Scarcely a week goes by that the Washington Post doesn’t run an op-ed sob-story written by someone who blames the Bush administration for the fact that he or she is out of work. Here’s the latest: Susan Yuzna of San Francisco: “I never expected to find myself in this position in my mid-fifties–single, jobless and without health insurance. But that’s where I’ve been for 23 months….” 23 months? That sounds bad. It’s terrible to be unemployed (I know–I’ve been there), and although in principle I think that the widespread availability of employer-paid and government-paid health insurance has served mostly to drive up the cost of medical care, I’m glad I’ve got insurance myself.

So I was feeling a wee bit sorry for Yuzna–until I read her occupation: poet.

That’s when I started to laugh instead. Poetry, to paraphrase George S. Kaufman, is what closes on Saturday night. Yes, what Yuzna actually is is an unemployed intellectual snob who thinks that society (that means you and I, the taxpayers) owes her a nice living. Here’s her bio: About 15 years ago, she decided that that she didn’t just want to be a poet but also a college English professor. One big problem: Yuzna never got around to obtaining a doctoral degree, which, as everyone with the smallest experience of university life knows, is an absolute must nowadays for obtaining a permanent job on a college faculty. Duh.

Then, when, lo, Yuzna couldn’t find college-teaching work after drifting around the Midwest, the South, and the Southwest, she moved to–San Francisco, probably the most competitive academic job market, not to mention most desirable living spot, in the United States. I’d love to live in delightful Frisco myself–and so would the raft of newly minted Ph.D.’s from Stanford and Berkeley who vie for the teaching jobs that Yuzna thinks she deserves. Oh, and San Francisco has one of the highest costs of living in the country.

“This is not the way the American Dream is supposed to work,” Yuzna writes. It has become the American Nightmare for me and too many others.”
Yuzna claims to feel great solidarity with “the other 8.4 million people who are out of work, as well as the 1.6 million unemployed who haven’t looked for work recently,” as she writes. In truth, however, as she reveals, the worst aspect of her plight is that she–eeeeewww!–has to associate with some of these unwashed souls now that she is out of a job. She writes of her experience in the emergency room at San Francisco General Hospital where she went for what sounded to me like excellent, absolutely free treatment for a twisted ankle. There she encountered a number of people “dressed in soiled clothes; some dozed, some yelled obscenities at the staff…I took solace in the presence of several police officers.” And now that she’s feeling better, Yuzna writes that she dreads the prospect of getting a job “waiting tables or cleaning other people’s houses.”

Of course, guess who’s to blame for all this? Here’s Yuzna on American politics:

“I want a change, a big change, in this country’s priorities. I like awake at night asking myself why we are spending money and American lives on a war that is beginning to resemble Vietnam….I know in my heart that in the presidential election I’ll vote for the candidate who promises to do the most for the unemployed.”

Well, we know who that is.

Ms. Yuzna, I’ve got some advice for you. If you want to teach for a living, go get your teaching credential. There’s a chronic shortage of high-school teachers, and the jobs pay benefits. And how’s your typing? Admin work pays benefits, too. And don’t turn your nose up so fast at cleaning those houses. If you can do the job well, you can charge whatever you like. Hell, I’d hire you to clean my house if you were willing to move to Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, readers, give Susan Yuzna not a handout but a hand, and buy one of her poetry books. Her latest, Pale Bird, Spouting Fire, is only $13.95!