Growing Unemployment and Despair: The Death of the American Dream or is it?

An article from the The Observer describes the hopelessness and despair of the Recession. The growing number of Unemployed who need their unemployment benefits of the so-called 99ers and the hard times in Camden,NJ has gotten worse:the hustlers, drug dealers and pimps aren’t spending:

Richard Gaines is one of the best-known faces on Camden’s Haddon Avenue. It is a rough-and-tumble street, lined with cheap businesses and boarded-up houses, and is prey to drug gangs. Gaines, 50, runs a barbershop, a hair salon and a fitness business. He works hard and is committed to his community. But Haddon Avenue is not an easy place to make a living in the best of times. And these are far from the best of times.

Just how badly the great recession has struck this fragile New Jersey city, which is currently the poorest in America, was recently spelled out to Gaines. In happier times – whatever that might mean for a city as destitute as Camden – local businesses on Haddon Avenue could at least rely on a bit of trade from those who made their money on the street.

Young men bought flashy clothes and got sharp haircuts and always paid in cash. But no longer. The economy is now so bad in Camden that even the criminals are struggling and going short. “Even the guys who got money from illegal means really don’t want to spend it,” Gaines said.

Meet the long-term unemployed the 99ers:

There is a new name for those falling down the black hole of joblessness that has opened up in America’s economy. They are the 99ers.

It is a moniker that no one wants. It refers to the 99 weeks of benefits that the jobless can qualify for in America. Government cash helps those laid off keep a tenuous grip on a normal life. It keeps a roof over their heads, pays a phone bill, puts food on a table and petrol in a car. But once the 99 weeks are up the payments stop – as is happening now for millions of people – and they are 99ers.

For many, that moment, which America’s politicians have refused to extend, represents the moment of destitution; a sort of modern American version of the old Victorian trip to the workhouse. There are now more than a million 99ers and the number gets bigger each week.

But who are they? Despite Republican attempts to paint them as feckless or job-shy, they are usually anything but. The 99ers are people like Anne Strauss, 58, who spent 35 years working as a PR professional on Long Island. Despite spending every day hunting for work, she has not had a job since June 2008. She and her husband are now living on credit cards watching debts mount as they stare into the abyss. “Looking for a job is the hardest I have ever worked,” she said with a smile that conveyed no humour or happiness, only the deep stress that is common to many 99ers.

Read it all.

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