Monday, April 29, 2013

Congress Disses Long-Term Unemployed: "STFU!"

Actually, to be more accurate, Congress ignores everything that doesn't either pertain to themselves or their top campaign donors. Unfortunately for the long-term unemployed, they don't have lobbyists. Members of Congress only "talk" about the unemployed, but for years they have done absolutely NOTHING to help solve the problem.

Business Insider has the caption "This Photo Shows How Much Politicians Care About The Long-Term Unemployed" (photo below)

Long Term Unemployed

Last week a hearing on the long-term unemployed (photo above) was held before the 19-member Joint Economic Committee --- but just one member of Congress was in attendance when the meeting began. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the committee's vice-chair, was the only one who showed up at the beginning of the 90-minute session.

Eventually, three more members of Congress casually dropped by, bringing the crowd to a total of four to solve the problems of millions of long-term unemployed Americans.

Chris Hayes on MSNBC did a segment about this and his guest, Congressman Keith Eillison (D-Minn.), suggested that there are those who might actually prefer a high unemployment rate because, for some of their constituents and campaign donors, it helps drives down wages in an over-saturated and very competitive job market.

Brad Plumer at the Washington Post notes that some companies won’t even look at the resumes of the long-term unemployed, and many of these stigmatized workers are simply dropping out of the labor force --- possibly for good. Paul Krugman worries that “we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans.”

Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes that "recent research has found that the long-term unemployed, a group that became historically large in this downturn, have particular difficulty getting back into the workforce."

Fox Business has an article on the long-term unemployed and mentions a man named Joe Carbone who runs a program that focuses on retraining and placing “99ers” into internships with the possibility of getting a job. He said he was disheartened to realize that most workers over 50 are not given the chance to reinvent themselves in a new career, and that the job market, which has roughly 300 job applicants for every one job opening, was so stagnant. “We don’t see bread lines but that despair is there, it’s just behind closed doors."

The Atlantic also wrote about the long-term unemployed and says, "Long-term unemployment is our most urgent crisis, and we're doing nothing about it...For the first time since the 1930s, there are millions of people who want work who can't find it, no matter how long they look. That's what happens when a downturn goes too long and a recovery doesn't go far enough." The Atlantic also points out the statistical discrimination against the long-term unemployed.

Rob Valletta, a research advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, thinks that long-term unemployment will likely be a problem for at least several more years. Of the long-term unemployed he says, "They’re a very diverse group [and] are long-term unemployed largely because of bad luck and a very hard labor market.”

But as Rome burned, and while the lives of the long-term unemployed continued to deteriorate, many members of Congress did find the time to party (once again) with the Hollywood and media elite at the annual White House Correspondence Dinner. Even Bill O'Reilly took some time off from bashing disabled Americans on Social Security to hobnob at a table with Supreme Court Justice Scalia.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics still counts more than 4.6 million Americans who have been jobless for a year or longer. Many were laid off in 2008 and have never found work again. The actual U-6 unemployment rate is 13.8% --- but has that much higher.

The L.A. Times reports that the number of long-term unemployed has declined since reaching a high of 6.7 million in April 2010 --- but they also point out that much of the decline may be attributed to long-term job seekers abandoning the labor market entirely, and therefore no longer counted among the unemployed.

Long-time job seekers still represent nearly 40% of the nation’s 11.7 million unemployed. Job candidates who have been out of work for six months or longer are perceived as having outdated skills. As a result, they are often screened out early in the recruiting process. Long-term unemployment continues to be a major economical issue, but Congress still has done absolutely nothing about this ongoing problem for years.

Natural population growth (new graduates) over the past 4 years has all but wiped out all the new jobs created; so hypothetically, we could still have 8.7 million long-term unemployed --- those who were laid off during the recession from December 2007 to June 2009.

Mike Thornton, who often writes about the unemployed and is a contributing writer at the Huffington Post (as well as the creator of wasn't very happy either. In a recent email he blasted both sides of the aisle in Congress --- which is reprinted here:

"While Democrats have generally been spineless advocates of the unemployed, since they have done little for the jobless besides extend unemployment benefits during the worst of the recession. The cruel and manipulative GOP have vilified the unemployed as lazy do-nothings who need to be drug tested on a regular basis.

With friends like that, it’s hard to get any group motivated to take to the streets. Americans, for the most part, are ambivalent about most matters. Wars that last 10+ years are given a shrug of the shoulders. Inequality is deemed ok, and not worth a street showing, since the main stream, corporate controlled media consider the wealthy the “job creators.” Besides the XL pipeline protests, that did garner some media attention, any large gathering is considered to be either events for far right wackos or far left extremists. Kids are more consumed by social media and find little to be concerned about. Occupy Wall Street was one bright light in the financial equality night, but that ended with a whimper as the police state cracked down on those activists.

Protests, sit-ins, and marches were once considered a right of passage as the younger generation forced change on the older generation. But now all generations are some brand of consumer that needs a marketing campaign, so they are not involved in campaigns for justice.

Until the American people realize that the two-party, corporate controlled and financed system no longer works for them, but actively works against them, nothing will change. Citizens United makes matters even worse. Big money has to be taken out of politics for the system to start working for the less fortunate, such as the long-term unemployed. Right now we have both parties, including Obama, who are talking about cutting Social Security benefits instead of demanding that the wealthy pay into the system after the $113,700 threshold. Both parties are willing to crush the elderly for the sake of keeping the wealthy from paying higher taxes."

Meanwhile, another year has come and gone with no jobs bills for the long-term unemployed, but yet, those in Congress still find the time to attend the annual White House Correspondence Dinner. But for the long-term unemployed, life drags on --- one miserable day at a time with no hope in sight.

And for those who are graduating from high school this year (and the years ahead) it might be even worse. Many who have already graduated last year from high school and college still have never found work. But our do-nothing Congress can pass a bill to cancel the FAA furloughs in record time when it comes time for them to take another one of their many vacations.

I too often wonder why the kids on college campuses aren't raising hell like they once did during the Vietnam War. If they don't protest in the streets, they might end up sleeping on them instead. They can't live with mom and dad forever. Or maybe they like working at McDonalds or some other minimum wage job (if they can find one), so long as they have their Twitter account.

But I also wonder where these young people will be in the next 40 or 50 years after the Boomers like me are long gone. I pity this generation of young people...they have no clue how they might end up when they are my age.

Maybe a few will run for Congress, and not have to worry about the unemployed.

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