Jobless Recovery

Monday, October 24, 2011

How is it a Recovery Without Jobs?

My dad is a World War II vet, a great American, who took himself from an eighth grade education to founding his own plumbing company that he ran successfully for more than 50 years. My dad is also blunt and outspoken. My mom accuses him of being tactless. But you know what? At least with Dad, he not only speaks the truth, he knows the difference between a lie and the truth. Even now, as the memories fade, and Dad sometimes experiences confusion, he knows the truth.

That's why when politicians and news announcers smirk into the camera and tell us to cheer up at the good news because we're experiencing a jobless recovery, Dad doesn't cheer up. His reaction goes more like this: "Well." He rears back in his chair. Then he makes a pig snorting sound and slowly shakes his head. "Bunch of damn liars took over the news and the government. Just how the hell is it any kind of recovery when people have no jobs?"

That's what I'm wondering. And from what I hear from my friends, a lot of other people are wondering the same thing. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupy Wall Street — I'm Confused

I was at first astonished and then pleased to learn about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Finally, I thought, Americans have woken up and decided to do something about the greed and the financial risk taking that have impacted us all and dragged our economy into recession. 

As I've followed the story, though, I'm greatly troubled by the vagueness of the OWS goals. It seems everyone I ask has a different take on just what it is they want. My initial enthusiasm has fizzled to dismay.

If what I'm hearing in interviews with the OWS people is true, I can't share their goals. Handouts? Free everything, courtesy of the government? Pile more taxes on the rich? Tell me, what good does it do to tax the rich? The tax money simply flows into the hands of the people in Washington who have done such a great job of bankrupting our country and making ridiculous laws. Why should the government be our nanny and decide what we can and can't have?

I'm sorry OWS. I wanted to believe that you could do something to change things for the better. I really did.

I don't believe the American people hate capitalism. I believe they hate corporate greed. Corporations owe no allegiance to this country or any other. Their sole motivator is profits. They are run by people apparently obsessed with power and money. Greed rules and Wall Street is their god, and you'd better not get in their way. A company announces mass layoffs to increase profits and their stock prices skyrocket. There's a lot wrong with that picture.

When it comes down to it, it's pretty outrageous for corporations that do business in this country to make use of our infrastructure and all the other benefits of operating in our country with its stable government. Corporations demand the power and protection of the US military. They want access to American consumers. There's only one catch. These same corporations don't want to hire Americans. Too pricey. Too many benefits. They've solved that problem by not only shipping most of the work overseas, but even laying off Americans and importing cheaper workers into the United States to take jobs. It's easy, thanks to the laws they've bought for themselves with their campaign contributions.

Job losses mean the end of the American dream, a drop in the standard of living, and, thanks to what they call a "jobless recovery," there's no way out. The Americans I know want a paycheck, not a government handout. They don't want to occupy Wall Street, they want to go to work. They want corporate accountability, not CEO's collecting millions in salary and stock options while ordinary workers collect pink slips. And they want an end to our current way of doing business where campaign contributions buy favors. Is that so much to ask?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

#SampleSunday Get Real: A Jobless Recovery is like a Moneyless Paycheck

It didn't take long for the characters in my novel, Jobless Recovery, to figure out the government had engineered the economic downturn and was now lying to them about the recovery. 

Dave Griffin is a poster boy for the American consumer. He drives a blood-colored Behemoth model SUV, has a new home in the suburbs, a beautiful girlfriend, a computer programming job, and all the benefits that come with middle class life in America. Then Dave's employer replaces American computer programmers with cheaper imported labor in order to increase company profits. Soon Dave is out on the street. But he still believes in the system. All he has to do is bring the problem to the attention of the media and the people in Washington to get results. This move only deepens his trouble.
Meanwhile, Dave's friend Joe Tremaine, a former FBI agent who lost his job after suffering a head injury, is struggling to stay sane. Cynical Joe knows better than to trust anyone in Washington or in corporate America. He embroils Dave in his fraudulent money-making schemes, and when Joe decides to educate the powerful senator who has been the driving factor in eliminating American jobs, his plan goes awry. Can an unemployed computer jockey manage to keep Joe--and himself--out of jail? Or will the oddly-shaped bundle in the back of Joe's truck lead the cops to haul them both to the slammer?

What others are saying about Jobless Recovery: “Jobless Recovery will push all your buttons as it tells a story that is too close to reality for many of us. It was a real think piece for me and I recommend the book highly.”--Sandy Nathan, award-winning author of Numenon and former Economic Analyst, Santa Clara County, California

"A brutally honest look at corporate America's flaws and desperate people caught in the middle, Jobless Recovery is a masterful, gripping piece of fiction that rings true with every word. Candid, suspenseful and moving. Jobless Recovery was a very enjoyable read, one of the best novels I've read in a while. I think it would make an awesome movie." --Cheryl Kaye Tardif, bestselling author

A brief excerpt: 

Joe waited until the lone customer cleared the convenience store before he went in to steal cigarettes. The security camera only worked half the time, and the clerk, Howard Simms, always made sure that the down time coincided with Joe’s visits. Joe would give him some of the stolen cigarettes later.
Howard glanced up from his newspaper. He raised his right hand in a halfhearted salute and pried himself from behind the counter to lumber down the narrow aisle to the back, his stocky body moving with the deliberate slowness of a man who’d given up and placed himself on permanent autopilot.
When Howard, former software engineer and now day clerk at the Quick Buy, returned to his station a minute later, Joe had already snared a carton of Marlboros and shoved them under his jacket. He fingered a Snickers bar as if trying to decide whether he wanted to part with seventy-five cents. He finally tossed the Snickers down on the counter and watched it skid to a stop next to a Slim Jim rack.
“Still working, Howard?”
“I’m here, aren’t I? And glad to have a job. I’m buried under a stack of bills a mile high.” Howard jabbed the candy bar with his pudgy fingers. “That be all?”
Joe nodded. He paid with a handful of pennies and nickels that Howard didn’t bother to count.
He collected his Snickers and walked outside like any paying customer, holding his head up and pretending he had places to go. He limped across the parking lot and paused next to the rusting gas pumps to squint into the distance toward the center of town. There was too much haze for him to see, but he knew it was there. Normally the soaring Pyramid Building owned by Markham-Hook Conglomerate dominated Avalon’s skyline, poking heavenward to broadcast to everyone in North Carolina that Markham-Hook meant power. The building’s architect had won an award for the design, a tower with a pyramid forming the top five floors, which he said was inspired by the pyramid on the dollar bill. But Joe thought that from a distance the silver pyramid topped by a gold-colored metal sphere made the building look like a NASA rocket with a wad of chewing gum on top. He spat on the ground, just missing his left shoe.
He planned to go home and do his laundry, but there was no rush, there never was. He’d already washed the breakfast dishes, dried them, put them away, and swallowed his mental illness prevention pill this morning. He decided to reward himself for good behavior with a smoke or two.
Mental illness my ass, Joe thought, grimacing as he tripped over a bump in the sidewalk where tree roots had burst through the concrete. He was as sane as anyone. Saner, because at least he had sense enough to see what the politicians and their corporate campaign contributors were doing to the economy while the brain dead citizens of the country wondered where all the jobs went.