Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not the Most Sympathetic Character--But She Did Everything Right.

I'm not a huge fan of people in the educational industrial complex, but Demosthenes of America forwarded me this article that was right on point for BIDER readers and my general feeling regarding the big(ger) divide between rich and poor.  Not to mention the big nose dive that so many of us have taken since the recession--into the deep end of poverty.  Maria Ortiz, a bilingual Ph.D. who has never had to search for a job until January of 2009:

After working and teaching in California for 20 years, Ortiz was recruited in 2007 for a highly specialized job at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She left her stable situation to take a chance on a new program she believed in, but the program folded due to budget cuts less than two years later in January 2009, right in the middle of the recession.
Ortiz frantically applied for jobs for the next 18 months, running through all $15,000 of her savings, exhausting all 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and eventually having to draw from Social Security and accept financial aid from her local church congregation to help pay the rent. 
Only in times like these can you go from the person leaving cash in the alms dish at church to the person knocking on the Minister's door to ask for a handout.  It only took 18 months.  Now, she's needy and broke.

How many months are you away from seeking handouts?  I think, if I had 3 bad months, I would be screwed.  And that is downright likely to happen.  After all, many of my clients are financially strapped, unemployed, underemployed, etc.  That's the honest truth. I imagine that there are people who have nothing in the bank at all, that are 2 weeks away from being evicted or losing their car.  We are all closer to poverty than we'd like to believe.

When I saw a homeless person in the 80s, I would think "crazy."  When I saw a homeless person in the 90s, I would think "druggie."  Now, I'll think "PhD."

Ms. Ortiz reflects on her life by citing our favorite line here at BIDER:
"I cried the whole day on Monday," she told HuffPost. "It's painful. It's embarrassing. I worked so hard. I have all this experience and education. I was careful and prepared. I kept savings -- I did everything right. Why am I living on handouts? I always felt like there were needy people out there that needed the help more than I did, but now I am turning into one of those people. Look at this. This is how the middle class is evaporating."
The italics are mine of course.  That's right, Ms. Ortiz.  So did we.  We all know why she's not getting a job, by the way.  The Universities that should be knocking her door down, are hiring graduate students for pennies on the dollar, to teach the same classes Mr. Ortiz would like to teach.  She probably costs too much, or they think she'd expect to be paid much more than she's actually willing to accept.  At least the educational industrial complex is blind.  It screws us and screws its own.


  1. The problem here is that she's both not a sympathetic character *and* she didn't do everything right.

    Here are some wrong turns that she took:

    1)Left a "stable situation" in California to take a "chance" in Vegas. Her words exactly.

    2) only having 15k in savings after having worked 20 years at a stable job. Unless that stable job was fry cook at the local McDonald's there is no reason to save up less than 1k a year over the course of 20 years.

    3) thinking that somehow being bilingual in Spanish means anything when you are in California, where half the people also have your particular "outstanding" skillset.

    4) Somehow running through 99 weeks of unemployment benefits in the span of 18 months. She was laid off in Jan '09. I hate to insult her intelligence, but either she can't count, or she can't explain her situation correctly.

    I feel bad for most people who are in trouble because of this economy. This individual is falls in another category.

  2. And also, how cute is Rigsby the Coton de Tulear. :)

    Cutest puppy to date.

  3. ArchAngel,

    I agree that 15k in savings is incredibly weak. However, I wouldn't jump to an assumption that she was a spendthrift. For all we know, there are reasons for her lack of savings such as having medical bills or dental bills or family issues. It's frustrating, because she may have been responsible and stuck in poor circumstances.

  4. I hate whatever country this is. I really do. I don't hate America. It's just that it's not America any more, and I hate it. And, you know, no one is even remotely embarrassed. I can't believe that. And you know the worst part? No one is even remotely insulted by that. How many examples do you see every day, whether spewing forth from the news media or straight from the senile fucking traps of our lawmakers, that above any other message communicate this one: I think you're a fucking moron. It's really pretty astounding. From the incessant bullshit about America being "the greatest country in the world" to "death panels" to Glenn Beck's declaration yesterday that he is a "revolutionary". Some people buy this. A majority now think that the Toxic Asset Relief Program was signed into law by Obama. Whether you think that legislation was a good or a bad idea and whether you like the guy or not (I have no shortage of criticism for him.), it's factually wrong, and the only rational conclusion that you can reach is that there are three kinds of people now: Those who are generally stupid, those who are motivated to disregard empirical fact and those who, like me, generally dissent because they're insulted very personally that the political argument is not just heated, but - somehow - simultaneously pointless. We honestly could have a partisan debate about whether it is hot in D.C. today. Half of the people would say it's not hot, and half the self-interested law makers would feign bafflement about how the other half could say that it's a hot day. Of course, by the time the sun set, we'd all still be outside arguing about a fact that should be indisputably accepted. And, yes, we'd all end up getting burned, and for no apparent reason.

