Americans — with 9.2 percent unemployment rate, bankers raking in billions, corporate profits at record highs and hiring stagnant — should by now be actively, visible and collectively furious.
(Watch the Greeks.)
Yet, as the pols drone on and on and on with their debt ceiling drama — “We won’t tax job-creators” — millions remain screwed, scared, broke and disconnected from the larger polity in any meaningful way.
NBC Nightly News just spent three consecutive evenings addressing the death of Betty Ford and two yammering about the closing of a major L.A. freeway.
The unemployed? The people who can’t even get an interview?
The New York Times addressed it this week:
The United States is in the grips of its gravest jobs crisis since Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House. Lose your job, and it will take roughly nine months to find a new one. That is off the charts. Many Americans have simply given up.
But unless you’re one of those unhappy 14 million, you might not even notice the problem. The budget deficit, not jobs, has been dominating the conversation in Washington. Unlike the hard-pressed in, say, Greece or Spain, the jobless in America seem, well, subdued. The old fire has gone out.
In some ways, this boils down to math, both economic and political. Yes, 9.2 percent of the American work force is unemployed — but 90.8 percent of it is working. To elected officials, the unemployed are a relatively small constituency. And with apologies to Karl Marx, the workers of the world, particularly the unemployed, are also no longer uniting.
Nor are they voting — or at least not as much as people with jobs. In 2010, some 46 percent of working Americans who were eligible to vote did so, compared with 35 percent of the unemployed…
New York magazine, hardly a bastion of social justice, just ran a compelling little story as well, comparing Manhattan’s poorest district with its richest, which — of course! — sit side by side. One family spent $2,200 in a week (!?) and another scraped by on $500. Fascinating, scary, sad.
I’ve been reading, finally, a Christmas gift, a collection of Jan Morris’ travel writing from 1950 to 2000.
On her visit to Manhattan, she wrote:
America is the land acquisitive, and few Americans abandon the search for wealth or lose their admiration for those who find it. Unassimilated New Yorkers, the millions of un-Americans in this city, no matter how poor or desolate they seem, however disappointed in their dreams, still loyally respect the American idea — the chance for every man to achieve opulence….It is sometimes difficult to keep one’s social conscience in order among the discrepancies of Manhattan. The gulf between rich and poor is so particularly poignant in this capital of opportunity….there is something distasteful about a pleasure-drome so firmly based on personal advantage…you may as well admit that the whole place is built on greed.
This, she wrote in the the early 1950s.
Will it ever change?
How, if at all, does this issue affect your life?