Washington has lost interest in the unemployed

That is Paul Krugman who wrote in an editorial.

Now, on to the reader's voice:

Jake Wagner
Santa Barbara, CA
The U6 unemployment numbers stand now at 15.9%. For some Americans, those with secure jobs, these are just abstract figures. But I write letters of recommendation for new graduates from a well-known university.

One surprise was when an outstanding student asked me to write for a job in Korea! When I ask around, I find he is not alone. Some of the new US graduates are actually emigrating to get jobs in the developing economies. Other excellent former students are without jobs in spite of excellent qualifications. We are losing a generation of potentially highly productive workers.

Schools are not hiring because state and local governments are cutting back, housing prices continue to plummet. I've lost hundreds of thousands in equity myself, and I've cut back tremendously. When the drier broke I decided why not dry with solar power? I've stopped buying most new clothing. I've cut cable TV. I buy DVD's instead of going to the opera. I've started a garden. And I've been saving like mad because the future has never looked so insecure.

It doesn't need to be this way. 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. This would increase the aggregate demand that Krugman talks about and would start a feedback process that would lead to more and more spending and more and more jobs. Housing prices would likely stabilize and even I, seeing my home equity stabilize, would have the confidence to buy a new car, perhaps a Chevy Volt.

The sad fact is that NO ACTION is being taken to drive down unemployment. And those new graduates will suffer permanently lower living standards because they are not getting the work experience needed to start their careers. We are thus creating a new normal which is unsustainable because without the extra revenues from higher employment, deficits at 10% of GDP are unsustainable. When we are forced to bring the deficits to an end, we will join Greece and Ireland in austerity. The problem is that austerity just makes things worse, driving up unemployment even more enforcing yet more austerity in a vicious downward cycle.

Krugman is right when it comes to pushing for greater stimulus. Too bad, Obama does not have the FDR-leadership qualities to provide the fireside chats that might get Americans on board.
Burlington, VT
Forget 5 for every 1 job PK I finished my Ph.D. a year ago and only now am getting second interviews. In my field broadly classified as Environmental Sciences/Ecology I have had experiences with faculty positions where for example at Lewis & Clarke there were 260 applicants for a faculty opening and here in Vermont at St Mikes 160. I received an interview in neither case.
OBAMA is proving eerily like Bush from issues as broad as his love of "Golf In War Times" to his treatment of Bradley Manning a citizen of the US in a manner befitting Abu Ghraib or Baghram.
I have no sympathy nor should any self-respecting progressive for any Obama supporter (WHO I voted for!) unable or unwilling to see what he has become and who has become his overseer(s). Maybe not the likes of the Koch Brothers but Goldman Sachs' alumni is worse enough.
I can't imagine how these people with or w/o a GED or maybe a BS are getting jobs as people like myself barely can get sub-$45,000 salary openings. David Brooks is living in La-La Land at this point but your partners-in-crime Herbert and Rich are hitting hard at Obama et al. Please continue to light the fire under those do-nothing Dems and know-nothing Republicans.
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.

Fred Drumlevitch
Tucson, Arizona
A society is like a biological ecosystem: destroy certain niches, and, at a very minimum, the former occupant types will be very adversely impacted. (In a worst-case scenario, the entire system will be rendered unstable, provable mathematically). Those that have some "generalist" abilities may successfully scrape by. Other types may manage, after some time (perhaps many generations), to adapt physiologically and/or behaviorally to the changed conditions. Still others may not be successful at adaptation — they may literally be without shelter, they may literally starve to death. Even if not, they certainly won't fare well.

What am I describing? It's basic Darwinian evolution, which, when deliberately imposed by some humans on their fellow human beings, and with inadequate mitigation, is simply brutal Social Darwinism. And done why? In recent years, so that corporations can automate or ship jobs overseas for greater profits, so that the military-industrial complex can continue its waste of our limited resources (while the grunt soldiers continue to die or be maimed), and so that well-off Americans can have reduced tax rates. Both a majority of the people of this country and the national physical infrastructure have suffered.

We do need to repair and improve the physical infrastructure of the United States, but for that to be successful, it must be linked to respect for, and improvement of, the human infrastructure of the nation. Except in totalitarian countries abusing their people in a long march to "progress", the two types of infrastructure are inseparable, they must rise or fall together. And, in fact, that is what has occurred. Ever since Ronald Reagan's presidency, both the U.S. physical infrastructure and the valuation of its human infrastructure have deteriorated; it's time to fully acknowledge the linkage, and act accordingly.

