Friday, September 16, 2011

Are the 99ers Gaming the System?

After all these years (three and counting) many people still have no clue as to the true state of our economy, or the real unemployment situation here in the United States...or in the rest of the world for that matter. Where exactly have these people been, and why do they always insist of using anecdotal stories to make their senseless and unfounded points?

"I once knew this guy that refused a job..."

These people still accuse the jobless of "gaming the system", as though it's some kind of widespread abuse. But how can a 99er game the system? Wouldn't they have already gamed it, and are no longer qualified to game any longer? Who or what could they game now? Wouldn't they already be gameless? Haven't they already used up all their gaming tokens? Some of these 99ers haven't gamed for over a year, so why would they still refuse a job and be accused of gaming the system?

It was about this time three years ago in 2008, after Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, that AIG failed and the taxpayers had to bail out the banks when the stock market crashed - and when millions of Americans were being laid off from their jobs, never to find employment again. But there are those who still have never grasped the significance of this failure in our government, our financial system, and the corporate greed that had brought about Great Recession.

Update from the Bureau of Labor Statistics - Number of unemployed Americans currently receiving jobless benefits:
Regular State benefits


Laid off 26 weeks ago or earlier (Since March 2011)
Federal Extended Benefits


Laid off 26 to 99 weeks ago ( Funding expires Jan. 2012)
99ers and Exhaustees
Est.7 million
Laid off 99 weeks ago or longer (Exhausted all UI benefits.)

Currently the "reported" unemployment rate (U-3) is 9.1% and 9,209,574 people are currently receiving some form of unemployment insurance compensation (either State or Federal). These numbers have been fairly consistent since early 2010, up until the present. Week after week, as the first people who had been laid off in 2008 and 2009 were exhausting all their unemployment benefits, other people were just being laid off in 2010 and 2011. Think of it as a conveyor belt - as some people fell off, others were just hopping on. Those on the conveyor belt were receiving some form of UI benefits and were counted as unemployed. Those who fell off (the 99ers and "exhaustees") were swept under the carpet and either moved in with friends or family, is living in a homeless shelter or on the streets, or they took their own lives. This is also why the poverty rate went so high over the last 3 years, and why the number of people receiving food stamps has skyrocketed.

Yesterday I saw Bernie Sanders on MSNBC and he said that the real unemployment rate is 16%, and that 21 million people are now without a job. He didn't say UNDER-employed (as is the U-6 rate), but people with no job at all (as reported for the U-3 rate). Sander's number would also tally close to my estimate of 7 million 99ers and exhaustees (those with no job and no income) + 14 million the government reports as unemployed = 21 million total.

Now add to these 7 million "exhaustees", another 4.1 million people currently receiving federal benefits (if the FUNDING isn't renewed in Obama's American Jobs Act). Now add to that those who will exhaust all their federal benefits between today and January 2012. Now that number would be well over 11.2 million people with no job and no income at all after the end of this year (4 months from now).

Who can honestly say there are currently 11.2 million jobs in America, (whether they be full-time, part-time, or temporary) and that most of these people (who no longer collect any unemployment benefits at all) are deliberately refusing jobs?

So then, how could those who are still receiving unemployment benefits be expected to fare any better that those who don't? If those who are collecting unemployment benefits are supposedly "gaming the system", what are those other 11.2 million people doing without any benefits at all? Who or what are they supposed to be "gaming"?

How many jobs have already been outsourced by American corporations to China, India, Vietnam, Korea, Canada, and Mexico? With the pending trade agreement, how many more will be sent to Colombia, Korea and Panama? And what about the "multiplier affect"? How many more jobs were created in foreign countries by all those jobs outsourced to foreign countries? If all those jobs had never left our shores, what might be the unemployment rate in the U.S. be today? If all those jobs had never left our shores, would we still have budget deficits?

Yet despite all this, many people still think that millions of unemployed Americans are just lazy drug addicts and gaming the system, even though they're no longer receiving benefits! And not just ignorant wing-nuts or young people, but grown-ups in congress too!

I visited this one Facebook group for the unemployed the other day to post another article I wrote and found this posted in comments:

Johnny Segovia wrote: Sorry 99ers, I've been laid off twice and found job replacements. Do I make less money? Yes. Did I have to depart my previous career and start a new one? Yes. Working and making less is much better than no job at all.

I asked: Are you older than 55?

He simply replied: 34

I said: Get back to me in 20 years and let me know what your job prospects are then.

He responded: In 20 years I will probably retire in Mexico or in South America. I won't have a retirement plan since my 401K has tanked. This country is setting up Americans for a ugly future.

I replied: I've already looked into that when I USED to have some money in stocks, savings, and an IRA account. It was in an American retirement community in Mexico on Lake Chapala. You have to have a minimum of $35,000 in the bank and a steady income of at least $1,000 a month before the Mexican authorities will let you retire there. (and/or, I had forgotten which) Good luck with that idea...saving that kind of money on a low-paying job might take longer than 20 years. Don't drink the water and learn Spanish too!

Johnny Segovia later comments: The problem 99ers are running into is people taking advantage of the UI benefits. I worked for a company two years ago that laid off 40 people including myself. I know 6 people who did not look for a job and lived off the UI benefits until they expired. Those are the people that give the 99ers a bad rap. I am in support of 99ers but you need to include some sort of check and balance for people who are looking for a job.

