The candidates in the Conservative Party leadership election have been launching their campaigns today – and I’m sure their speeches make a lot of sense if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool, blue-rinsed Tory.
By a curious coincidence, the following social media post floated across my screen today and I wanted to share it. It says:
“While you were so worried Socialism would take your freedoms, Capitalism stole your pension, took your savings, sent your jobs overseas, robbed you of health care, dismantled the educational system, and put you in debt, leaving you only your racism, xenophobia, hate, & guns.”
The reference to guns suggests it wasn’t originally written for the UK, but the other words are entirely accurate. I would substitute “Conservatism” for “Capitalism” and add that it also sold all your public utilities – water, electricity, gas and others – to foreign firms.
None of the candidates in the Conservative leadership race will reverse any of the disasters listed here. They will worsen them. Remember that, as this election campaign goes forward.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
If only this revelation had been released last week.
The message is clear: Conservative councils don’t care about people. They don’t care about safety. They don’t care about human lives.
They care about money.
That is why, according to current figures, 72 people died in an inferno that could have been prevented if the Conservative councillors in Kensington and Chelsea had only chosen safety over savings.
Today (May 9), in Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May has been crowing about the fact that the Conservatives have managed to hang on to control of councils across the UK.
It means the Tories remain free to terrorise people in those council areas – to inflict lower safety standards on them, and ultimately to put their lives in danger as well. I don’t think that is any reason to celebrate.
A costed proposal to fit Grenfell Tower with panels that did not burn was dropped amid pressure from the Conservative council to slash the cost of the refurbishment, the Guardian has been told.
A cladding company which fits nonflammable aluminium panels claimed it provided a £3.3m quote to fit its system to the 24-storey tower in west London at the request of Leadbitter, Kensington and Chelsea’s preferred contractor in 2013.
But a few months later the council decided Leadbitter wanted to spend too much on the refurbishment and put the contract out to tender to save £1.3m. It selected Rydon, which provided a lower price but fitted the building with combustible cladding which caught fire on 14 June 2017, killing 72 people in what lawyers for victims have called a “national atrocity”.
If the solid aluminium cladding had been chosen it would have almost certainly saved lives, fire safety experts said, and it could also have been cheaper. The council’s housing arm ended up agreeing to a budget which put the cost for the plastic-filled aluminium panels and synthetic insulation which burned so fiercely at £3.5m – £200,000 more than the quote for the noncombustible materials.
Did we just have the worst-ever Budget from Britain’s weakest-ever Chancellor? All the indications suggest it.
George Osborne stole his best ideas from the Labour Party and claimed he was trimming his planned austerity back – raising mockery from those who said he was running like a rabbit from Labour’s “back to the 1930s” attack.
“George Osborne blinked,” said Paul Mason on Channel 4 News. “He looked at the scale of austerity he promised in December and realised it wasn’t going to be that popular.”
Did he, though? An alternative view might be that he has been trying to trick us – setting out a plan that suggests a horrific level of cuts at first, then claiming to relent and suggesting that he will inflict less damage and spend lots at the very end of the next Parliament.
So his promise is hideous suffering for four more years, with the vague possibility of greater spending at the end of it – if all has gone well.
Based on his current record, that’s a promise George Osborne can’t keep. Did he balance the books in this Parliament? No. Did he cut the deficit without cutting frontline services? No. Did he balance austerity fairly between the poor and the rich? No – the poor have taken a hugely disproportionate amount of the pain while the richest in the UK are now twice as rich as they were in 2009; for them, we have been in an economic boom.
What a shame those “naughty Trotskyites” (thank you, Mike Collins) at the Torygraph had to burst Osborne’s balloon by pointing out the huge growth of the national debt on his watch – more than £517 billion so far, which is more than every Labour government in history.
Labour’s bank levy and the changes to pensions that would have funded Labour’s tuition fees cut were stolen by Osborne. This is why Labour has been keeping future policies quiet – to prevent such things from happening. In making these moves, Osborne has helped Labour because critics of Labour’s failure to announce policies in advance will now have to shut up.
He said living standards would be back where they were in 2010 by the end of the current financial year – but using a scale (Real Household Disposable Incomes) that is disputed, and in any case is only a projection. According to the Mean Income scale, we’re nowhere near.
And Osborne’s claim assumes that household incomes will rise by no less than 3.1 per cent this year. Unlikely!
And remember – as Mr Mason put it: “Prices are falling because of oil prices and potential deflation; it’s not because a load of bricklayers and plumbers and taxi drivers are putting down their prices – and wages up.”
