An article in today's New York Times describes laid-off executives who have taken hourly-wage jobs to make ends meet. It's worth reading the article and watching the accompanying audio slide show online. The former executives profiled in the piece are responsible, hardworking members of our society who lost their prior positions through no fault of their own—not incompetence or negligence or even ill health. Their companies simply downsized or went out of business altogether, landing them on the street.
Despite diligent job searches, these victims of our desperate economy quickly realized that the accomplishments listed on their resumes were not yielding any jobs, let alone jobs comparable to the ones they had lost. So they downplayed their managerial skills and over-qualifications in order to find jobs as janitors, fast-food clerks, and UPS package sorters. They're doing whatever they can to earn enough to make the mortgage payments on their homes and hold onto health care coverage for their families.
One of the individuals profiled in the Times prays every morning with his wife, a breast cancer survivor, and then goes off to work mopping floors and cleaning urinals. This is depressing stuff. But, for me, it's also a story filled with hope. If anything is going to bring us out of the coming depression into a better world, it will be the work ethic of people like those described in the article. These men and women embody the concept of personal responsibility.
I hope President Obama's policies will reward their industriousness with appropriate support and incentives. If families who have stopped making mortgage payments receive assistance to help them stay in their homes, there should also be help for those who are working themselves to the bone everyday so they won't fall behind in their payments. Only that way will anything like equity be achieved.