FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bad Bureaucracies Are Fraying the Social Safety Net

I’ve always believed in government.

That is, I believe there are roles in society that can be best performed by a government — to serve the people, rather than a profit motive.

But I’m fed up. It’s like a crisis of faith. I’m trying to believe the best about the government, but the local bureaucracy seems determined to disprove all of my lofty ideals. Anyone who’s ever visited a DMV knows what I’m talking about.

In this latest go around, I’m attempting to apply for unemployment.

Here’s the scenario. I worked one semester teaching community college in the state of California. I was hired to teach a second semester — and then all of my courses were eliminated the Friday before they were supposed to start. I’d already put several hours into setting up online quizzes and writing my syllabus, and I was out of a job.

Since the semester started this week, there’s no hope of getting another teaching job right now. No school waits until classes already start to hire the teachers. So I filed for unemployment.

California has two methods of calculating your unemployment benefits, which they call “standard” and “alternate.” The standard version looked at my teaching income from September 2016 until September 2017. The alternate method would have included all of my wages through December.

Since I started teaching last August, the standard method counts only two months of my five months of wages. California’s government used the standard method and — based on my paltry two months of wages — awarded me a whopping $140 a week, up to a maximum of $1,800.

How on earth does anyone in California live on $140 a week?

This is my second go around with California’s unemployment system. Last time it was like this: There’s no office to go to, and if you call the phone number, you get a message saying to call back later due to high call volume. Then it hangs up.

Sometimes — rarely — that doesn’t happen. You hold and hold and hold and finally you hear a phone ring and then a message says to call back later due to high call volume.

That was during the week. On weekends, miraculously, you could get a call through. Once you did, you found out why. The people answering the phones on the weekends had no access to the computer system, and they couldn’t help you.

This time around, the phone numbers don’t even work. You call, you hear silence, and the phone hangs up.

I have had equally frustrating experiences with California’s government when dealing with traffic tickets and food stamps. It’s like being trapped in a Kafka novel.

Some people say the problem is that the government should be run like a business. I don’t know. I’ve gotten equally frustrating “service” from mobile carriers and banks in the past. The difference is that you can switch phone companies or banks, but you can’t switch governments.

Whatever the problem is, it’s unacceptable.

The social safety net is necessary and beneficial. Unemployment benefits don’t just benefit the individual who receives them, because the individual turns around and spends the money at local businesses.

When processes are confusing, benefits lousy, and offices understaffed or underfunded, everyone loses. We need to fix it.

More articles by:
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail