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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Work’ Category


Are you, too, getting older…and poorer?

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

I’m pretty good at math, so I did some the other day. I wanted to figure out where I stood, retirement-wise. It turns out, I won’t be standing, but sitting right here in front of the computer monitor working. Social security and our meager savings will not come close to allowing us to live comfortably here in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts. And with our first grandchild due next month, I’ve abandoned all hope of convincing Martha to move.

As it turns out, though, we’re not alone. Lots of others are facing seniorhood with less-than-stellar financial resources, too.

5 Steps to Greater Retirement Self-Reliance

Poverty rates have been rising for older Americans. They’re not alone, of course. The meager recovery from the recession has left millions of us worse off. Younger people can at least hope for a rebound when things get better. But it is hard to find a silver lining in any of the clouds that hang over older folks.

Tax rates are set to rise. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are under the gun. Federal and state spending will be under pressure for years, if not decades. And the flood of aging baby boomers promises to intensify demand for senior health and safety-net programs, just when it’s clear that the money for any expanded efforts is just not there.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) recently took a look at poverty rates among people age 50 and older, and how they changed between 2001 and 2009. Looking at four different groups of older people, here is how their poverty rates have changed:

Ages 50 to 64: from 9.1 percent in 2001 to 12.3 percent in 2009

Ages 65 to 74: from 8.4 percent to 9.4 percent

Ages 75 to 84: from 8.8 percent to 10.7 percent

Ages 85 and older: from 15.9 percent in 2001 to 14.6 percent in 2009

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Number 3 on the list, delaying retirement, is not even an option for me. It’s a necessity.

Even if I do delay collecting Social inSecurity until I’m 70, we still won’t have enough to live on comfortably. So the bottom line of my math exercise is, barring a  big lottery win, I’ll be working until I die.


What’s your situation?

If you’re approaching “that age,” will you have enough to retire comfortably?

If you’re younger, do you have a concrete plan to generate enough savings to retire?

And how do you feel the nation’s ongoing shift to socialism will affect you?


Please! Just stop whining, get off your butt, and get a job. Any job.

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — Melinda.


I can’t recall the last time I read such a fine example of self-indulgent whining as the following:

Trials of a stay-at-home boyfriend
It’s hard being unemployed for six months. Even worse is when your girlfriend picks up the check at dinner

I am a stay-at-home boyfriend. This lifestyle was dictated by circumstances – not choice – but it’s hard to deny it has benefits. Showers: optional. Getting dressed: optional. Human contact: optional.

Still, I squirm every time my girlfriend, Stephanie, and I go out to dinner and she reaches for the check. Sometimes I snag it from under her lingering fingertips and whip out my Visa – for which she pays the bill — as if that’s somehow less demeaning. Say what you will about modern times and gender roles in the 21stcentury, but there are still certain behaviors associated with manhood. Providing. Protecting. Being a stay-at-home boyfriend may look easy. But let’s say I’ve forsaken a certain amount of pride.

Last August I earned my master’s degree from Northwestern University. I have now been unemployed for six months. I realize now that life with a liberal arts degree is self-inflicted. It turns out that few job descriptions list a base understanding of semiotics or rote memorization of the oeuvre of Alfred Lord Tennyson under necessary Skills/Qualifications.

But give me a Break, Break, Break.

It seemed like worthwhile knowledge for those of us naive enough to believe English, history and philosophy were rewarding academic pursuits. What else could allow me to play the sophisticate at parties, wearing tweed jackets, or quoting Nietzsche on nihilism when someone asks if I’ve seen last week’s episode of “The Walking Dead.” What I didn’t realize is that first you must earn the money to buy that tweed jacket, which is damn expensive.

Instead I have discovered I am over-qualified, under-qualified, wrongly qualified. At this point I just want a job to resent. Late at night, lying belly-up on the mattress, I long for the discordant beep of a malfunctioning fax machine or a bumbling secretary to diagnose a case of the Mondays.

Day-to-day, the single-most intimidating obstacle I face is not the unemployment rate or another round of hapless job interviews, but attaching an identity to the man I make eye contact with each morning in the vanity mirror. Every tee ball trophy I was given as a child, all those words of blind encouragement in the classroom — be whatever you want to be — were just another ingredient in a soufflé of grandiose expectations.  And every day the gap in my job history expands is another day I struggle to find myself.

