Michael Snyder, Contributor
All over America tonight there are people that believe that their lives are over. When you do everything that you know how to do to get a job and you still can’t get one it can be absolutely soul crushing. If you have ever been unemployed for an extended period of time you know exactly what I am talking about. When you have been unemployed for month after month it can be very tempting to totally cut yourself off from society. Those that are kind will look at you with pity and those that are cruel will treat you as though you are a total loser.
It doesn’t matter that America is in decline and that our economy is not producing nearly enough jobs for everyone anymore. In our society, one of the primary things that defines our lives is what we do for a living. Just think about it. When you are out in a social situation, what is one of the very first things that people ask? They want to know what you “do”. Well, if you don’t “do” anything, then you are not part of the club. But the worst part of being unemployed for many Americans is the relentless pressure from family and friends. Often they have no idea how hard it is to find a job in this economy – especially if they still have jobs. Sometimes the pressure becomes too great.
Sadly, we are seeing unemployment break up a lot of marriages in America today. Things are really hard out there right now. A very large number of highly educated Americans have taken very low-paying service jobs in recent years just so that they can have some money coming in even as they “look for something else”. Unfortunately, in many cases that “something else” never materializes. In the past, America was “the land of opportunity” where anything was possible. But today America has become “the land of lowered expectations” and the worst is yet to come.
We live during a time when “the American Dream” is literally being redefined. In the old days, just about anyone could get a good job that would pay enough to make it possible to buy a house, buy a nice car and raise a family.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone. The following is from a recent NPR article….
The town of Lorain, Ohio, used to embody this dream. It was a place where you could get a good job, raise a family and comfortably retire.
‘Now you can see what it is. Nothing,’ says John Beribak. ‘The shipyards are gone, the Ford plant is gone, the steel plant is gone.’ His voice cracks as he describes the town he’s lived in his whole life.
‘I mean, I grew up across the street from the steel plant when there was 15,000 people working there,’ he says. ‘My dad worked there. I worked there when I got out of the Air Force. It’s just sad.’
We live in an economy that is in serious decline. In this environment no job is safe. In fact, even Goldman Sachs is laying off workers these days.
Millions of Americans are suffering from deep depression because they can’t find jobs. Many of them are sitting at home right now blankly starting at their television screens as they wonder why nobody wants to hire them. Some have been unemployed for years and have sent out thousands upon thousands of resumes. The following is from a recent article by J.P. Hicks….
I have a brilliant cousin with a $180K Syracuse education working part-time at a department store. She has literally sent out 38,000 resumes in the span of a year to no avail. I have another very bright friend with the kindest heart who is so desperate he has applied for dishwashing jobs and didn’t get them, sending him deeper into depression. I’m sure we all know people like this, or perhaps have even been there ourselves.
Society has trained us to believe that we are worthless without a job. Indeed, we feel worthless when we are unemployed with few prospects of making money. Family, friends, and peers constantly remind us in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that we ‘need’ a job.
Have you ever been unemployed?
How did it make you feel?
How were you treated by your family and friends?
In the old days, a college education was almost a guaranteed ticket to the middle class.
But these days, a college education guarantees you absolutely nothing.
As a recent article by Jed Graham detailed, most young unemployed workers in America today have at least some college education….
For the first time in history, the number of jobless workers age 25 and up who have attended some college now exceeds the ranks of those who settled for a high school diploma or less.
Out of 9 million unemployed in April, 4.7 million had gone to college or graduated and 4.3 million had not, seasonally adjusted Labor Department data show.
Overall, 53 percent of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed last year.
It is tough to tell young college graduates with their whole lives ahead of them that they need to lower their expectations because America is in decline.
Well, one place they went is overseas. Over the past couple of decades, millions upon millions of good jobs have left the United States and have gone over to the other side of the world.
That is why you see gleaming new factories going up all over China even while our once great manufacturing cities are turning into crime-infested warzones.
But as a recent WND article reported, the WTO has a solution. They plan to replace “Made in China” labels with “Made in the World” labels so that we don’t feel so bad about losing our jobs and our economic infrastructure…
The World Trade Organization is moving closer to eliminating country-of-origin labels and replacing them with ‘Made in the World’ initiative labels because they say we need to ‘reduce public opposition to free trade’ and ‘re-engineer global governance.’
As the number of middle-class jobs has steadily declined in recent years, the number of low paying service jobs has increased.
Could your family survive on 10 dollars an hour?
Today, you can find hordes of very smart, very talented Americans flipping burgers, waiting tables and welcoming people to Wal-Mart.
Sadly, the United States now has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.
Perhaps we should applaud our leaders for doing such a great job of destroying the American Dream.
Because so many Americans are working crappy jobs, a very large percentage of them have absolutely no savings to speak of.
According to one survey, 42 percent of all American workers live paycheck to paycheck.
I am constantly encouraging people to save up an “emergency fund” that will enable them to pay their bills for at least 6 months if they suddenly become unemployed.
Unfortunately, for many Americans that is simply not possible. Way too many families are just barely scraping by from month to month.
Another area of the economy where Americans are facing lowered expectations is in housing.
In the old days, most Americans dreamed of owning their own homes.
But today we are being told that things have changed. For example, a recent USA Today article was entitled “Home rentals — the new American Dream?“….
Steve and Jodi Jacobson bought their Phoenix-area ‘dream home’ in 2005. They built flagstone steps to the front door. They tiled the kitchen and bathroom. They entertained often, enjoying their mountain views.
‘We put our soul into that house,’ says Steve Jacobson, 37.
Then, home prices tanked more than 50%. Steve, a software quality assurance engineer, suffered pay cuts. In 2010, foreclosure claimed the home and their $100,000 down payment.
The Jacobsons didn’t lose their desire to live in a single-family home, however. They now rent one, like many other former homeowners displaced by foreclosure.
Is that what we are supposed to tell future generations of Americans?
“Listen Johnny and Suzie, if you work really, really hard at your minimum wage jobs perhaps someday you will be able to rent a home that has been foreclosed by a big, greedy bank”.
It is so sad to watch what is happening to this country.
Many are turning to debt in an attempt to bridge the gap. According to CNN, 40 percent of “low- and middle-income households” are using credit cards to pay for basic living expenses.
Overall, U.S. consumers have more than 11 trillion dollars in debt right now.
That is an incredible number.
As the economy has declined, a lot of families have completely given up trying to make it on their own and have turned to the U.S. government for financial help. Today, an astounding 49.1 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives government benefits.
Just think about that number for a while. It is one of the clearest signs that America is in deep, deep decline.
Unfortunately, things are about to get even worse. The next wave of the financial crisis is unfolding in Europe and we will all be talking about another “major global recession” very soon.
That means that unemployment in the United States is going to get a lot worse.
For the millions upon millions of Americans that are already suffering through the horror of unemployment, that is really bad news.
Posted below is a trailer for a new HBO documentary entitled “Hard Times: Lost on Long Island”. Please take a few minutes to watch this video, because I think it does a good job of showing the soul crushing despair that many unemployed Americans are going through right now….
So do any of you have any stories of lowered expectations to share? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….
This article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse Blog. Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.