Scary Bad

On August 11th, Bob Herbert, the outstanding OP-ED columnist at The New York Times, headlined his story with these words: “A Scary Reality”

“Last week was a pretty good one for President Obama. Bill Clinton helped out big time when he returned from North Korea with the American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Sonia Sotomayor was elevated to the Supreme Court. And Friday’s unemployment report registered a tiny downward tick in the jobless rate.”

Then Mr. Herbert goes on to explain how these developments were nothing more than diversions.

“But for American workers peering anxiously through their family portholes,” he wrote, “the economic ship is still sinking. You can put whatever kind of gloss you want on last week’s job numbers, but the truth is that while they may have been a bit better than most economists were expecting, they were still bad, bad, bad.

“Some 247,000 jobs were lost in July, a number that in ordinary circumstances would send a shudder through the country. It was the smallest monthly loss of jobs since last summer. And for that reason, it was seen as a hopeful sign. The official monthly unemployment rate ticked down from 9.5 percent to 9.4 percent.

“But behind the official numbers is a scary story that illustrates the single biggest challenge facing the United States today. The American economy does not seem able to provide enough jobs – and nowhere near enough good jobs – to maintain the standard of living that most Americans have come to expect.

“The country has lost a crippling 6.7 million jobs since the Great Recession began in December 2007. No one is predicting a recovery in the foreseeable future powerful enough to replace the millions of jobs that have vanished in this historic downturn.

“Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute noted that the economy has fewer jobs now than it had in 2000, ‘even though the labor force has grown by around 12 million workers since then’.

“Two issues that absolutely undermine any rosy assessment of last week’s employment report are the swelling ranks of the long-term unemployed and the crushing levels of joblessness among young Americans. More than five million workers – about a third of the unemployed – have been jobless for more than six months. That’s the highest number recorded since accurate records have been kept.

“For those concerned with the economic viability of the American family going forward, the plight of young workers, especially young men, is particularly frightening. The percentage of young American men who are actually working is the lowest it has been in the 61 years of record-keeping, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

“Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed.

“For male teenagers, the numbers were disastrous: only 28 of every 100 males were employed in the 16-through 19-year-old age group. For minority teenagers, forget about it. The numbers are beyond scary; they’re catastrophic.

“This should be the biggest story in the United States. When joblessness reaches these kinds of extremes, it doesn’t just damage the individual families; it corrodes entire communities, fosters a sense of hopelessness and leads to disorder.

“The unemployment that has wrought such devastation in black communities for decades is now being experienced by a much wider swath of the population. We’ve been in deep denial about this. Way back in March 2007, when the official unemployment rate was a wildly deceptive 4.5 percent and the Bush crowd was crowing about the alleged strength of the economy, I wrote:

“‘People can howl all they want about how well the economy is doing. The simple truth is that millions of ordinary Americans are in an unemployment bind. Steady jobs with good benefits are going the way of Ozzie and Harriet. Young workers, especially, are hurting, which diminishes the prospects for the American family. And blacks, particularly male blacks, are in a deep danger zone.’

“The official jobless rate is now more than twice as high – 9.4 percent – and even more wildly deceptive. It ticked down by 0.1 percent last month not because more people found jobs, but because 450,000 people withdrew from the labor market. They stopped looking, so they weren’t counted as unemployed.

“A truer picture of the employment crisis emerges when you combine the number of people who are officially counted with those who are working part time because they can’t find full-time work and those in the so-called labor market reserve – people who are not actively looking for work (because they have become discouraged, for example) but would take one if one became available.

“The tally from those three categories is a mind-boggling 30 million Americans – 9 percent of the overall work force.

“This is, by far, the nation’s biggest problem and should be its No. 1 priority.”

But nope. We’re constantly bombarded with phony issues such as global warming, healthcare, inadequate stimulus programs and trillion dollar bailouts for the stock market, that ultimate Ponzi Scheme – which plays such an important part in the lives of the average American, you know.

Those manipulators in Washington know how to manipulate. They learned the game by noting how P.T. Barnum and Will Rogers demeaned their audiences. “There’s a sucker born every minute,” P.T. is known to have said, and they “only know what they read in the newspapers,” Will stated in almost every performance. But these two charlatans were rank amateurs compared to our public servants.