He repeated the claim that he has halved the deficit – but this is as a proportion of GDP. What if we have another economic shock (as seems likely) and GDP drops? Suddenly that figure won’t look as good. In money terms, the deficit has come down by around one-third to something like £90 billion a year. This means Osborne hasn’t even achieved what the previous Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling, said was possible in 2010 – and Labour would not have caused anything like the misery George Osborne’s party and the Liberal Democrats created for people on housing benefit, the sick, the disabled, and low-paid workers.
He didn’t mention the huge budget cuts to come over the next five years (if we get lumbered with more Tory rule) – worse than “anything over the past five years”
As the BBC’s Robert Peston tweeted: “If Tories win, OBR says ‘sharp acceleration’ in pace of cuts to day-to-day spending on public services & admin 2016-17 & 2017-18.” In those two years – under Tory rule – we would get double the amount of austerity cuts that we’ve had at any point in the last four. We don’t even know where those cuts will happen.
It is important to note that we won’t get cuts on anything like this scale under a Labour government, according to shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
In the meantime, Osborne has managed to pull a few rabbits out of his hat:
The tax allowance has been raised again, lifting more low-earners out of paying Income Tax. But those working part-time on low wages, including most apprentices and people who are self-employed, are already unlikely to pay income tax and will miss out entirely on the benefits of this tax change.
Meanwhile the threshold at which people will pay tax at the ‘high’ 40 per cent rate will also rise, meaning people earning up to £42,384 will get a massive tax break.
Beer duty is being cut again.
There will be a new savings tax break, meaning more than 90 per cent of savers won’t pay tax on this money.
And Osborne is launching a new ‘help to buy’ ISA for people trying to get on the property ladder.
All of these remove income from the Treasury, meaning the austerity measures Osborne plans to introduce will be more severe than you may be expecting. Note that the high-earners benefiting from the rise in the tax threshold will profit again – they can’t be hurt by cuts to benefits they don’t receive.
And what about tax dodging? Osborne omitted his failure to tackle this issue from his Budget speech. Perhaps this is because the wounds inflicted by the HSBC scandal are still too raw; perhaps it is because everybody knows Osborne and the Coalition have re-written tax law to make avoidance much easier for the filthy rich and the corporates. 38 Degrees caught the mood in a nutshell:
Regarding the ‘help to buy’ ISA, it’s notable that Osborne didn’t mention the lack of new homes built since 2010.
Osborne did not mention the Coalition government’s disgraceful treatment of the National Health Service at all. There will be no new money for the service. His omission prompted the following – scathing – response:
However, as Mark Ferguson of LabourList pointed out on Twitter: “Cameron again takes credit for more doctors. Now it takes seven years to train a doctor. So those are Labour’s doctors.”
Oh, and there was a sideswipe at the SNP. North Sea oil revenues have taken a vertiginous tumble as a result of the cut in oil prices, meaning investment has also declined markedly. Osborne has cut the supplementary charge and introduced investment incentives to prop up this income stream, in a move that Tom Bradby describes as “trying to shoot SNP foxes”.
On employment, Osborne quoted his claim that there are 1.9 million new jobs and the jobless rate is at 5.3 per cent. He omitted the figures on how many are zero-hours (1.8 million in a snapshot taken last August) or off the dole due to sanctions. The number of people unemployed and not claiming JSA is at its highest level ever, as this graph shows:
[Thanks to @InclusionCESI for this information.]
So, as one commentator put it, the Tories go into the 2015 general election with debt, in-work poverty and net migration higher – and the NHS in crisis compared to 2010.
Labour’s Michael Dugher followed up on this with: “Are the Tories really going to run on ‘You’ve never had it so good’?”
He has offered a few small freebies in a lame bid to influence the vote, hoping all the while that you won’t ask questions about the important economic issues he hasn’t bothered to mention.
Not only are we at the end of a zombie Parliament, but its own chancellor has crippled it in its final lurch to the election.
We all owe a debt of thanks to Richard Murphy, over at Tax Research UK. He has broken down the information in George Osborne’s misleading ‘annual tax statement’ into its component parts and then put a new version together, under categories that more accurately describe the spending concerned.
Then he turned the information into a handy pie chart – similar to Osborne’s but with one major change:
This version is accurate.
Here it is:
Let’s just compare it with Osborne’s…
The most interesting to Vox Political is the perception gap between Mr Murphy’s calculation of the total proportion of tax spent on unemployment benefits – 0.67 per cent – and Osborne’s ‘Welfare’ heading, which constitutes 24 per cent of spending.