Click Here to read the rest of this overwrought maundering.

Give you a “Break, Break, Break”?! How about giving all of us, and your poor girlfriend, a break.

You’ve been sitting around for six months feeling sorry for yourself and you expect us to do what, join in your self-pity party?

Sorry, pal. There are lots of jobs available. Try McDonald’s or Burger King or WalMart. True, they will not tap all that vast lake of literary learning you lapped up in order to earn your useless degree, but they will put money in your pocket so you won’t have to keep sponging off your girlfriend.

Did you take any math classes to get that degree? Try this: $10/hr > 0. If you skipped math, it means ten dollars an hour is greater than zero.

Imagine how good you’ll feel looking in the mirror and seeing someone who’s being productive, who’s doing the best he can under bad circumstances, instead of someone who spends his days watching TV and lamenting his rude introduction to the real world.

You might even learn some useful skills. And while your flipping burgers or mopping floors, you can still be applying for better jobs. (Hint: employers are more likely to hire someone who demonstrates his ambition by working than someone who’s earning a second degree in daytime TV.)

You made some bad choices and at least you are man enough to admit it. Now make a good choice. Man-up, get off your ass, and go take any job you can find before your girlfriend realizes she can do a lot better than the whiny, Sponge Bob-watching loser you’ve let yourself become.

What do you folks think?

Am I being to hard on him?

Or is he possibly just another grownup cupcake who can’t deal with the real world?


Do we have an absolute right to privacy?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Do Americans have an absolute right to privacy? Some think so. I am not among them. Let me explain.

Although many will deny it, it seems clear to me our natural right to privacy is, indeed, enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

It is contained in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. It is also implied by the Third Amendment, which prohibits government from forcing you to house a soldier, and by extension, other government agents. Article Four prohibits government from rooting around in your life. And Article Five says we cannot be forced to testify against ourselves. None of those would have any meaning without the foundation of a right to privacy.

So I believe we do have a right to privacy, but not an absolute one.

For example, if a store posts a sign at the entrance that clearly states if you enter the store, you will be video recorded in all areas of the store and that the video can be used for any and all purposes, you give up your right to privacy when you walk through the door and can’t complain when the video of you in the changing room ends up on YouTube. Of course, no store would be stupid enough to try to get away with it. Even if they did, as soon as the first person publicly complained, the media would run with it and the store would find itself with no customers.

Privacy is the basis of our “Miranda” rights. Police must advise you of your right to keep your thoughts and words private but if you give up that privacy, they’ll use whatever you say to hang you if they can.

Although the Constitution constrains government, it does not similarly shackle private businesses. Your employer can order you to not engage in any political speech in the workplace or may equally order you to engage in a particular form of political speech as a condition of employment. Similarly, you have no absolute right to privacy in the workplace. Your employer may monitor all your work-related communications as well as any communications that take place using business-owned equipment. Hopefully, they make their employees aware of this, but they are not obligated to do so.

On the other hand, if your employer happens to be a government entity, I believe they do have an obligation to advise you that communications can be monitored.

Lawsuit says FDA monitored e-mails
Agency workers filed complaints

WASHINGTON – Current and former Food and Drug Administration officials say in a lawsuit that the agency secretly monitored their private e-mail after they raised concerns that approved medical devices might risk public safety.

The doctors and scientists who researched the products approached members of Congress and the incoming Obama administration to express alarm that the devices were approved over their objections.

Their lawsuit contends that the agency monitored e-mail sent from their personal Gmail and Yahoo accounts from work computers over two years. It says those e-mails included messages to congressional staff and drafts of whistle-blower complaints.

The staffers say they were legally protected whistle-blowers and the monitoring violated their constitutional rights to free speech and against illegal search and seizure, even though a warning on FDA computers said they had no expectation to privacy.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I am no fan of the FDA. It’s one of the many departments of government I believe should be abolished. But that is beside the point. In this case, they did nothing wrong by monitoring the use of their equipment which included a clear warning that users should not expect any privacy.

I fully support whistle-blowers. But the lawsuit filed claims “the monitoring violated their constitutional rights to free speech and against illegal search and seizure” which it clearly does not do. Do they expect those monitoring the computers use to magically know when they will be using it as whistle-blowers and so close their eyes or turn off the monitoring for the duration?

