Ever since President Obama took office with his merry band of Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress, the media began reporting high unemployment in the most positive light they could find.
NewsBusters exposed one such trick by Newsweek on December 10 that found a silver lining for unemployed dads to reconnect with their children. ABC News posted a column on their website Thursday that advanced the cause even further: now people who still have jobs are hoping to get laid off.
Such was the case made by one Michelle Goodman in a piece cutely titled "All I Want For Christmas is a Layoff." The premise for this bizarre headline was that many Americans began to realize they were working for "slave wages" in jobs that were far too stressful, so perhaps the recession offered a chance to start over.
According to Goodman, the mental effects of remaining on a difficult job could make the unemployment line look a bit more attractive:
If you're one of the countless Americans who's sent out hundreds of unanswered resumes this year, you might be scowling about all the hand-wringing over a job a person actually has.
But being miserable in one's job is nothing new, as years of pre-recession polls conducted by organizations like The Conference Board and Web sites like CareerBuilder.com will attest. Even in flush economic times, many surveys have reported that one in two U.S. workers don't exactly feel warm and fuzzy about their place of employment.
Factor in the stress, paranoia, pay cuts, morale killers and mind-boggling workloads that have gripped employees this year and you have a recipe for some serious job dissatisfaction....
"Several colleagues and I are dreaming of a layoff," the self-described "abused temp" said in an e-mail. "Everyone is searching for another job, some openly. The firm is half the size it was in fall 2007. Clients aren't paying their bills, and we've lost some clients. Every day it's another psychodrama."
Goodman's advice for a worker with the blues? Volunteer to take a layoff, collect a severance package or unemployment benefits, and live off the money (stress free) until something better comes along:
But he's not the only one who views collecting unemployment checks and severance pay as the key to sanity and solvency. My inbox is sprinkled with e-mails from embittered employees who say they're hoping Santa gives them the old heave ho this Christmas.
Instead of explaining unemployment pay as a last-resort safety net offered by the government for those who cannot find work, Goodman encouraged burned-out Americans to see it as more of a paid vacation. A smart worker was therefore someone who tactfully inserted their own name to the hit list - nudging the company to let them go so they didn't have to quit:
Jim Woods of San Francisco was one of these employees in waiting. But the commercial real estate analyst didn't just pine for a pink slip. He begged his boss to add him to the layoff list.
"I asked to be laid off in December of 2008, two weeks after the first round of layoffs," said Woods, who in 2006 launched the organic beer company MateVeza on the side and was ready to concentrate on his business full time. "I was really nervous about how to frame everything. I said that I would not mind being part of the next round as long as I received a similar package to those that had left in November."
Nowhere did Goodman express concern that volunteering for a layoff might appear to the government as tantamount to quitting and possibly be grounds to lose unemployment eligibility. In an age when many states have already run out of funding to prop up unemployed citizens, taxpayers are not likely to be amused by the government spending even more on people who strategize to quit their job without technically quitting.
To add a hint of balance to the piece, Goodman found time at the end of a three-page column to spend a few sentences on someone brave enough to stick it out:
As for Matthew, the software project manager who was dreaming of a downsized Christmas, he's retiring his hope for a golden parachute.
"I'm sick of living in limbo, wondering whether and when my employer might cut me loose," he said. "I think maybe it's time to give up the layoff fantasy and make the most of the crummy job I've got -- at least until I can find something better."
The line about having to remain at a "crummy job" summed up the entire tone of Goodman's piece. Being unemployed with Obama in the White House was a liberating experience that finally broke the chains of an oppressive employer.
In 2004, when George Bush was President and Republicans controlled Congress, ABC News reported on low employment quite differently. Back then, out-of-work people felt a "pinch" that made life "frustrating."
In those days, folks who found a job, no matter how difficult, were "lucky" just to get a paycheck.
How curious the stigma of unemployment suddenly turned into blissful freedom just five years later.