Thursday, August 22, 2013



Gallup's latest data puts the latest unemployment rate at 8.9% and the underemployment rate at 17.9%

Even Ben Bernake admits that "the unemployment rate probably understates the weakness of the labor market" and "we have an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, which I think, if anything, overstates the health of our labor markets given participation rates and many other indicators of underemployment and long-term unemployment."

Are We Masking the Problem?

Seeing the Gallup numbers,I have recently read several articles on unemployment,  there was even a segment on the local evening news not just about unemployment but homelessness as well.  I see on an almost daily basis panhandlers at an interstate off-ramp panhandling under a sign that states "no solicitation".  The cops usually leave them alone,  I've only seen them rousted twice.  The latest controversy here is the cops rousting panhandlers out of the business district downtown.

Aside from the police chasing the "undesirables" away from local businesses and the homeless out of the parks,  I started wondering to myself is technology masking the problem?  It certainly insulates us from it.  Would we have a different opinion if instead of direct deposit, foods stamps, and debit and ebt cards we had lines at soup kitchens like the one above taken during the depression?

Most of us are subjected to the problem in the abstract; 7.6% unemployment (July's official number), 4.7 million long-term unemployed, the underemployed, work-force participation.  These are all abstract terms, 7.6% of what?  You can't even get the experts to agree on what to measure and how,  let alone agree on a figure.

So the question is this... would we react differently socially and politically if today's problem was manifest as it was in the thirties?   Do you know who is unemployed in your neighborhood? Who is on assistance? Chances are, probably not.  As I said, technology masks and insulates us from the problem.

Now before Lester or someone comes along and accuses me of wanting to brand the unemployed with a scarlet letter U,  this is not about the validity of these programs, or even about the unemployed, but about how modern technology shields us from the majority of ugliness in this world and how that shapes our opinions.  Outside of the visibly homeless and the panhandlers,  how much is tucked neatly out of sight?

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