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Not "I Can't Pay The Rent"
"I don't feel like paying the rent," or rather, doing what it takes to pay the rent. Louis Uchitelle and David Leonhardt write in The New York Times of men I'll call "The New Lazies" -- men who are out of work, but turning down jobs they feel are "beneath them," and sometimes going on "disability."

Hmmm, disability must sound like a magic, bottomless pot of money to these people, but perhaps they could urge their fallow minds into use and recognize that this means their lives are being financed by their fellow taxpayers. Here's an excerpt from the story:

Alan Beggerow has stopped looking for work. Laid off as a steelworker at 48, he taught math for a while at a community college. But when that ended, he could not find a job that, in his view, was neither demeaning nor underpaid.

So instead of heading to work, Mr. Beggerow, now 53, fills his days with diversions: playing the piano, reading histories and biographies, writing unpublished Western potboilers in the Louis L’Amour style — all activities once relegated to spare time. He often stays up late and sleeps until 11 a.m.

“I have come to realize that my free time is worth a lot to me,” he said. To make ends meet, he has tapped the equity in his home through a $30,000 second mortgage, and he is drawing down the family’s savings, at the rate of $7,500 a year. About $60,000 is left. His wife’s income helps them scrape by. “If things really get tight,” Mr. Beggerow said, “I might have to take a low-wage job, but I don’t want to do that.”

Millions of men like Mr. Beggerow — men in the prime of their lives, between 30 and 55 — have dropped out of regular work. They are turning down jobs they think beneath them or are unable to find work for which they are qualified, even as an expanding economy offers opportunities to work.

These are men? I've had a number of jobs I didn't want or like. I worked as a mover at an all-girls moving company (and I am NOT strong of arm) and I worked as a chicken (in a chicken suit, handing out flyers). You do what you need to do to support yourself. Well, you do if you're me, and apparently, I'm something of an idiot with my outmoded ideas against going on the dole. Here's more from the story:

Mr. Priga supports himself by borrowing against the rising value of his Los Angeles home. Other men fall back on wives or family members.

But the fastest growing source of help is a patchwork system of government support, the main one being federal disability insurance, which is financed by Social Security payroll taxes. The disability stipends range up to $1,000 a month and, after the first two years, Medicare kicks in, giving access to health insurance that for many missing men no longer comes with the low-wage jobs available to them.

No federal entitlement program is growing as quickly, with more than 6.5 million men and women now receiving monthly disability payments, up from 3 million in 1990. About 25 percent of the missing men are collecting this insurance.

The ailments that qualify them are usually real, like back pain, heart trouble or mental illness. But in some cases, the illnesses are not so serious that they would prevent people from working if a well-paying job with benefits were an option.

The disability program, in turn, is an obstacle to working again. Taking a job holds the risk of demonstrating that one can earn a living and is thus no longer entitled to the monthly payments. But staying out of work has consequences. Skills deteriorate, along with the desire for a paying job and the habits that it requires.

“The longer you stay on disability benefits,” said Martin H. Gerry, deputy commissioner for disability and income security at the Social Security Administration, “the longer you’re out of the work force, the less likely you are to go back to work.”

Posted by aalkon at August 2, 2006 10:42 AM

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I agree with you totally. I've worked some hard jobs to eventually have the relatively comfy career I have now. I've worked 70 hour work weeks while going to school full time, and have worked warehouse and machine shop jobs. My father worked jobs that were downright nasty (his father "rented" him to local farms as soon as he could lift a pitchfork). He'd work any job he could get to provide for his family. He made me work with him in his machine shop during the summer/spring breaks (when I didn't have other work, or was caddying) since I was 13. Reasons? 1. I'd have at least some skills to get a decent job if my education didn't work out. 2. It's hard work, so I'd have incentive to learn something in school so I wouldn't HAVE to work like that later.

I feel that if you can work, you should. Heck, I get a little irritated seeing people take the elevator up/down 1 floor when there's stairs nearby ( unless they have some major physical impediment to doing so, that's just lazy).

I've known many people that do everything they can to live off the dole. Many have faked injuries, or exaggerated ones that might have warranted just a few days off. Some say "well, I'm not 'allowed' to work," like it's a badge of honor or something.

One of my half-brothers did something like that. He's a programmer, and was making great money before the .com bubble burst. After that, he felt any jobs that didn't pay well weren't worth his time. So he lived on the dole, and mooched off of family for about 5 years, lying about how hard it was for him to find a job (I hear Wal-Mart is always hiring...always). He finally found a sucker-er-employer willing to hire him in another state. They were offering him a lot of money (if nothing else, he's good at conning people). Of course, he's bought a bunch of new toys, big house, and hasn't given a second thought to paying back any of the people he owes money to.

I think there should be at least some safety net for those that are on genuinely hard times, but it makes me ill seeing how many people abuse the heck out of it.

