Thursday, June 10, 2010


New Hampshire’s very own US Senator Judd Gregg appeared on CNBC a few weeks ago to talk about the alleged economic recovery, and the plight of the unemployed. When asked about extending unemployment benefits for those folks who still can’t find work, Senator Gregg responded by saying, “Because you’re out of the recession, you’re starting to see growth and you’re clearly going to dampen the capacity of that growth if you basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.” Senator Gregg seems to think that people are having a fine time taking a big old vacation on unemployment, rather than go out and get the jobs readily available in this economic growth he’s seeing.

Of course, it’s no secret that Senator Gregg’s vision has always been impaired. Born into a wealthy political family, Gregg has never wanted for money or work. In fact, he’s been subsidized by NH, then US taxpayers for decades now. He actually receives gummint health care – though he doesn’t want you to. Senator Gregg seems to think that there are plenty of jobs to go around, and the 29 million folks who are still unemployed are just lazy buggers. After all, he has plenty of money and employment options; therefore everyone else must. Senator Gregg has conveniently forgotten that we’ve been steadily losing jobs in this country for the last ten years. At least 22 million jobs need to be added before we begin to even approach full employment.

No one wants to talk about the enormity of this crisis, because that might require action, and the action required would mean shutting off the spigot to Wall St. and aiming it at Main St. It would mean shutting off the spigot to the Pentagon, and going cold turkey on our war addiction. But – hey – why blame Wall St. for boogering up the economy, when you can blame the folks who can’t find jobs or afford lobbyists?

Right now, folks who have been unemployed long term (six months or more) make up 46% of the unemployed. After six months, their likelihood of finding a job decreases steadily. In a tight job market, a person who is unemployed for 6 months or more is seen by employers as not having the necessary skills to compete. Some companies have been so bold as to post help wanted ads that specify they aren’t willing to hire the unemployed. Apparently these companies will just shuffle and recycle employees, without creating new jobs. Judd Gregg would undoubtedly tell us that cutting taxes for the wealthy is the way to job creation, but since that hasn’t worked, EVER, we’d be damned fools to listen to him.

Fully half of those who are unemployed long term are over the age of 50. These are folks who stand a better chance of getting hit by lightening than finding work. It used to be that the largest numbers of suicides were in people over the age of 80. No more. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control shows that since 2007, the highest suicide rate is for those aged 45-54. It makes a dreadful kind of sense. They lose their jobs, spend their retirement money trying to hang on to their houses, pay their bills, and keep their health insurance, only to watch it all swirl down the big cosmic toilet. They lose their homes, maybe their marriages, and if they’re lucky they find a job in a fast food joint that enables them to live in a furnished room.

Nothing is being done to help these folks, or any of the people who have run out of unemployment benefits. They’re the real dirty little secret that no one talks about. Too young for Social Security and Medicare, and too old for the job market – where an average of 5.5 people apply for every job opening.

Sadly, the same people who destroyed our economy are the ones charged with helping to rebuild it. It’s difficult to imagine why anyone with an iota of sense would listen to Ben Bernanke, who didn’t say boo during the housing bubble. These days he bleats about the deficit. While the deficit is certainly cause for concern, it won’t be eradicated without adding millions and millions of jobs. Jobs that no one wants to even discuss. Obama’s Rooseveltian moment has come and gone. He isn’t a bold leader, so he won’t muster up the courage to spend money on a huge, national infrastructure program that would create jobs in much the same way that the WPA saved the nation during the last Great Depression.

Instead, we’ll continue to hear about the “economic recovery,” because everyone knows that as long as Wall St and the bankers are making money, all is right with capitalism in the United States.

“The forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.” Jawaharlal Nehru

© sbruce 2010 This was published as an op-ed on June 11, 2010 in the Conway Daily Sun.

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