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Thursday, May 13, 2010

20% Unemployed- Forever!

Cynthia Norton, Jacksonville Florida, laid off two years ago from an insurance company.
“Sometimes I think I’d be better off in jail” says the 53 year- old unemployed administrative assistant only half joking. “I’d have three meals a day and structure in my life*. I’d be able to go to school. I’d have more opportunities if I were an inmate than I do here trying to be a contributing member of society.”
1.7 million Americans who were employed in clerical and administrative jobs when the recession began are no longer working in that occupation now. Those jobs have been permanently eliminated and even when the economy recovers they will never be filled again. This country and virtually all of western civilization must accept the fact that one-fifth of it’s work force, will eventually be permanently unemployed. 
What is the Obama administration or for that matter, the Merkel, Sarkozy, Cameron etc.,  administrations, doing about this? For that matter, are any of them even acknowledging the existence of this 100 ton gorilla?
The King Kong of modern social issues is being completely ignored simply because no one has even the slightest idea of how to deal with him. Except perhaps, “Just ignore him and maybe he’ll go away”
Since the dawn of the Industrial revolution and maybe even before, people have defined themselves by their occupations. If you ask someone to describe themselves they’ll usually start with their jobs; “I’m a lawyer and a father, a husband” etc. Their social positions, their connection to the community, their lives, revolve around their jobs. With no job - who are they? If one out of five members of the work force have no jobs and no employment prospects what are they? How can they relate to society? 
An examination of countries that have experienced long-term, massive unemployment reveals a consistent pattern of social unrest and a frequent tendency towards an autoritarian regime (e.g. Nazi Germany, fascist Spain & Portugal, Peron’s Argentina, etc.) or incipient fascist movements as in the 1930’s U.S. or the current Tea-Bag Movement and aberrations like the Arizona immigration law.
FDR introduced Social Security and the WPA among other governmental initiatives to offset (but not cure) the unemployment crisis. They were fairly successful palliatives but it took WWII to put a temporary stop to it. Then, the post-war “reconctruction” with its GI Bill and other related instruments contributed to the temporary postponement of the resurgence of massive unemployment but as the Eagles sang “You can run but you can’t hide” and now almost 80 years since the onset of the Great Depression it’s “deja vu all over again”
This time, we must face the awful reality of permanent unemployment for a significant segment of the world’s population and focus our best minds and facilities on the problem before the Gorilla starts to tear the place apart.