Friday, February 05, 2010

Militant Ginger for Hire

This January, the Obama administration proudly announced that the unemployment rate had hit it's lowest figure since August of last year. All that good news, however, didn't prevent that reduced figure from including lil' old me.

Yep, Militant Ginger, le grand rouge, was unfortunately laid off this week. I didn't take it personally - many of my colleagues were given the similar boot - but it doesn't stop it being a bit of a blow to both the ego and the bank balance.

In fact, Mummy Militant and I had spent the past few months frantically scrimping and saving to avoid debt consolidation so we could think about buying a house and now all that hard work looks like it's in jeopardy.

The great irony of my plunge into unemployment is that just three days earlier, I'd been volunteering at our local church's homeless shelter. I realized then that an awful lot of Americans were only ever a paycheque or two away from living on the streets. It seems the reward for realizing that uncomfortable truth was to wind up a step closer towards the same predicament myself!

Joking aside, I've decided not to be too glum about my situation. This is, after all, the 'land of opportunity' and if there's one difference between America and Europe, it's that there's always a fistful of dollar bills waiting for you if you're willing to work for it.

Right now I'm just getting my schiznitz together and seeing what opportunities are out there for me. Pretty soon, I hope to start plucking them.

This whole experience has taught me a lot, though; not least of which how America isn't quite as friendly to entrepreneurship as I'd first imagined. Even though I wrote in posts like this about the flaws in Europe's universal health care, I realized a much larger one in the American system as soon as I stopped being part of a company health care plan. Health care is bloody expensive.

I don't mean to brag, but I'm a reasonable wag with a word processor and have a fair bit of talent for writing and copy writing. When unemployment struck, I'd even considered the possibility of launching off into a career of my own as a professional independent writer. (Don't joke; it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility to achieve this.)

However, the health care issue puts a spanner into the works a bit. Working for a company, as part of their company health care program, my health care costs were about $300 a month, with me picking up about a third of that. An entirely manageable proposition.

Now I'm out on my own, trying to live the 'American Dream?'

$800 a month, easy. In fact, health care insurance for myself and my family could quite effortlessly equal my rent if I decided to try and purchase it privately.

Considering that it's a four-fold increase, or ten-fold if you consider my out-of-pocket expenses, it's not difficult to see why more Americans don't take the plunge into going it on their own. The health care costs in this country are, for want of a better description, completely fucking insane.

So I don't mind admitting that I've lost a lot of sympathy for the 'Tea Baggers' and 'Tea Partiers' who are out there protesting against health care reform. They probably all have twee little jobs which give them affordable health insurance and none of them have a clue about how broken the American health care system really is. Shame on them.

Anyway. Moving onto my second great realization; that the government doesn't want me to work.

Living in America, part of each bi-weekly paycheque goes towards unemployment insurance - so if you get canned, you can claim 60% of your salary for a fixed period until you get yourself another job. Sounds all well and good, doesn't it? It's enough so you don't lose your house or starve your kids, but it's a small enough amount that it inspires you to go out and start earning a 'real' paycheque again as soon as humanely possible.

Except, like with health insurance, you're out of luck if you decide to be an entrepreneur and make it on your own. When I got laid off, I realized that some focused effort and hard work could get me earning my old salary again through freelance work and writing in three or four months... If I didn't find a job in the mean time, unemployment insurance meant my family wouldn't starve. I'd be off benefits shortly enough, as who wants to live off 60% of your previous salary when you could earn more than you ever did before?

Except, of course, you're screwed if you try to 'go it alone.' If you're an entrepreneur or a registered business owner - even if that business doesn't make enough money to live off, or even any at all - you can kiss your unemployment benefits goodbye.

Never mind the fact that it's your money, that you paid into the fund - if you proudly call yourself a 'business' then there's no government cheese for you. You're expected to be earning a livable wage from day one (after all, the largely Democrat-leaning East Coast states argue, that's how private business works, right? Right?)

The fact is, if you get laid off from your job it's not the 'opportunity' you might think it is. 'Big Brother' is leaning over your shoulder with a wooden ruler and he'll smack your knuckles if you even dare to think about anything apart from signing up for another 9 to 5 gig.

Entrepreneurship, it seems, is only for the people who already have enough income or savings not to need to be entrepreneurial.

It's definitely a deeply frustrating situation to wind up in, but I'm not going to be despondent. I'm bright, talented and hard working and I'll do whatever it takes to keep food on the table (or 'food on my family' to quote President G.W. Bush) no matter what that entails.

