The left-out and left-behind economy
By: Alan Maass
Job seekers looking for work in Florida
Paul Krugman writes:
To make something obscure or unclear, especially
by making it unnecessarily complicated; to make
something hard to understand.
"Inequality is back in the news, largely thanks
to Occupy Wall Street, but with an assist from the Congressional
Budget Office. And you know what
that means: It's
time to roll out the obfuscators!
"Anyone who has tracked this issue over time knows
what I mean. Whenever growing
income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable
set of defenders tries to bring back the blur.
Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality
isn't really rising, or that it doesn't matter. Pundits
try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming
that it's not really the wealthy few versus the rest,
it's the educated versus the less educated.
"So what you need to know is that all of these claims
are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality:
We have a society in which money
is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people,
and in which that concentration of income and wealth
threatens to make us a democracy in name only.
"The budget office laid out some of that stark reality
in a recent report, which documented a sharp decline
in the share of total income going to lower- and middle-income
Americans. We still like to think of ourselves as a
middle-class country. But with the bottom 80 percent
of households now receiving less than half of total
income, that's a vision increasingly at odds with reality.
"In response, the usual suspects have rolled out
some familiar arguments: The data are flawed (they
aren't); the rich are an ever-changing group
(not so); and so on. The
most popular argument right now seems, however, to be
the claim that we may not be a middle-class society,
but we're still an upper-middle-class society, in which
a broad class of highly educated workers, who have the
skills to compete in the modern world, is doing very
"It's a nice story, and a
lot less disturbing than the picture of a nation in
which a much smaller group of rich people is becoming
increasingly dominant. But it's not true.
"Workers with college degrees have indeed, on average,
done better than workers without, and the gap has generally
widened over time. But highly
educated Americans have by no means been immune to income
stagnation and growing economic insecurity. Wage
gains for most college-educated workers have been unimpressive
(and nonexistent since 2000), while even the well-educated
can no longer count on getting jobs with good benefits.
In particular, these days workers with a college degree
but no further degrees are less likely to get workplace
health coverage than workers with only a high-school
degree were in 1979.
"So who is getting the big gains? A very small,
"The budget office report
tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution
of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to
the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That
is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing
the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right,
and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it's really
about education, not the gains of a small elite, have
it completely wrong.
"If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff
too low. The recent budget office report doesn't look
inside the top 1 percent, but an earlier report, which
went only to 2005, found
that almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top
percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent
— the richest thousandth of Americans,
who saw their real incomes rise more than 400 percent
over the period from 1979 to 2005.
This chart shows that the poorest 90 percent
of Americans make an average of $31,244 a year,
while the top 1 percent make over $1.1 million.
Data suggests that those who constitute the
richest segment of American society inherited
their wealth; in addition this date indicates
that the wealth of this tiny minority is NOT
based on any kind of constructive activity,
but on financial activity and Wall Street speculation.
"Who's in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic
entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part,
they're corporate executives who make their money on
Wall Street ... Add in lawyers and people in real estate,
and we're talking about more than 70 percent of the
"But why does this growing concentration of income
and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer
is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which
most families don't share fully in economic growth.
Another part of the answer is that once you realize
just how much richer the rich have become, the argument
that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of
any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.
"The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration
of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone
seriously deny that our political system is being warped
by the influence of big money and that the warping is
getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?
"Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns
about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But
the truth is that the whole nature of our society is
It is PRECISELY this kind of
inequality that must in the end produce a POLICE-STATE
in America - a POLICE-STATE that will inevitably have
to take the country to war in order to justify its tyrannical
The plague of unemployment that took hold during the Great
Recession isn't going away, causing a jobs crisis that the U.S.
hasn't experienced since the 1930s depression era. But Corporate
America doesn't mind at all.
Is there any way out? That's the question that starts to haunt
people like Carol.
Carol (not her real name) has been out of work for more than
a year now, and it's a struggle for her and her husband to make
ends meet--where they live in the Pacific Northwest, the cost
of living is nearly 25 percent higher than the national average.
She had a good job before: office manager of the local branch
of a multinational business. But the business went bust when
the crisis hit. Working for a subcontractor, Carol helped oversee
the dissolution of her office--and eventually, she was out of
a job herself.
That was over a year ago, and it's been one long trek through
the jobs desert ever since. Carol has applied for countless
positions. She took the advice of the "experts" and
attended some retraining classes at the local community college.
