By Jackie Rodríguez

I am not to blame for the unemployment crisis in Florida. Yes, I have been unemployed. And yes, I have collected unemployment to support myself and my family. After two years since I was last laid-off, I finally found a new opportunity just a month ago. It was not easy, and I do not blame myself. But I do point my finger at the economy and the greed of our current economic system that only looks out for those on top.

The news is all a flurry with the idea that unemployed people, like I was just a few days ago, are the ones to blame for the situation we find ourselves in. This round of “blame the victim” is nothing less than despicable, shameful and downright dishonest. Let’s look at the facts behind the blame game.

In Florida, for every job created last year there are 25 people who still need a job. Our state has a whopping 12 percent unemployment rate. While there are one million unemployed people in our state, less than half are receiving unemployment insurance. Nationally, profits have more than recovered from the worst of the economic crisis, raising 12 percent since 2007, but unemployment continues to grow.

So what gives, and why am I to blame?

It’s easier to blame me, the victim of our economic system, than it is to look for the real culprits, the ones with their hands in the cookie jar. And let’s be honest, the real culprits are the unrestrained finance industry focused on the quick buck and greed, rather than building a whole society.

By blaming me, big business and corporate interests are let off the hook. They are playing a dangerous game of taking advantage of public outrage during difficult economic times. By directing my neighbor’s outrage at me, it’s easier for them to slide out of their responsibilities as economic entities in our state.

This redirection distracts my neighbors, and even me, away from real solutions to the current crisis for workers in this state. We are put on the defensive, and more concessions are pushed by big business to offset the toll I am supposedly taking on them. In reality, these policy shifts that the business community is pushing for will harm the public structures in our state that protect not only unemployed workers, but all workers. By blaming unemployed workers, businesses are blaming all workers, when corporate interests are the ones setting agenda in our state.

Rather than blame me, business leaders need to work with legislative leaders and us unemployed workers to craft policies that create fairness, security and equality in our state. Until business stops kicking us while we’re down, we can’t be expected to get up off the ground.
Rodriguez is now Administrative Assistant of Miami Workers Center.
Copyright (C) 2011 by the Florida Forum. 3/11