Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On joblessness

Unemployment is a nasty problem.  Not only do the vast majority of people need work to get their daily bread, but the vast majority actually LIKE to work.  They define themselves by their work.  They revel in the sense of accomplishment it gives them.  By contrast, joblessness leads to depression, domestic violence, and other forms of anti-social behavior.

Except!!!  Working too hard also causes problems--breakdowns from repetitive stress both physically and mentally.  So it is obvious that folks want to work--they just don't want to work so hard.

Now even though I argue on a daily basis that there is PLENTY of work that needs doing and can cite examples of jobs that could be created if we were to meet our survival needs until people's eyes glaze over, I am also confronted with the fact that we need only tiny fractions of our populations to grow our food and manufacture the mountains of goods that threaten to swamp us.  I once saw a statistic that if all the productivity gains since 1973 had gone into increased leisure time for Producers instead of up the noses of the Wall Street banksters, we could have a 22 hour workweek, at least 8 weeks of vacation time per year, and a retirement age of 58.  I lost the original article and haven't seen it since, but this sounds about right.

Besides, if we really want to build a sustainable society, maybe we should slow down at least a LITTLE.  Many mistakes in the world of the Producers are caused when jobs are rushed.
Economy Reality Check: Make Full Employment Job One
By Robert Borosage  July 28, 2010 - 1:46pm ET
Washington is enmeshed in the economic version of the phony war. The two sides have declared war on one another, but neither has faced up to the fierce battles yet to come. Too few seem aware of the staggering challenges that face this country.
Here is a summary of the carnage wrought by the Great Recession summarized by the Economist from a Pew study (H/T to
More than half of all workers have experienced a spell of unemployment, taken a cut in pay or hours or been forced to go part-time. The typical unemployed worker has been jobless for nearly six months. Collapsing share and house prices have destroyed a fifth of the wealth of the average household. Nearly six in ten Americans have cancelled or cut back on holidays. About a fifth say their mortgages are underwater. One in four of those between 18 and 29 have moved back in with their parents. Fewer than half of all adults expect their children to have a higher standard of living than theirs, and more than a quarter say it will be lower.. for many Americans the great recession has been the sharpest trauma since the second world war, wiping out jobs, wealth and hope itself.
Stop and consider the implications. Then add the fact that continuing high levels of unemployment are now the consensus forecast. Long term unemployment will remain at record levels. In the U.S., where we provide only temporary support for the unemployed, this is a social catastrophe. Families break apart; drug use and despair increase; community institutions decline; domestic violence, racial and anti-immigrant hostility soar. The young graduating into this economy are likely to fare worsethroughout their work lives.
In this context, the Washington debate seems particularly puerile. The business and financial elites are rolling out an attack on Obama as anti-business, accusing him of demonizing corporations. Given Obama's preternatural equanimity, the charge is risible. And utterly dishonest. (See for example, Paul Krugman's takedown of the latest screed by real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman, who Breitbarted an Obama quote, utterly distorting it to make his point.)
Republicans have returned to their supply-side fantasies, arguing that top end tax cuts won't add to deficits, while filibustering against unemployment insurance and any jobs program. But we tried it their way in the Bush years. Deficit spending driven by top end tax cuts and wars produced a bubble economy, scarred by no jobs growth, stagnant wages, growing inequality, growing debt, and borrowing of $2 billion a day from abroad, largely from Chinese central bankers. And that was before the bubble burst. Surely, they have to offer something different.
Democrats, in contrast, believe the Recovery Act worked to save an economy in free fall, but wasn't big enough to put people back to work. So they call for more jobs initiatives, plus extension of unemployment supports as well as aid to cash strapped states to forestall layoffs of teachers and police. But, divided internally, with Blue Dogs focused on deficits, they've been reduced to offering up bite-sized legislative morsels not close to what is needed to address the problem. more

The Unemployed, Organized Online, Look to the Midterms
Jobless Workers Look to Shift Elections
By ANNIE LOWREY 7/28/10 6:15 AM
Sometime this spring, Republicans turned against unemployment. In Nevada, Sharron Angle (R), the candidate facing incumbent Sen. Harry Reid (D), told local reporters, “You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job.” (Untrue.) Angle also called the unemployed “spoiled.”
Rand Paul, a candidate for a Kentucky Senate seat, made similar statements, and politicians in Washington followed suit. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said on C-SPAN that extending unemployment would discourage “individuals that are out there to actually go out and go through the interviews.”
But unlike most comments from politicians, these criticisms did not diffuse into the generic noise of political chatter. They began reverberating in what might be termed the unemployed netroots — a system of highly trafficked, influential blogs and sites connecting the jobless and updating them, often in minute detail, about the ins and outs of Congress’ work on unemployment issues.
When Jordan, a former programmer living in Nevada, lost his position with a local university, he began sending out resumes, but he also found himself following the eight-month battle for an unemployment extension closely — each failed Senate vote, each new House proposal. (He requested I withhold his last name to avoid impeding his job search.) Online, he started surfing list-servs, posting on message boards and using resources from the unemployed. A few times, he has worked up the courage to call his legislators’ offices.
Jordan has searched hard for a job and is now considering moving away from his family for a few months, if it means he can send home a paycheck. “I have voted Republican my entire life,” he says. “I don’t want to vote for Harry Reid. But I don’t want to be told I’m lazy, and I’m dumb, and I’m living high on the hog, collecting [unemployment insurance] because I want to.” more
Even the possibility of full employment is cause for joy and not a little gloating in Germany.
Full Employment Could Be in Germany's Future
Germany's latest unemployment figures indicate that the country could soon have under 3 million people out of work, a new low. While some media commentators praise the German economic model, which has helped the country ride out the recession, others warn that vital labor market reforms are still required.
Just five years ago, Germany was in the grip of an unemployment crisis with the jobless figure soaring to over 5 million in January 2005, the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Now, with the industrialized world still reeling from the effects of the financial crisis, Germany is in the fortunate position of seeing its unemployment figures falling steadily and could soon have fewer than 3 million people out of work.
On Thursday, the Federal Employment Agency (BA) released the latest unemployment figures. A total of 3.192 million people were registered as unemployed this month, an increase of 39,000 on June. The unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, up 0.1 percent compared to the previous month. The slight increase is largely due to seasonal factors.
The figure is an improvement on the same period last year when 271,000 more people were without work and the joblessness rate was 8.2 percent. The figures point to the success of the German policy of keeping workers on the job under a short-time work program as the country weathered the global crisis, as well as the fact that the country'sexports are increasingly in demand.
The government-subsidized short-time work scheme has helped companies to ride out the crisis. While there are still 481,000 people on such schemes, that is just a third of the figure at the height of the recession. more

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