Talk to most people about ‘Welfare’ and they’ll think you mean unemployment benefits – so the Osborne chart will make them think that government spending on the unemployed is no less than 36 times as much as is in fact the case.
When a government minister exaggerates the facts by that much, he might as well come out and admit that he’s lying to the people.
Mr Murphy wrote: “This is the statement George Osborne would not want you to see because it makes clear that subsidies, allowances and reliefs extend right across the UK economy. And they do not, by any means, appear to go to those who necessarily need them most. The view he has presented on this issue has been partial, to say the least, and frankly deeply misleading at best.”
He wrote: “Add together the cost of subsidies to banks, the subsidy to pensions and the subsidy to savings (call them together the subsidy to the City of London) and they cost £103.4bn a year – more than the cost of education in the UK.
“It’s also no wonder house prices are so distorted when the implicit tax subsidy for home ownership is £12.6 billion a year.”
He also pointed out that unemployment benefits cost only half the amount used to subsidise personal savings and investments.
For full details of Mr Murphy’s calculations, visit his article on the Tax Research UK site.
Mr Murphy tweeted yesterday: “Almost every commentator now agrees that Osborne is going to spend a fortune sending out tax statements that are wrong. Why not cancel now?”
He won’t unless he’s forced to; he has a political agenda to follow.
That is why Vox Political launched a petition to achieve just that.
If you haven’t already, please visit the petition on the Change.org website, sign it, and share it with your friends.
While you’re at it, feel free to share the infographic, created to support the petition:
The Guardian has announced that he has been trying to mislead the public on the proportion of his planned austerity-led spending cuts that he has already enacted, in order to make it seem that the worst is over.
The newspaper put it a little more diplomatically than that, saying he “got his sums wrong” (and this is the party that most people trust to look after the economy? People are strange) – but we know that Cameron is perfectly aware of where his cuts programme stands and what it is doing, don’t we?
The report has it that Cameron reckons he’ll have imposed four-fifths of the cuts on us by the general election – but the Institute for Fiscal Studies, having examined the figures, said he has not imposed even half of what he has planned.
Cameron said he’ll have made £100 billion worth of “savings” – the IFS says this is hugely inaccurate, and it is more likely that just £23 billion has been cut.
More interestingly, Cameron said the next Parliament (if the Tories are elected) will see a further £25 billion of “savings”. In fact, according to the IFS, he means a further £28 billion of cuts.
Let’s pause for a moment to get our terminology right. Cameron wants us to think he is making “savings” because that implies that services are unaffected – but we know that this is not true. The more accurate description is “cuts”, because he is reducing the services provided using taxpayers’ money wherever he can. Look at your local council and the cuts it is making; those are being dictated by David Cameron. Look at the restrictions that have been imposed on taxpayer-funded social security benefits – both in terms of eligibility and the amount being provided; they are also being dictated by Cameron. He is cutting – not saving.
Now consider the drastic effects of the cuts that have been imposed so far – the way social housing tenants have been terrorised with the Bedroom Tax; the persecution of the physically and mentally ill with the humiliating work capability assessment; the humbling of the English health service that has fallen from its highest satisfaction ratings ever to closed Accident & Emergency departments, inaccessible GPs and faceless Clinical Commissioning Groups who refuse to fund basic medicines for patients.
Tens of thousands of people are dead now, who would have been alive if David Cameron had never become prime minister.
And he wants to increase the agony by more than double.
Oh, but look – here’s why it’s all right: He has cut income tax by £10.5 billion! So we’re all better-off, then. Right?
Wrong. The national debt has nearly doubled since Cameron came to office and the deficit is rising, due to the Tories’ incompetent mishandling of the economy.
Most people are £1,600 worse-off per year. It is only the very rich who are better-off. Their incomes have doubled since Cameron came to office. Does anybody remember him saying he would spread the burden of austerity equally? Another lie.
If you take the average income as £26,000, then £1,600 is around 6.1 per cent of it. That’s what we have lost, every year, on average. The richest one per cent of the population has enjoyed an income increase of 50 per cent.
To my way of thinking, that means these people owe the UK 56.1 per cent of their incomes over the past five years, to bring them into line with the rest of us.
Is Cameron going to make them pay? The proposition seems doubtful. Is he going to make up the shortfall from his own fortune, then?
As British citizens, we are owed that money. It won’t bring back the dead, but it might help stop any more money-driven fatalities.
