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Old 02-04-2018, 09:08 PM   #1
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Default The Left Behind American Nomads

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Many older Americans are living a desperate, nomadic life

In her powerful new book, “Nomadland,” award-winning journalist Jessica Bruder reveals the dark, depressing and sometimes physically painful life of a tribe of men and women in their 50s and 60s who are — as the subtitle says — “surviving America in the twenty-first century.” Not quite homeless, they are “houseless,” living in secondhand RVs, trailers and vans and driving from one location to another to pick up seasonal low-wage jobs, if they can get them, with little or no benefits.

The “workamper” jobs range from helping harvest sugar beets to flipping burgers at baseball spring training games to Amazon’s AMZN, +2.87% “CamperForce,” seasonal employees who can walk the equivalent of 15 miles a day during Christmas season pulling items off warehouse shelves and then returning to frigid campgrounds at night. Living on less than $1,000 a month, in certain cases, some have no hot showers. As Bruder writes, these are “people who never imagined being nomads.” Many saw their savings wiped out during the Great Recession or were foreclosure victims and, writes Bruder, “felt they’d spent too long losing a rigged game.” Some were laid off from high-paying professional jobs. Few have chosen this life. Few think they can find a way out of it. They’re downwardly mobile older Americans in mobile homes.

During her three years doing research for the book, conducting hundreds of interviews and traversing 15,000 miles, Bruder even tried living the difficult nomad life; she lasted one workweek. I recently interviewed Bruder to learn more about the lives in Nomadland and what the future holds for these people:

Next Avenue: How did you come to write “Nomadland?”

Jessica Bruder: It grew out of a story I wrote for Harper’s in 2014. I had read a story in Mother Jones and it mentioned a woman working in a warehouse who was living in an RV and said she couldn’t afford to retire. I went ‘Goodness!’ Call me naive, but when I see an RV, I assume it’s owned by one of the last of great pensioners enjoying retirement and going to see the National Parks. I regarded it as a life of luxury and a neat retirement choice. After all, they call them ‘recreational’ vehicles.

I started doing some research and learned there was a whole spectrum of thousands of employers hiring people in similar situations — in oil fields, harvesting sugar beets and helping out at amusement parks. These are not easy jobs or the kind typically associated with people in older stages. But nobody had been looking at it in context of the retirement crisis in the wake of the Great Recession. And a lot of the recruiting materials for these jobs made them look like summer camps. Some for Amazon’s CamperForce said if you come, you’ll make friends. It felt so strange to me, so I started talking to RV’ers outside Amazon warehouses in Nevada and Kansas. Some lost their savings; some thought they would retire on the equity in their homes, but their homes dropped in value dramatically, while the cost of traditional housing kept going up. A lot of them were living hand to mouth; it was hard for them to save for tomorrow.

What else were the people like who you met in “Nomadland?”

The people I met on the road were so creative and resilient and I spent time learning from them. Following them was the most exciting opportunity I’ve ever had.

Why do you think so many older people are living and working this way?

I think it has been the pretty bad economic times. We saw in the 1980s a shift from pensions to 401(k)s; that was a raw deal for workers. These retirement plans were marketed as an instrument of financial freedom, but they were really transferring risk from the shoulder of the employers to the backs of the workers.

I met a lot of older women. The gender wage gap has meant women have lower lifetime earnings then men; they spend more time out of the workforce doing unpaid labor, raising families or caring for parents.

Do you have any sense about whether the numbers of people in “Nomadland” are growing and why?

Anecdotally. Amazon’s CamperForce says it’s getting more and more applications. And when I track Facebook FB, -1.46% groups of these people, they’re all exploding. There are probably in the tens of thousands of people in Nomadland, and that’s being conservative.

Why do Nomads live like this?

We live in a culture where if your number didn’t come up, you’re a bad person, you’re lazy, you should be ashamed of yourself. It eats away at people. It makes them more exploitable.