But as a woman in her late 40s with a lot of work experience,
Carol isn't the kind of prospective employee most companies
are looking for--when they're hiring at all. Her age and experience
would mean higher pay. Why hire Carol when they can get a broke
20- or 30-something to do the job for less?
The stress of long-term joblessness is overwhelming, and it's
taken its toll on Carol. She suffered a nervous breakdown, and
has been in and out of the hospital for the past month, on and
off different medications. She's been diagnosed with bipolar
disorder, which the doctors claim she's had all along--but her
friends say they didn't see signs of that until unemployment
The stress of long-term joblessness is
Is there any relief on the horizon? Carol's husband is still
working, but the bills are piling up. The couple declared bankruptcy
and fear they will lose their house. They were paying $600 a
month for health insurance, but had to downgrade to a $300-a-month
plan--which will likely mean huge deductibles for Carol's recent
And Carol says her unemployment benefits run out next month.
Carol isn't alone, of course. She's one of the 6.2 million
people who the federal government classifies as long-term unemployed--out
of a job for six months or longer. They account for 44.4
percent of the people officially counted as unemployed by the
government. That's barely any change at all from the record
level last year: 45.2 percent in May 2010.
The "official" numbers touted by Washington and the talking heads on television are taken from the government's U3 report. Most mainstream news you watch or read will provide information only on the U3. They stop short of going to the next BLS number, referred to as the U6. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment.
Remember, though, that even the U6 is a government
manipulated number, so we need to look a little bit
deeper to see what the REAL unemployment
rate is in America. John Williams of Shadow Stats runs
the numbers each month, and according to his most recent
report, we're actually
hovering at around 21.5%. According
to Williams, this is how the Shadow Stats "SGS Alternative"
is calculated: The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate
Unemployment Rate reflects current unemployment reporting
methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged
workers, who were defined out of official existence
in 1994. That estimate is added to the BLS estimate
of U-6 unemployment, which includes short-term discouraged
Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute,
follows these statistics every day, and her description of the
situation people like Carol face is concise: "An absolute
disaster. It's just a nightmare as far as job-seeking goes."
You might hear political leaders express their concern about
this "absolute disaster." But as far as doing something
about it, Washington is marching in the opposite direction.
The mantra among Republicans and Democrats alike is cutting
the deficit, not cutting the unemployment rate.
Shierholz says she's "stunned" by that. "There's
just a massive disconnect," she says, "between where
Washington is and what we need to do to get back to economic
health in this country."
According to official measures, the Great Recession ended more
than two years ago. But the total number of payroll jobs
in the U.S. today is 6.8 million lower than the pre-crisis peak,
according to the federal government's statistics. Not only that,
but keeping up with the growth in the working-age population
since that peak would have required an additional 4.3 million
That means the U.S. is short 11.1
million jobs since the recession started in December 2007.
So how many jobs did the "recovering" U.S. economy
create in July? The Labor Department says 117,000--barely enough
to keep up with one month's growth in population, much less
make a dent in the 11 million. Analysts predict the August jobs
statistics will be no better--and probably a little worse--when
they're announced on September 2.
were NO additional
jobs created in the month of August.
The official unemployment rate is still stuck above 9 percent.
That's down from a high point of 10.2 percent a little less
than two years ago. But with job creation barely outpacing population
growth, the reason for the fall isn't mainly that the unemployed
are finding work. The other factor: A lot of people are giving
up on employment altogether.
In addition to the 13.9 million counted as unemployed, the
Labor Department classifies 2.8 million people as "marginally
attached" to the labor force--meaning they wanted to work
and tried to find a job sometime in the past year, but didn't
look in the four weeks before the most recent survey.
There's even more "discouraged workers" out there
than meets that definition--millions more, according to various
estimates--but even so, by the EPI's calculation, if just the
"marginally attached" were included, the official
unemployment rate would be 10.7 percent, not 9.1 percent.
Then there's the "underemployed"--people who would
like to be working full-time, but have been forced to take part-time
jobs. That applied to 8.4 million people in July, according
to the government.
Then there's the "underemployed"--people who would like to be working full-time, but have been forced to take part-time jobs.
The U.S. government's broadest indicator of unemployment or
underemployment was over 16 percent through the summer--about
one in every six people considered to be part of the labor force,
or more than 25 million people.
And even that indicator can be deceptive, according to Shierholz.
The Labor Department's statistics capture a snapshot of joblessness
for each four-week period, but miss "a lot of people who
might not be unemployed now, but were unemployed last month,
and could become unemployed next month," she says. "If
you count the people who are unemployed at some point over the
year, it's much higher than that. And if you include people
who have had a family member affected by unemployment, it really
starts to balloon."
