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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Liberty Tax hawker on N. King Drive.

The state of the union according to Liberty Tax Guy


I wanted to know if the Liberty Tax guy on the freezing corner planned to watch the State of the Union address.

He was wearing his green costume over a layer of heavy clothing, including a ski mask covering most of his face in order to guard against the wind.

He also had the sign, a twirling advertisement for his employer, the tax preparation service with the catchy name.

There are Liberty Tax "hawkers" all across the country; since the national tax preparation firm came up with the idea of hawkers dressed like the Statue of Liberty, they've become a regular sight around tax preparation season in many communities.

In some places, the Statue of Liberty folks were deemed a public nuisance as some government bodies even passed bans against the practice, saying that it distracted drivers and also violated ordinances of carrying a sign with moving parts.

There's been no such attempt to curtail the hawkers in Milwaukee yet.

My guy on the corner of King Drive and North Avenue was waving his sign to attract attention when I asked him if he planned to watch President Obama's speech.

The Liberty Tax job doesn't pay that well – I've interviewed some of these folks in the past who told me they were paid about $7 an hour – but it is a job during tough economic times for many groups, particularly African-American men like the 20-something employee standing on the corner.

He didn't want to give me his name but insisted he wasn't embarrassed by the job.

He said he had been working for Liberty Taxes for about a month; he was previously unemployed for several months but the gig "just popped up so I took it."

He said he was single with no kids. (I've interviewed a Liberty Tax guy a few years ago who had eight children to support). Asked about the employment prospects, he agreed times were tough but felt that Obama was probably doing as well as he could under the circumstances.

I asked if he planned to watch the State of the Union address.

He didn't think so.

Like millions of other Americans, I did watch the State of the Union.

Obama's address offered a lot of bold proposals that he plans to pursue during his second term, including improving early child education, bringing the remaining troops home from Afghanistan and passing a bill for stricter gun control. He insisted the economy was improving with more jobs and more value for middle class home-owners. He made a plea for raising the minimum wage but he really didn't promise that many of the millions of unemployed or under-employed Americans would get satisfaction anytime soon.

The guy in the Liberty Tax costume said he was glad to be working at all, even when the temperatures reached bitter cold like recently. For him, it was a way to put money in his pocket and pay his bills.

"It could be worse out here," he noted.

That might really be the theme of the State of the Union these days.

As long as you have a job it's best to count your blessings. After all, things could be worse.

Talkbacks

emills81 | Feb. 13, 2013 at 3:20 p.m. (report)

First thing I think of is the kids is a realist, he knows there is nothing Obama can say that will help him get a better job, Im guessing those hopes died around 2010. If anything its probably the opposite. I find it hard to believe that the Liberty tax service will still employee street team marketers for $9 an hour. The fact is they will look at cheaper forms of marketing, and probably make this kid unemployed, again.

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AndrewJ | Feb. 13, 2013 at 3:16 p.m. (report)

Good for Liberty Tax Guy for being proud of having a job. With the number of people completely disappearing from the workforce (not counted in unemployment statistics), it seems like a lot of Americans are proud to not have one. Hopefully Liberty Tax has a position for this guy indoors real soon. I'd think if you show up to stand outdoors February - March in Milwaukee, that kind of dedication can be put to other uses. Ones that pay more than minimum wage.

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