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Welp. Are people on unemployment lazy scammers?

May 7th, 2021

I just saw this tweet by Liz Wheeler, a “political commentator”:

I don’t care what your political affiliation is. This tweet kind or raised my hairs a bit, as it did the tons of commenters on Twitter. The messages I’m reading in this tweet are dangerous. Let’s break it down:

“should have to show proof”

What does that mean? How do you “show proof,” and how in the world are underfunded government workers going to actually validate any proof that comes their way?

I live in Utah. In 2006 I had to call an automated phone system and declare I made contact with two or three (I can’t remember) new-to-me employers in a week in order to get unemployment for that week. The phone call was impersonal, never talking to a human, just pushing 1 for yes or 2 for no (or something similar, it’s now a distant, fuzzy memory). My point is, people collecting unemployment have definitely had to somehow declare they are meeting requirements for unemployment checks.

What proof do you want? Do you think a job seeker should get some kind of confirmation that they reached out to, applied at, or talked with someone at a company that might hire them? Does that mean hiring managers, recruiters, etc. will need to fill out government forms? Or is a simple email exchange good enough? This can get real messy real quick.

The reality is showing proof, or even the current honor system in most (all?) states in the U.S. is really quite flawed. Either it creates a ton of work and paperwork, which would require hiring tons of people to validate and check and follow-up, and enforce, or we stay with “I promise I did this this week.” Will there be abuse? YES. There is. I have seen it. But I’m not sure there is a way to address it by going to the users of the system… it might be the actual system that needs a complete overhaul.

I think it would be great to study (not that I’m advocating for millions of dollars to go towards more research) how other countries handle unemployment issues.

Look, we can’t even agree on wearing masks, and the media has been much more of a hinderance than a help on getting any kind of good or accurate information out there. Why in the world would we ask the media to solve this problem, with a solution like “should have to show proof”??

“they are actively looking for a job.”

I’m not a rich person hater. I love that people can accumulate wealth. I’m glad Liz is worth over $10M and, according to a google search, makes more than $500k a year. I’m guessing she is worth more, and makes more, but my point is she’s rich. And I’m happy for her.

But I do not like what I’m reading into here, the “they”… they… the unemployed, the scammers, the lazy people. They, the people who the rich support with their taxes. They. Why not “us?” I thought unemployed people were “they” too until I become one of them. And then it was “we” and “us.”

Anyone who feels like “they” is a bunch of lazy scammers is one good layoff away from becoming a part of they.

But I digress. I don’t want to focus on the haves and the have-nots.  I want to focus on what “actively looking for a job” means. Since 2006, when I became immersed in this world, I learned that the government felt I was “actively looking for a job” if I made contact with two or three new-to-me companies that might hire me.

That was a horribly loose definition of a successful job search. Who in the government decided that is the best way to find a job? What does making contact with? Having a real conversation or interview, or just saying “hi, I’m here!” What does a company that might hire me mean? And why in the world do statistics say that 65% or 85% or whatever number you want but definitely more than 50% of jobs are found through networking, but we aren’t “rewarded” (if you call UI a reward) for doing effective job search tactics?

Furthermore, what is a job? If I get a minimum wage job then I’m hired. I’m a success, no longer qualified for UI. The metrics and tracking aren’t accounting for underemployment, or career paths, or training, or anything like that.

This government solution is a one-size-fits-nobody solution, and just wanting to enforce it more is going to hurt more people, the economy, and the strength of any nation more than figuring out real solutions to unemployment.

Hey listen, I’m not an economist. I got a D in my Finance class in college. I’ve never been the sharpest tool in the shed, and I have a brother who wonders about my future because “I can’t keep a job.” I’m not getting paid to entertain on TV, nor am I smart enough to be an elected official. So take my post with a grain of salt, but I’m here to tell you, the system is messed up, and what Liz is calling for won’t fix it, it will make it way worse, and perhaps easier to scam.

I think the government could do a LOT better job of educating us on how jobs are found. Tell us the real numbers on job boards, who is hiring, what tactics work, etc. And please, please have different advice for different people. Industry, role, and level all matter. Advice for a kid out of high school is not the same as advice for an executive looking to replace a $500,000 job. If the government is going to be involved, they should do it right, instead of treating everyone the same prescribing job search tactics that boil down to “it’s a numbers game.” It kind of is, if done right, but if done wrong, the numbers game mentality will really suck.

“Too many people are refusing to work & living on unemployment”

I agree there are people who refuse to work. If they are collecting unemployment then they are likely scamming the system.

But what does “refuse to work” mean? Does that mean they refuse to work at $10 or $15 an hour? I remember hearing, in my job search, to NOT take a low paying job which will take too much of my time and energy when I should be dedicating said time and energy to finding the right job for me, with the right compensation. This is not pride, this is logistics. But if I refuse this low paying job and that low paying job I fall into the “refuse to work.”

I have travelled the country and have met thousands of people who are looking for work. None of them that I’ve talked to refuse to work. They wouldn’t have come to my seminars if they refused to work, would they? But they want the right work for where they are at in their career. For someone who is worth ten(s) of millions of dollars, making almost a million a year, to generalize job seekers in this way is offensive.

Speaking of money.. “living on unemployment.” I’m here to tell you, there aren’t many people who are really living on unemployment. Do you know how much unemployment is? NOT MUCH.

Okay, sure, there are people who are paying their bills on unemployment. Most people, I think, don’t want to make a career out of it. There is no dignity in it. When my wife and I received unemployment we were treated, by the people who administered it, as crooks. They questioned every thing we did, every form we turned in. I could tell their jobs had shifted from “helping people out” to “identifying who is scamming the tax payers.” The power trips and the degrading conversations were horrible. We got off as soon as we could. It might have been the most motivating factor in my job search, to distance myself from those people.

I hope your experience with your UI contacts is much better and more dignified than mine was.

If I were Liz I’d worry a lot more about the entire system, and address root issues, than the symptom of people who are living on unemployment (and taking advantage of other welfare programs). Please address root problems without attacking symptoms that were created by a bad system.

The end.

I don’t have any faith that this problem, the root problems, are going to get fixed anytime soon. I know there are stories of employers reaching out to their old staff, who have been on unemployment, and the staff said “no way, we make more doing nothing than coming to work in your store.” I know there’s a shortage of talent, and the pandemic really tested our already problem-laden system. I know companies have grown, shrunk, or even gone away because of it.

I also know that generally, we as humans want dignity. We want to contribute, add value, create, help, build, serve, etc. We don’t want to sit at home, sucking from society and adding nothing. We can only binge-watch so many shows, play so many games. We want to feel whole again. In part, this comes through the work we do.

I don’t have solutions, I just needed to rant. If you want to seem more ranting, from different perspectives, click her tweet above and look at the comments. It gets fiery.

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