14 MILLION OFFICIALLY UNEMPLOYED: WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?

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EDITOR’S COMMENT: Where is the outrage? I’ve been asking that for 4 years. 14 million people are officially unemployed. That doesn’t count the people who are so underemployed that it can only be described as an outrageous waste of human resources. It also doesn’t count the number of people that have given up hope in a country that was founded on hope and the premise that anyone who worked hard could do anything. Adding all the elements of unemployment together the real figure approaches 30 million people — about 20% of our nation’s workforce.

Why do we have unemployment? The reasons are many, but the underlying theme for our non-recovery is the unwillingness of the current and past administration in Washington to see reality. There, in the halls of power, the myth that there are “job creators” who are above the law, prevails over the bear facts of distress, suicide and depression.

The answer to the recovery non-start is the same as it was and the same as it will be, until and unless the power elite is broken up through the power of the courts and the power of the ballot box. The country is functioning as though economic crisis is over and we are just waiting for recovery. That is wrong-headed and dangerous to all of us. The crisis is not over and won’t be over for decades unless crusaders ascend to the halls of power and we throw out the bums who are keeping us in this economic prison.

Our “free society” has been taken hostage not by conservatives or liberals but by big business and big banks. But as long as business and banks can keep liberals and conservatives fighting with each other, the truth can never come out. Sheila Bair, the popular head of the FDIC who is stepping down, is a Republican appointed by George W Bush. Hers was the lone voice that is now kicked to the curb, saying that the business of government was to protect consumers and taxpayers not banks and business.

The answer to kick-starting the economy is to find a way to have  capital flow into it instead of being drained out of it. Innovation is waiting to happen, but there is no capital being applied to allow these brilliant entrepreneurs to create new businesses and hire millions of workers. The money isn’t there because it was stolen by Wall Street banks and diverted off-shore by any business large enough to employ the tax and financial superstars who understand the laws passed by the legislatures of the states and the federal government — at the behest of big business and big government.

The money isn’t there because the government isn’t doing it’s job, not because government is inherently bad. We have Wall Street — the heir to hundreds of years of capital innovation providing the money for business creation, expansion and growth. But the financial services sector has found out it is better for THEM to keep the money away from real business and to trade “interests” that are not even pieces of paper back and forth between each other. And the government puts its stamp of approval by including this bogus activity as part of our the measure of our economy in the gross domestic product (GDP) published every month. Financial services reached its peak at 16% of GDP a few decades ago. Now it is over 50% and climbing.

How many times do we need to be hit over the head before we look up and see who’s hitting us? Where is the outrage? Where is our country?

We know that consumer spending drives our economy, but we have pursued policies that kept everyone’s ability to spend in decline for 4 decades by keeping wages flat while corporate profits are allowed to be reported as in launch mode without the requirement that social cost be reflected on their announcement of financial results.

We know that consumers and taxpayers are stripped to the bone, losing their homes and unable to support the economy as it was once designed and operated. We know that homeowners are losing their homes not because they make a payment that was due, but because they didn’t make a payment that was not due — and the courts, until recently, have been letting it happen. We know the foreclosures are increasing not because the creditor wants its money back from the homeowner but because the financial players spotted an opening to pretend to be the creditors, while the true creditors sued these financial intermediaries for their money.

Somewhere along the line many people have accepted the notion that it is OK for the banks to lead the charge in the biggest fraudulent land grab in human history, an achievement that will stand out in the history books for hundreds of years to come. People who write and read about his in years to come are going to ask “where was the outrage?”

Somehow, the Unemployed Became Invisible

By

GRIM number of the week: 14,087,000.

Fourteen million, in round numbers — that is how many Americans are now officially out of work.

Word came Friday from the Labor Department that, despite all the optimistic talk of an economic recovery, unemployment is going up, not down. The jobless rate rose to 9.2 percent in June.

What gives? And where, if anywhere, is the outrage?

