Unemployed: The New Forgotten Underclass (Updated)

This is cross-posted at Firedoglake.com

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By: Crane-Station Saturday March 19, 2011 7:14 am

[This post has been updated with a link to the full text of Mr. Krugman’s column, “The Forgotten Millions.” I did not realize I had not provided this initially. I apologize.]

Yesterday, New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman wrote a column entitled “The Forgotten Millions.” Here is a link to the article:


Yesterday, New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman wrote a column entitled “The Forgotten Millions.” He states that,

“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.”

Mr. Krugman discussed this in an interview nine days ago. ( I believe Jay Rosen interviewed him; it was LiveStream aired, but I am having difficulty finding a link. Perhaps someone has it. Update 3/20/2011. I am told that it was Andy Rosenthal that conducted the interview. Here is the link. and thank you to Jay Rosen and Firedoglake commenter newtonusr for clarification): http://www.livestream.com/nytimes/video?clipId=pla_8a6bac15-edf8-472c-ad7c-29c06daf89f9)

Krugman continues to express specific concern for two groups of people: recent college graduates or young people entering a recessive workforce and older (50 y/o+) people who previously had jobs, worked hard, are now unemployed…and hoping that they do not get sick any time in the next fifteen years. That Washington is apparently ‘writing off’ two generations is like flipping the finger to twenty-eight-and-a-half million people, and that is shocking.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Krugman

Krugman reminds us that there are no job creation bills in the making, and states:

“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?”

Right now, a huge number of people, including ‘ninety-niners,’ are uncounted in any employment rolls. This makes numbers easier to manipulate, creating the illusion that things are getting better. Firing and layoffs are decreasing. Well of course they are. There are no jobs to begin with.

Well, here is a slice of daily life for a ‘forgotten million.’ My husband and I have always worked. I alternate between job application sprees where I get nowhere because I have no recent work experience, yet am overqualified (I guess) for minimum wage work, and weeks of bone-crushing, shame-filled depression that requires medical attention that I cannot afford. We live a very isolated life. Although I am still trying, at this point, there are logistics problems: no haircut, few clean clothes, no real presentable shoes, difficulty finding viable recommendation.  Thank goodness for dumpsters or we would have no food. With gas prices, job applications must be within a couple of miles. I last applied at a local drive-in, three days ago, but got the “we’ll call you,” with no call.

I am not whining. We are a lot better off than many, and for that we are truly thankful. But I wanted to bring some reality into the discussion- what day to day life is really like for a ‘forgotten million.’


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