Some have no idea what hit them. "Most have been through other recessions, where, when recovery came, you went back to work for the boss who'd laid you off." This recession hasn't fit that model. Unemployment benefits were extended, then extended again and again. "They waited too long," Carbone says of his students. "It wasn't their fault." But they awoke one day to find themselves viewed by potential employers as lazy or out of touch or as equipped with skills that now are out of date.
"It's a terrible thing to get up every day and realize your chances of ever being able to restore your footing in the labor market are getting shakier and shakier," Carbone says. "You actually see ads that say: Long-term unemployed need not apply."
The problem that they pose, he thinks, is a moral one.
"We as a country can decide not to take any positive action to help them," he says. "But in doing so, we are complicit in their being severed from one of the most basic rights of being an American: opportunity. Every day they're unemployed and the workforce does not provide them with the tools and services they need to compete they will grow more dependent on entitlement programs, become increasingly more hopeless."
Their sheer numbers make them bigger than almost any another "special population" in need. What's the difference, he asks, between their plight and the plight of folks who lose their homes to a natural disaster? If the federal government tells disaster victims, "We're going to do whatever it takes you get you back on your feet," why not say the same for the older unemployed?
The public, he says, is going to have to pay one way or the other—either $6,000 upfront, through a program like P2E, to help them find their way back to being self-supporting taxpayers; or, on the back end, at a far greater cost when they turn for survival to whatever may remain of the social safety net.