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5 Cures for the Unemployment Blues

You can always learn to say "Would you like fries with that?" But who wants to eat made-in-a-factory E. coli burgers, much less sling them?

So you're unemployed. Big fucking deal. There are 15 million in America just like you.

When you add in discouraged workers and the involuntarily underemployed (such as yours truly), the number of schlumps pounding the pavement or clacking the keyboard in search of enough dough to pay the bills and still enjoy a pint of beer is more than 26 million desperate jobseekers, or 16.8 percent of the workforce.

It's an ugly economy out there. For those harboring fantasies of a replay of the revolutionary romanticism of the 1930s, forget about it. The country is teetering on the brink of a Depression, but there is nothing Great about it.

Even before the free-fall began, about 30 million Americans were experiencing "low food security" -- bureaucratese for going hungry. Some 62 percent of personal bankruptcy filings these days are due to medical bills, which could total 900,000 cases in 2009. Home foreclosures hit a record high of 360,149 in July. More than 1 million schoolchildren were reported homeless as of last spring, an increase of 50 percent in just a few years. And tent cities are popping up from the redwood forests to the gulfstream waters. (Not that all is bleak: Wal-Mart tent sales are up 36 percent as more Americans "find their inner Thoreau.")

Meanwhile, Washington has been so busy ministering to investment banks, hedge funds, bondholders, automakers, insurance companies and other downtrodden billionaires that it has spent all the money you hoped would go toward a new Works Progress Administration that would pay you to plant trees, build parks, paint murals and compose stirring proletariat musicals.

So what to do? You can always learn to say "Would you like fries with that?" But who wants to eat made-in-a-factory E. coli burgers, much less sling them?

And forget about seeking refuge folding sweaters at the Gap or pulling shots of espresso at Starbucks. For one, they're corporate sleazebags, and $9 an hour ain't going to do much for your retirement. Moreover, these days, they are both folding up more stores than they are opening.

Maybe you should have gotten a business degree like your parents urged you to, instead of that useless liberal arts degree. Sure, it enriched your mind, but not your wallet.

It's time to take stock and think about your options. No, not grad school. Getting a Ph.D. in musicology or philosophy isn't going to do anything but leave you older and poorer, all for the privilege of having a few more letters to tack onto your name.

Of course you can just drop out. "Live a life free of work and money," as some say. Sure. But it's also a life free of health care and housing.

What you need to do is get some cash, quick. Then you can buy yourself a shack in Argentina and have enough left over to live off the savings.

You Have Five Basic Options:


The Great Recession, as The New York Times has dubbed it, is turning many a corporate refugee into an " accidental entrepreneur." Maybe you're a good cook, have a craft or have invented the next great consumer product, like hair-in-a-can spray.

All you have to do is beg, borrow and steal every bit of cash you can from your family and friends. Then set up shop in your apartment or garage. Just be prepared to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week for years and hope some corporate giant doesn't steal your idea and dispatch an army of lawyers to tie up your claim in court until the universe goes cold.

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