I’m writing this from my second stint on unemployment. It has been a dream. Living in a country where employees are provided an average of 15 paid vacation days a year, it can be difficult to squeeze in all of the self-care days required to counter the effects of living under Capitalism’s stylish Doc Marten. That’s why the COVID-19 stay at home order has been a bit of a blessing in disguise.
I finally have the opportunity to wake up without setting an alarm, make a pot of coffee, finish the last cup of coffee, and stay awake until 1:30 A.M. watching the Tiny House offerings on Netflix. The stresses of the outside world really melt away. The mandatory time away from work without pay would have been vacation enough. But, because my place of work shuttered due to the global pandemic, I was also eligible for unemployment benefits. Free time, plus a fraction of my earnings? You’re too kind, Uncle Sam.
Initially, I had reservations about going on unemployment. American employers are right to limit paid vacation. Too much leisure can lead to lethargy and workers losing sight of the importance of spending time at work, away from their homes and loved ones.
They have decided—rightly, I must add— to send me one check for $100, instead of sending me sufficient money to enable my survival for each week since March that I have filed a claim. You might think that amount seems low. It would have been more if the Oregon Employment Department had not chosen to disregard part of my earnings when determining my benefit amount. I can only hope that your state has taken similar precautions.
By stepping in and making a paternalistic decision, the State has ensured that I retain my All-American work ethic, which is in no way motivated by a Sisyphean sprint to escape financial ruin. Many Americans are making out like gangbusters living on the dole by bringing more in through unemployment than their regular wages. Why would those people ever return to their jobs on the Cheesecake Factory assembly lines? Sense of purpose? Camaraderie of coworkers? Not likely.
Without poverty and destitution nipping at their heels, no one would be willing to serve or prepare food at a Buffalo Wild Wings. Think of all of the small businesses owned and operated by insufferable assholes. What would become of them if their employees were empowered to simply leave without the spectre of another round of utility bills? Think of how many horrible bosses you would have abandoned, left high and dry, had you not needed the paycheck.
Jeff Bezos never has to work again. He could retire now and he would be set for life. Without Bezos at the helm, what would become of Amazon? Surely it would collapse and the world would have no way to order novelty shower curtains to be delivered within 24 hours. That’s to say nothing of the future generations of Bezoses who will have trust funds to last eons. What motivation will they have to contribute to society? None.
And that would be the impact of just one man living in an unemployment benefits prison of his own construction. Weeks ago, Business Insider reported that there are 615 billionaires in the United States. Think of the economic ripple effect once those job creators realize that they can just stop clocking in. We may never recover.
We cannot rely on the innate yet flimsy human desire to contribute to the community to keep our top earners packing their lunch pails and trudging into the office any more than we can rely on stoner college students’ love of the hoagie to keep them coming back to build our Subway sandwiches.
Garmin, Nike, Bloomberg News, the grandchildren of a condensed soup innovator: These are the fibers that make up the fabric of America. Without them, we have no corporate national identity and no one to keep those of us born into lives of middle management and unskilled labor in line.
These folks have proven themselves to be uniquely adept at pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. We cannot risk letting that ability atrophy. That can only be accomplished through the legalized theft that is income taxes. It is a necessary evil.
What is to be done with these funds once the coffers have been raided, I cannot say. Our social safety nets and public services are already humming along thanks to the industrious spirit of underpaid citizens who, despite all obstacles and deterrents, have pursued their callings. Perhaps, we might consider finally providing some relief to our cash-strapped professional sports teams who have been forced to perform in derelict stadiums for years. Or better yet, invest it in the stock market, the one true barometer of economic health.