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David Dennis interviews American Mike Mauss on How to Survive Unemployment

Q) Do you feel the “middle class” is neglected, abused? Unable to sustain themselves from welfare and unable to continue their lives until they get back into unemployment? Almost in a “void”?

A) Very well put, David. It used to be that the middle class had jobs that lasted for life. They had houses at the shore and they took vacations every year. Now, they are paying insurance costs for their kids’ college, getting hammered by the collapse of the housing market and spending more and more on simply getting by. That’s all fine if you’re working at the sort of job you’ve been educated and trained for — a white collar job. However, knock a leg out from under that structure and it can all go to pieces.

Even the lower class (and no one in America will ever admit that they are in the lower class) can’t get by on welfare. Bill Clinton eliminated that back in the ‘90s. It was probably a good thing, as it was insanely destructive to the families caught in it. People took all their time to fulfil the bureaucratic demands of welfare, leaving them no time to get off welfare. It was very similar to the situation in Britain– attend work sessions and classes all the time and have no real time to find the all-important job you need in order to escape.

Q) Welfare was destructive? I would have thought the destruction of industry was more apt to the description of “destructive”.

A)  Nope. People are pretty good at finding new jobs–the industrial sector has basically either moved up to the lower-white collar jobs or into service jobs. People who need to make $30 an hour to get by can’t compete in a global economy by making shoes. If you go to the places in the Rust Belt where the big factories closed, you’ll find new businesses, mostly in information technology and services, have popped up.

The industries that are left are producing things that simply cannot be produced in a low-tech society. Things like specialty steel, the first set of computer chips, etc. No, the real squeeze on the middle class has been the insane lowering of taxes on the very rich. That, David, is where the real problems lie.

Q) Let us say, for example, the middle class guy gets fired– he needs a job– he’s offered a job making computer chips– does he take it? Or does he turn it down? He has 4 kids, a mortgage, not a quid to his name– credit cards maxed out– what does he do?

A) Well, he is going to take a big step back, that’s almost certain. The most important thing he must know is that he can’t take a job that won’t cover the ‘nut’. You have to keep looking until you find something that will pay enough to get you by. People say to me, “We can’t do that! How do we survive?” and I always say the same thing in reply. I had two kids, two mortgages, credit cards maxed out and I survived for years. You just have to hustle. The trick is to do it without becoming depressed or breaking up the family. I put two kids through good universities, have a 730 Credit Score and a house with a mortgage– I survived and so can you!

Q) Would you say the family unit becomes more important when you are unemployed?

A) Of course. It’s important because it’s important. That’s where real life is– not at work–  and because you’ll get by a lot easier with someone helping you than on your own. I’m not saying don’t go to work at crappy jobs. You get whatever you can when you can, but your primary focus has to be on getting a real job with benefits (medical costs are the real killer here).

Q) Medical costs? Of course, those aren’t taken care of under the US system of unemployment, correct?

A) No. The main causes of bankruptcy in the US are medical bills and the mortgage. I thought it was wonderful that the Mortgage Bankers Association walked away from its mortgage on a building in Washington, DC; but they tell all the rest of us how paying our mortgage is a “moral duty”. It’s getting a bit better now, but as a responsible family member, you have to seriously consider whether paying a medical bill is worth destroying your life.