If there was any retaliation, those who instigated it should be fired. But the whistle-blowers should have waited until they got home and used their private computers to blow the whistle.

Really, it is as simple as that and the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Then there should commence an independent investigation of and prosecution of any wrongdoing brought to light by the whistle-blowers.

Do you agree or disagree we have a right to privacy but not an absolute one? And why?

Was the FDA monitoring wrong even though everyone was warned it would take place?

And where and when do you think privacy should be inviolate and where should it not.


The real problem isn’t the 1%, it’s the 2%

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

If you had asked me yesterday who was the largest employer in the United States, I’d have guessed WalMart. Others may have guessed McDonalds, or Microsoft, or Starbucks, but they, like me, would have been wrong.

The largest employer in the United States is, in fact, the United States.

While retail behemoth WalMart claims 2.1 million employees, they can’t hold a candle to the Feds which issues paychecks to 2.9 million Federal and Postal employees — 2 percent of the entire American workforce according to And the pay isn’t bad! Plus, they’re always hiring! Maybe someone should tell the OWS crowd.

According to the same site,

Average annual salary for full-time federal government jobs now exceeds $81,258.

The U.S. Government is the largest employer in the United States, hiring about 2.0 percent of the nation’s work force and the workforce is expanding significantly due to health care reform, in-sourcing, and many new regulatory programs. Federal government jobs can be found in every state and large metropolitan area, including overseas in over 200 countries. The average annual federal workers compensation, including pay plus benefits, now exceeds $123,049 compared to just $61,051 for the private sector according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis.

How’s that for fairness and justice OWS? We foolish private sector workers bust our humps every day for the privilege of paying our Federal overlords and their minions twice as much, on average, as we make.

What a great country, eh?

Now, I’m not saying all Federal workers are lazy or unneeded, so please don’t jump on me if you’re one of them. But the fact is that our government has grown so large, so unwieldy, and so intrusive, it has become an albatross around the neck of most citizens.

Perhaps the first step we need to take as a nation on the way to bankruptcy is to start trimming the overhead, like any good business would do. Do we really need a Federal Bureaucracy to tell us how to educate or kids, or that smoking cigarettes are bad for us, or handing over billions of our tax dollars to failing solar energy companies, and trillions to prop up mismanaged financial institutions?

The real problem in this nation is not the 1%. It’s the 2% who enable them.

If you were appointed to trim the government, where would you start?

What departments or jobs would you cut? And no, you can’t cut Congressmen and Senators and the President.

But maybe you could trim their perks and staff?

And if you are part of the 2%, I’m especially interested to know what you would do.


Should American citizenship be for sale?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner, Mike.


Should American citizenship be for sale?

It was the first question that crossed my mind this morning as I read the following story.

Green cards for job creators
Program gets push even as critics question its fairness

JAY, Vt. – Birinder Bhullar had grown weary of the long business trips between his native India and the United States, so he decided to make his home in New York. But the white-haired former engineer soon realized that he would have to wait years for a visa to move to America.

Instead, Bhullar and hundreds of other wealthy immigrants found a faster way into the United States, through a ski resort in Vermont. In exchange for investing $500,000 in the resort to create jobs, the US government gave him a green card three months ago.

The 55-year-old businessman is among 450 investors from India, China, Russia, South Africa, and dozens of other countries who obtained the green cards through their investments in Jay Peak Resort, part of a controversial national program that the Obama administration is increasingly promoting in hope of creating thousands of jobs across the United States.

“I chose the investor route because it was simple and much faster,’’ said Bhullar, now a mystic in New York offering seminars in life guidance. “I could see that it would be a waste of time – it would take very long – if I chose any other option other than Jay Peak.’’

The immigrant investor program, created in 1990 by Congress to compete with a similar initiative in Canada, helps foreigners slash through the red tape in the US immigration system while allowing businesses such as Jay Peak Resort to raise the money they need to expand.

With job creation now a top political issue and traditional sources of capital hard to find, the program is being aggressively marketed to businesses and potential foreign investors. It has incited critics who condemn it as a questionable business practice or as an immigration policy that effectively allows some foreigners to buy their way into the country.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

First, I don’t understand what critics mean by calling it a questionable business practice.

