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A Letter From One of the Millions of Unemployed

Paul Solman: I received a remarkable message the other day from a longtime e-mail correspondent and it seems worth sharing portions of it on this page. This is what the current job picture feels like for some (many? most? all?) of the 15 million to 20 million still out-of-work Americans. The writer has been passionate before, and distinctly left of center, but he’s never written anything this extreme, or desperate.

Dear Paul,

How are you doing? The “99ers” running out of unemployment benefits in large monthly waves starts in earnest in December. [The 99ers are those who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment insurance.]

What’s the latest estimate on the numbers of jobs to be lost between now and then by the oil deluge in the Gulf of Mexico? Have you seen those plaintive TV ads by hotels and chambers of commerce in Pensacola and Panama City? “Our beaches are still clean!” Oh well, not in Pensacola anymore, but our fearless anti-regulatory capitalist rulers have given themselves until “late in the fall” to “solve the spill.”


How are things down in the ex-employed, over 45, lower-class with me? I’m four months behind on rent for the first time in my life — down to my last $25 and eating at a church kitchen twice a week because I have to feed my cat from my own food stamps. I don’t know how I’m going to keep the lights on past this month. All my other utilities are shut down. I’m desperately trying to find work to pay a […] judge his precious tripled traffic court fine (from August of last year when I still had a car) so he won’t send me to jail for 60 days and tempt my landlord to begin eviction proceedings.

And I count my blessings because I see so many people who have it even worse than me — and who have more to lose because I’ve already lost my savings and anything of material value I could sell. It’s French Revolution time as far as I’m concerned but that feeling’s going to spread in leaps and bounds in the next two years. I have no sympathy for people in the upper-middle-class anymore and I’m losing sympathy for the middle-class […].

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