What are the challenges they face?

I talked to one couple, Barb and Chuck. He had been head of product development at McDonald’s MCD, -1.47% before he retired. He lost his nest egg in the 2008 crash and Barb did, too. One time, Barb and Chuck were standing at the gas station to get $175 worth of gas and the horror hit them that their account had $6 in it. The gas station gentleman said ‘Give me your name and driver’s license and if you write a check, I will wait to cash it.’ He waited two whole weeks before he deposited it.

These jobs can be rough physically, right?

I know someone in his 70s who walked 15 miles on a concrete floor, sometimes for 10 hours. Your feet can get messed up, you can get repetitive stress injury and a tendon condition. The Nomads talked to me about soaking their feet in salt baths at night and being too tired to go out. When I went to the sugar beet harvest, it was 12 hours a day in the cold, shoveling. Oh my God, my body hurt! And I was 37!

Tell me about Amazon’s CamperForce program, which hires thousands of Nomads.

It began in 2008, within months after the housing collapse. Amazon contracts with an RV park and pays the CamperForce to do warehouse work loading and packing and order fulfillment. From the outside looking in, you’d say: ‘Why would you want older people doing this? The jobs seem suited to younger bodies.’ But so many times, the recruiters in the published materials talk about the older people’s work ethic and the maturity of the workforce and their ‘life experience,’ which is a code word for ‘Hey, you’re old.’

You write that sometimes the Nomads are exploited. How?

I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Forest Service and learned that some of their workers aren’t getting paid for all their hours. They weren’t allowed to invoice.

Some of the Nomads had to work alongside robots, such as in the Amazon warehouses. How was that?

The robots were making them bonkers. This is isolating work and there’s one scene in the book where a robot kept bringing a woman in her 70s the same thing to count.

What needs to change to prevent people from having to become Nomads or to help them live better if they are?

For one thing, Amazon should pay its workers more and give them better working conditions. It’s laughable that the workers get a 15-minute break when they have to spend it walking to the break room. It’s completely insane.

Nomads need a voice, but at the same time, it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll organize for better working conditions because they’re vulnerable and always on the move.

Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of “How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis” and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch.@richeis315

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2017 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved. It is part of a partnership with Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America, a public media initiative. Major funding is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Ford Foundation.
Source:
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/ma...ife-2017-11-06


This is what Obama's "slow recovery" looked like over the last nine years. All of these people show up as employed and part of the labor force. I do not believe that these people can be written off as people who didn't plan for retirement, lazy, uneducated or their circumstances being dismissed as "poor lifestyle decisions". These are real people who found themselves in this situation due to an economy that put ideology and partisan beliefs above real results for the American people. I don't know what to do to help these people and certainly am not in favor of another bloated, ineffective, taxpayer gouging Federal program, but some small things could be done at the local level. Campgrounds equipped with hot showers, churches donating soap and bathroom implements etc. There are some needs here that could be met.

Also, this may be a good group of people to hire from in order to re-integrate them back into stable upwardly mobile lives. Instead of giving tax-credits to corporations for hiring Somali immigrants, maybe states like Minnesota (where this article originated from) may want to give tax breaks to companies who hire the homeless working poor. Instead of scholarships for illegal aliens, it might make sense to offer basic re-training at a local library for some of the skills these AMERICAN workers may be lacking.

One more point, This article definitely puts the lie to that slogan about illegal immigrants doing the job Americans won't do. Illegal immigrants were the competitors these American faced and artificially kept the wages low.