Sajid Javid? No – this is The Collector, from the Doctor Who serial The Sun Makers, but it’s an easy mistake to make. This charmer’s game was extorting taxes from human refugees who had fled the death of the sun to live under artificial heat sources on Pluto(!) – but revolution triggers a recession in which he literally shrinks down to nothing, disappearing into the commode he appears to be sitting on. If only Mr Javid would do the same!
They say the secret of great comedy is timing, and Sajid Javid’s speech lambasting Labour’s ability with the economy could not come at a better time – to make a fool of him.
Javid heads up the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – you know, the government organisation that offended everybody earlier this week by denying everybody but the Prime Minister a chance to write a personal message on the wreaths laid at a First World War centenary commemoration in Glasgow.
Having made one faux pas already this week, Javid was set to ram his foot even further down his own gullet with his speech knocking Labour.
According to the Telegraph, he was planning to say that Labour’s “basic instinct” is to spend money, the party’s economic policies will leave Britain £500 billion worse-off, and this will be the equivalent of two-thirds of national income in 2035, while the Conservative approach would make it the equivalent of one-third of GDP.
The speech met with scorn before it was even made, over on alittleecon. In an article headlined Tory Minister Sajid Javid plucks some numbers out of his arse, author Alex Little pointed out:
Sajid Javid does not understand economics; national debt is merely an indicator of how much a government wants the economy to be funded by the private sector or the public. As government debt is issued in the form of bonds, all of it represents somebody else’s savings and more government debt means more private savings, while the economy is funded by the public sector.
Whether a low debt-to-GDP ratio is better than a higher one depends entirely on how it has been achieved. A fast-growing, dynamic economy can have a high level of government debt, while a slow-growing economy could have a very low debt-to-GDP ratio.
His timescale covers the next 20 years, making his claim a nonsense from the start. The electoral cycle is only five years so, for Labour to win in 2015 and continue winning until the date Mr Javid uses, they’d have to be doing something right!
Of course, Labour has not produced any spending plans yet and, when they arrive, the totals are unlikely to be hugely different from the Tories’ (although the way the money is used may differ greatly). So Mr Javid has (as Mr Little rather indelicately puts it) plucked some numbers out of his arse.
Mr Javid’s week is going very well – he has ruined a major ceremony with the behaviour of a schoolboy, then followed it up by showing that his understanding of economics – wasn’t he Financial Secretary to the Treasury before moving to the DCMS? Coupled with George Osborne as Chancellor, this could explain much – is worse than that of a schoolboy. And it’s only Wednesday.
Someone’s raiding the pensions piggy-bank: Government changes mean the rich will be subsidised by the poor. [Picture: The Guardian]
We all know that pensioners have a charmed life under the current government – right? Pensions take up around half the £160 billion social security budget and there are other perks like the cold weather payment during the winter months, free bus passes and free TV licences – right?
They get a triple-lock inflation guarantee, under which the state pension rises according to the highest of CPI inflation, the rise in earnings or 2.5 per cent. They get Pension Credit (otherwise known as the Minimum Income Guarantee) to ensure they receive a weekly minimum of more than £140.
So no matter what happens to the rest of us, they’re in clover – right?
Just taking those examples, Tory Liam Fox wants to cut the cold weather payment down to nothing, and the Liberal Democrat Vince Cable wants to means-test or tax pensions. The free TV licence will disappear if the rising clamour to privatise the BBC receives government blessing.
Then there’s the fact that the age at which we can start drawing our pensions is rising – from 65 (for men) and 60 (for women) in 2010 to 68 (for both) by 2046, which may seem a long way into the future but in fact affects people from 2016 onwards.
The government is bringing this in because people are living longer, and this may seem like a reasonable idea – until one takes into account the fact that life expectancy is hugely dependant not only on where you live but on your social class as well.
For example, in Kensington and Chelsea, average male life expectancy in 2010 was 85.1 years, and average female life expectancy was 89.8 years. In Glasgow at the same time, average male life expectancy was 71.6 years – 13.5 less than men in Kensington and Chelsea – and average female life expectancy was 78 years – 11.8 years lower than in Kensington and Chelsea.
Between 2004 and 2010 the gap in life expectancy between the two places increased by one year and 1.7 years for men and women respectively, indicating that health inequalities across the UK are increasing.
Social class also has a huge effect on life expectancy, with people in higher managerial and professional occupations likely to live 3.5 years longer than those in routine occupations.
