Black Markets

To Get By, Americans Increasingly Work Off the Books

Beyond reach of regulators and tax collectors

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WASHINGTON – When Kevin Kalmes received a foreclosure notice on her home after being unemployed for more than two years, she said, she started selling the contents of her basement, figuring, "I can't fit all this stuff in a Wal-Mart shopping cart."

"Then I just kept the basement sale open, forever, without getting permits, because I didn't sell it all," said Kalmes, 61, who lives in Chicago. She then sold items for family, neighbors and friends, dubbing her never-ending sale the "Little Shop of Hoarders."

Kalmes is among the 4.8 million unemployed Americans – 40 percent of all those who are jobless – who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks, even as the economy has been growing since June 2009 and the job market shows recent signs of healing. As her unemployment benefits have run out, she has entered the informal economy to make ends meet.

America's shadow economy includes activities that are actually illicit – prostitution and drug dealing – as well as more benign jobs like working construction for a day for cash, or even the $2 a child that Kalmes gets for walking neighborhood students to the bus. Added together, economists estimate $2 trillion could be involved.

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  1. State lovers weep at this vile crime.

  2. “Then I just kept the basement sale open, forever, without getting permits, because I didn’t sell it all,”

    The horror! It’s like Somalia!

    1. That is exactly how it all took a turn south in Somalia. One lady refused to get a permit to sell stuff out of her garage and a couple months later the place was a mess.

      1. (Alas that there’s no +1 button.)

  3. “even as the economy has been growing since June 2009 and the job market shows recent signs of healing”

    I want to say [citation needed], but it’s hard to type when you experience such rage at such a blatantly false thing.

  4. “America’s shadow economy includes activities that are actually illicit ? prostitution and drug dealing ? as well as more benign jobs like working construction for a day for cash, or even the $2 a child that Kalmes gets for walking neighborhood students to the bus.”

    This is a misnomer. Because we have an IRS and income tax and other forms of federal extortion, ALL shadow economic activity is, by the letter of the law, illegal if you aren’t paying taxes on it.

  5. And when the hell the the black market get turned into the ‘shadow’ market anyway?

  6. The word you seem to be struggling for is “free” market.

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