Times sure have changed. I remember my grandfather saying many times, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Now and days I hear people actually advocating we cut education. The old programs that helped train individuals to work or how to look for work have long been gutted and rendered virtually useless. One-stops have replaced the old Department of Labor programs that once assisted folks who needed a little or a lot of help in getting that next job. They are now filled with computers rather than helpful faces and hands. We now have unemployment offices” rather than “employment offices” –places to apply for unemployment rather than to actually move toward employment.
A few years back we decided to wean people off of this thing called welfare—the term today is a lot different from what it used to be. During the Clinton years people were coming off these systems. There were strong systems in place, and they had been there for years, to help people make the transition. There were job skills and employability skills training programs. There were programs geared specifically toward those who had been displaced from their jobs through downsizing and layoffs. There were Summer youth work programs that provided employers with extra hands while introducing a young person to the world of work. These programs were the cornerstones of the pre-privatization Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and the old Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA).
And then slowly the “safety nets” began to fall away—this was the beginning. We cannot forget the block grants that enabled states to do their own thing, and I can assure you that some of them were clueless. Now we have Lockheed--yes, the aircraft builders-- and Goodwill—yes, the donation folks-- administering these programs and the services to the actual customer are more often than not non-existent or really awful.
Being in HR, I see people who have been at the same job for twenty years and then they get laid off. They apply for a job and they need upgraded skills or in some cases just interviewing skills. These days, there is very little left of the old services. There are pared down One-Stops (old Department of Labor offices) with a whole lot of folks needing help and getting very little more than poor customer service. These programs were cut back by Republican initiatives--when you give these loopholes or tax cuts the money comes from somewhere. And, I haven't even touched on the direction our educational systems are going.
We have slowly been eroding these safety nets for years, and now…we are down to the bare bones. I don't like the extended unemployment benefits--but without services that really help the unemployed improve their skills and employers sitting on their cash assets, do you really expect people to find a job quickly? You're kicking them when they are already down—and instead of offering a viable helping hand, we hear chants of “cut, cut, cut the safety nets.
I could go on and on with this, but the truth is so many have bought into the hype spewed by the GOP. There will always be people who will game the system but by far most people want to work. They don't want handouts. They want a good life. Once upon a time we had strong safety nets that helped a person get up when they were down. And, we even had a few folks out there looking for fraud—they were cut first.
Lives of people who are already born are at stake and we have people running around talking about ultrasounds and not giving up their tax cuts while sitting on their cash reserves and refusing to hire because they are "nervous." And then they have the utter gall to demand “get rid of the safety nets.”