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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sustainable Unemployment

Everyone in this country seems to be under the influence of a major case of Denial. Fifteen million people are unemployed. The demographic "typical family of four" means that 60 million people are without a means of support. No job means no health care coverage. It is nonsensical to think that anyone facing long term unemployment will be able to cover the cost of COBRA extensions of their former employer policies.

It is equally nonsensical to think that these people will some how disappear. They will be lined up to get every job that is offered anywhere. Some people will have an easier time of being proximal to such a job when it is open. Although these people will not eat as much or as often, they will eat. They will be visiting the Food Pantries, applying for "Food Stamps" and otherwise obtaining something to eat for themselves and their dependents. All of these sources of food do cost money. TINSTAAFL. Taxpayers and charitable givers will pay the cost to feed these people.

As we do right now with hundreds of thousands of low-income people, emergency rooms will serve the needs of families and individuals who cannot pay the cost of a physician's attention. Taxpayers and everyone who sees a doctor, enters a hospital or needs a prescription will be paying the cost of those visits.

Just refusing to provide income for people who have been laid-off will not make them more willing to seek replacement employment or employment at a reduced income. First there needs to be jobs to have. They need to be in the location where people need jobs and those jobs must pay a "living wage." In this case, a living wage must be enough so that tax funded services are not needed. Rent subsidy, food subsidy and emergency room medical services must not be needed as the result of the limited employment or the wage is not a living one.

Every month over 100,000 new eager people enter the prospective workforce. They are graduating high school, college and trade schools with the hope and expectation that they too will have a place in this economy. That number extrapolates to 1.2 million jobs per year. First we have lost 12 million jobs during the recession, then we add 1.2 million every year due to our maturing children. This means that we need to generate 3.2 million jobs per year over the next five years in order to recover to the 2007 employment levels. Meanwhile these unemployment statistics need to eat.

People without income can hope and pray that their health remains good. They do have opportunities to share a dwelling at a higher occupancy than is traditional. They cannot, though, share food.


Denial leads us to believe that spending cuts will result in smaller government, lower taxes and less debt. Spending Cuts and smaller government are euphemisms for laying off more people. In almost every business enterprise, payroll is the single largest line item in the annual budget. If you don't spend money on education, teachers and administrators get laid-off and our children are less prepared to take over when their turn arrives. If you don't fund police and fire departments, people get laid-off, criminals go unstopped and houses burn. If you don't fund public transportation services, people get laid-off and others can't get to work.

If Medicare and Medicaid are not funded, people who are sick and injured do not get adequate treatment, they suffer as the result, and some die. If you want to talk about Death Panels in the health care legislation, all you have to do is look at who wants to limit spending on Medicare and Medicaid. We can all support less fraud and unnecessary procedures and treatments, but first we need to figure out how to tell the difference.

We have gotten ourselves into a real pickle. When we could have been solving our future budgetary shortfalls during the last 50 years, we preferred to stay in a state of denial and do little or nothing to avert this financial crisis. Now we are called upon to pay for yesterday, when we were young. Roy Clark fans might remember his song...

Every year that goes by without proactive action to resolve our failures makes them that much more difficult to manage. There is a mathematical "point of no return" that we may have already reached. War cinema is full of the tales of the bomber pilot who insists on finding his target even as the Navigator tell the pilot, "Capt'n even if we reach our target, we won't have enough fuel to get back to the landing field." Everyone gets a misty distant look it their eyes as they realize this is now a suicide mission. The Captain and his crew can make that call for themselves, but we resent our leaders making that decision for all of us, especially when they are siphoning our fuel so they can get home.

No matter what we do, there will be a massive lack of jobs for Americans to do for at least a decade and we need to figure out how we will address that dilemma. Other populations have mitigated their unemployment problems with waves of emigration to America. Is it time for Americans to do the emigration? Only the most highly educated will be welcome in those countries.
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Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.