The United States is in the grips of its gravest jobs crisis since Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House. Lose your job, and it will take roughly nine months to find a new one. That is off the charts. Many Americans have simply given up.

But unless you’re one of those unhappy 14 million, you might not even notice the problem. The budget deficit, not jobs, has been dominating the conversation in Washington. Unlike the hard-pressed in, say, Greece or Spain, the jobless in America seem, well, subdued. The old fire has gone out.

In some ways, this boils down to math, both economic and political. Yes, 9.2 percent of the American work force is unemployed — but 90.8 percent of it is working. To elected officials, the unemployed are a relatively small constituency. And with apologies to Karl Marx, the workers of the world, particularly the unemployed, are also no longer uniting.

Nor are they voting — or at least not as much as people with jobs. In 2010, some 46 percent of working Americans who were eligible to vote did so, compared with 35 percent of the unemployed, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University. There was a similar turnout gap in the 2008 election.

No wonder policy makers don’t fear unemployed Americans. The jobless are, politically speaking, more or less invisible.

It wasn’t always so. During the Great Depression, riots erupted on the bread lines. Even in the 1980s and 1990s, angry workers descended on Washington by the busload.

“There used to be a sense that unemployment was rich soil for radicalization and revolt,” says Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor of labor history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “That was a motif in American history for a long time, but we don’t seem to have that anymore.”

But why? It’s partly because of the greater dispersion of the unemployed, and partly because of the weakening of the institutions that previously mobilized them.

Unemployment doesn’t necessarily beget apathy, Mr. McDonald says. Rather, demographic groups that are more likely to be unemployed also happen to be the same groups that are less likely to vote to begin with, such as the poor and the low-skilled.

Even so, numerous studies have shown that unemployment leads to feelings of shame and a loss of self-worth. And that is not particularly conducive to political organizing. As Heather Boushey, an economist at the liberal Center for American Progress, puts it, rather bluntly: “Nobody wants to join the Lame Club.”

That’s not to say that disillusionment about the economy will just fade away. But unless something changes, the unemployed seem unlikely to gain real political potency soon.

“There’s an illusion that grass-roots activity just begins spontaneously, that people get mad and suddenly say, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore!’ ” says Michael Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University. “But that’s not how it happens.”

Intellectuals used to play a big role in organizing labor. In the 1930s, Communists and socialists were a major force. Later, labor unions stepped in.

But today’s unions are not set up to serve the unemployed; they generally organize around workplaces, after all.

Just ask Rick McHugh, who worked in Michigan as an employment lawyer for the United Automobile Workers from the 1980s through the 1990s. He represented workers who were appealing denials of unemployment insurance benefits. The union footed the bill for people he represented who were not, and had never been, U.A.W. members.

Today, however, many unions are fighting for their own survival. They no longer provide such support for nonmembers. “They just don’t have the staff and the resources to support these programs and the recipients like they used to,” says Mr. McHugh, now a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project.

Workers have also become suburbanized. Back in the 1960s or even the 1980s, the unemployed organized around welfare or unemployment offices. It was a fertile environment: people were anxious and tired and waiting for hours in line.

“We stood outside of these offices, with their huge lines, and passed out leaflets that said things like: ‘If you’re upset about what’s happening to you, come to this meeting at this church basement in two weeks. We’ll get together and do something about this,’ ” recalls Barney Oursler, a longtime community organizer and co-founder of the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee in the early 1980s. “The response just made your heart get big. ‘Oh, my God,’ they’d say, ‘I thought I was alone.’ ”

The Mon Valley Unemployed Committee, which is based in Pittsburgh, helped organize workers in 26 cities across five states, simply by hanging around outside t unemployment offices and harnessing the frustration.

Today, though, many unemployment offices have closed. Jobless benefits are often handled by phone or online rather than in person. An unemployment call center near Mr. Oursler, for instance, now sits behind two sets of locked doors and frosted windows.

In other countries, workers have mobilized online. Unions here, too, have reached out on the Web. They include groups like Working America (the community affiliate of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.) and UCubed (created by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers).

