In These Times invites you to Meet The Missing Workers. As legislators like Blaine Lemmingmeyer ignore their constituents and take their marching orders from the Koch Brothers they leave millions of Americans to fend for their themselves in an economy their ideology created. These Americans are veterans, taxpayers, and citizens that are the future of this country.
Back in 1990, George Grasmann earned more than $50,000 a year as a systems engineer. For a time, he rented a comfortable, spacious house outside Tampa, Fla. Today, he lives on less than $13,000 a year in part of a rented garage.
Grasmann’s tech career ended with a layoff in 2000, after which he shifted to taking any short-term job he could find. He lost his last job, with a pest control firm, in 2009. Since then, he says that he has sent out 1,500 applications for jobs with no success. Federal extension of unemployment assistance helped him survive and fueled his job search until he exhausted the full 99 weeks (an option no longer open to the unemployed, since Congressional Republicans repeatedly blocked renewal of extended benefits—although a new Senate extension deal awaits House approval).
Grasmann pawned personal belongings and ran through his retirement savings. He relied on food stamps until last year, when Republican-initiated changes made him ineligible. He was denied Social Security disability, but eventually the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ruled that his severe arthritic pain and other health problems justified disability payments, which constitute his only income.
Who would treat their fellow citizens this way?
Davis blames the Tea Party and its corporate backers for destroying “everything I have worked for [over] the past 40 years. I feel like the media and certain parts of the government are ignoring the problem of unemployed Americans, and we are being shoved into some sort of ‘under community’ with no way out.”
Since George Grasmann isn’t the type of man to give up, what does he think should be done?
Indeed, the decline of labor market participation bolsters the case for a large-scale job-creation plan from federal, state and local governments, as well as the Federal Reserve. This could benefit both the jobless and jobholders. Without millions of desperate job seekers—and millions more “missing workers” in reserve—the balance of power would tip toward workers. The lowest-paid could bargain to earn more, thus reducing inequality, as economists Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein argue in their new book, Getting Back To Full Employment.
Perhaps most importantly, a stimulus would help people like Grasmann and Davis come in from the cold. “It is hard to avoid feeling like a used-up relic with not enough sense to just go away,” Grasmann writes in an e-mail. “I counter it with the idea that I was put here for a reason. For all I know my purpose is being fulfilled by telling this story to anyone who will listen.”