It almost sounds like the beginning of another bad lawyer joke, but what happened to Paul Semenza is very serious and it's happening to white collar workers across the country.
Semenza practiced law for 25 years as a defense attorney at a small firm near Boston. Last year, he was laid off. The reason: the economy. Semenza was concerned but thought all his years of experience would soon lead to another offer, but it never came. Semenza said, “probably eight or nine months of not being able to get back into a law firm or a company doing litigation work, I decided I can use my skills in other areas."
Semenza finally found work as a salesman at Bob’s Discount Furniture in Saugus, just outside Boston. His pride soon gave way to worry he might not land the job at the discount store. He said, “I thought they would tell me I'm overqualified, and I was afraid that without a sales background they wouldn't accept me, but they did and I'm grateful.”
You’ve heard a few governors criticize the stimulus as “wasteful spending”. But Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is so determined the stimulus will work, he wants mayors and other elected officials from across his state to see for themselves.
It's Maryland's response to the question: "where do I get my stimulus?" Come to a workshop, state officials say, and they'll tell you. At one of the workshops, we were surprised to find a standing room only crowd jammed into a packed meeting at the state capital... all vying for a piece of the stimulus action.
That’s where we met Jim Eberhart, the mayor of the small town of Perryville, MD (pop. 5000). He has a sewer project he calls “shovel ready.” The mayor just needs the money.
Governor O’Malley says the open process is a response to Republican critics who’ve blasted the stimulus as wasteful spending. In fact, O’Malley says his state could use a second stimulus.
Psst… don’t tell Washington… where talk of a stimulus 2.0 has slowed a bit.
Outrage and anger are the watchwords in Washington these days, and they’re directed at one company: AIG. That troubled financial firm has already received $173 billion in bailout money to keep it afloat. Now it is handing out $165 million in bonuses to some of the very people whose incompetence led to the worldwide financial crises.
The response has been swift and harsh.
“It’s hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less 165 million dollars in extra pay,” the President said on Monday. “I mean, how do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?”
From Capitol Hill came this from Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA): “These bonuses are going to people who screwed this up enormously.” His colleague, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), told CNN that AIG employees “don’t deserve a bonus. They’re lucky to have a job.”
Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
It's Day Two of our special CNN series Road to Rescue. We are breaking down this economic crisis and giving you the information you need to survive.
CNN's Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis is on Twitter today and answering your questions throughout the show. Follow us at twitter.com/amfix.
Here's some of what's on the show today: