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Even Teachers Get Depressed in this Economy

03 May

Every now and then I write something that has nothing to do with Lizzie Borden and this is one of those times.

I’m just back from a trip to the Bay Area where I had a chance to spend some time with an old college chum who has been laid off and looking for work for almost two years now.  And while we had a great time doing the tourist thing in San Francisco, including a beautiful drive out to Salinas, most of our talking was about the economy and her situation.

Pam taught advanced courses in music history and composition for nearly 20 years at the same community college.  Before that she taught music in high school for over 15 years.  It’s all she’s ever done, and she was good at it.  But now, like millions of others she’s finding it very hard to crack that wall of age bias let alone find a position that even remotely relates to her past experience and qualifications.  She has organization and managerial skills but as soon as they see her resume, the school teaching aspect minimizes those attributes to potential employers.  She’s gone on countless interviews, fielded hundreds of applications, and the setbacks and depression are wearing on her once bright and super-charged disposition.

Like millions of others, she has lost the advantage of contributions to her social security the past two years and at age 64 – or for anyone over age 40 even – that is a significant drawback.  It can’t be made up and directly affects the averaging of future income.  Her IRA and other investments have been diminished and had no cash flow for two years.  She can’t sell her house because she would make no money once the loan balance was paid, assuming she got a buyer.  And every time she gets her hopes up about a potential job she applies for and feels she has a good chance because she’s called back for interviews, her positive expectations plummet when she is rejected once again.  And then that depression sinks in.  It’s devastating and the constancy has worn on her self esteem.

Pam typifies so many of the single women out there – particularly single women over 50.  The last thing she wants to do is have to move in with her daughter and son-in-law though they keep telling her she should.  Pam’s always been financially independent and does not want to rely upon a roof over her head from her family or anyone else.  Nonetheless, she’s limited in her employment prospects because of her background – Education.

All across America deep cuts have been made at levels of public education.  The auto industry, banking industry, transportation, etc. will “come back” before Education.  States, counties and municipalities don’t put Education at the top of their list.  Its public safety and infrastructure, i.e., highway systems, before money goes to Education.  And then there’s tenure to contend with.

Yes, there are signs and signals that the economy is improving –  that we’ve hit the low water mark.  But for those in the teaching profession their recession – and depression – will continue for quite a while.

Which brings me to Arizona’s new Immigration Reform law.  (Nice segway, eh?)  Without going into the whys and wherefors, legality, illegality, etc. I’ll just make a point that relates to the above.  Aside from the escalation of violence in Arizona’s border towns due to drug trafficking, aside from the inbred bias against Mexicans, there is a much more simplistic primary cause that effected this recent legislation:  Arizona’s economy is suffering badly and for many of the same reasons as California.  The unemployment in Arizona is having trickle down effects all across the state.  Suddenly those minimum wage jobs that require bussing tables or serving hamburgers out a drive-thru window doesn’t look so bad to the former systems analyst, production supervisor, secretary, store manager, bus driver or school teacher.  The mindset here, and it comes up in almost any conversation about the new Immigration Reform law, is that “those illegal Mexicans have taken the jobs us citizens could have.”  Seriously.  They forget those were the jobs they didn’t want or weren’t willing to take when the economy was booming.  Right now, making beds in some Motel 6 or Comfort Inn sounds pretty good to those people.  And when you are depressed, angry and scared it’s real easy to point fingers to a target group that can be blamed for your circumstances.  But the media likes to focus on the “discrimination” and “profiling” aspect.  It’s a sexier lead.

In short, the economy of the past 2-3 years has adversely affected the lives of millions of Americans – those with families as well as singles – be they young or senior citizens.  Those who have jobs, good paying jobs, and have kept them are the lucky ones.

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