I did a radio interview segment yesterday with my friend and long-time radio partner Glen Gardner about the “gig economy”. The segment will air a week from Sunday at noon, on the 18th, as part of The Kathleen Show on 92.1 The Mic. For those not familiar, the gig economy is stitching together a bunch of projects and part-time jobs to pay the bills. The term “gig” means something different to computer nerds, but to musicians, a gig is a job – as in “I got a gig with Clyde Stubbelfield, but it’s just three nights at the Majestic”.
Some of the best musicians in the world live gig-to-gig, doing a studio date here, a live performance date there, and maybe booking a month-long tour. Now, in this economy, some of the most talented people in every profession are living gig-to-gig, doing a consulting project here, a part-time job there, picking up work where they can.
For the millions of Americans who are unemployed in this horrid downturn, many – probably the majority – aren’t even able to pick up projects, part-time jobs, or any form of employment to bring in some cash. They rely on unemployment benefits to “make the nut” and keep the wolf from the door.
Because the economy has been sour for so long, a lot of folks have been on unemployment money month after month, getting extension after extension of benefits, while they search for a new job or get training for a different one. It’s a lot different from just a few years ago, when you had to take unemployment money for a month or two until you landed a new full-time gig.
For thousands and thousands of unemployed workers, their benefits ran out – again – last week, and Congress went on vacation without approving another extension of unemployment benefits, leaving those thousands and thousands of unemployed workers high and dry.
As President Nixon used to say, let me make one thing perfectly clear: the Democrats are in control of Congress. You can blame it on heartless business-loving Republicans, but the Democrats control Congress and the White House. If they’d had the desire to “ram more unemployment benefits down our throat”, as the Republicans said the Democrats did with health insurance reform, they could have. They didn’t. Fail.
Unemployment benefit checks go right back into the local community. The money buys food, pays rent/mortgage, pays the power company, buys gas, and has a direct, measurable impact on the local economy. People getting unemployment benefits don’t park the money in the bank, don’t “invest” it, don’t do anything with it but pay their bills. Most of the recipients need the money desperately.
President Obama got 20 billion dollars out of BP; Congress is still funding our overseas wars and bailing out big business, but when it comes to “the little guy” – well, let’s take a vacation and talk about it later.
Our national priorities are so flawed.