Between a rock and a hard place for Congress: Jobs or a rough 2010

For the last year or so, I've been conducting an experiment. Now, don't hold me to the scientific method because it's been a really informal experiment. But the results have been both scary, enlightening and not very surprising. Cutting to the chase, for almost exactly the last 12 months, I've been applying for various jobs via one of the popular online job search sites.

Some background first. I'm self-employed. I write about politics, I produce videos, I make cartoons. But last year when the market tanked and the really serious recession began, I began to seriously worry that my small business work might not endure through the economic slump. So in a panic, I started up a profile at the job search site, uploaded my resume and began to look around.

Fortunately, I've been able to keep busy enough to pay the mortgage and haven't needed to take an actual job somewhere. But just for curiosity's sake, once my studio and writing work appeared to smooth out, I decided to keep sending out applications through the job site for the balance of this year. Just to see what would happen. The experiment.

Here's the result. In a full 12 months, I wasn't called in for a single interview.

No calls. No emails. No interviews. Nothing.

Previous to working for myself, I was successfully hired in some of the most competitive fields -- talk radio, print journalism and political consulting. In other words, it's not like I have the plague. I write a very popular column for the number one political blog on the internet. I successfully published a book. My resume looks good.

But the job market is, of course, nightmarish. I can't even imagine where I'd be were it not for my studio work. And my heart goes out to the millions of unemployed Americans who are struggling to find something -- anything -- while there are six or seven applicants for every available job.

It's no surprise then that the Democrats are eying the possibility of a new jobs bill, with conservadems like Ben Nelson pledging their support.

While the stimulus has been effective in reducing monthly jobless claims to their lowest levels in a couple of years, unemployment remains freakishly high. And by all estimates, its recoil will take longer than expected. So a job creation package might be exactly what the long lines of virtual (and not so virtual) applicants are looking for. This time, however, it appears as though Congress intends to move fast with a bill hitting the floor sometime before the holiday recess in December.

Price tag: something roughly in the $500 billion range. The biggest hurdle right now is figuring out how to pay for such an endeavor -- especially on the eve of the administration's forthcoming Deficit Reduction Extravaganza, which they say will launch at the State of the Union.

One way or another, Congress and the administration have no choice. Jobs or a very difficult 2010. And while no one likes to see huge deficits, I think the fellow travelers on the job search sites will be grateful for some phone calls for a change.

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