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Lost Your Job? Tell Your Story

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If you or someone close to you has lost a job, use the e-form at the bottom of this page to tell us what happened and what you need most from government. Or e-mail us directly at nationjobs@gmail.com. We'll publish as many of your stories as we can.

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Nicholas von Hoffman
Nicholas von Hoffman, a veteran newspaper, radio and TV reporter and columnist, is the author, most recently, of...

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What would he tell Obama to do?

Bank of America's Ken Lewis has done his bit to reinforce the idea that the CEOs who got us into this mess are a pack of liars.

When asked how things are going, the woman at the checkout counter answered that her husband has had his wages cut by 15 percent, the other men in his shop have been cut back to four days a week and her son-in-law was just laid off. "I came into the world with nothing," she said, a smile on her face," and I'm going out the same way."

At the other end of the spectrum, a recent graduate from an Ivy League college trying to make it in the New York theater said that she used to stand out as the starving artist in her crowd. Now her friends, from the "IBs" (as she calls baby investment bankers) to the young man who lost his job as a model maker for an architectural firm, are looking for work. She adds that her friends who are still working debate whether their employers will keep them because they are paid so little or if the cuts will start from the bottom and work up.

A 62-year-old woman in Washington who has been out of work for months says she has sent out more than 150 résumés and has not gotten a single nibble. She has had to drop her $500-a-month health insurance policy and will not be able to make the next payment on her condo.

A veteran computer programmer who heretofore never lacked for work has been laid off two jobs in the last year. Not long ago he found himself where he never expected to be at 9 o'clock in the morning--at the door of the unemployment compensation office. The line was so long they told him to come back the next day and get there by 7.

To take center stage, joblessness has to be made urgently real in personal and policy terms. If you have been laid off or you know the story of someone else who has, please write to us using the form below, telling us what happened and what you most need from government. We'll publish as many as we can.

With all the publicity about bailed-out bankers walking off with the government money intended to save their companies, and despite the public air filled with arguments over how to prop up the swaying financial system, the most important topic is employment. The big boys and big girls can dick around all they want with the TARP, the stimulus package and the auto industry rescue expeditions. They can yak about new green electric transmission grids and infrastructure, but if unemployment keeps growing at the present rate, nothing else will matter.

With each layoff, saving the financial structure, propping up the banks, keeping businesses running and loans flowing gets harder. Everything depends on jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

The unemployment numbers are horrendous. Two million seven hundred thousand fewer people were working at the end of 2008 than at the beginning. Layoff announcements this month have been sickeningly large. In one day alone, companies released the news that 43,000 more people were about to loose their jobs. In California the unemployment rate is closing in on 10 percent.

President Obama, who is mindful of what's going on, speaks about creating jobs, but we can't worry about that right now. The biggest most urgent worry is keeping the jobs we already have. Recession after recession has shown that bringing back a job, once lost, takes time, often lots of time.

In the struggle to end the Great Depression the last to yield to returning prosperity was employment. And how was full employment finally achieved? It was accomplished by taking 13 million men out of the labor force and putting them in the Armed Services.

At the rate jobs are evaporating, by next January another 6 million or 7 million people will be out of work and at that point the talk about kick-starting the economy will have netted us nothing. Too much of the president's plan is too slow. It might work for a less severe tailspin than the one we are in, but the ground is coming up too fast to wait for green projects and infrastructure programs to get to the hiring phase.

We need to gamble on something that might work now. The quickest and largest move we can make is to suspend the payroll tax for six or eight months. If the suspension were done immediately, paychecks would come without their FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) deductions until next September.

The suspension translates into slightly more than a 7.5 percent pay increase for employed people and a decrease of the same amount for their employers' payroll cost. It would also constitute a 15 percent pay raise for the self-employed.

People and their employers might use this infusion of cash to pay down debt or plop it in their savings, but a lot of it would be spent. And if enough of it were spent, it might stop the layoffs and stabilize the overall situation.

The suspension might not work, but the stimulus package worming its way through Congress will certainly not work before millions more are turned out of their jobs.

We are not prepared for this kind of massive distress and misery. No safety exists when the bottom drops out of everything.


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