(getting off of soap box, and getting back to work)

Posted by: jamie at August 2, 2006 6:37 AM


Reading about things like this pisses me off. i am a struggling musician. Have been all my life but have also had a job since i've been 16. i've always felt if i did something like go on the dole, i'd be taking it away from someone who really needs it. Going to work everyday is alright. Being a part time rock star allows me to live in relative obscurity while living my dream playing music on a semi-successful level, having the opportunity to spend time in Europe playing rock star for a few months a year, and having the satisfaction of "doing the thing" when i'm on my death bed (as long as i don't choke on any vomit or get into any car crashes before that). What it doesn't entitle me to is sleeping on my moms couch, mooching off of my girlfriend, relatives or any sort of government entity, on the basis that i'm a struggling artist. Sure, i run into hard financial situations sometimes just like everyone else, but i'm also contributing to "the fund". At my "real" job, i have to deal with people who abuse the system and they just don't understand or care about what sort of a strain they place on everyone else.

My dad has the sort of mentality that someone owes him something, which is odd because when i think of my dad, i think of the guy who went to work everyday and instilled a work ethic in his kids....

Posted by: Rob at August 2, 2006 6:54 AM

You were very cute in that chicken suit Amy. Amy worked in front of a Polo Loco earlier this year in Santa Monica. The give away was your little doggie, at your feet, also dressed in a chicken suit.

When I was driving out, belly full and burping, she ran over to my car and offered to give me a blow job for 20 bucks. I offered 5...she was ready to take it...but then a police cruiser drove I took off.

"People don't realize the public pays." Of course they do. That's what makes it even better. Living off others. They realize it, that's what makes it so attractive. And obviously, they can pay the rent.

Our system, in ways other than just disability, can be ruthlessly manipulated, if you know what you're doing, or so I've heard. We refer to people like you as suckers. But, I already knew that from the chicken suit.

If I lost my job, high paying real estate entrepenuer, what job could take it's place?
I make big money for doing very very little actual real work, other than just blowing smoke in people's ears. What job matches that? Doctor? Lawyer? Way way too much work, and like who likes sick people...okay? No job would be worthy of me either. I completely empat...empath...I completely understand.

Posted by: everybody hates chris at August 2, 2006 8:19 AM

I've been doing state worker's comp now for 5 years. It's clear to me that the welfare queens have been supplanted by the worker's comp royalty.

Posted by: moe99 at August 2, 2006 10:33 AM

Ha! I think that guy's wife should put him on a strict allowance to get that net loss under control -- provided he keeps up with his homemaking chores, that is. Let's see how much that precious pride can endure.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at August 2, 2006 1:07 PM

Speaking of which, I'm looking for a second job that isn't beneath me. Any ideas? Seven years of being a critic doesn't exactly lend itself to many other things.

Posted by: LYT at August 2, 2006 2:29 PM

I'm so sick of people who abuse the disability benefits. I have a dear friend, relatively young when her problems started, who spent two years trying to qualify for disability. It took that long for the doctors she was seeing to finally test her for Lupus. Until then they told her her symptoms were all in her head. A few months later she was diagnosed with MS as well. Finally she got the disability. Now she lives on the roughly 640 a month she gets - rent, utilities, food, everything. It blows my mind that there are people who get disability quickly, and often with no real problems. Maybe if there wasn't so much abuse of the system, the people who really need it could get more help.

Posted by: Kimberly at August 2, 2006 6:55 PM

I've worked a lot of shit jobs too. One night in the 80s, I was a doorman at Barney's (as in suits, not "beanery"). It sucked so badly that I headed right over to Avenue A when my shift ended and spent every dime I earned on vodka, just to blow off some steam and spin like a ballerina to Grace Jones' "Slave to the Rhythm." Back in those days, you could support a moderate cocaine habit doing temp work as a word processor on Wall Street. Life was simple: Work, get high, work, get high, work, get high.

Posted by: Lena at August 2, 2006 8:51 PM

This guy makes me sick. I started my first "real" job the summer between my tenth and eleventh grade years. I'm 21 now, and I've worked full time every summer and part time during the school semesters, and full time every winter and spring break. I've never gone on a spring vacation, ever. Every school break is an opportunity for me to work an extra shift. Before these jobs, I babysat and helped my mom and brother run a dog kennel. I got to walk all the dogs small enough for me to control. I don't understand the people my age who seem to think that someone else, be it their parents or the government, should be supporting them. They think having a kid and living off handouts is a viable life plan! I was discussing this a few days ago with a friend of mine...she's been struggling to get a degree for years now, working a variety of jobs as well as going to school. She pointed out that you only get aid if you've already screwed your life up. Money's only available to people with drug addictions or out of wedlock babies. There's no help for people like her, who are legitimately struggling to eat while bettering themselves. Our government seems to reward this type of bad behavior- pop out another kid, cash another check.
And speaking of guys, I don't understand this phenomenon of guys becoming suspended at about age 19. I thought there was some honor in working hard to support yourself...not hooking up with the overachiever girlfriend with the master's degree who will be willing to fund your slacker, video-game playing self.

Posted by: amh18057 at August 3, 2006 5:32 AM

I don't know. I have to call BS on that whole article. So, let's see. Compared to when the American economy was at its height in the late 1960s (and before women seriously entered the professional work space) there should be a whopping 4 million more men in work? And to back this up, they find two severely depressed fiftysomething white guys (who sleep more than nine hours a day) and one thirtysomething ex-con? Nah. Sounds like they came up with an angle beforehand and found the facts to fit.

And seriously, if a couple of guys who've put in more than 30 years of fulltime work want to indulge their passion for non-fiction and borderline alcoholism, than God bless them. Vaya con Dios, muchachos.

Posted by: kevin_m at August 3, 2006 6:42 AM

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