I replied: It's only human nature. A small segment of every society will always try to game the system. Insurance fraud, employee theft, Social Security disability, politicians and other "public servants", etc. But the greater percentage of us aren't thieves, yet we are treated as though we were, and punished nonetheless for the bad deeds of others.

Medicare fraud by doctors and hospitals is much greater, as are government contractors in the defense and aerospace industries (as are the bankers and "payday" loaners). They are the biggest offenders. And of the small proportion of those who receive UI benefits: If they're not looking for a low-paying part-time temporary job, that is minuscule when you look at the bigger picture. 

The 99ers are just a weak and defenseless target, already brought down to their knees. They're easy to bully, insult, and blame. They already know about "checks and balances", and they also know about "check and check-mate".

Debbie Adams sounded off: Johnny Segovia you are right. I know someone who is now on unemployment and is not looking for work. He did not start looking until 2 days ago when he got a notice saying they were stopping his benefits. Because he was not looking, now that he is almost at the end of the 99 weeks. So he floated for almost the full term of unemployment.

I should have asked: Somebody always "knows someone"...but how could you possibly know if these people really looked for work or not?

Johnny Segovia replied: Many people do float until they run out HOPING the government extends their benefits. I have a temp job that might end next year, but my unemployment will reset. (keeping my fingers cross my job continue for a bit longer).

I replied: What do you say to those like me whose benefits expired over a year ago and still can't find any job at all? There are several million other people just like me.

Of course, when you're first laid off, you don't take the very first job you can find if it doesn't even pay the mortgage and car payment. You look for the best paying job you can get. You can't just decide one day to live in a cheaper place or buy a cheaper car if you're locked in to a financial obligation with a bank. Also, if you take a temporary job paying much less than your previous job, then get laid off again, your UI benefits are recalculated to pay even less than before.

You want to move into a cheaper apartment? The landlord asks to see your last two pay stubs. People aren't just refusing jobs to get a free ride, they might need a little extra money to feed their kids too. If they don't meet child support, they could lose their drivers license in many states, and lose visitation rights...and go to jail. There are many other things to factor in. Its not as cut and dried as you'd like to believe, it's much more complicated than that.

And then I added: When most people are first laid off, they look for work in a field they're familiar with, or trained in, or went to school for, or are qualified for. A nurse doesn't look for a job delivering newspapers any more than a CEO would look for a job in the mailroom. They first look for a job paying a compatible wage, close to what they were previously paid.

It's only after many weeks (or months) later, and after many applications and rejections, do they start lowing the bar and their expectations, a little at a time, until they are finally reduced to just taking ANY job at all.

People like myself who were first laid off in late 2008, might have thought it might be the same after 911, when we had layoffs, but then the economy quickly recovered, and companies began calling workers back. No one back then (me included) would have ever thought the recession would have lasted this long. If I had known, I would have immediately stopped making my car payments and bought an old clunker while I still had cash in the bank.

People who were laid off 6 months ago, or even a year ago, had a much better understanding of how bad things really were, and they also had much more time to plan and save. The first people hit (like myself) had no idea what was coming, had no time to prepare, and was just winging it as best we could.

I was a casino bartender for 20 years, so naturally I sought a similar job. Two years later I was applying for busboy positions at the local restaurants and I even applied at a truck driving school.

And being older at 55 years old and being out of work for 2 years by that time, just made my prospects even dimmer. Now after 3 years, it's almost impossible.

I didn't hear back from anyone after that. If there ever is another reply, I'm too busy to reply again. But just like Ronald Reagan said during the second Presidential debate in 1984, "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."


  1. If we now have 21 million people unemployed, and over 9.2 million are CURRENTLY receiving unemployment benefits, why does the media (like MSNBC just did this morning), keep saying we lost 8.7 million jobs during the recession? Are they also saying that another 12.3 million jobs were lost AFTER the recession ended?

  2. What "gaming the system"? You don't QUALIFY for UI in the first place unless YOUR employer is responsible for your job loss. You can't fake a layoff or a termination in order to get UI.

    Let's quit giving the liars on the right an excuse by claiming anybody on UI "games" the system. You don't have to take work that is NOT suitable--those are the rules. There are few jobs of ANY kind that can be had--those are the FACTS. Besides, why are the 99ers still unemployed if they are "gaming" the system? They would have to be looking for work in order to survive, but the jobs simply aren't there.

  3. He shoots, he scores! I am sooooooo pissed and tired of hearing people dismiss and disrespect the long term unemployed by giving them the "take any job" speech. First of all, there aren't a ton of "any jobs" flying around that we've been refusing.

    Secondly, life as an unemployed person is exactly as you depicted. You start out assuming that you'll get a comparable job.. when that doesn't happen, you start thinking about what you can give up. You give up premium cable channels, magazine and Netflix subscriptions, and any other pleasurable pursuits. You stop going to movies, going out to dinner, buying take-out. You cook at home more. You eventually decide which credit cards are more important to pay than others until enough time goes by that you realize that you can't afford to pay any of them...and all the while you continue to look for work, any work so that you can stop the freefall.

    But then it begins: the downward spiral where you can't pay anything at all...and wind up losing your home...and putting those possessions, the ones you haven't sold for food and shelter, in storage somewhere and sleeping on your elderly mother's living room couch. Like me.