs.
I know what many of you will say to us collective unemployed – well make your own job and start your own business. I explained earlier why I have been hesitant about this – namely about giving up any rights to my unemployment compensation – one thing that is certain in uncertain times. And I know from working closely with entrepreneurs, not everyone is cut out to own their own business. It takes guts, resilience and hustle. And to be truly successful it takes good business sense, leadership and organizational skills. For better or worse, some just don’t have these attributes, and that’s why so many small businesses fail within their first three years. Just because you are good at doing something, does not make you a good business owner.
I don’t pretend to have the answers to these issues, and I still don’t know if #OccupyWallStreet is an effective use of an unemployed person’s time. What I do know is it has sparked a debate in this country and got people talking, and that will make all the difference.