  5. I really can't take it when politics is referred to as a "contact sport". To be frank, we'd all be luck if our politics had the integrity of a contact sport. I would love some fair contact. Usually, by the end, one team gains an advantage. What we have now is a Congress full of petulant, disingenuous fucks laying side-by side pitches and arguing about which one we have to play on. Unsurprisingly, for some of the spectators, this gets frustrating.

    It's time that the kids get put to bed. It's time for them all to be voted out. As usual, though, everyone is exhausted of their running about the house and shouting to no purpose and then complaining about shit that doesn't fucking matter to anyone, except for the kids themselves. They're just getting going. Quite frankly, as long as we're electing people who act like they're mentally challenged retarded, we might do just as well electing Alvin Greene in South Carolina, someone who may actually be retarded. I actually saw Jessica Yellin on CNN attempt to report seriously on his incoherent 6 minute "speech" last week. Isn't it a reporter's job to say, "Look, I've seen countless political candidates give speeches, and if this guy doesn't get a boy scout badge for giving his today, then he will have wasted his time. He's not qualified."

    But, he is. This is America. The greatest country in the world. Just keep telling yourselves that.

    Speaking of people who are generally "not qualified" (I don't mean to hold political office; I mean, for example, to drive, to operate an upright vacuum cleaner, or do do pretty much anything.), though, you can put Sarah Palin in that category as well. I've never seen someone with a worse case of "hot girl" syndrome. I suppose she just assumes that she can say whatever she wants since, while we all pay attention when she's talking, no one is really listening to what it is that she's saying. We all just like her. Full stop. I don't know why. I just find myself staring and smiling, and, as a guy, I also know two other things: First, I'm never going to get that date with her. Second, she knows I know that, but she likes the attention I can't help but give her.

    Maybe she and Alvin Greene should have a child. He would be a perfect Presidential candidate, to usher in a further era of post-intellectual (read: post-reality-based) politics in America.

    I'm embarrassed to be an American. I really am. And, as someone who knows that people's lives are being utterly and irrevocably destroyed while everyone in the political world is gorging themselves on their own excrement and attempting to feed it to others, I'm pissed off. From there it's not such a long leap to concluding that it is the politics that is responsible for destroying these people's lives, and not the recession.

    Basically, this is America: there was a car crash, and people need immediate help. The medics arrive, and they stop. But, then, they get out of the ambulances and firetrucks, unzip, and just start wetting the pavement with their own urine. The car crash may have killed the victims, but you're going to be even more pissed off with the emergency personnel. And you would have a right to be.

    It's still the home of the free. But, more and more, it's the land of imbeciles.

  6. @ 5:41

    You say that we shouldn't jump to the assumption that she's a spendthrift (which, by the way, the first post didn't really accuse her of), but then you jump to various possibilities that she had medical or dental nills? Shouldn't such a hypothetical also be avoided? I could just as well say that she saved money but then got swindled by an ex-husband or ex-lesbian lover.

    In reality, we have no idea why this person didn't save more, or maybe saved more but then spent it/lost it/had it stolen. All three scenarios are possible.

  7. She took a serious risk, and paid the price. Who in their right mind leaves a stable job - especially in this fundamental restructuring of the American economy?

  8. I have to agree with ArchAngel. After working in a 'stable' job for 20 years, she should have more than 15K. I find it had to believe that she does not have a IRA, 403b or pension. The article did mention that she was drawing Social Security payments: is she 62 years or older or getting SSI?

  9. Most people in academia do not make what tenured law professors make! What was posted here doesn't say anything as to whether she had a family to support, or if she was even teaching at a great school. Plus, I will take a stab and guess that she is in liberal arts because those are the programs that are cut first when there is a budget crisis as they don't generate revenue or prestige for universities. She was probably paid very little over the years.


    Most people in academia think that academia is a fairly steady gig. I can't blame her for leaving.

    $15k in savings is actually pretty good.

  10. @5:57 - couldn't have said it better.

  11. Archangel,
    Not my favorite puppy at all!!!! Abbie is much better. I like my dogs to resemble teddy bears.

  12. "Maybe she and Alvin Greene should have a child. He would be a perfect Presidential candidate, to usher in a further era of post-intellectual (read: post-reality-based) politics in America."

    That person already exists and is currently the president.



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