Friday, May 27, 2011

It's the jobs, stupid

The Republicans have managed to capture the media narrative that says our biggest problem is the budget deficit (you know, the one they created).

But reporter Jim Tankersley, reminds us that the real story is about people like Jason Muhlhauser.


Nearly 6 million people—43 percent of those who are unemployed—have been searching for more than 27 weeks. That number includes Muhlhauser, a 37-year-old single father...

This week, Muhlhauser shared his job-search story with a reporter. Here it is, as told to NJ:

In high school, I was told to go do something you like to do, and I really liked cars. After high school, I went to Ivy Tech [Community College] and got an associate’s degree in automotive. I was a mechanic at a few dealerships on the southeast side of Indy. My dad worked on the engine side of the Navistar plant. They had lottery drawings for family members. I won the drawing. I started there in September 1997.

It was a union job. I made $21 an hour. I had plenty to provide for my daughter. I was in the melt department, pouring the blocks and heads for the Ford Power Stroke diesel engine. The work was hard, and it was hot, but the surroundings, as far as the people I worked with, it was like family. I had a lot of pride in what I did. I bought a Ford Power Stroke truck, a black F-250. I still have it. It’s been paid off for five years.

In ’08, Navistar lost its contract with Ford for diesel motors. That was our bread and butter. At that point, we started to realize it was coming to an end. I was laid off in December 2009. I started to collect unemployment. I’m still on extended benefits.

The union worked hard to set up training programs for us. I took some computer classes. I started in an advanced manufacturing program in May 2010. I’ll be done in August. I’ll be trained to operate an advanced [computer numerical control] machine. I might be able to find a job running one for $6 or $7 less per hour than I made at Navistar. The final part of the training program is through Ivy Tech. It’s a little bit of a joke. Sometimes we can’t get instructors; we can’t get rooms. We’re kind of treated like red-headed stepchildren.

Since I lost my job, life has been very stressful. It’s been very hard. I’m not just worried about myself, I’m worried for my daughter. I lost my insurance, so my daughter and I haven’t had insurance. She’s a pretty healthy little girl, thank God. She loves dolls and being outside with her dad. Her mom is working a few hours a week, making minimum wage.

My daughter has a birthday coming up. I’d like to be able to buy her a big old swing set. I can’t do that. I want to just let her be a kid and have fun, you know? She likes to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s, but by the time you’re done there, you’ve spent an arm and a leg, so I can’t do that.

I was supposed to get recalled [to Navistar] next week, but I got a call saying the truck market took a dump, so now it may not be until next year—if then. I might quit school and take a job now, with Alyssa’s mom’s dad. He does sewer readings. It pays probably $10 an hour, no health insurance.

It’s really scary because my unemployment benefits are going to be up in August, so I have to do something. That’s why I may have to take this job. It pays nothing, but I might have to do it.

I used to work 60 hours a week and be fine. Now, I’m just worn out, mentally drained, all the time. I’m sure it’s depression.

I go to church. That helps.

I always think: It could be a whole lot worse. I’m lucky to have what I have.

What would help would be Republicans who give half a damn as much about people like Jason as they do their Wall Street buddies (who get bailouts), or oil company buddies (who get subsidies), or wealthy folks (who always need more tax cuts). Jason could use a hand too folks.

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