Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Look out below!

I have frequently lamented about the unwillingness or inability of Jewish communities in general, and my community in particular, to adapt to the new economic realities. I have been particularly alarmed at the reduction in benefits for the unemployed that are coming down the pipeline, for obvious reasons:

[Hat tip: Shadow Govt Statistics]

Approximately 1/4 of all able-bodied adult persons who need or want a job in this county either can't find one at all or have had their hours and/or wages involuntarily reduced to less than full time status. That is the blue line at the top - real unemployment. As you have heard in several speeches and debates so far, most candidates intend to refuse to extend unemployment benefits any further, and all of the have talked about reducing the benefits that are being offered. Excluding Chereidi communities, which have a much higher poverty rate and unemployment for different reasons, most other Jewish communities are typical of the overall American workforce - meaning about 1/4 of Jewish adults are also un- or under-employed and will be negatively affected by the policies that are coming down the pipeline to eliminate or reduce benefits. What will happen to these Jewish families when their unemployment runs out?

An article last year pointed out that 43% of American workers had less than $10,000 saved for retirement. That's maybe three months of income for someone forced into early retirement who still has a mortgage - six months tops for a mortgage-free household. Again, excluding Chereidi communities, average Jewish communities are in the same boat. Most people have little to no retirement savings. So what happens to these elderly Jews when Social Security benefits are reduced?

As we all have heard ad nauseum, 50+ million people in the US have no health insurance at all, not even Medicare or Medicaid. And those on Medicare and Medicaid can expect benefit reductions also. Where are these Jewish families going to turn to for money when they need healthcare?

On August 4th, if you recall, I posted an blog article I called The Debt Crisis and Jewish Communities. I also submitted a copy of that post to a local Jewish newspaper, changing only a word or two. They declined to print it, of course, saying it needed to be "toned down" because it was too over the top, said the editor after consulting with the editorial committee. They don't want to have the conversation that I pointed out needs to be had - that we do not have resources or programs in place to take care of fellow Jews in those situations, and the need is going to continue to grow by leaps and bounds over the next several years.

Now, mind you, this same article got 5 stars from the editors at JBlog, I presume because they found it well-written, important and timely. [Granted, I have no actual idea how the editors at JBlog rate the posts submitted to them - but I don't have a perfect 5-star rating (click here and scroll down to "Shalom Bayit" to see my overall rating, which was 4.76 for 207 articles, last time I checked.)] At least the JBlog editors thought that particular article was good, as did I - which is why I submitted it to the paper.

This community, not so much.

I must confess at this point I am at a loss. I mentioned in my blog post before last that the leaders in my community just do not believe any of this is real. It seems there is no way to get my community to open their eyes and prepare for the inevitable. There are books and articles, blogs and reports galore, by authors far more famous, well-respected and educated than me. But the community is just not interested in them. No amount of data, sources, or persuasion seems adequate to the task. As I pointed out at the beginning of this year, nothing I do or say seems to make any difference here, and I'm getting tired of even trying.

Sad, but true. I have a saying at my house, when it's time to give up and move on from some misadventure. I tell the boys that I have "reached the I-don't-care portion of this program." I'm just not willing to invest any more emotion or energy into the situation - some moms say "I've had it!" instead, and perhaps literally throw down their towel. This being the internet and all, the effect isn't quite the same, I guess, but you get the idea:

You'll just have to imagine it in a wad on the floor.

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