ghost workers of America

· Edgewise, Paleoblogs, The Bush Economy

I read with interest a review in the Sunday S.F. Chron by Noam Lupu of Louis Uchitelle’s new book, “The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences” which looks at the now common-place American phenomenon of worker layoffs and the effects of these layoffs on ordinary Americans. The statistics are startling but it’s the stories that compel.
A review at TheStreet.com by Katie Benner focuses on her interview with Uchitelle who expressed his frustration with those who would make it all about the statistics – and politics:

“Everyone who talks to me about the book wants to make it about finding an enemy or blaming or politics … they don’t get it, and you don’t either,” he says in an interview. “This is not a book about unemployment. It’s simply a book that sticks to what happens to people after they’ve been laid off.”

Benner herself expresses some skepticism about Uchitelle’s primary thesis.

Like it or not, there are plenty of people who don’t care about the fact that laid-off workers may suffer from depression, are often forced to take a more menial or worse-paying job, or that private lives are damaged by the loss of a job and the esteem it confers.

Thomas Geoghegan at the New York Times has a more empathetic take in his review:

At least 30 million full-time American employees have gotten pink slips since the Labor Department belatedly started to count them in 1984. But add in the early retirees, the “quits” who saw the layoffs coming, and the number is much higher–a whole ghost nation trekking into what for most will be lower-wage work.

One estimate of the real number of Americans who once worked full-time and who are now jobless is 114 million (in 2004). And for those who are working, there is this to ponder:

…. as of 2004, more than 45 percent of American workers were earning $13.25 an hour or less. The jobs that the country has been “growing” the fastest include those like janitor, hospital orderly and cashier.

I am one of those “ghost workers” myself, and I know first hand the psychological ups and downs that come with losing a job to an economic “downturn”. The downturn did not, however, cause the “downsizing” of younger, low-wage employees at my workplace, or affect the few at the top earning three times my salary.
After a year-long series of complicated and exhausting job interviews in my field of expertise, with negative results, it became clear to me that I was not going to be able to re-enter the field any time soon, if at all. Fortunately, others do not depend upon my ability to earn a “Bay Area wage” and I have other skills and interests that I can turn to for both income and emotional sustenance.
But for many Americans, “the Great Depression” is not an historical event of the past, but a personal one that began the day they were laid off from a decent job.

If I were king

· Edgewise, Paleoblogs, The Bush Economy

I just tried out Nathan Newman’s National Budget Simulator and, with a little tinkering, reduced the deficit by about 90%:

Old budget was $3747.36 billion
($2672.527 billion in spending, $1074.833 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
New budget is $3369.49 billion
($2633.78 billion in spending, $735.71 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $377.87 billion.
Your new deficit is $23.13 billion.
A summary of my choices is included below the fold.

Continue reading

Conflict, schmonflict

· The Bush Economy

Thanks to John Berger on the Well, I ended up reading this interesting exchange between administration spokesweasel John McClellan and the usually prostrate White House press:

Q: When the President talks about high gasoline prices, he often cites the demand for gasoline and crude oil from China. Is the President comfortable that the company partly owned by his campaign media advisor is assisting the Chinese in their attempt to purchase Unocal?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of that matter, we are following those reports closely. If a bid were to go through, like all foreign-based transactions, there is a regulatory process that is in place that will be followed to address any national security concerns. So in other words, there are procedures in place, and if a bid goes through, then we would expect the appropriate procedures to be followed.
Q: But is he comfortable with this company that was so closely aligned with his–
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know about any such involvement.
Q: Well, Public Strategies out of Austin, Texas is helping CNO buy Unocal.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you have to look at what I just said. That’s the – that’s the President’s view when it comes to this matter.
Q: But it’s just that it’s a really close tie to the White House, and would the President be comfortable in using this company again for any further media strategies that he may have to engage in, or is this just part of free enterprise?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President would want to make sure that the procedures that are in place are followed, and that’s what we would expect if a bid goes through.

Instant Economic Impact Lad

· The Bush Economy

I was talking to this Republican I know earlier today about the economy. And I was, you know, speculating about when exactly it would stop being the Clinton recession and Bush would actually take ownership over our economic mess.
And this Republican feller says: War time! etc etc, and all that. And then he says: Well you know, the President really has very limited impact on the economy!
And here are my two responses to that point, several hours later. Just in case you run into the same argument in your travels/travails:
(1) OK, so if the President can’t really impact the economy much, can he at least stop giving all our money away. I mean, if it’s not really going to change things one way or the other, he might as well not bankrupt us. So much.
(2) I know this is going a long ways back, but it seems like, energy crisis and all, President Carter was held pretty responsible for stagflation back in the ’70s. Didn’t hear much about the the President’s limited impact on the economy when Reagan was waxing poetic about the old misery index.
I guess Carter was just an unusually powerful man. A mutant, perhaps. Instant Economic Impact Lad. Whereas W’s brilliant economic plan is clearly going to finally bear fruit oh, I’m guessing 2 years after the next Democrat takes office. And don’t you know folks like me will want to give that Democratic President all the credit! Really, it’s not easy being George W. Bush.