'Tis the season for despair
In the US, 'tis the season for holiday cheer, charity, and this year for some of millions of jobless Americans, despair. “Now I think why did I work on all of those Christmases," asked Theresa Iacovo, who has been out of work more than two years. "Why did I give up that time with my family, if now I have nothing and all of the work I've done in my life was for no reason.”
Iacovo, this used to be her busy season at work. But she was laid off from her job in the gas and heating business more than two years ago and has been unable to find any steady work since. "I look for work every single day fill out applications and send resumes out to companies," she said.
Lawmakers reached a deal this month to extend unemployment benefits, but lost in that story are the jobless Americans like Theresa, who don't even qualify for this help anymore. Benefits expire at 99 weeks but job but a job doesn't magically appear. By their own accounts and activists vying on their behalf, in this economy these jobless Americans no longer count. They fall into the shadows and out of even statistical surveys when for many their phones are cut off.
"Once you stop claiming benefits you go into the ether and," lamented Kian Frederick, who is unemployed and the director of Flashmobs4jobs.org. People can guess and people a lot smarter than me put a lot of time in to it and with all respect to that work, [the long-term unemployed] are not counted and no one can say that they are"
But they are a struggling arguably the most to get by.They are people like 61-year-old Gavrielle Gemma, a laid off veterinary nurse who also has been unemployed for more than two years. Like a record one in seven Americans, to eat she now relies food stamps. "It's very hard the truth of the matter is there's really nothing out there," she said.
Despite the financial hardship so many are facing, these will be happy holidays for some. Wall Street banks for one. The lavish Christmas decor is just the tip of the iceberg. Big banks like this are on track to post their second largest profits this year ever recorded, second only to last year. And even still, the average banker bonus may come out higher.
That means the average year-end bonus would exceed last year’s of more than $124,000 a person. But if banks earned this money, what's so wrong with that? "Many of the banks that are doing well are only doing well because the public bailed them out," said Danny Schechter, filmmaker and blogger. So what we're seeing is a transfer of wealth in a way from the needy to the greedy"
As unemployment soars, American companies have posted their largest corporate profits ever recorded in US history last quarter. And while the rich may flock to the glitz of New York’s 5th avenue for holiday shopping to spend those record earnings, in the shadows are those struggling to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. "We've been cutoff and practically ignored by almost everyone the people in our government and the people in the media," said Theresa.
Economist Max Fraad Wolff says “because so many people are without a job that it is very hard for people that do have job to defend their wages and benefit package. This means the social division between profits and wages has tilted further towards profit.”
They’re looking for any hope despite a system they see sympathetic to business and banks, but stacked against them. "We live in a society where we don't count," Gavrielle said. "This is really Marie Antoinette at the balls while the French people starved and it's no different."And they’re fighting in that society to have holidays that count as anything resembling happy.