Sorry, despite the news media pointing to "economic indicators", the economy is not truly improving in our world. I am referring to the world that we live and work in, the world that our kids go to school in. Hard statistics from a recent Forbes ranking indicates that the State of Illinois is dead last, number 50, (and as little as 6 years ago, we ranked in the top 5-10 of states attractive to new business startup), in terms of retention of businesses and residents, having a climate conducive to people wanting to move here and remain here. We are still seeing business and individuals, who are financially able, fleeing our state. Within the state, the urban centers are seeing an exodus of business and residents as well. Just drive around Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, Elgin and take note of the for sale and for rent signs, and count the board ups and abandoned buildings. Even in the suburban areas, you can find strip malls that are more than 50% vacant and those beautifully landscaped industrial parks that have no traffic in and out during the height of the business day. You could shoot off a howitzer and not hit a soul.
Drive through the local neighborhood. How many homes are vacant? How many are boarded up to prevent or limit vandalism? I know the house next to me has been vacant for almost two years. The family, literally, just packed up and moved one weekend. They had tried to sell their home for over a year previously, two different realtor's signs along the driveway. Then they were forced into short sale with yet another realtor, and finally, they simply walked away. Unfortunately, the situation isn't unique, and not even an isolated incident in my immediate neighborhood. Just a four block radius yields several homes in short sale and foreclosure, which translates into lower property values for everyone in the neighborhood. How often does one get greetings from the county which announces that your property taxes have gone down? And if that isn't rare enough, it has happened more than one time over the past five years? So, how does that equate with an improving housing market? Improving for whom?
Gas prices are all over the place. Presently, they hover around the $4 mark again. Folks still have to go to work, and still have to seek employment, but now it is more costly to do so. And a rough winter means that other utilities such as electric and natural gas have experienced higher than normal bills as well. Even without the actual prices rising, the tough winter has insured that folks are paying more than usual in these areas. And how many of us have experienced raises in salary or bonus payments for exceptional performance, versus how many of us have accepted cuts in pay, benefits, and number of paid hours to insure that we have work and a paycheck?
Basic economics says that consumers have to buy products, and that in turn, means that the products have to be produced and delivered, creating more jobs. More people working, results in more people having a paycheck in order to buy goods and services. The simple explanation breaks down horribly when you consider that most folks have less discretionary income to spend on goods and services than ever before. So, the manufacturers, warehouses, transport companies are not producing more goods, nor making more deliveries, and hence not adding workers, or paying higher wages for workers. Where is all this income to buy goods and services to keep people employed and create more opportunity for employment?
And do not be fooled by the lack of crowds at the unemployment office: A.K.A. The Illinois Department of Employment Security, (Wow, what a misnomer!). They have a new method for dealing with inquiries and assistance. You stand in line, until you explain your dificulty to the receptionist, and she either refers you to a counselor or takes your name and number and tells you that somebody will call you back. There is also the usual push to have you do everything online rather than visit the actual office facility. The signs are posted for you to read (and actually for you to memorize) while standing in line, explaining the process for getting your W-2 forms early, on line. Other services, such as resume criticque are also offered in a computer based format. It would seem that the state doesn't want the embarassment of all those people hanging out at the unemployment office....It looks unseemly and flies in the face of the economy improving propoganda. And if our economy is on the mend, then why is it that fully 1/4 of the residents of the state are now considered Medicaid eligible?
While on the topic of unemployment (a topic which I have been forced to have direct and extensive experience with), hasn't anyone realized that the media has ceased telling us how things have improved, but rather seeks to reassure us that the results are not as bad as they had forecast. In other words, instead of improvement, we are being enjoined to be excited for things not sliding further into the abyss. It isn't even equilibrium that we celebrate, for that would indicate a certain stability in our economy, it is the fact that things have worsened at a lesser or slower pace than the previous month, or the previous period during the previous year. We keep adjusting our expectations downward as month after month, the light at the end of the tunnel is still not visible.
In our understandable discouragement, we seek to make our elected officials responsible for policies that didn't deliver what the campaign speeches promise. Those incumbent respond with statements about how much worse things were than they had ever imagined, followed by blaming the predecessor for creating the problem and not being honest about the extent of the damage. The buck never seems to stop anywhere. Personal responsibility is a lost commodity. Accountability in government is a lofty principle from the ancient history of the Founding Fathers, but certainly not in evidence in our existing society. And the only state who is losing population faster than us, once again according to Forbes which expends alot of time compiling these rankings, is New York. The Second City is in danger of being able to eclipse the First, but not in a positive competition. And our beloved state is rapidly moving up the rankings in terms of new and improved taxation policies, increasing the amount that local, county, and state government can pick from our already empty pockets. Finally, we are in the midst of tax season....Usually, the TV and radio ads are saturated with all sorts of promotions for loans against your income tax refund. Usually, we are being encouraged to file early and get out income tax returns back more quickly. There is a virtual war between H & R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty Tax Service, who are all eerily quiet this tax season. Could it be that we have all been beaten down so far that it no longer matters, and all of us will need nothing more than the online, free, 1040EZ one page form? No income to protect from the IRS, no investments to hide.
Filed under: The Job Search