by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
I just finished my 99 weeks of unemployment and I am glad to be done. I sent out over 70 resumes and had only three job interviews in all of that time. I hated to be tied to looking for work and "wasting" away. I am now 64 years old, I have a Master's degree and over 30 years of experience in computer technology, but I couldn't even get a damn job answering telephones and doing document copying! To top it off, I am in a very affluent area of California – north of the Golden Gate, not in the middle of Wyoming or Kansas. There are tech firms all over the area.
Since I knew my unemployment was running out, I filled for Social Security and it starts next month. I am grateful that my wife and I are sort of "set". We have no major debt that we can't cover, a healthy portfolio and enough equity in our house to withstand any major decrease in value.
What scares us is medical.
Fortunately, I start Medicare in August and my wife has a small pension (and I mean less than $600 a month) that also pays for her medical expenses. That's been a lifesaver for us. She has MS, diabetes, high blood pressure and now we think she has a possibility of heart disease. She is not obese, and in fact, has been losing weight which means her diabetes is acting up.
Without the assurance of medical care, we would be sunk. We both had dental problems this year (not covered by Medicare, by the way) and the bill along this year will total around $7,000. That will be about what I have been paying for my private medical insurance.
If Frum wanted me to work for my benefits, which in practice I don't mind (even from my progressive self), then put in me in a position where I can provide service to people with my skill set. I would have loved to teach in a school or provide after school training or even doing routine computer work for our county government. That way I could have proved to employers that I can work, work hard and have relevant up-to-date skills. For those 99 weeks, I watched as my skill set started to fade as newer technologies came on board and I didn't have the work experience to match when I sent out my resumes.
But, if you want me to work, figure out how you're going to pay for my medical expenses. For the last 7 years, I have had private medical insurance as I was an independent contractor. I commanded a six figure income and as such, I could afford it. When the bottom dropped out 99 weeks ago, my income went to zero. $450 a week (my unemployment) was barely enough to cover our expenses. We had to draw against our savings, but thankfully only a small amount. Since that money wasn't subject to state income taxes, nor payroll taxes, it was barely sufficient.
I don't know what I would be doing now, if I wasn't approaching Medicare and my first Social Security check. To be honest, I'd be depressed and angry at someone.
All of the stimulus packages that I can recall were all constructive related. That's good if you're a truck driver or a mechanic, but me – a white collar mid-line tech professional? Not going to help.
We need a stimulus that will grab everyone. Not just a few. Can you imagine the impact that would have? I am sure there would be plenty of things that a bi-partisan group could agree on that could use more people. Why isn't anyone proposing this?
I'd go back to work in heartbeat, if someone would hire me.