People invest because they want a return on their investment. Traditionally, the return is more money. But many folks “invest” in things like land and houses and collectibles not because they seek a monetary gain,  but because they want isolation or status or the joy of collecting. They may profit monetarily some day, but profit is not the prime motivation.

Given that, how is seeking citizenship as a return on an investment any different? They face the same risk of loss as any investor. If they invest and the new jobs do not materialize within two years, their green cards are revoked and they’re sent home on top of losing their investment.

Then there is the question of what kind of new citizens do we want?

Some would say the words Emma Lazarus penned in 1883 still apply: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

A century ago, even half a century ago, when America and the world were far different places, it was easy to embrace the sentiment behind those words. Were it not for that sentiment, I’d not be writing this post today because my father and my mother’s grandparents might never have emigrated here. But after decades of allowing illegals to pour across our borders unchecked, America no longer needs masses of unskilled labor. We have plenty of home-grown unskilled collecting welfare checks who could use a job. What we really need are new citizens with assets we can tax to help fund those welfare checks and these millionaire investors certainly fit that bill. Plus, their investments create new jobs, new opportunities for others to invest, and create even more jobs.

I say we should not only welcome these foreign investors and reward them with citizenship if they and their investments come through for us, we should be actively promoting the offer worldwide.

If we can induce ten thousand new investors here each year, the current visa limit, that translates into between five and ten billion dollars of new investment in America each year, plus millions or billions more spent here as these families set up housekeeping and go about their lives, plus at least one hundred thousand new jobs and probably many more.

I’d say that’s a damn sight better deal for America than we’ve seen from the trillions Washington has wasted on non-stimulus programs and bailouts over the past few years.

What do you think?

Good program or bad? And why?



OWS protesters get a lesson in how real life works

Monday, October 24th, 2011

They want $lice of the occu-pie

Even in Zuccotti Park, greed is good.

Occupy Wall Street’s Finance Committee has nearly $500,000 in the bank, and donations continue to pour in — but its reluctance to share the wealth with other protesters is fraying tempers.

Some drummers — incensed they got no money to replace or safeguard their drums after a midnight vandal destroyed their instruments Wednesday — are threatening to splinter off.

“F–k Finance. I hope Mayor Bloomberg gets an injunction and demands to see the movement’s books. We need to know how much money we really have and where it’s going,” said a frustrated Bryan Smith, 45, who joined OWS in Lower Manhattan nearly three weeks ago from Los Angeles, where he works in TV production.

Smith is a member of the Comfort Working Group — one of about 30 small collectives that have sprung up within OWS. The Comfort group is charged with finding out what basic necessities campers need, like thermal underwear, and then raising money by soliciting donations on the street.

“The other day, I took in $2,000. I kept $650 for my group, and gave the rest to Finance. Then I went to them with a request — so many people need things, and they should not be going without basic comfort items — and I was told to fill out paperwork. Paperwork! Are they the government now?” Smith fumed, even as he cajoled the passing crowd for more cash.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I really love it when life teaches lessons to the clueless.

I almost choked on my coffee from laughing when I read “…and I was told to fill out paperwork. Paperwork! Are they the government now?”

Yes, Bryan, they are the government. They are your government, the one you all presumably elected to do the work of running your little encampment. And unlike the pink sky world of the far left, where everyone gets what they want, when they want it, just by asking, in the real world, where resources are limited, someone has to decide how to prioritize how they are used. And when the coming accounting is made, don’t be surprised if some portion has been taken off the top for maintenance of the decision makers themselves.

What do you think, folks?

Am I just reinforcing Mr. Smith’s presumed opinion of nasty, evil, uncaring, unfeeling capitalists by enjoying his introduction to reality?

Should I, instead, have penned comments commiserating with his drum set’s misfortune and his inability to instantly get what he wants?

Or was my laughter just what the situation called for?


In a related story, the video below presents a possible reason why Smith’s drums were vandalized.

Frankly, I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t show up en masse three weeks ago to disable all the drums. Can you imagine constant drumming outside your home or business, day and night for a day much less a month?

Note how one neighbor was told she and her business are “collateral damage.” Isn’t “collateral damage” the language of the very people the OWS protestors are protesting against?

