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The Cody Blog: Un-unemployment and Safe Safety Nets

Friday, September 16, 2005

Un-unemployment and Safe Safety Nets

I've got real problems with charity and government programs that undermine prosperity. When I write that, I'm referring to entities like the UN and NGOs that go in and flood an economy with free goods like corn repeatedly and thereby don't allow capitalist, self-sustaining transactions to develop. You think Nigeria can ever create a self-sustaining farming economy when a farmer has to compete with free corn?

Now that said, I want to be clear that one of the very few things I want the government (or charities) to do is to go in and help save lives when a catastrophe like Katrina hits. I wish the Dems and Repubs in power had done so much more so much more quickly when the Superdome and surrounding areas were in such bad shape.

Several posters have asked me if I have any history with government assistance. Let's tackle that one. I came to NYC on a one way ticket from NM the day I finished college -- didn't wait around for the graduation ceremony. Nobody in my family had ever been northeast -- or gone to NYC. A buddy of mine from college from NYC hooked me up with his sister who was gracious enough to let me sleep on her couch for a couple days upon arrival.

I didn't have a job, prospects for a job or even any real contacts. But I wanted to take on the world, and I figured Wall Street was the place to do it. I found an apartment on 101st Street and Amsterdam for $825 a month two days into my move and paid a $1000, more than 10% of my savings, as a broker fee to move in. I immediately started going on job interviews from ads for "account executives" and what not from the NY Times classifieds. It didn't take but two interviews at these schlock boiler room places before I realized that such a job was not something I would be willing to do.

I didn't file for unemployment and I didn't ask the government or anyone else for any assistance. I went and convinced a diner manager to give me a job as a waiter though I didn't have any experience. After two disastrous hours, he nicely told me I could be a busboy if I wanted to stay. I went and got a job at Starbucks for $6-something per hour plus tips. I spent the next two months looking for a real job by sending my resume to any one's who's book I'd read or I'd seen quoted in the newspaper. And blew through most of my savings as 160 hrs a month x $7 per hour after taxes barely covered my rent, much less new clothes for interviews, transportation, food, and an occassional movie. I never once took a dime from the government.

After pestering the author of a book I'd bought at B&N's office for weeks on end, I finally got an interview with the office manager. She liked me enough to bring the boss in. He told her to "hire him" when we finished the interview. She offered me $22k per year salary. I told her I needed $24k. She said okay. 15 months later I became his first ever partner. And, after receiving a check that was equal to half my initial year's salary, I quit a month later, as I wasn't entirely comfortable with all of our strategies.

I went to Europe for two months, spending most of my savings, and wrote most of a novel (the novel's a good story, but not well-written...will rewrite it someday). I came back and lived in a tiny, delapidated apartment in Brooklyn for $350 a month, and finished the book in another few weeks time. After failing to get a publisher or agent to even look at the book, I began to look for work again. I spent another month or two going on interviews that I'd again found in the NY Times classifieds. I never once filed for unemployment or took a dime from the government.

I finally got a job as an analyst at an incubator, and a few months later I was running their research and analysis division. We went from 15 employees to 75 back to 15, and I took a job offer from a telecom service provider, heading up their wholesale division. Two months into that job, we'd closed on three contracts -- and two of the three companies had gone bankrupt in the telecom depression before we could turn on services. When the CEO called me and asked me what I thought of the other 20 prospects we had in the funnel, I told him I thought 18 were going to go bankrupt before the year was out. He asked me why we were in the wholesale services business. I told him I didn't think we should be. We closed the division on September 4, 2001.

The WTC fell on my apartment in Battery Park City on 9/11,

but I tried to move back into the place anyway at some point soon after because the landlords told me that if I didn't they'd charge me the whole lease's rent anyway. Waking up the first morning back in the place with my eyes swollen shut and coughing uncontrollably, I bought a ticket to NM and went home. Fighting with the landlords, they finally settled with me and let me out of my lease without any attorney involvement (though I do seem to recall signing away something that inlcuded me promising that "forever in this world" I'd never sue them. Whatever.). Anyway, I went to NM, homeless and jobless and completely messed up in the head from my 9/11 experience. I didn't take dime from the government or any charities.

