Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash Vol. XLIV: Outsourcing the unemployed, chasing tail, and banning New Year’s Day

Matt Labash Columnist
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With so many people on unemployment benefits, what do you think about requiring them to work 20 hours of community service, and 20 documented hours of job searching in exchange for unemployment income? – Ed

Yeah, sure – because nothing’s going to motivate an unemployed person to spend 20 hours a week banging their head against a closed personnel door, like spending another 20 hours a week in a fluorescent vest, stabbing trash on the side of the road. Besides, if we put that many people to work for free, my worry is that we’d create a community-service scab labor pool, thus throwing more people out of low-wage jobs, which would further compound the unemployment benefits problem. Plus, the last thing I need to be doing is looking over my shoulder, fretting that some unemployed hedge fund manager is willing to dispense advice-column wisdom, gratis, in order to collect his unemployment check. No thanks. I need that money, not only to feed my family, but to purchase the fake identification and paperwork I use to run a welfare-fraud ring (you’ve got to have money to make money), which isn’t just enriching myself, but which also stimulates the economy when I pay the laminator, the printer, and bribe my guy at Social Services.

The way I see it, there is no greater indignity than once-reliable breadwinners losing their jobs, being unable to support their families, and having no prospects on the horizon. Do you really think that a once striving and productive, now downwardly-mobile member of the middle class, likes being in that position? It used to be that a guy who sat at a desk and typed things for a living figured if the bottom fell out of his cushy existence, he could at least buy a tool-belt and some work-boots and get a construction job. Well good luck even doing that now, since unemployment in construction has now reached nearly 20 percent, the industry having shed 2.1 million jobs since 2006. As for low-wage jobs — at  my local church food pantry, the lion’s share of people who avail themselves of free groceries are single parents who are fully employed, but don’t eke out enough of a living to adequately feed themselves or their kids. Accepting charity does not always mean you’re lazy. It might just mean you’re desperate.

This is not to say there isn’t abuse of unemployment benefits, that some aren’t gaming the system, and that scrutiny shouldn’t be increased and loopholes tightened. It’s just to say have a little compassion on your fellow man during the worst recession in a century. If there’s two things we all should have learned from the last several years of misery, it’s that unfavorable economic forces can lay waste to even once mighty institutions. And also that the end is near, the sun will soon blacken, plagues will be unleashed, and the rivers will run red with blood. Happy New Year!

So perhaps we should stop blaming each other and start blaming others, as our forefathers intended. Perhaps it’s time we stopped scapegoating victims and began thinking of constructive solutions – such as outsourcing the unemployed. Why not? We’ve been shipping American jobs overseas for years. Why not ship the American jobless overseas? Maybe they can catch up with their old occupations. For too long, the world has fed like trichina worms off of our good fortune. Now, perhaps, it’s time for these parasites to drink the contaminants of our misfortune. How ya like us now, Bangalore? Maybe after a few years of absorbing waves of our unemployed, the next time I reach your call room when dialing tech support, you can teach me how to say “turnabout is a pisser” in Hindi.

In my short time on earth, I’ve noticed that we men seem to need something to chase. Some chase money, others fame or power. Being a 21st century Neanderthal, I prefer split tail and square tail. Split tail is off the menu (and watching the kids!), so I tend to lean towards fat meat, eating squared tail fish that hit a twitching muddler like a killer whale pounding a baby seal. Besides chasing catfish in the tail water of a sewage treatment plant, or throwing an Adams with a sinking-tip 9 weight to bass, what are you looking forward to chasing in 2011? – Chad Eslin, North Maine Woods

My first temptation is to say that I’ll chase Mrs. Eslin, as anyone whose husband calls her a “split tail” is probably ripe for the catching. But I won’t say that, because it would be wrong, and I’m trying to set a good example for The Daily Caller’s child readers, anyone of whom could be my trophy wife someday. As for your question as to what I will chase in 2011, in my experience, there’s nothing more exhausting than New Year’s resolutions, except for, perhaps, the people who make them. Their “chase” always seems to involve quitting things – smoking, drinking, fatty foods – which is fine by me, it just leaves more liquor and pork chops for the rest of us.

So I’ll probably spend 2011 as I have my last three decades – chasing my own tail. It’s easily locatable, it’s always slightly out of reach – giving me something to shoot for — and it provides a welcome distraction from deeper self-reflection, which would involve coming to terms with the futility of it all, thus plunging me into a melancholic abyss. I’d rather just fix my eyes upon the patch on the back of my Sasson jeans (I’m very retro), and to keep heading toward it like the North Star.

Matt, if you could get rid of one holiday, which would it be? – Chris

Without a doubt, New Year’s Day. Not New Year’s Eve, which I tend to like. I like drinking until I can’t feel my legs. I like kissing ladies at midnight. I enjoy it when Ryan Seacrest watches his ball drop over Times Square. I just don’t like the after-party, when you realize everything you did this year is now last year. Present has receded into past. And time is marching you that much closer to senility, adult diapers, and to a Reader’s Digest subscription. With all the clenched-teeth New Year’s optimism you’ll undoubtedly encounter in the next few days, allow me to balance things out with a healthy pinch of New Year’s cynicism, leaning on the words of Ogden Nash: “Every New Year is the direct descendent, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals.”

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” was published this spring by Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.