Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mark Zuckerberg, Cyndi Norton and Upward Mobility

NPR recently broadcast a story on economy, titled Jobless After 50? You May Be Out Of Luck, which was a grim account of what pains so many people in the US and what illness this once great country is suffering from. An except below is painful to read:
The economy officially crept out of recession in June of 2009, but for many Americans, the economic markers that really count are the ones that come out each month from the Department of Labor: unemployment statistics.

And the numbers released this week continue to look grim, with almost 15 million Americans out of work and few private sector jobs available.

The typical unemployed worker spends about eight months out of a job, but for people over 50, finding a new job can take a lot longer — if it happens at all.

Cyndi Norton has managed to find work. She makes $10 an hour in a California factory. She has no benefits and says she's basically homeless, relying on friends for a place to sleep. But not too long ago, she was a high-powered administrative assistant at the Rand Corp., sitting in on board meetings and once, memorably, showing Henry Kissinger around the building.

Newly married, Norton decided to quit her job and start a small business. "I had a little savings," she tells NPR's Guy Raz. "I had a 401(k), but not a lot."

Then the recession hit, and Norton's life fell apart. She got divorced, the business failed, and at age 50, she found herself looking for another job.

At first, Norton thought it wouldn't take long. She sent out resumes to old employers, aced interviews, passed tests with flying colors … and never got the job.

"I may not be young, but I'm bright," she says. "But see, I've also heard this from other people — and from younger people, too — saying that they have been instructed by their managers at these recruiting firms, 'Yeah, bring her in, interview her, have her take the test.' But for this particular position we're looking for? They don't want anybody over 30."

Norton says her situation is bleak. "I've done everything I possibly can to find work. I've signed up with temp agencies, I've taken all the tests. I'm a nationally certified medical assistant. I tried to retrain — school loan coming due in December which I can't pay. [I've] basically put ads on Craigslist for everything from caretaker to secretary to house-sitter. ... It's very disheartening, because I know I can do what's required of me."

Well, people may argue that US still has innovative entrepreneurs who are successful, such as Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook. But for every Mark Zuckerberg, there are hundreds of thousands Cinci Norton.

For a society devoid of visible and sustained upward mobility for the most, it is a society seriously ill.  Without healing the illness, this country cannot be wonderful again.  Yet, we don't see any resolution from our national leaders, either in government or economic leadership.

I am scared.  Are you?

Falling / 墜落 / Fallen
Falling © Matthew Felix Sun

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