In “The Forgotten Millions”, Paul Krugman writes, “More than three years after we entered the worst economic slump since the 1930s, a strange and disturbing thing has happened to our political discourse: Washington has lost interest in the unemployed.
“Jobs do get mentioned every now and then … But 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.
“So one-sixth of America’s workers – all those who can’t find any job or are stuck with part-time work when they want a full-time job – have, in effect, been abandoned.
“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?
“Part of the answer may be that while those who are unemployed tend to stay unemployed, those who still have jobs are feeling more secure than they did a couple of years ago. Layoffs and discharges spiked during the crisis of 2008-2009 but have fallen sharply since then, perhaps reducing the sense of urgency. Put it this way: At this point, the U.S. economy is suffering from low hiring, not high firing, so things don’t look so bad – as long as you’re willing to write off the unemployed.
“Yet polls indicate that voters still care much more about jobs than they do about the budget deficit. So it’s quite remarkable that inside the Beltway, it’s just the opposite.
“What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that the economic arguments used to justify the D.C. deficit obsession have been repeatedly refuted by experience …
“Yet the obsession with spending cuts flourishes all the same – unchallenged, it must be said, by the White House …
“So who pays the price … The increasingly hopeless unemployed, of course … ” –
So, the folks “who still have jobs are feeling more secure” and “Washington has lost interest in the unemployed”. It’s the American way, alright – “Hooray for me, to heck with you.”
But those forgotten millions have children to feed, and if job-creation plans aren’t soon advanced by Washington, then those uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya will look like child’s play.