Creature from the Black Potomac

Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed column (‘A Different Creature’) in last Tuesday’s New York Times produced some interesting statistics and comments. Because the do-nothing, know-nothing Nancy Pelosi referred to this Great Recession as “a different creature”, Mr. Herbert was prompted to put some numbers in front of his readers.

“The evidence is stark,” he wrote. “More than 44 percent of unemployed Americans have been out of work for six months or longer, the highest rate since World War II. Perhaps more chilling is a new analysis by the Pew Economic Policy Group that found that nearly a quarter of the nation’s 15 million unemployed workers have been jobless for a year or more.

“Everything in Washington is a heavy lift. The successful struggle to pass last year’s stimulus package fended off an even worse economic disaster, and the Democrats have managed to enact their health care initiative. But the biggest threat to the health of the economy – corrosive, intractable, demoralizing unemployment – is still with us. And the deficit zealots, growing in strength, would do nothing to counter this scourge …

“The crippling nature of the joblessness that has moved through the society like a devastating virus has gotten neither the attention nor the response that it warrants. One of the more striking findings of the Pew study was that a college education has not been much of a defense against long-term unemployment. ‘Twenty-one percent of unemployed workers with a bachelor’s degree have been without work for a year or longer,’ the report found, ‘compared to 27 percent of unemployed high school graduates and 23 percent of unemployed dropouts.’

“Blue-collar workers are suffering through a crisis characterized as a ‘depression’ by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Blue-collar job losses during the so-called Great Recession surpassed 5.5 million, and many of those jobs will never be seen again. This disastrous situation will not be corrected, as analysts at the center have noted, ‘by a modest recovery of the U.S. economy over the next few years’…

“In a speech at the Harvard Kennedy School last week, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. President Richard Trumka spoke movingly about Americans ‘trying to hold on to a good job in a grim game of musical chairs where every time the music stopped, there were fewer good jobs and more people trying to get and keep one.’ More than eight million jobs vanished during the recession, a period during which three million new jobs would have been needed to keep up with the growth of the population. ‘That’s 11 million missing jobs,’ said Mr. Trumka.” –

Mr. Herbert’s impression that “last year’s stimulus package fended off an even worse economic disaster” is inaccurate. Wall Street got that money. Main Street struck out. The rest of Mr. Herbert’s article, however, is a strong endorsement for revitalizing U.S. shipyards. The cost of such an endeavor will be far less than the cost of a “stimulus package”, and there is no other way to create the 30 to 40 million jobs needed in order to pull this country out of its disastrous economic tailspin.