Economic change, including global competition, may be inevitable. But proper values and social justice at any particular time in any particular society are not, as is shown by the varied paths that different countries have historically taken. Neither social progress nor even the continuance of past gains is foreordained. Absent the willingness of people to support social justice and the common good, the nation will regress to the lowest common denominator of human behavior, and deteriorated infrastructure — while still chanting "We're Number One!". We've been on that path for 30 years, and it shows.

With regard to physical infrastructure, several tepid proposals have been floated. These include President Obama's "State of the Union", and budget. And Senator Kerry's proposal of an initial $10 billion for an "infrastructure bank" rates as a pathetic token engagement in the context of the estimated $2.2 trillion needed for infrastructure over the next 5 years. Even more flawed is its belief in the efficacy of private businesses (rather than direct public planning, expenditure, and ownership) to advance the public good. The real "leverage" created by the proposed arrangement will not be leverage of corporate spending by our government, but rather, leverage of the U.S. public by corporations. (Imagine if our interstate highway system had been developed and owned by corporations; vast portions would never have been built (unless compensated by a giant give-away, as with territorial land grants to the railroads), while on those segments that were, corporate owners would be in a position to extract via tolls from motorists many billions of dollars more every year than is currently paid in fuel taxes. Or alternatively, consider big pharma’s leverage of publically-funded biomedical research to produce highly-profitable drugs unaffordable to many.) If we can't allocate vastly more than $10 billion (when our yearly military spending is more than $650 billion) and can't do actual federal spending (not just loans), then there isn't really any significant commitment, it's all over for this country, and we who comment on these matters are just writing a serialized obituary for the United States.

What should be done? 1) drastically reduce military and so-called "security" spending — we can't successfully police the world (and can't afford to), and the biggest threat we face is national deterioration, not foreign attack; 2) stop kowtowing to the corporations, stop expecting needed development for the common good to come from them — they aren't people, possess no conscience, and as currently incorporated have no obligation whatsoever to the betterment of the nation; 3) raise taxes — the necessary investments are large and must be of long duration, and the likely cuts to military spending will not generate enough capital; 4) plan and spend, on both human and physical infrastructure — necessary large changes will not magically occur without planning for and investment in the future.

Thirty years of deterioration can't be fixed overnight, but those steps would be a beginning.
Malvern, PA
It’s pretty much common knowledge Republicans ignore the facts at will and the spineless, leaderless Democrats will follow whatever the Republicans tell them to do. Joblessness isn’t important because the Republicans don’t think it’s important to their ideological agenda of dismantling government (like ignoring the regulations and laws of the last 8 years) and destroying the social/domestic programs and collective bargaining of the middle class. The complicit Democrats offer no real opposition, let alone offer any principles to get behind. They had their chance to investigate/incarcerate the cronyism and corruption of the last eight years, but they chose not to. Rather, they like their greedy counterparts just feed at the public/private trough regardless of the economic/financial misery around them.

Democrats love the status quo – don’t rock the boat is their guiding philosophy. Expensive wars and expensive tax cuts to the wealthy doesn’t faze them. Dr. Krugman was right 2 years ago about the tax cut laden $700 Billion stimulus. Today we have bankers and Wall St. companies making record profits while the rest of America can’t find jobs, feed their families, afford health care and get from under their upside-down homes. We’ve had 3 tax cuts (to the wealthy) over the last 2 years that were supposed to goose the economy and allow the disproved/voodoo Trickle Down theory work its magic. Does anybody feel better off today besides millionaires?

Because Republicans want to talk about deficits, that’s what we are talking about day-and-night. All this fear mongering has gotten people worked up about cutting every program under the sun except for funding for the wars, Defense and the entitlements. Programs like Planned Parenthood, EPA, FEMA, NPR, Headstart, the Department of Education are just some of these useless programs. Who cares about the negative social or economic effects or the people they may help? Republican ideology always trumps all. Win at all costs and take no prisoners.

What’s America coming too? There are no positive effects from all these expensive, supply-side policies and ideological program cutting maneuvers. When will this madness end? Will Americans continue to see and read about government austerity measures that take away their safety nets and break down what’s left of their social fabric? The people in Washington just don’t care or get it. When the top 400 people have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50%, America is now an oligarchy run by ideologues. Be afraid, very afraid because this story isn’t going to end well.



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