But many Web sites geared toward the unemployed aren’t about mobilizing workers. Many instead provide guidance about things like posting résumés online, or simply offer the comfort of an online community.

It’s not clear why this is the case, when social networks have been so essential to organizing economic protests in places like Britain and Greece, not to mention political movements in the Middle East.

“You have to remember that technology is not independent of social structures, motivations and politics,” Mr. Kazin says. “People can feel like they have their own community online, which is useful emotionally, but they also have to have the desire and demand to do something about their situation first before they start using that online presence to organize anything in person.”

To the extent that frustrations are being channeled at all, they are being channeled largely through the Tea Party. But the Tea Party is mostly against devoting government resources to helping the unemployed.

Tea Party activists, for example, are more likely to believe that providing benefits to poor people encourages them to stay poor, and to believe that economic stimulus has made the economy worse.

Why populist anger over the poor economy is leaning right, rather than left, this time around is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it is because Democrats, traditional friends of labor, control the White House and the Senate.

Mr. Lichtenstein, the historian, notes that it took awhile for the poor to mobilize in the Great Depression. Many initially saw President Roosevelt as an ally and only later became disillusioned. As Langston Hughes wrote in a 1934 poem, “The Ballad of Roosevelt”:

The pot was empty,

The cupboard was bare.

I said, Papa,

What’s the matter here?

I’m waitin’ on Roosevelt, son,

Roosevelt, Roosevelt,

Waitin’ on Roosevelt, son.

For the moment, jobless Americans are waiting on President Obama. If unemployment stays as high as many expect, and millions exhaust their benefits, they may just find their voice in 2012.

11 Responses

  1. The rich own the politicians that serve up the taxpayer. The rich are now as rich as ever, history repeats itself. Anything that keeps the rich in check is good for most Americans. Your vote is the gateway to a better future, keep changing the politicians until they work for you by regulating business, wallstreet and greed in general. A little capitalism is Ok, pure capitalism is an example of poor distribution of resources. The country becomes strong by keeping its people strong, through jobs, opportunities, education and a more effective distribution of wealth model. Keep jobs in this country and keep Americans working. Provide incentives for business to invest in training and hiring Americans, and penalize business for not hiring Americans. Raise taxes on those who can most afford it and use the new revenue stream to rebuild the country. It is time that Americans come to the aid of their country.

  2. Dear CATHERINE RAMPELL,
    Please correct your article for the percentage you quote as ’employed’ is incorrect.

    The unemployement percentage is a number of the states paying unemployment. There are many who have fallen off of unemployment who are unemployed.

    Thank you for correcting.

  3. Welcome to the Department of Justice:

    Report a Crime

    Uh….a bank is pretending to be my lender. I can’t get them to stop harassing me. Someone please help me.

    Get a Job

    What are you, my Mother? Why thank you, I’d love one. Where do I sign up?

    Apply for a Grant

    Whew! Just in the nick of time!

    Submit a Complaint

    OK….you’re not arresting bad guys.

    Report Waste, Fraud, Abuse or Misconduct to the Inspector General

    Actually, it’s the Inspector General that I’d like to turn in, for neglect in upholding the duties of his office, and for blatant cronyism with banksters.

    Find Sales of Seized Property

    That’s too easy. I used to live there. I once called it home.

    Identify Our Most Wanted Fugitives

    Moynihan, Blankfein, Dimon, Mozillo, how much room do I have here?

    Report and Identify Missing Persons

    Barack Obama, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, The SEC, OCC, FDIC, Treasury….

    Contact Us

    Department of Justice
    20oo Wall Street
    New York, NY. 10005

  4. Obama was despondent yesterday ,, he “tried everything .. there’s nothing left to try” …

    Maybe he should try putting meaningful regulation on Wall Street , uncoupling the real banks from the investment banks and forcing the books to reflect current market values… Then he can fire 20% of all FedGov workers and eliminate some harmful departments and agencies ,, order the lawyers in every agency to come up with proposals to cut every counterproductive rule and regulation… and on top of that declare an income tax holiday to put real cash into peoplespockets for 6 months or so.

