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Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2004 / 30 Tishrei, 5765

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

Why I'm Unemployed | "What do you mean I'm unemployed!" I said to Vinny the Number Cruncher, my gray-haired accountant.

"Settle down, kid, rumors of your unemployment are greatly exaggerated. According to the Kerry people, technically you aren't working."

"But Vinny, I'm a self-employed writer. I perform communications services for different clients around the country. Not only am I 'employed' but my income is far more stable than people who have traditional jobs."

"How's that, kid?"

"My sources of income are spread out. If one client runs out of dough, I still have the other clients to carry me. People with 'real jobs' lose everything when they get laid off."

"No doubt about that, kid. The rapidly changing global economy leads to shifts that sometimes mean layoffs for payroll employees."

"And not only am I more secure than people with 'real jobs,' but I'm happier. I don't sit in rush-hour traffic burning fossil fuel. I sit in a coffeehouse pecking away on my portable computer. And I wear blue jeans, not a lousy suit and tie."

"I envy you, kid."

"It's a win-win situation, Vinny. I deliver needed services to companies in exchange for a good fee. While I make more money than I did as a payroll employee, the companies are able to save money. They don't have to carry the cost of health insurance, Social Security and Medicare taxes, worker's compensation and more."

"That's a fact, kid."

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"And though I buy my own health insurance and cover the full 15.3% for Social Security and Medicare, I still come out way ahead. In this dynamic economy there are lots of attractive opportunities for the self-employed."

"You don't have to convince me, kid. You have to convince the Kerry people. They're doing everything they can to make Bush look bad, so they're completely ignoring an important report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics."

"I'm shocked, Vinny."

"According to the bureau's payroll survey, payroll jobs HAVE been lost since Bush has been president. If you include the bureau's recently adjusted numbers, Bush has lost approximately 585,000 payroll jobs."

"But, Vinny, isn't it true that the stock market burst, the recession hit and 911 rattled the economy?"

"That's right, kid. What is also true is that the payroll survey ONLY measures payroll jobs. If you're a real-estate agent, IT contractor or self-employed writer, you're not going to turn up on that survey."

"But if the Kerry people aren't including the self-employed in their employment calculations, then they're cooking the books!"

"Precisely, kid. That's why it's essential to look at another bureau study, the household survey. It measures the self-employed. And according to that survey, a lot of self-employed people are doing well. When you factor self-employment into the equation, Bush has actually created 1.6 million jobs."

"Then why isn't the press telling us the whole story on employment? How can they give us the negative news on payroll employment without reporting the positive news on self employment?"

"It beats me, kid. Hardly anyone in the press has called attention to both surveys. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has gone out of his way to ignore the positive news in the household survey. Because he writes only about the 'payroll' survey, I can only conclude he's looking to nail Bush. In fact, there's been no word about the household survey in any of the main news outlets that I'm aware of."

"I'm shocked again, Vinny."

"One of the few places I could find this story reported was on National Review Online. A fellow named Jerry Bowyer set the facts out in clear detail, the way journalists are supposed to do. In any event, kid, until more people come clean about the actual employment data, I guess you know what that means."

"I'm unemployed, aren't I."

"Buck up, kid. At least you're making a good living at it."

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© 2004 Tom Purcell