Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney, whose story on 99er activist Kelly Wiedemer's debt-related arrest I cited in a column the other day, hips me to a much larger universe of unemployees: non-workers who have evolved careers as subjects of news stories about long-term unemployment. (I discussed these folks briefly on Charm City radio this morning.)
While I claim no kinship of any kind with the 99ers, I note that there is a generational/freedom-from-ageism (agism?) element to their argument and that I am a member of the purported generation, we happy few who greet each other with the solemn query: "Where were you when Skylab crashed?"
But the unemployees are a varied bunch. Bud Meyers, a former Las Vegas bartender who has been written up in AP, HuffPost and CNN, publishes his own blog at bud-meyers.blogspot.com.
Rhonda Taylor of Rhode Island worked as an IT specialist but now organizes 99ers, whose struggle she likens to that of the late civil liberties activist Rosa Parks. In this video with CNN's Kate Snow, Taylor says that she has sold all of her valuables and depleted her own savings, but her rental home looks much nicer and more spacious than my own.
Gregg Rosen, cofounder of the American 99ers Union, shares with Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson an interest in the fact that more than 40 percent of ongoing federal spending is borrowed. But the former marketing manager and cell phone store owner (one of which should count as self-employment and not create eligibility for unemployment benefits) conflates this statistic with Christina Romer's career-ending claim of a 155-percent "multiplier" for every dollar spent in federal stimulus.
I believe Rosen's claim that the $1.55 multiplier applies to every dollar spent on unemployment benefits would be rejected even by Keynesians. (Though as a member of the everywhere-in-chains Generation X, I do recall an argument made during the debate over a Clinton-era stimulus package to the effect that money given to the lowest-earners is relatively more stimuluative than other forms of welfare, because lower earners spend all or most of the money in their possession.)
In any event, the 99er movement has already developed an extensive network and grown an important appendage of any ascendant movement: hard-line cadres who denounce the lukewarm methods of the leaders.
Writing from the state of Oregon, Henry Shivley promises fisticuffs against Fox host Charles Payne and other establishment media figures who ask difficult questions of Rosen and other unemployees:
I will not allow myself or the 99ers to be further victimized through adding insult to our injury, especially in a public forum. If I hear anyone in any place trying to portray the 99ers as beggars or welfare recipients with their heads in the trough, I will shut them down, even if I have to take my fists to them...
We are not beggars as it is our table that the elite are sitting at and it is their heads that are buried in the trough, clear up to their shoulders...
I have a message for Charles Payne. The 99ers are going to take back what has been stolen from us. If you and your ultra elite masters try to get in our way, this 99er will curb stomp your smart ass.
God bless this Republic, death to the international corporate mafia, we shall prevail.
Update: HuffPost's Delaney says in an email that this post "implies these people are somehow making a living by being in news stories." First commenter Marshall Gill seems to draw the same inference. For the record: My saying some high-profile unemployees have evolved careers as subjects of news stories was not meant to imply that they are getting paid for these profiles. In fact I believe that the establishment media make a particular fetish of not paying subjects of their stories. And in my earlier post I noted my concern that building a personal brand as an unemployed person is more likely to deplete than to enhance your earning power. Nevertheless, I regret any confusion.