And doesn’t the sign being displayed at the end of the video tell you everything you need to know about what’s really going on with OWS?


Truth in Toons

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Enjoy. Comments welcome!







Truth in ‘Toons

Sunday, October 9th, 2011


Are you or your kids part of the recession’s lost generation?

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Great Recession yields a lost generation of workers
New 2010 census data show wrenching impact of economic downturn on young adults

Call it the recession’s lost generation.

In record-setting numbers, young adults struggling to find work are shunning long-distance moves to live with Mom and Dad, delaying marriage and buying fewer homes, often raising kids out of wedlock. They suffer from the highest unemployment since World War II and risk living in poverty more than others — nearly 1 in 5.

New 2010 census data released Thursday show the wrenching impact of a recession that officially ended in mid-2009. It highlights the missed opportunities and dim prospects for a generation of mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings coming of age in a prolonged slump with high unemployment.

“We have a monster jobs problem, and young people are the biggest losers,” said Andrew Sum, an economist and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. He noted that for recent college grads now getting by with waitressing, bartending and odd jobs, they will have to compete with new graduates for entry-level career positions when the job market eventually does improve.

“Their really high levels of underemployment and unemployment will haunt young people for at least another decade,” Sum said.

Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University, added, “These people will be scarred, and they will be called the ‘lost generation’ — in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster.”

Beyond the economy’s impact, the new figures also show a rebound in the foreign-born population to 40 million, or 12.9 percent, the highest share since 1920. The 1.4 million increase from 2009 was the biggest since the mid-decade housing boom and could fuel debate in this election season about U.S. immigration strategy.

Most immigrants continue to be low-skilled workers from Latin America, with growing numbers from Asia also arriving on the bet that U.S. jobs await. An estimated 11.2 million immigrants are here illegally.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Every day, I am thankful for the clients who continue to value my services. And I’m thankful my children and their spouses all have good jobs for I know of many whose children are part of the millions who cannot even get jobs at fast food restaurants because the competition for even entry-level jobs is so high where they live.

I have to wonder how many jobs that could have been filled by unemployed citizens are being held by the 11.2 million illegals in America.

I have to wonder how many self-employed contractors and plumbers, and carpet cleaners and others have, like my neighbor who had a contracting business for almost fifteen years, have all but given up because every contract on which they bid is underbid by one or more of the many unlicensed, uninsured fly-by-night outfits usually run by, yes, illegals.

And I always wonder how you, kind reader, are doing.

Is your job secure? Are you unemployed? If so, what, if anything, have you done or tried to do and what were the results?

Do you have any tips to share with folks who are coming to the end of their rope?

And what about your children?


What was your first job? And what did you learn from it?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

My first job was working on a fruit truck. The owner’s name was Benny. I never knew his last name. I not sure any of his customers did. Everyone I knew, kid and adult alike always just called him “Benny the fruit man.”

It was the summer of 1963, I was twelve, and I made ten cents an hour, plus tips, and all the fruit I could eat. On a good week, I’d make five or six dollars, big money for a kid in my neighborhood back then.

I learned a lot from that job. The first thing I learned was if you want something, ask for it. I wanted the job, asked for it, and got it.

The second thing I learned was about moderation, and that you spend a lot of time in the bathroom when you eat too much fruit in one day.

Part of my job was to carry the bags of stuff that older ladies purchased to their front door and sometimes, if they lived on the second or third floor, up to their apartments. That part of the job taught me that if you’re nice to people and talk to them as you’re helping them, they’re much more likely to give you a dime instead of a nickel for a tip.

And watching and listening to Benny as he talked to customers, and often sold them more than they’d intended to buy, taught me some valuable sales techniques I’d not use until well over a decade later when I started selling real estate.

To this day, I’m not sure why Benny hired me that summer. He didn’t need help. All I can think of is that he decided to do a good deed and help a kid learn the value of work.

I don’t recall if I ever really thanked him when the summer was over, but I’ve never forgotten him, his old green truck with the roll-up sides and back, and the way he’d call out, “Whoa, peaches, bananas, nice, fresh corn” or something similar at every stop.

So…what was your first job, how old were you, and what, if anything, did you learn from it?



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