Thursday, December 19, 2013

Unemployed & Poor in the Richest Country on Earth

Over the past 5 years it's become an obvious and well-established fact that America is still having a titanic problem creating enough jobs to meet an ever-growing population; unlike other countries such as China, who has been creating plenty of jobs --- and lifting millions out of poverty during that same period of time

Manufacturing jobs that were offshored to China with a multiplier effect has greatly increased China's GDP over the past 30 years. And as factories get "smarter" and more advanced, the multiplier increases significantly. In some advanced manufacturing sectors, such as electronic computer manufacturing, the multiplier effect can be as high as 16-to-one (or 16x or 16:1), meaning that every manufacturing job can support 15 other jobs. (Currently the U.S. has about 1 job opening for every 6 Americans unemployed when using the U-7 unemployment rate.)

* This also happens when companies like Boeing, and those in the auto industry, outsource and move factories and union jobs to lower-wage "right to work" states -- further degrading wages that would normally circulate throughout the economy, but instead, ended up as hoarded and un-circulated corporate profits.

Alan Grayson at the Daily Kos notes Spain's very high unemployment rate, but says that it also has less debt than Singapore's --- and Singapore's unemployment rate is only 1.8% --- and says America's problem is our own self-imposed "austerity" --- such as cuts in government spending and the loss of thousands of government jobs since Obama first took office (again, the multiplier effect --- and less demand for goods and services, because with less people working, fewer people have money to spend.)

But most of us can agree that, with the current political climate (some say because of Republican obstructionism), nothing will soon be done to fix America's jobless problem. Incrementally, the long-term unemployed are no longer being counted as they have been swept beneath the government's statistical carpet, little by little, each and every month for the past 5 years (and why the falling U-3 unemployment rate).

Of the jobs that have been created, too many have been in the low-paying service industry, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts as a trend that will continue until at least 2022 (unless something else is done before then) --- and the BLS also predicts a continued decline in the labor force participation rate (down to 61.6 percent by 2022).

Currently, only about 1/3 of the "reported" unemployed receive jobless benefits, but they will soon end. An estimated 1.3 million jobless workers who now receive extended federal jobless benefits will receive no more benefits after Christmas week --- and an estimated 1.9 million people receiving regular State unemployment insurance payments, which typically run for a maximum of six months, will exhaust them in the first half of 2014 before they can find a job. The GOP says unemployment benefits keep people from finding jobs --- even though there are not enough jobs.

All 3.2 million Americans who currently qualify for UI benefits (out of the current 10.9 million that are reported as unemployed) will lose their benefits within 6 months --- but about 20 million jobless Americans have already exhausted all their State and Federal UI benefits without ever finding work again (Why didn't all these people find jobs?)

This enabled many of them to qualify for food stamps and/or TANF (and now Medicaid, which is currently outpacing regular healthcare plans) --- because now they have no income at all. And that 20 million doesn't even include about another 15 million more who are also currently unemployed (and uncounted) because they either never qualified or filed a claim for UI benefits --- and so, are also still unemployed.

Virgil Bierschwale at Keep America at Work has calculated that as many as 35 million Americans are actually unemployed, but would like a job.

Just during the Great Recession, 8.7 million jobs were lost, and less than that many were created in the aftermath (actually, more jobs were lost, as were many more government jobs). And during this same time, 15 million young people graduated from high school --- but yet, 44% of them remain unemployed. During that same time, about 6.5 million Americans retired (many early) or went on disability.

Very long-term unemployed "discouraged workers" (jobless for over a year, but for as long as 5 years now) are not counted anymore, driving down the labor force participation rate; but this also falsely lowers the unemployment rate. And the Fed predicts a much lower participation rate and more long-term unemployment for years to come. Today exiting Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke admitted as much, and said that that joblessness was "structural" and not temporary.

New York Times: Is the Safety Net Just Masking Tape?

"The political left has abandoned its quest for deep structural reform — full employment and worker empowerment...The question is whether there is an effective worker empowerment strategy at a time of globalization, offshoring and robotization. Insofar as Democrats concentrate the bulk of their efforts on means-tested transfer programs (on the extension of long-term unemployment benefits, Medicaid and food stamps, for example), they leave the most needy and vulnerable to the vagaries of public opinion [and combative conservative stances on spending]."

With an over-saturated labor force, businesses can keep wages stagnant, driving corporate earnings and stocks ever higher (as we saw yesterday when the DOW JONES broke another record high).

And expect more attacks on the safely net for the poor and unemployed going forward (while Democrats retreat). A newly deployed, more comprehensive Census Bureau definition of poverty reports that 16 percent of Americans are already poor ---- about 50 million people.

But the Republicans seem hell-bent on creating more poor and desperate Americans, by persistently pushing their austerity agenda. Some members of the GOP have even suggested ignoring child labor laws (so that kids could take the jobs that adults could do). And the GOP refuses to raise the minimum wage, even though two-thirds of Americans said in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that they support it (rejecting arguments that doing so could encourage more layoffs.)

An of course the GOP would cut ALL social programs if it weren't for the Democrats. Without government benefits — like food stamps, subsidized school lunches and the earned-income tax credit (which provides extra money to household heads earning low wages), the nation’s poverty rate last year would have reached almost 31 percent --- up from 25 percent in 1967.

There's been some discussion of "compression of morbidity", but what's the point of living longer (no matter how healthy one is) if they won't have any means of supporting themselves. Doesn't "quality of life" figure into the equation for longevity?

Many of the 50+ are now long-term unemployed (but they are still too young to qualify for an early and reduced Social Security benefit); but yet, the GOP wants to raise the retirement age to 70. Most of the middle-aged Americans who lost jobs early in the Great Recession already have only about a 0% chance of ever finding a job again --- just because they are older and unemployed. How could they survive another 20 years in the current economy? How could they "live longer"?

If someone is 50 years old today, and they are given the news that they'd be spending the next (and last) 20 years of their life locked up in solitary confinement --- or that they would be living as a homeless person --- would they really think that 20 more years of life would be "worth living"?

They might not end their life due to moral reasons, but they also might not do anything else to otherwise extend their already miserable life --- especially if they were only given the two aforementioned options of living in those circumstances. However, if they were told they'd have $10 million on which to live (or at the very least, allowed a basic income) maybe they would most probably look forward to enjoying the next (and last) 20 years of their life.

But as it is now, more people and more Americans are already having to struggle harder and longer to survive. And suicides, especially among middle-aged men who lost jobs, have spiked since the Great Recession.

But corporations (with record profits and $2 trillion stashed away offshore) will continue to pay their CEOs obscene salaries, while at the same time, pay their employees the minimum --- keeping demand for goods and services low and stagnating job growth.

New York Times: In the War on Poverty, a Dogged Adversary

"Despite a half-century worth of technological progress and some fairly robust economic growth for much of that time, the labor market does a worse job lifting people out of poverty today than it did before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon."

Now China is going to the Moon, as the pundits on the cable TV news shows are cheering for them and congratulating them, all while the U.S. makes cuts to NASA and our own space programs.

With a shrinking force, a low-paid work force (50% earn $27,000 or LESS), and more and more Americans falling into poverty (as a handful of plutocrats keep hoarding the wealth), how can that be considered "human progress" in the "richest" country on Earth?

Hail to the Pope!

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