But they all pay National Insurance contributions for the same period of time – 30 years – in order to qualify for the state pension. This means working class people living in social housing are likely to be paying towards the pensions of upper-middle class professionals in penthouses, as well as their own.
Now the government is introducing the flat-rate pension for people reaching the state pension age who have made 35 years’ National Insurance contributions. The payment will be £144 per week at today’s prices.
People who have built up large savings for their retirement will be considerably better-off because pensions will no longer be means-tested (Pension Credit will be phased out).
Existing pensioners will remain in the old system and are likely to be worse-off than those who qualify for the new pension.
People aged in their 20s at the moment may also be worse-off than under the current system (so, even with pensions, the Coalition government has found a way to attack the young).
And people who have not paid National Insurance for at least seven years in total will not qualify for the new single-tier state pension at all.
Workers who belong to contracted-out final salary schemes pay lower NI contributions at present, but these will rise after 2016. Public sector workers in such schemes will have to pay more.
The couple’s pension rate, which is lower than the individual rate, is being phased out. This means around 30,000 women due to retire in and around 2016 are expected to lose out, as they were relying on their husband’s NI record for a state pension income and will no longer be entitled to it.
We already knew all of that.
Now, the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners says the government is proposing changes to workplace pension schemes that will undermine benefits, increase pension poverty and widen the gap between the private sector and public sector schemes, according to Mature Times.
The proposed changes mean companies will be allowed to change their scheme rules to remove the inflation link for pensions, increase their pension age and get rid of other benefits such as pensions for spouses. This significant downgrade of pension provision means scheme members could reach retirement and then realise that the expected return from their pensions has been severely reduced.
Put it all together and the less wealthy are being subjected to another rip-off – this one delayed until retirement. Who knows how much energy bills will cost by then? How many of us will have rent to pay, or mortgage payments to complete? How much will the weekly groceries cost? Will the equivalent of £144 per week be enough, by then?
And – in the current cutthroat times – how many of us will survive to find out?
David Dennis interviews American Mike Mauss on How to Survive Unemployment
Q) I take it Michael Moore’s portrayal of families being thrown out onto the streets, evicted, families destroyed is, in all reality, the truth?
A) Michael Moore is a lying bastard who uses TV techniques to twist the truth. It’s bad, but there aren’t families on the streets. Everyone works out something– kids move in with their parents, people take in boarders, whatever. There’s always that opportunity to move to somewhere cheaper. My favorite solution, however, is something called “getting a job” and that is why I wrote The Unemployed Guy’s Guide to Unemployment.
Q) That’s the primary focus of your book– getting back into employment. Correct?
A) I break the book down into three parts. Dealing with the shock of being fired; looking for work; and getting by without enough money. Most people look for work in the wrong way. They answer job ads and talk to HR people and fiddle with their resumes. I have been at the receiving end of those CV/ resume emails and I can tell you that all of that is completely useless. The only way to get a decent job is to network with everyone you’ve ever met. Someone, somewhere will see how your skills fit their needs. It’s unreal over here. I’ve seen Harvard grad students applying for internships. This is how bad it is in the States– Al Jazeera just released a list of vacancies and they had 8000 applications in the first three days.
Q) I was told this by an acquaintance of mine– he networks heavily to get business. Is that the kind of thing you would suggest?
A) Networking is everything! People have an idea that the world has changed, that it’s all depersonalized. It’s not. It’s all about who you know, who you’ve helped in the past and who knows you do good work. It’s funny because the only type of people who have absolutely no problem with networking are … rich people. They will use Daddy’s friends to get a job in a split second.
Q) Many people just haven’t got the networking skills to do that, Mike. How can people network if they have no idea how to network?
A) How do you know you can’t? I doubt you’ve really tried. Have you contacted the people you went to school with? How about co-workers from previous jobs? Neighbors? People at your church? Have you asked people for lists of others to contact?
Q) Some people swear by cold emailing. Does that work?
A) No. That’s just annoying generally. But if you get an email that says, “Joe X suggested I contact you about possibilities” no one responds badly to that. Usually, they try to think of a job or give some more suggestions of people to contact. Somewhere along the line, someone says, “Hey, that kid would be perfect for this.” There you go — you have found your “in”.
Q) This is a question that might make you cringe. You have been in some high level jobs. How many people have you hired through cold emails?
A) Well, including interns that only worked for me for a week or less, about ten. Sadly, I’m not usually in a hiring position. However, I’ve found jobs or contacts for others which developed into jobs for probably hundreds. I have done my fair share for the unemployed of the USA. It’s about time others did more to ease the problem.
