Tag Archives: unemployment

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Eat The Rich and Steal Their Houses

29 Jul

Just two small pieces of housekeeping before we get started:

  1. Thank you to my very good friend Carrie for helping me come up with my new mantra, “Eat The Rich and Steal Their Houses.” I am currently accepting t-shirts with this slogan.
  2. I have a Ko-Fi account where you can buy me coffee AKA give me some money for writing this blog so I can go out and buy coffee or get beans from the store to make coffee myself because it is more cost effective. If you want, and if you have the ablity, the link is here.

And now without further ado, the latest meandering post.


As many of us are very aware, the extra pandemic aid, which has been a lifeline for a lot of people these past few months is about to end. That means a lot of folks who have been kept afloat since March are about to be shoved off the end of a fucking cliff. (I would like to take this moment to say that I hope Mitch McConnell develops a never ending itch somewhere deep in his anus from which he can never achieve relief.) For his part, Steve Mnuchin, the US Secretary of the Treasury and also a colossal dirtbag, when asked about whether or not there would be a continuation of the unemployment extension said, “it wouldn’t be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home.” So, just before I get into the other things I want to write about I would like to direct a few questions to Mnuchin, if I may.

Steve. You are aware that people receiving unemployment payments are themselves taxpayers? And that those same people pay taxes on the money they receive from the government? And that those people use the money they have received to buy other things which often are taxed? And that an economy cannot function if people don’t have money to spend so by giving people money you are staving off a much deeper and more painful economic downturn?

Yes? No? Maybe?

Listen, I’m not an economist. I was never all that good with things that involve numbers. But what I do know is that in March my job disappeared for 4 entire months. Because of the nature of my job, I don’t receive the maximum amount allowed in NY State ($504). If it weren’t for the additional funding, I would not have brought in enough money over the course of one month to pay my half the rent on our reasonably affordable (by NY standards) one-bedroom apartment. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pay rent and also feed myself. As far as I am concerned, the length of this shutdown lies squarely on the shoulders of our elected officials and they owe it to the American public to continue helping us pay our bills until they can remove their heads from their asses and stop the spread. I do place the vast majority of the blame on the federal government, but the states have done their fair share of botching things up as well. Before everyone twists themselves into pretzels to tell me what a great job Cuomo and(?) de Blasio have done consider this. In an article in ProPublica, it was asserted that the 6-day time lapse between when San Francisco shut down and when New York City shut down goes a long way in explaining why NYC was ravaged in a way no other area has been (so far). And I know, I am saying this and basing it on articles that were written with the benefit of hindsight. We know now what we didn’t know then. But, government officials knew more than us. And while I do believe that Cuomo did a better job than basically any other state leader in terms of hitting the gas on a shutdown and communicating with the residents of this state, I also believe that if he and de Blasio weren’t so engaged in their damn pissing contest we would have had a far better outcome. But, I digress.

I came here to write about unemployment. I came here to write about how there needs to be long-lasting aid to those of us who work in industries that have to entirely reimagine themselves to stay above water. What we have now in New York City – outside tables only, no drinks if you’re not seated, limited hours – is a huge strain on business owners and employees. However necessary it is to keep us here in NYC at a point in this pandemic that we worked very hard to arrive at, it is an unsustainable business model for those who work in the hospitality industry and those who own those businesses. I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that if I feel safe at work – which I do at my place of employment because my boss is going above and beyond to make sure that is the case for us and our customers – I would rather earn my income than receive government assistance. The reality of the situation, however, is that there simply are not enough shifts. Beyond that, the loss of our indoor space and a lot of our outdoor capacity results in a loss of business that cannot be easily replaced. Our incomes rely on asses in seats, but we have less seats now and, therefore, far less asses.

Please do not confuse this with me saying that I think precautions are unnecessary. None of us want to go back to where we were in April. That was, quite honestly, the closest to hell on earth I ever want to experience.* However, it is clear to my through learning about the measures being put in place that the governor has not spoken to enough (if any) people in the hospitality industry in order to ascertain how to keep our covid spread low while also helping to keep businesses afloat. And I know, he is a busy man. But nothing exists in a vacuum. Like I said earlier, if people have money, they will spend it. But if you have an entire industry of people who are struggling to afford rent, food and bills you’ve got a problem. That’s less money spent in other areas of the economy and in my mind that shit runs down stream. Just like the mortgage crisis rippled across the economy, so will this. And don’t get me wrong, the bar/restaurant industry is not the only one in this pickle, it’s just the one I understand best. I truly believe that if nothing substantial is done we are in for a world of hurt and many people in our government simply don’t give a shit.

Here’s what I think. I think we live in a country that not only equates wealth with success, but one which equates wealth with moral purity. That somehow those who have acquired, or, let’s face it, inherited wealth are deserving of it and above any serious reproach. That is simply untrue. What is true is that because of this idea that rich people are morally superior to the rest of us, and because they can afford to pay someone to protect them legally or otherwise, they are not governed by the same laws as the rest of us. It is this line of thinking that tells us that regardless of whatever structural and institutional barriers that we know to exist, that needing government assistance is due to a moral failing of the individual, rather than a structural failing of our economic system, and for that reason that individual is not to be trusted. Because that individual is morally unsound, they will take advantage of the kindness of the state and those in power – those who have received tax breaks, benefitted from ill-gotten government contracts, taken advantage of insider information to play the stock market, paid extra or used nepotism to get their children into elite universities and land them cushy and important jobs – must keep them in check.

