Americans Forced To Work Job Just To Put Food On Table

Long Beach, California: A vast array of local, state and federal unemployment benefits is not enough to prevent some Americans from seeking remunerative work.

A husband and father to three children, Dan Allen has been receiving a vast array of city, state and federal unemployment benefits since being furloughed from his job when the COVID-19 crisis struck last March. Nevertheless, Mr. Allen and millions of Americans just like him are learning the hard way that government largesse just isn’t enough. Shortly after the initial lockdown last spring, Allen decided to swallow his pride and return to work.

“I’m not proud of it. But my wife and I sat down and crunched the numbers and there was no way around it: I was going to have to begin earning again” he said.

Policymakers in Washington are struggling to deal with a problem which has been perplexing public officials since the New Deal: how to keep people from relying on work to support themselves?

True, some Americans do better than others on social welfare programs. Some, particularly in America’s most progressive cities and states, even seem to thrive on them. Others, however, have difficulty escaping an endless cycle of dependency on hard work, saving and investment. And it is these Americans whom policymakers are most concerned about.

“Our studies suggest that there’s a cultural component,” said Theodore M. Stanley, a research fellow at the Center For The Emerging Majority, a progressive think tank. “It’s breaking that cycle of work-paycheck-work-paycheck which gets passed down through generations which presents the greatest challenge to policymakers.” Mr. Stanley advocates, among other things, a gradual reduction in the retirement age.

While total dependency on government may be the ideal, some planners look to compromises made in countries such a Greece, where those who insist on working are given largely harmless positions in government.

Work-Related Stress vs. Stress-Related Work


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When you work for yourself, the stress of having too much to do is qualitatively different than the stress of having too little. If you work for yourself, chances are it’s work you love and “busy season” just means you have that much more wind to your back.

It’s harder to do, though, when your job consists of finding your next job.

Sometimes it helpful to distinguish between stress that results from too much work – a sign that others find your work very useful – and stress that results from too little work – a sign that you have more work to do.

The former can be a burden, it is also a blessing.

Return to or watch me attempt the impossible.

My Agent

I called my agent, something I rarely do. I was nervous.

“Nice Try Productions. This is Charlie.”

“Hi Charlie. It’s me, David.”


“David Deeble.” There was a pause. “Comedian.” Then, impulsively, “You’re my agent.”

“Oh, right! Hey Dave! May I call you ‘Dave’? What’s up?”

“Not a whole hell of a lot, actually. That’s why I’m calling.”

“You know I’m workin’ my tail off for ya, babe!”

Earlier in the afternoon I had run into a club owner who I hadn’t worked for in years. After some friendly chitchat, I asked point-blank if he had spoken to Charlie lately. “You mean your agent Charlie?” he said. “I haven’t spoken to Charlie in years…”

Charlie was the kind of agent that’s constantly trying – and failing – to stroke the ego of his clients. During a previous dry spell he tried to console me: “Those who like your act really, really love your act. Having said that, no one likes your act”.

Things were “slow”, he explained in the way all agents do, as if for the first time in the history of the world people decided they didn’t want to pay other people to make them laugh. I told him that word on the street was that his other acts – like the guy who folds paperclips into roman numerals suggested by the audience – seemed to be turning down gigs, they were so busy.

“Can you hold on a minute? I’ve got a call on the other line.” There was then a suspect-sounding click sound meant to suggest that I was on hold but I could still hear the ambient noise of his office fan and the hyper-deliberate shuffling of papers. Then there was the phony click again. “Dave! I think I’ve got something for you!”

He then proceeded to divulge everything he could, leaving out details such as the location, date and pay lest I go behind is back and secure the gig myself. I told him I’d think about it and hung up, immediately called him again, and accepted the gig.

The Pyongyang Hilton is located in a blocky, Soviet-era building. It’s façade is barely visible from across the street due to the massive tangle of electric streetcar wires that hover above the broad, car-less avenue. It’s an easy gig – dark Sunday through Friday – and I’m welcome to all the tree bark I can eat.

My agent's personal assistant, Lexi (this photo in no way meant to lure readers to my blog).