Q) Mike, you’ve read my book Disregarded. What did you think about the situation in the UK?
A) It seemed a bit dismal and almost Dickensian. My advice for young people who can’t find a real job is to LEAVE. If you don’t have any debts, you don’t have kids, you don’t have a house, I would say travel the world, intern everywhere, sleep at friends’ houses and have some fun. You don’t need the grief, so why take it? If you can’t find something you love to do, then do the other things that you’ll never get a chance to do – like leave home and be on your own.
I described in UGGU walking into Las Vegas with $1.50 in my pocket and getting a job, a place to crash and a meal—all in thirty minutes. Then I decided not to go to New Orleans because there would always be another chance….
When the economy is working against you, it’s like a wave in the ocean. If you stand against it, you’ll just get rolled.
Q) Where is your book on sale, Mike?
A) Almost anywhere electronic – Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords, iTunes. Also, if you are unemployed or think you’re about to get fired and feel you really can’t afford it (honor system) write me at [email protected] and I’ll send you a coupon for a free copy.
Q) Thanks for your time, Mike. I hope the book is a success for you!
A) Thank you, David! I’m so glad to see the success your book has garnered!
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.
David Dennis interviews American Mike Mauss on How to Survive Unemployment
Mike Mauss was once a successful American. Through fate, recession and bad breaks, he became unemployed. He managed to survive unemployment, however, and kept putting one foot in front of the other as he put his kids through college, paid his mortgage and continued to live his own life to the max. He wrote a great book, filled with practical advice, called The Unemployed Guy’s Guide to Unemployment. In it, he explains where and how to look for work in this dismal economy; what works and what doesn’t; and very practical advice about how to manage with less while you strive for more. I am the author of Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme about the unemployment situation in Britain. I wanted to interview Mike about his American-centric book and see if he had any tips that would help the British unemployed.
Q) Hi, Mike. I wanted to meet you to talk about your new book: The Unemployed Guy’s Guide to Unemployment. Can you tell me why you wrote this book?
A) That’s easy. I became unemployed. For the fifth time in my career, I ended up out of work. I was hoping that a book like this would help others deal with the shock of getting fired, the stress of living without money, and the difficulty of finding a new job. That, and I thought I could make a bit of change with the book, too.
A new study just came out from Pew that said that one out of four people in the US has been out of work at some point in the past four years and over half know of a family member or close friend who’s been unemployed. There are too many people out there who need solid advice and need it now.
Q) In England, we currently have an epidemic of unemployment. I, myself, wrote the inside story of unemployment centres here in the UK. The training system is based around the concept of free labour. Would you have taken part in “shelf stocking” schemes for your benefits?
A) Probably not. I wrote in the book that working at minimum wage is wonderful from an “I will dig ditches to support my family” point of view, but it doesn’t really work. A middle class family cannot survive on minimum wage in the US – hell, a poor family can’t survive on the minimum wage these days. So every day spent working for less than your “Nut” – the basic amount you need to make to keep your family going – is a day wasted. You don’t have time to look for work that actually pays the mortgage and you’re just falling behind a bit less quickly.
Q) The problem with that method is pretty clear. So, how do you support your family whilst you search for work?
A) Well, I didn’t direct my book at the real poor. That’s a very different life and a very different set of realities. I was looking at the middle-class family where you have a mortgage, school, car loans, credit rating, maybe private schools, etc. Unemployment Insurance is pretty irrelevant in this case – it would take five weeks of UI to pay four weeks of mortgage ALONE. And that’s without the government taking taxes out, which they do. I basically assume that a middle-class family can get by on savings, credit cards, home equity loans and freelance work.
Q) I would say that, in fact, your book is a guide for those who don’t “really” need a job. It’s for those who have independent means and just want to bleat about their unemployment?
A) No. David, no one in the US middle class can survive without a job and most families have less than four or five months’ worth of savings. But they still become unemployed so the question is, what do you do when that happens? These people aren’t independently wealthy. They have been squeezed for decades by the very rich – the One Per Cent. If they get fired, it’s a race between getting a new job that pays enough to keep going and the day that all their money runs out. I just give people the tricks to keep going.
I don’t pretend to understand the problems of those under the poverty line. It would be a bit presumptuous to lecture them. I’ve been freelancing or basically without a “real job” for nine of the past twenty years. I don’t know about poverty – but I do know about the very real problems of being middle class and without work.
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