I really can't stand Jeff Bezos for about a million and one reasons, but mostly because he's another made it big guy who immediately used his new found status as a hammer to destroy conservative Americans. However, Jeff Bezos could try to actually do for Americans in his employment what he's lecturing everyone else about doing for illegal immigrants.........that is, give a damn and makes their lives secure.
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Old 02-04-2018, 10:51 PM   #2
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I was unemployed in 2008-2009, nobody was hiring, my ex just called me a lazy fucker, by the time I found work in 2010 my marriage was over but yet it was all my fault. Ive been on the road for 6 years now and have found better opportunities in other countries, started an egg farm with 2000 chickens in Philippines and work in New Zealand as a welder, these nomads should expand their borders.
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Old 02-04-2018, 11:00 PM   #3
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So many people lost their homes, banks kicking people on the street, cities criminalizing homelessness and sleeping in your car while banks are getting bailouts, Americans must be fucking retarded for not revolting. Americans will be led to gas chambers and not lift an arm to fight.
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Old 02-05-2018, 01:42 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Velhalla View Post
I was unemployed in 2008-2009, nobody was hiring, my ex just called me a lazy fucker, by the time I found work in 2010 my marriage was over but yet it was all my fault. Ive been on the road for 6 years now and have found better opportunities in other countries, started an egg farm with 2000 chickens in Philippines and work in New Zealand as a welder, these nomads should expand their borders.
Studies from the eight year recession, laughably called a "slow recovery" by the sycophantic Obama press, showed that the underpinnings of the American economy were weak and didn't end the recession at all for most Americans. The new jobs so often vaunted about by the Obama administration were largely government jobs in the Federal Sector, jobs that went to illegal aliens or jobs that went to legal H1-B foreign replacements and their spouses. Of the new jobs that were created, most were temporary or low wage. Many American citizens who were caught in part time positions had to get second or even third jobs. Employers cut back on hiring because of a Obamacare and government regulations. The fall out of job loss due to absurd legislation like Dodd-Frank ground the U.S. economic business sector to a halt while keeping all equity out of the U.S. The Consumer Protection Federal Bureau also gave a bunch of unelected socialist economic moralizers the power to enact "experiments" on the economy with equally disastrous results. Only two socio economic groups made it out of the Bush-Obama recession without losing whole chunks of their economic strength, educated professionals in government jobs and the wealthy who could just switch their investments to more profitable economies. Everyone else took a hit to their retirements, their job security, loss of promotions, higher healthcare premiums, lost opportunities etc. Most landed on their feet. Certain demographics like the new college graduates and older workers lost the most in terms of what could have been.
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So many people lost their homes, banks kicking people on the street, cities criminalizing homelessness and sleeping in your car while banks are getting bailouts, Americans must be fucking retarded for not revolting. Americans will be led to gas chambers and not lift an arm to fight.
The banks weren't the essential problem although there's arguments to be made that they could have handled some issues in a more productive way. The fault is the Obama administration policies that had a ruinous effect on main street economies. We could have had a booming economy in late 2009 without TARP II, the stimulus package and the threat/reality of Obamacare. Even with all that, it could have turned around by 2012, but Dodd Frank legislation, the war on coal, the restrictions on drilling, the web of regulations and the overall economic stifling by regulations just made a bad situation worse.

For what it's worth, the slow economic recovery wasn't ever a recovery at all. It wasn't even a recovery on paper. It was cherry picked, manipulated data at best. The U.S. needs a 3% of higher GDP growth otherwise the economy isn't healthy. The last quarter's numbers aren't finalized yet, but it looks to me like Trump achieved that and we're on track for more winning.
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Old 02-05-2018, 01:54 AM   #5
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They should all go to Stockton, CA where they'll get $500 a month no questions asked. That sounds like good fiscal policy, it's not like Stockton declared bankruptcy recently
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Old 02-05-2018, 02:02 AM   #6
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They should all go to Stockton, CA where they'll get $500 a month no questions asked. That sounds like good fiscal policy, it's not like Stockton declared bankruptcy recently
What kind of loser is going to move somewhere to get a $500 a month handout? That's not a way to attract talent to a city.

Anyway, I think they're making more driving around the country finding seasonal work. Hopefully, as our economy improves, new and better opportunities will open up for them.
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