But I do drive on public roads, though I consider them the biggest subsidization of any industry ever (automotive and all related). And I did go to public schools. And I did go to a state college (heck, on that note, I have and always had fundamental objections against the NCAA -- but I did play in the NCAA).

Now all that said, I've been as adamantly against public assistance as I am today for as long as I can remember, as you can tell from the periods of time when it was certainly within my "rights" according to US law to take government assistance like unemployment and even welfare at times in the last ten years. But I'll ask this: so what if I had outright taken public or charitible monies at some point? If I'd later changed my mind about the morality of such, would that make my logic any less valid today?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I was just blog surfing and found you! If you are interested, go see my attention deficit disorder related site. It isnt anything special but you may still find something of interest.

9/16/2005 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, cody.. finish the story. what happened post 9/11 to get you where you are today?

also, what is an incubator?

9/16/2005 08:47:00 AM  
Anonymous tree said...

also, you may want to require folks to log in to make comments in order to eliminate all of the blog spam you've been receiveing lately. there are already two spam comments posted above.

9/16/2005 09:03:00 AM  
Anonymous tree said...

the anon request above to finish the story was mine...

9/16/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


While I agree that any able bodied person should not go on welfare, there is nothing wrong with collecting unemployment. After all you paid into the system. I've been working since I was 16 and paying into that system. When I lost my job in the Bay Area during the .com bust, I had no problem collecting unemployment while I looked for work. Yes, I could have been a bus boy at a diner, but my time was more productive looking for higher paying work and taking care of my 1 year old son. And since the money that I was collecting was MINE to begin with, I had no moral dillemma.

Let me ask you this -- when you're old and gray, will you have a problem cashing your social security check (assuming there is one)? I know I won't.

9/16/2005 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous joeblue3 said...

That would be a helluva story if it wasn't all so true. You are the American dream. And I don't mean Dusty Rhodes.

9/16/2005 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Cody Willard said...

Anon #1 -- wait til I go off on ADD and other made up diseases next week. Stay tuned.

Tree -- ah, someday, the story will continue. Dribs and drabs. Stay tuned, also.

Anon #3 -- "able bodied"? So what, unable bodied peopl should go on welfare? how does that work? You can't have it both ways. Either welfare is okay, or its not.

And what is this about "paying in" nonsense? That's just liberal conservative rationalization for the welfare program known as unemployment. I pay into welfare programs too, right? So why not use the same logic there?

joeblue3 -- Thanks for the very kind words. I am proud of what I've accomplished, but I have oh so much more to do!

9/16/2005 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So here's a question, dear friend. You generate a lot of controversy on occassion, both on this blog and over at thestreet.com. Money is always a nettlesome issue, especially if you're losing it, so some of the stock-related controversy is understandable. But here on the blog you also catch some heat.

Any ideas why?

9/16/2005 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But here on the blog you also catch some heat.

"Any ideas why?"

Safe to say because of Mr. Willard's views on far ranging topics that include but no doubt are not limited to the UN, charity, angry pigs that attend charities, China and, as we shall discover next week, ADD.

Could this also include a joint appearance with Tom Cruise on Oprah?

We shall see.

Gear up for the ride everyone because I'm sure it will be another blast!

9/16/2005 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, in the state I reside, only the employers contribute to unemployment taxes, both state and federal...is that not so everywhere? I have been a payroll clerk for many years and know this for a fact.

9/17/2005 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You never accepted un-employment or any public assistance. Now, Cody, your money/living had to come from somewhere. Was it parental assistance and you just couldn't bring yourself to admit that?

4/16/2006 11:59:00 AM  

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