It's just made me more determined than ever to achieve financial independence; because unless you're captain of your own ship, you can ultimately never dictate where you're sailing to.


paul mitchell said...

Roland, there is only one problem with calling the PRE-PAID medical services that you receive from your employer "insurance." It is NOT insurance.

While the countries that tout a "universal healthcare plan" talk about how inexpensive it is in relationship to the system used in the United States, even the WHO Report that gives the costs only includes one country's cost of research and development in the total cost of "healthcare" and that is the US which spends more than the next top three countries combined in R&D. By the way, the ONLY reason the WHO was formed was to institute policy advocating "universal healthcare." That is in their charter.

The problem with the ever rising costs of medical services in our country is that there are plenty of people that pay ZERO for those services. At last count that number of people that actually paid ZERO out of pocket expense was FORTY-SEVEN percent of the country. Yes, currently the US taxpayers pay for almost HALF of our country to get medical services FREE to them. Of course, that makes medical services MORE expensive for those of us that are not deadbeats.

One more thing, when France went to a "universal healthcare system," actual costs of medical services went from 5% of total income to 13% of total income. So, it made costs INCREASE by 8%.

Good luck on the job hunt or business forming adventure, you are going to need it with our current federal government destroying any chance of anyone getting rich that is not part of the current administration.

ck said...

Sorry for your job loss. Really, no fun.

However, your rant on health care... go try and pursue some high deductible health plans and I think you will be surprised a the cost. Obviously you won't have the 'nice' health insurance... but you'll be covered if something really bad happens.

Connecticut Yankee said...

Sorry to hear about your job. Good luck finding something else.

I could have told you all about healthcare. When I moved to Cnnecticut six months ago, I decided to work freelance for the company I worked for before I moved. I would get to keep doing a job I loved, I'd get to work at home, and I wouldn't have to find a whole new job at a time when jobs were scarce to begin with. But I had to give up my health insurance. I can't afford many of the plans I researched, and for various reasons many insurance companies won't cover me anyway. I'm left hoping that my boyfriend decides to marry me so I can get on his insurance (though his job) and being very careful not to get hurt so I won't go bankrupt paying medical bills totally out of pocket.

Andy said...

Roland, that sucks man! Sorry about the pickle you're in. I've been there myself...with a family of 6 to support. It's no fun.

Everybody tries to buck you up with "Hey, look at it as an opportunity...something better is around the corner, etc." I know they mean well...but it still sucks.

Sounds like you've got the right attitude, though. You'll make it where others will not with said attitude.

And, just as a side've got health care. We do have a safety net for folks in your situation. I know...several of our renters over the years have found themselves in your spot, and in need of medical care. They didn't necessarily like the idea of having to use Medicaid. But, it did the trick temporarily.

Hopefully, you'll get whizz-banging on something pretty quickly that allows you to purchase your own plan.

I hope so. You seem like a decent Joe. Sharp, and obviously not a sour-puss. You'll be fine.

Joanna Cake said...

I have no doubt that you will be employed again very soon! It's just a shame that it cant be by you... well, not straightaway.

There is silly red tape everywhere! After I separated from my Husband, I discovered that, because I earn a small sum from my part-time job - too small to go anywhere near the rent, but too large to be entitled to any 'benefits' unless I give it up!

Quite bizarre!

On a more positive note, I have finally managed to work out how to get Militant Ginger onto my blogroll in your new form! Yeah, go ME!... And go the subscribe link right at the very bottom of the page :) Once I can get it to load onto Google Reader, I can just assign the subscription to my BlogRoll. Easy... providing everything else works.

Keep your chin up, chuck x

Susanne said...

I love your upbeat attitude. I am so sorry for the loss of your job, but trust you will find something soon.

My husband is self-employed and we pay for our own health insurance. The one good thing is that you can write it off on your taxes -- NOT as a credit, but still it helps reduce taxable income.

I know it stinks though. And you are so right that the gov't often is NOT very friendly towards those wanting to get ahead. I don't know why we punish those who try to start new businesses.

For sure our system is messed up in many ways.

Best wishes!

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Roland so sorry to hear your news, but with your attitude you'll be earning soon.

As for healthcare, it's the only reason I go to work because the salary is pathetic. I completely agree with your take.

paisley penguin said...

Wow Roland, sorry to hear it. Good luck to you!

One Salient Oversight said...

Time to head back to old blighty. NHS and unemployment benefits await.

mre30seattle said...

Sorry to hear about your recent layoff. I'm sure you'll have a new gig soon.