Un Thoughts

Okay, I’m crabby. And if you can be crabby when you have a beautiful red-headed granddaughter, you’re crabby.

I was fired from my job of 9½ years. It was done in a way that means not only was I assisted out the door, I’ll have to fight a bureaucracy to get any unemployment. After years of great reviews.

So I’m looking at that bureaucracy with an even more than usually jaundiced eye. I haven’t been in the system for quite a while, at least in a way that meant more than getting a license renewed from the nice folks at the Secretary of State’s Office. I did take a dead duck to my friend Joanne at the DNR, but that’s another story.

To begin with, the friendly way to apply for unemployment insurance benefits in Michigan is online. Not so friendly to those fourteen people in the country who have dial-up. Less so to those who have no internet connection, or no computer, or no computer skills. Mostly the older, poorer demographic.

So you call. I kept track of the times I tried. The time I got through, it took me fourteen calls over 35 minutes to get to a real, live, wonderful State employee who spent the time on the phone with me to go through the questions I needed to answer and have answered. Each of those fourteen times I called, (and on other calls that didn’t get through at other times) I gave the same information to an automated and complex system that went through many steps before getting to the “We can’t possibly answer your call now – call back” bit.

Go to an office? The nearest is over an hour away, in Marquette. Again, only those without cars or gas money (unemployed, say?) are affected.

I am one of the lucky people in the world. I have a life that suits me well in most ways, full of family, beloved community, and purposeful activity, not to mention music to warm my soul. My husband still has a job. (Thank you!) I can collect Social Security if I need to. I am self employed.

What if I weren’t so lucky? What if I were fired from my CNA job for no particular reason, with two small children, cars that tend to break, and an underemployed husband? What if I had no vehicle, a baby, and the jobs were in the next community? What if, at this age, I were widowed with no skills?

There’s a hole in the bucket and the people fall out
There’s money underground but you can’t get it out
When you stand at the State House and smile and say “please?”
There’s a hole in the bucket for the people in need.

Catie Curtis wrote that in 1991. It was right many years ago when she came through Escanaba and did a concert for Delta Folks. It’s right still, most unfortunately.

It may be worse now, because for all our lip service about helping people here in the most wealthy country in the world, we really don’t want your poor, your tired, your struggling masses. We’d like someone with a great tan, who will employ lots of big box store workers to sell things from overseas factories that pollute the air, and put the profits in a Caribbean bank.

We operate personally from a sense of anxiety that the future we see on screens might not be the future we’ll get after all. This makes us susceptible to the feeling that “someone else” might get an unfair advantage and get ours. Divide and conquer, eh?

I’d like to return to that “love one another” thing that so many of the world’s religions espouse. And while we’re at it, let’s love the earth, too. We may get to live here for quite a while yet, and we might as well make it enjoyable for ourselves and those grandbabies.

I propose a solution to at least one piece of this mudpie.

The bureaucracy suffers from understaffing. The citizens suffer from unemployment. With centralized, digitized systems, there is no reason not to hire more workers even in remote locations. If employment is the way to a more prosperous system, why are we still automating people out of jobs? Why are we exporting employment to other countries?

Government exists. That may be a fundamental mistake we made a long time ago, but my understanding of its function is: to do the things we can’t do for ourselves; to protect the rights of all citizens while dealing for the greater good; to answer to the people. I submit that the fear of “big government” is not a fear of more telephone answering State workers. It’s a fear of control from the top down, manipulated by special interests.

Hire the personnel, Mr. Snyder. We deserve it, even in small demographics like mine.

Next post: grandbabies. Not a rant

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