The Forgotten Jobs Crisis
Perhaps it is the sheer size of this country that makes important problems invisible – with each problem so localized and personal as not to count in public discourse. Or perhaps it is the sheer size of the problems themselves that enables them to hide in the open –with each so large and so ubiquitous as to be thought simply normal. Or perhaps it is because as a country we are becoming blind – so beset with problems that we chose to either play them down or ignore them altogether.
I think we are becoming blind.
I say that because of two conversations this week with friends whom I have known for more than a decade. One has just lost his job. The other is fearful of losing his. Those conversations brought home in an entirely personal way the scale and impact of the jobs crisis with which this economy is still beset – a jobs crisis about which our political leaders and mainstream commentators now talk less and less, and with greater and greater degrees of superficiality. It is not that the jobs crisis is entirely ignored or that every commentator is silent. They are not. It is rather that once a month the politicians comment on the numbers; and once a month they then pass rapidly on to other things. In a culture with a low attention span, there seems to be no attention span lower than that of our political class when faced with the awesome reality of an economy stalled in recession. We have a jobs crisis of epic proportions, and yet – with the honorable exception of a handful of legislators on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party – our politicians chose to focus instead on anything and everything else.
· One friend was laid off after 35 years of working, mainly for one company. He was unexpectedly cast aside because of corporate downsizing. A man who has worked hard every week of his adult life – a walking example of true American values – was abruptly discarded, left with an empty Monday morning which he must now struggle to fill. In his late 50s, his chances of re-employment – as he is all too aware – are at best slim to negligible.
· The other friend, slightly younger but in the same business, still has his job, but is now watching a rolling program of redundancies working its way steadily in his direction. It is working its way towards him just at the time when he, like many parents of high school seniors, has to co-sign a student loan package for a son off to college – signing just at the moment, that is, when his own sense of financial security is at its lowest.
 On this, see Evan Soltas, “A Recovery for Some, Not for All,” Bloomberg, April 4, 2013: available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-03/a-recovery-for-some-not-for-all.html
 See Arianna Huffington, Brain Dead: Why Is D.C.’s Answer to the Jobs Crisis a Deficit Solution? Posted on The Huffington Post, April 9, 2013: available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/brain-dead-why-is-dcs-ans_b_3046963.html
 See Paul Krugman, “The Forgotten Millions,” The New York Times, December 6, 2012: available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/07/opinion/krugman-the-forgotten-millions.html?_r=0
 See Josh Bivens, Public Sector Job Losses, Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute, April 5, 2012: available at http://www.epi.org/publication/public-sector-job-losses-unprecedented-drag/
 Algernon Austin, Unemployment Rates Are Projected To Remain High For Whites, Latinos, And African Americans Throughout 2013, Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief #350, February 25, 2013: available at http://www.epi.org/publication/unemployment-rates-whites-latinos-african-americans/
 Heidi Golledge, Labor Participation Rate Keeps Falling While Millions of Jobs Go Unfulfilled, posted on The Huffington Post, April 5, 2013: available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heidi-golledge/labor-participation-rate-_b_3020308.html
 Heidi Shierholz, Natalie Sabadish and Nicholas Finio, The Class of 2013, Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #360, April 10, 2013: available at http://www.epi.org/press/class-2013-faces-dim-job-prospects-depressed/
 Brad Plumer, ‘Companies won’t even look at resumes of the long-term unemployed,” The Washington Post, April 15, 2013: available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/15/companies-wont-even-look-at-resumes-of-the-long-term-unemployed/
 See Heidi Shierholz, Who are the 23 million ‘underemployed’ workers? Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute Economic Snapshot, November 28, 2012: available at http://www.epi.org/publication/23-million-underemployed-workers/
 See Ben Casselman, “College Grads May Be stuck in Low-Skill Jobs,” The Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2013: available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323466204578382753004333838.html
 See Arianna Huffington, The Jobs Crisis: It May Not Be ‘Breaking News’ But It’s Definitely ‘Broken News’. Posted on The Huffington Post, April 16, 2013: available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/jobs-crisis-broken-news_b_3096331.html
 See Nicole Ostrow, Antidepressant Use in U.S. Doubled Over Decade to 10% in 2005, Bloomberg, August 3, 2009: available at http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=ahhoI_iSoraM
 See Brad Plumer, “High student debt is dragging down the U.S. economy,” The Washington Post, April 18, 2013: available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/17/student-debt-is-dragging-down-the-u-s-economy/?print=1
 See Michael Hudson, The Big Threat to the Economy is Private Debt and Interest Owed on It, Not Government Debt, posted on Alternet, March 14, 2013: available at http://www.alternet.org/economy/big-threat-economy-private-debt-and-interest-owed-it-not-government-debt
 See Catherine Rampell, Rings of Unemployment, posted on Economix, February 7, 2013: available at http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/07/rings-of-unemployment/
 See Travis Waldron, 1 in 6 Kids Has Unemployed or Underemployed Parent, posted on The Huffington Post, March 27, 2013: available at http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/1-6-us-kids-has-unemployed-or-underemployed-parent
 See Melanie Foley, Where are the Country’s Least Happy and Healthy Americans? New Studies Reveal America’s “Sadness Belt,” posted on The Huffington Post, March 28, 2013: available at http://appvoices.org/2013/03/25/americas-sadness-belt/
 See U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, Washington DC: National Institutes of Health, January 2013: available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13497
 See Robert L. Borosage, The Rising American Electorate: Sinking Together, posted on The Huffington Post, April 4, 2013: available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-l-borosage/-the-rising-american-elec_b_3007482.html
 See Richard Eskow, The Long Depression, posted on The Huffington Post, April 4, 2013: available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/the-long-depression_b_3009521.html
 See Ben Casselman, “Jobless Aid Shrinks Unevenly,” The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2013: available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323639604578370182707366240.html
 See Michael Spence and Sandile Hlatshwayo, “The Evolving Structure of the American Economy and the Employment Challenge,” Comparative Economic Studies 2012, pp. 703-738: available at http://www.cfr.org/industrial-policy/evolving-structure-american-economy-employment-challenge/p24366
 See Paul Krugman, “Cheating Our Children,” The New York Times, March 28, 2013: available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/opinion/krugman-cheating-our-children.html
David Coates holds the Worrell Chair in Anglo-American Studies at Wake Forest University. He is the author of Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments, New York: Continuum Books, 2010.
He writes here in a personal capacity.