There is no feeling quite like the one that comes from long-term unemployment, especially for a person willing, able and hungry to get back to work.
Last week marked 17 months since I was laid off after 22 years in the newspaper business, working as a writer and editor for print and Web sites.
At no time in those two decades — actually, at no time in my life — have I felt this demoralized, this useless, this much a burden on society. Never before have I felt such a void of confidence. Never before have I been without health insurance.
What? You don't care if I'm demoralized, lacking in confidence or have no health insurance? Well, then be uncaring enough for every one of the 14.6 million unemployed Americans.
I know things will improve. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote so in a New York Times op-ed piece.
But how much longer will it be before the economy really, truly turns around? How much longer will corporate America turn an uncaring shoulder to hard- working Americans who have no jobs?
Corporations are holding onto trillions of dollars, some say over concerns about possible future federal regulations. It is hard to believe that U.S. firms can be so callous, so shortsighted.
Meanwhile, those millions of Americans — of which 6.8 million are considered long-term unemployed — go without work. Members of that latter group are in danger of becoming unemployable because corporations insist on hiring Americans who are already working or who were only recently laid off and whose skills are considered sharper.
I am frustrated and mad that I was laid off in the first place. I am frustrated and mad because my job search has been protracted. I am frustrated and mad because corporations — mostly Wall Street bankers and the like — received huge federal bailouts and then turned around to pay executives millions of dollars in bonuses for finding more ways to charge consumers new fees. I am frustrated and mad that Congress took so long to extend unemployment benefits. Democrats and Republicans alike let down Americans across the land.
I am frustrated and mad that the U.S. Federal Reserve is failing in one of its main objectives, zero unemployment. I am frustrated and mad that my next-best option is to clear out a meager personal retirement fund, lean on credit cards and depend on family and friends who themselves are struggling.
Long-term unemployment does more than demoralize the unemployed. It demoralizes their families, concerns their friends and causes worry even among their former co-workers. Long-term unemployment hurts the economy by eliminating consumer spending and making a downsized economy the norm. Long-term unemployment undermines this country by impeding economic recovery.
Without care for the unemployed, without job creation, without bold effort by politicians and corporate America, we can expect the economy on all levels to shrink and for unemployment to rise.
We 14.6 million unemployed are frustrated and mad, but we lack a focused voice. We, too, must be bold. We must shame the Obama administration, Congress, the Federal Reserve, and especially corporate America to get Americans back to work.
There should be no comfort, no vacations, no getaways until the unemployment rate is halved.
Michaud, a journalist for 23 years and a Vacaville Reporter employee from 1993 to 2006, lives in Stockton.
THE VACAVILLE REPORTER