    PROBLEM SOLVED.

  5. I want to know what happens when they can no longer make the military payroll? Or does big business and the government have us so scared we will let them pay the military no matter what it takes? You dont think the government or big business would lie to us do you? I know a marine that would be willing to help out with the coupe. I bet there are many who have families that are really hurting that are just quiet biding thier time……. waiting. If they cant pay the military history says a government cant control the military.

  6. I agree with you A Man, these people don’t have Bush to blame any more and they won’t smear their low life hero that proved to be more of an imbecile than a real president. This idiot has never owned a business before and I don’t think he has the capacity for it…

  7. People have been fed CRAP for so long, not just in words but in nutrition! First they fed people corn meals, (foods that have no nutritional value), people can’t think well on that kind of food. Then they made them believe that anyone can have a piece of the AMERICAN DREAM, (NOT)! Then they made sure that they have no money or just enough to buy more corn meals!! Wall STREET and the FEDS, made sure that the people who may have become outraged, become handy-caped, while the games go on!

    And then there are those who were not affected by the games, at least not yet!! When those people lose what they have now as the economy rolls down-hill, may be the fire in the belly roars. The unemployed people are so overwhelmed and so depressed, they feel defeated, and those who have jobs have become SLAVES. Good game, you have to hand it to them, the plot is well written, and the crowed has been sub-dude! Is this the NEW WORLD ORDER, the FAT PIGS were thinking of creating???

    People are divided, whether they are rich or poor, people lock themselves in their homes with their boxes of entertainment mixed with CORN MEALS! They are waiting for the leaders to rise up from their graves and lead them to the streets. I know there’s outrage somewhere, I know it because I feel it and if I can feel it then others can. I am employed, but am a slave too. I have to work 120 hours a week to keep the candle burning. Millions like me are feeling the same way, they are stock, they have no TIME to show their outrage! Those who are unemployed are getting some chicken feed to stay calm, they too are outraged BUT, what’s their excuse?

    It’s true we need to clean HOUSE, we need to clean more than house. Everything needs to begin a new, it’s been proven that the politicians are not elected to see that the people who voted for them get their fair share, or get what they need. They are elected to gain POWER, to be in a place to round the herds. They all promise change, they’ll say anything to get in place then they work for the highest bidder. I can see why some people don’t vote, they feel that no matter what or who they vote for is USELESS! I used to think that when we vote for a POLITICIAN, we voted for someone who was to SERVE us; NO, that’s not so. We vote them in and we SERVE THEM, HAHA!!. SHAME on US, that we allowed that to happen for so long. The QUESTION is not WHERE’S THE OUTRAGE OF THE PEOPLE, rather, WHERE’S THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE???

  8. Unemployment figures only include the people that are currently drawing an unemployment check. It does not include the unemployed population that (for whatever reason) is not currently eligible for benefits. Just like everything else, the figures are not accurate as to the true scope of unemployment in our country. Whose idea was it to send our American jobs to other countries? They should be hanged!

  9. The rule of law has and continues to disappear. Now the people are forced to follow the rule of the banks and financial servicers, or are they.

    Outrage needs to be directed by those that are investing in the markets on Wall Street. I know that is a serious statement, but we are feeding the very people who have created so much damage to this economy and any future immediate recovery – How is it that the people who buy these stocks do not see the danger of what they are doing to this economy. Once Wall Street gets the picture without our money to invest, then they will return to reality and the greed will be no more. The government is not and cannot help this situation. Just look at where we are today when the whole mess could have been prevented had they made the right decisions, which they did not.

    Outrage needs to be directed by those who make bank deposits in the banks who have continued to victimize the rest of the nation. Without the money, they are limited – there is no other way that the people can fight. The feds appear to be on the side of the banks and that includes the Congress of those we voted in office.

  10. Obama and Boehner need to be replaced. They are useless. Impeach Now.

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