I came upon a very interesting article dated July 19th in the Wall Street Journal written by Tamara Audi titled “CITIES RENT POLICE, JANITORS TO SAVE CASH”. I also came upon a corresponding article from the PEW research group titled “LOST INCOME, LOST FRIENDS AND LOSS OF SELF RESPECT”. Both articles hit home about just how life has changed during what is commonly now referred to as “The Great Recession”.
In the Wall Street Journal article, several examples of just how serious cities are taking their horrible economic position and that anything is on the table. Most of the story is based on cities in California (and we know what their situation is). The City of San Jose is dropping their custodial staff for city buildings and hiring outside contractors with a savings of $4 million dollars per year. Many sheriff departments around the country are being asked to pick up police protection for smaller cities who are dropping their officers (If I recall the City of Cass Lake recently dropped their local police in favor of police protection from Cass County Sheriff Department). The county of Los Angeles contracts with 42 of the 88 cities in their county for police protection. Many basic functions from trash collecting to parks and recreation positions (running pools, marinas, playgrounds) are being done by private contractors. Most of the savings come in saving health insurance costs and in funding retirement plans. In some cases neighboring communities are being contracted to take over some services. The article does point out that not every transition goes smoothly. City employees who loose jobs are seldom willing to help new employees learn the job. Some cities have faced expensive lawsuits from union groups or have paid out severance packages to current employees. Some cities negotiate with the private contractor the clause that they must offer current city employees first chance for refusal for a new private position. Los Angeles suburbs of Glendale, Pasadena, and Burbank are contemplating consolidating training programs, tree trimming services, purchasing programs and even law enforcement dispatching duties. Several large service companies are being formed to service government needs as private contractors. (reminds me of Halliburton and privatizing the military).
Meanwhile the PEW Research Organization has dove into a much overlooked aspect of the pain and suffering of the Great Recession. Its not only the Financial hardships, but the Emotional scars that will affect people for many years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the PEW Org says the median duration of unemployment in America currently stands at 25.5 weeks as of June 2010. That number has not been that high since the end of WWII. Being unemployed for 6 months or longer has an affect on a person’s mental psyche. 40% of people unemployed for more than 6 months reported loosing contact with close friends. 46% have reported it has strained family relationships. 24% have said they have seeked out professional help for depression or other emotional issues. 7 in 10 long term unemployed people say they changed their job field or career, with 29% of them accepting jobs that they say was “worse” than the job they had. No doubt we know people suffer financially, but little has been written or said about the emotional toil the long term unemployed are suffering.
Finally, some other quick statistics from the PEW Organization. 54% of people polled stated they thought we were still in a recession. 40% of people polled indicated they believe recovery will take 3 to 5 years. To me in a surprisingly fairly positive response, 46% of Americans think their children’s standard of living will be somewhat better than their own. You can read a snapshot of the entire study using the link below. I still remember President Obama giving a speech around election time talking about there will be pain and suffering before we turn this economy around. His words were very prolific.