NYTimes KRUGMAN: The Forgotten Unemployed

Posted on March 18, 2011 by

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In yesterday’s New York Times, Paul Krugman talked about The Forgotten Millions.  More than three years after the US entered the worst economic slump since the 1930s, Washington has lost interest in the unemployed.  The concern is that no jobs bills have been introduced in Congress, no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House and all the policy focus seems to be on spending cuts and the millions of unemployed and underemployed have been abandoned.

He goes on to say:

It might not be so bad if the jobless could expect to find new employment fairly soon. But unemployment has become a trap, one that’s very difficult to escape. There are almost five times as many unemployed workers as there are job openings; the average unemployed worker has been jobless for 37 weeks, a post-World War II record.

In short, we’re well on the way to creating a permanent underclass of the jobless. Why doesn’t Washington care?

[Read entire article on NYTimes…]

What will it take to get politicians caring again about America’s forgotten millions?  Here are a few suggestions found in the comments of that article:

  • We found the answer in Madison, Wisconsin… Unions and other organizations that care about the plight of non-working Americans must get together and coordinate an effort to organize massive protests in Washington… we need a huge, enduring Hooverville set up on the Washington Mall. We need massive protests every day the Congress is in session. We need targeted protests against President Obama & the Congressional leaders who won’t help the jobless… Some Americans who aren’t looking for jobs would either join them or contribute money to the care and feeding of the “residents” of New Hooverville. I will. (Marie Burns – Fort Myers, Florida, The Constant Weader at http://www.RealityChex.com)
  • Take to the streets, start recalls by the score, and organize a third or even fourth political party. It’s a class war and we can only win it if we fight back. Wisconsin was only the beginning. (Karen Garcia – New Paltz, NY)
  • We have a national emergency, which the POTUS should declare, and propose funding with a ‘ war tax ‘ of 5% on all incomes above $1 million, unless the tax-payer has a son, daughter, spouse, or are themselves serving in the Middle East.
    Additionally, salary caps should be removed for 5 years from payroll tax with-holding to replenish the Soc. Sec. Trust Fund with monies diverted to general expenditures (primarily un-funded wars and tax cuts) during the previous administration.
    These two actions will trim the current deficit and fund a WPA-type jobs program for infrastructure maintenance that the POTUS should create by executive order. (R. Law – Texas)
  • No problem, unemployment or anything else, can be adequately addressed by Congress, or any other part of the government until the people take it back. This is NOT a left or right, conservative vs. liberal issue. Congress does not care about unemployment because they do not work for all Americans, they work for only the very richest 1% or so, both parties. Do we really need any more proof of this fact at this point? (Bill Pieper – Taiwan)
  • We’re watching people around the world marching in the streets to protest against their obscenely rich, out-of-touch governments, where people are unemployed, poor, and miserable, while their leaders have untold millions in their personal bank accounts. Is this so different from what’s happening in Wisconsin? No one can make politicians care about the poor and the forgotten millions. The only answer is to replace them with politicians who do care. We already have that power. We simply have to wake up and use it. (Gemli – Boston)
  • Why can’t Obama get the simple idea that letting the tax cuts on the rich expire and using the proceeds to fund government jobs in education and construction will make the US more competitive a decade from now and provide millions of workers with paychecks that will enable them to go out and spend. (Jake Wagner – Santa Barbara, CA)
  • I think I speak for most of America when I say that it would be refreshing if in 2012 or 2014 we started to elect some of these unemployed or underemployed folks to congress regardless of their political affiliation, because then and only then would we have Beltway residents that have felt the frustration, disbelief, anger, and bewilderment that comes when you think you are taking all the right steps for all the right reasons with respect to employment only to see not just door after door shut in your face BUT never opened in the first place. Meanwhile we continue to promote free-trade agreements with Columbia and South Korea while we don’t even face the facts that GDP has flat-lined relative to population growth. The code words on Wall Street and corporate boardrooms for kicking us while we’re down “consolidation”, “efficiency discovery”, “M&A” are simply nice ways of saying that we aren’t going to even pretend that full employment would be worthwhile national goal.
    The Great Decoupling of the haves and the have nots, food consumption from production, energy sustainability from energy prices, etc. is only in its infancy. At maturity it will be everywhere creating volatility the world has never seen and will be ill-equipped to cope with. Yet we continue to subsidize Wall Street, Big Oil, and Big Agribusiness none of which have the job multipliers that will get us out of this mess. (wauch – Burlington, VT)
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