Moral superiority my ass. And this disgust that so many (Republican) lawmakers have with the fact that people are earning more on unemployment than they did at their jobs is shameful. We should be disgusted that people are earning more on unemployment than in their jobs. But rather than say they are undeserving of the level of security they currently have, we should figure out how to make sure people are paid a living wage when they are working. It is offensive to me, and should be to everyone else, that we have people, hard-working, good people, struggling to pay rent and feed their families while a few selfish nincompoops hoard mountains of cash. We have a show all about hoarders, and not one episode (that I know of) has focused on people who hoard money. There is this thing in economics called the law of diminishing marginal utility. Basically what it says is that the first unit of consumption of a good or service yields more general utility than subsequent units of consumption. At a certain point, people have so much money that more money simply does not impact quality of life. More money to the super wealthy is absolutely meaningless outside of bragging rights. It’s grotesque. But to people with less, to people living on the edge, a little bit more money means a lot. It means food, it means rent payments, school uniforms, menstrual products, transportation, a fucking social life. This extra $600 is E V E R Y T H I N G.

I guess I’ve kind of gone off the rails here. Super shocking, I know. There is just a lot to think about and it’s hard for me to distill this all down to something narrow and concrete. I know these problems have existed for a long time, way before this pandemic struck. And I know people have been struggling with our economic and political systems since forever. The demonization of the poor is not new. Poverty is not the fault of the impoverished. And success is almost never self-made.

In summation, it is my belief that the only way forward at this point is to eat the rich, (distribute their net worth) and then steal their houses.

*Despite how poorly some other states – and some residents as a response to their local or our federal government – are handling their own outbreaks, I truly, truly hope they do not endure the degree of fear and loss that we did here. I would never wish this on anyone. Except maybe McConnell. Okay, and Jim Jordan. Bill Barr too, actually. OMG I have to stop.

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: How are you? Because I am Not Good.

8 Jul

A few months back I got a message from a reader on my Ko-Fi page thanking me for sharing all my feelings and experiences throughout the pandemic. I feel that I owe that reader an apology – I have not written about or documented these past few months nearly enough. In part this comes from not wanting to burden others with my feelings. We are all having our own experiences of grief, loss, confusion, fear, anxiety and, for some, a bit (or a lot) of success and positivity mixed in among all the confusion. It feels as though taking up space – even if that space is my own little corner of the internet that people can choose to engage with or not – is an imposition. And also in part it comes from the specific way in which my particular creativity works. I am someone who has always written with a specific story in mind, or a strong reaction to an ongoing issue or big piece of news. In the years since Trump was elected, I have found myself writing less and less often. There is just so much. And to be completely honest, I have been really struggling to make sense of the world. I have been struggling to find my bearings in an environment and a society that I thought was one thing but is, in fact, something entirely different. It feels like walking up to a structure that I think is made of something sturdy but when I touch it it turns out that it was constructed out of sand and the entire thing just crumbles at my fingertips, blows away in the wind.

People have been saying this since the election, that the modus operandi of this president was to plough ahead with one inhumane statement and policy after another, to overwhelm us to a point that action feels impossible, fruitless. Well, consider it a success because I am overwhelmed. Does anyone even remember what life was like before Trump? I’m having a harder and harder time mentally getting there. It’s like when someone dies and in the months following you can still hear their laughter in your head, feel their touch on you skin. They visit you in your dreams and you get to remember what it was like to have them in your life. But then, over time, they visit less often, their voices fade further and further into the distance, you no longer remember how they smelled. I am having a harder and harder time remembering what pre-November 2016 felt like. I know that this country was still horrible, was an enemy in a lot of ways, but at least it was an enemy that I sort of understood, knew how to fight against. Right now I feel like we are all face-to-face with a shape shifter, a reality that makes no sense, follows no rules, changes the game to suit its ends halfway through the match. And then changes the game again, just for fun. And again and again and again after that.

Now of course there is the pandemic, which the administration has decided to wish into non-existence. Turns out, viruses don’t take orders from a wannabe authoritarian leader and his morally bankrupt enablers, those people riding his coattails towards the true American Dream: mountains of wealth brought upon through the only method a lot of the powerful know – depraved indifference. And what about the rest of us? Those of us who are not immune to the shockwaves that will run through our economy for years? What are we supposed to do? I put over a decade of my life into an industry that essentially no longer exists, that will never be how it was just a few months back. There is no longer a living to be made there. So, what now? What now for me and millions of other people. The unemployment extension and eviction moratoriums are about to end and people are going to be in free fall. What we have seen these past months has been incomprehensible and I think it’s going to get worse. I think this is only the beginning.

So, I don’t know. I feel pretty fucking sad. How are you?