Thursday, February 12, 2009

The government doesn't owe me a job

I have a job. I guess that means I'm among the lucky 92.4%.

The reason I have a job is that I have a skill that someone will pay me for. If that changed, then I would join the 7.6% who are currently unemployed.

My number should be up soon, Nancy Pelosi says that every month 500 million American jobs are lost. That means I've got three weeks, tops. Then again, politicians shouldn't be expected to tell thousands from millions, or even billions, with the kind of stimulus figures that get thrown around Congress these days. What's a couple orders of magnitude between friends?

But I digress. If I couldn't get paid for what I do, the only thing I could do is turn to the government, right? Ha! Not this libertarian. I'd starve to death before asking the government to steal from my neighbors. (Where do you think the government gets the money?) Just to show you why I don't want or need a safety net, let me run down some of the things I might try if my employment were negatively affected.

  • If my job was on the line, the first thing I would try is negotiate for reduced pay for reduced work. Because I live within my means (30% of my income is directed toward savings) I could at least live with that much less and live the same lifestyle.
  • Of course, no matter what, I would reduce unnecessary costs. Goodbye cable TV, thermostat down, sell one car, cancel the gym membership, reduce cell phone minutes, and cook at home more often. I'd probably keep the Internet access and Netflix as long as possible, but that would go if it keeps the mortgage paid.
  • Unemployment insurance. Yes, private unemployment insurance is not expensive, and if I lost my job, this would be my first line of defense.
  • I could become an auto or motorcycle mechanic. In this poor economy, people are not replacing their old cars with new ones, and the repair business is up. I can follow a diagnostic flow chart, and use basic tools. I could probably start as an apprentice right away, but it would probably help to get some education and certification. Good thing I bought unemployment insurance.
  • I could teach Spanish, thanks to my Dominican wife. Or I could teach English to Hispanic people. I could teach English overseas, too. Japan, for example, ships in native speakers to teach English in school. I've heard they pay well, and take good care of you. It would suck to be away from my family, but at list this would support them.
  • I could tutor. There's always kids that need help, and their parents will pay to keep them from falling behind in school. If I was willing to put in the effort, I could become a real teacher. It would take a lot of frugality to survive the half dozen years of education and training it takes to become a teacher, but I doubt the education industry will be going away any time soon.
  • I could be a handyman. I fix stuff around the house all the time, I'll bet someone would pay me $50 to fix their electric range instead of paying $400 for a new one. Maybe I should ask for $100. I can come to your house and change the oil in your car, or paint your dining room.
  • I could become a real handy professional, like a licensed plumber or electrician. I'd lean toward electrician, because electricity speaks to me more than pipes, but if the demand was for plumbers, I'd be a plumber.
I am a software engineer, but I don't see any of these jobs as beneath me. If no one will pay me for software engineering, then that means I have to find something else of value that I can offer to society. If no one will hire me to do the job, it means that the job doesn't need to be done, or someone is already doing it. And this list is not hypothetical, these are things I would really do if I needed food on the table. Everyone thinks (government included) that when you're out of work, you have to get a job doing the same thing you were doing before. This is the same reason that we should feel bad for buggy makers when the automobile gets invented. Look at all the jobs lost.

You see, it's not about having a job. It's providing value. That's why we have money, to measure the amount value you provide. And there's nothing that says you are entitled to a job doing what you want, or what you did before. But if someone hires you, it's because they think that's the best use of their money. Isn't that better than government pity?



Friend said...

Ah! It's like Dad never left us!

Anonymous said...

you sure that every month America loses 500 million jobs?! I am pretty sure that the total population of America is way less than 500million! hah

Chuck L said...

Some good points, but I take issue with your statement that, "The reason I have a job is that I have skills someone will pay me for." There are a lot of skilled people out there who are out of work right now. I hope you never become one of them.

Chuck Homic said...

Thanks for the comment, Chuck L. I'm sorry if you thought that statement was self-aggrandizing. I think my statement is a tautology, though. If I lose my job, then I have skills that someone will NOT pay me for. The emphasis was supposed to be on the second part. I didn't mean I have a job because I'm awesome, it's just because someone is willing to pay me for my ability.

My point of this article is that if I do lose my job, I don't believe it's the government's role to find me a job, much less the SAME job.

This was written at a time when the news was running sob stories like a welder who was laid off from an auto manufacturer, and is going broke while looking for another welding job in the same town, and blaming the government for his lack of progress. If I could talk through the TV I would have suggested maybe he look in other places, or for other jobs.

Everyone, I don't care who you are, has more than one skill. You may have one specialized skill that you've spent your life perfecting, that has been well compensated, but don't mistake that for entitlement.

Right now I am a software programmer. There is a market for that, therefore I am employed. (Again, I'm not bragging, I'm just using myself as an example.) If that market dries up, I could spend the rest of my life looking for a programming job, or I could discover that there is a market for electricians and do that instead. Or bus driving, or working as an unemployment counselor. (I'll bet there's a lot of demand in that field nowadays.)

I hope my message is to not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Believe in yourself, not the government.

Lisa Ann Homic, M.Ed. D.C. said...

Hey Chuck, keep blogging!

Daddy Paul said...

"I am a software engineer, but I don't see any of these jobs as beneath me. If no one will pay me for software engineering, then that means I have to find something else of value that I can offer to society."
My thoughts exactly. I gave out food at Walmart while looking for a job!

Aaron said...

Hey Chuck, this is Aaron Esposito. My brother said he took care of you at Red Robin not to long ago. I came across your blog and I decided to drop a line. In fact, I'm living proof of your blogs' scenario. I've worked many different trades since living in FL, architectural draftsman, 3d conceptual artist, landscaper, home repair(general handyman), mural artist, guitarist of a motown band, half of an acoustic duo, screenprinter, t-shirt design artist, book cover illistrator, graphic artist, waiter(tried to avoid it), and finally neighborhood babysitter. The job market down here is worse than I could have ever imagined, but we've survived thus far. I keep changing my skill set to fit whatever job opens up and I work it until it doesn't exist any longer. So after a 2 1/2 year never-ending fight to survive, my wife and I are getting a game plan together to move back to NY. Who knows what jobs we'll work until we can sell our house. Email me sometime at
talk to you later chuck... awesome blog