Over the last 18 months or so most everyone I know in North America has – in some way or another – been impacted by the sudden un/under-employment of a friend, colleague or loved one. Many of those affected had been working in tech-related, specialist or professional fields with abundant credentials under them, only to be laid-off during this period of wanton corporate belt-tightening. This is, of course, a classic process of redistribution and consolidation of wealth. Although it might seem differently, everyone isn’t doing badly. The consolidation of banks, food and media, for example, is a wonderful thing – if you count yourself among the oligarchs. For them, less workers working more efficiently means a return to profit.
Meanwhile, as the official unemployment numbers edge past records set two generations ago, things look less rosy for the working class.
The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to a 26-year high of 9.7% in August as nonfarm payrolls fell by 216,000, the 20th consecutive monthly decline, the Labor Department estimated Friday.
U.S. payrolls have dropped by 6.9 million to a total of 131.2 million since the recession began in December 2007, the government data showed. Unemployment has increased by 7.4 million during the recession to stand at 14.9 million. – (Market Watch)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, payrolls shrank in construction, manufacturing, finance and wholesale trade during August. Here’s some visual context:
With 131.2 million Americans semi-employed (officially, at least), that only leaves about 170 million to fuss over, so it shouldn’t be much of a shock to hear that 10% of America is on food stamps. Many un/under-employed Americans are biding their time, waiting for a utopian hiring frenzy, but they’re unlikely to find relief any time soon because most of the jobs being lost are due to “broken business models” and are probably gone for good. For post-secondary institutions, 2009-10 is shaping up to be the most competitive class intake ever as more people try to shore-up their economic stability with additional credentials. Sadly, unemployment rates for college/university graduates is the highest on record and student loan delinquencies are becoming endemic. Furthermore, frivolous lawsuits aside, a university degree is no ticket to economic stability and for most Americans household debt is a serious burden:
“The American consumer is like that bad guy in a zombie movie; shoot him; stab him. He keeps coming forward. But in the case of the consumer, it’s more like: depress his wage, make him unemployed, ruin his confidence make no job growth, lower his savings rate — none of it matters, he or she just keeps on racking up those charges.” – Robert Brusca
Mr. Brusca, a Ph.D. economist, “has been a Division Chief at the NY Fed, a Fed-watcher at a major NY commercial bank and Chief Economist at major international securities firm”, but presently he works as “an independent voice on the economy global trends and the political scene.” Obviously, as a member of the Oligarch’s Fan Club™ he’s not very worried about his economic stability in the face of systemic collapse, and he’s even got some advice for us commoners: ‘Stop bitching!’
Economist Robert Brusca said the [unemployment] trend is favorable, adding that he couldn’t understand the pessimism of so many observers. “I feel like a parent locked in a car with a little kid screaming ” DADDY! ARE WE THERE YET?” – (Market Watch)
You see, like many other ‘Gatekeepers of Sanity’, Mr. Brusca contends that the Recovery is here, and unemployment is just a “lagging indicator” of economic health. However, during the lead-up to the federal government’s bailout + “stimulus”, he seemed less enthusiastic:
I don’t think this really changes very much. We’re not sure this plan is going to be accepted. If we assume it is accepted, it is some help for the banks but it doesn’t help homeowners and it doesn’t help consumers and it doesn’t change the fact that the unemployment rate is rising and industrial production is falling. So it’s nice to patch up the financial intermediaries, but that’s not a full solution. – (Channel 2)
Clearly, sometime between then and now Mr. Brusca drank the Kool-Aid of Orthodoxy +3. Paralleling the tendencies of other wannabe plutocrats, he has more self-interest than good will for the ‘unwashed public’. Although he publicly champions the working class, he has negligible authentic insight into its motivations and concerns. Many modern authority figures have learned to embody the patriarchal strategies of anti-labour industrialists, and one of the most insidious is the projection of a commonality of experience. This was on full-display when the illustrious Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, suggested that middle class American households earn around $350,000 per year, but it’s also operating in the background in lots of other places, too. Politicians, patriarchs, industrialists and entrepreneurs are upheld by idols in the media culture who relentlessly bludgeon the public with subversive propaganda intended to leave You feeling powerless to effect meaningful change.
So, what are you going to do about it?
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