What does it add up to? Shierholz says that survey data
from the liberal Democracy Corps political strategy firm shows
that over 40 percent of people in the U.S. have been out of
work themselves, or had a family member who has been.
There's a whole industry devoted to helping people without
work find jobs, dispensing advice on everything from what to
wear to who to schmooze. But what guidance can it offer about
the most basic problem facing the unemployed today--that there's
just nothing out there?
Kate graduated in 2009 from a liberal arts college in upstate
New York. She says,
"I applied to around 25 or 30 jobs in a four-week period
and didn't even get one interview. The general response I
received was that they weren't asking me for an interview
because they found candidates who had more years of work experience--essentially
saying that they weren't going to take someone right out of
Millions of the jobless have the same experience of searching
endlessly. And no wonder--according to the Labor Department,
there are 4.5 unemployed for every job opening in the U.S.
economy overall. The ratio has been above 4-to-1 for more than
two-and-a-half years. By comparison, the highest ratio of
job seekers to jobs in the early 2000s recession was 2.8-to-1.
That's why people like Carol keep looking and looking for work--and
finding nothing. In fact, the government's statistics show that
layoff announcements have slowed to the pre-recession pace.
So if you do have a job now, you're no more likely to lose it
than you were before the recession--although all bets are off
if the economy slows down any further.
But that's "small solace to unemployed folks," Shierholz
points out. "What those folks need is for hiring and job
openings to really pick up."
Not everyone thinks folks like Carol have it so bad, though.
Tom Corbett, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania,
will tell you that the unemployed -
"... don't want to come back to work while they still
Arizona's Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in
the Senate, declared that -
"... continuing to pay people unemployment compensation
is a disincentive for them to seek new work."
LEFT: Tom Corbett; RIGHT: Jon Kyl
Too bad Kyl hasn't had to look for a job lately--or he'd learn
the hard way that the biggest "disincentive" for the
unemployed is that there are four or five more of them than
And there's certainly not much "incentive" to the
meager benefits the jobless receive through the unemployment
insurance program. As anyone who ever had to file for unemployment
knows, the weekly check is a fraction of the wages from a full-time
job. The maximum benefit varies from state to state, but according
to federal statistics from a year ago, the average person on
unemployment collected $295 a week--while the average weekly
salary for the same time period was $865.
For Shane, that wage gap was the least of it. When he lived
in Cincinnati, he was a member of International Brotherhood
of Electrical Workers Local 212, working as an electrician until
he was laid off in September 2009--as the jobs crisis was peaking.
"While I was able to receive unemployment benefits, the
income was 60 percent of what my take-home pay was previously,"
But replacing the benefits from a union job was a much bigger
challenge. "I have a special needs child whose medical
bills, with union health insurance, averaged $1,500 per month,"
Shane says. "The most difficult part of being laid off
was self-paying for insurance coverage. Not only was this
$600 per month, but after 10 months, the insurance company dropped
us. A family COBRA plan was $810 per month, and that was minimal
coverage at best."
Nancy faced the same dilemma. She's from South Carolina
and has been without a job for over two years. She describes
getting letters offering insurance under the federal government's
COBRA guidelines that allow laid-off workers to keep health
care coverage--but at an extremely high cost. "You're either
forced into more debt to pay for it, or you avoid it altogether,"
she says. "Both times I lost my clinical counseling jobs,
I couldn't afford COBRA, and therefore was left without any
On top of this, there's the bureaucracy that the jobless have
to negotiate--whether it's keeping health insurance under COBRA,
or just qualifying for unemployment--which is a job all by itself.
Shane says the red tape adds insult to injury. "After
each tier of state and federal extensions of benefits, you have
to reopen your claim," he says. "But there's a waiting
period, typically two weeks long. During this period, you have
no income, and when your claim finally kicks back in, you only
receive payment for one week. After getting only 60 percent
of your pay, then missing four or five weeks of pay per year,
it's a struggle to pay anything."
Want to bet whether Tom Corbett or
Jon Kyl misses any paychecks?
The real "disincentive" is against the jobless applying
for unemployment at all--or, for those who do qualify, staying
in the program. Rather than a form of "insurance,"
as the name suggests, unemployment benefits are one more cause
for anxiety in a life filled with worries about what will come
Nancy says it's hard to even think about doing something nice
with friends or for herself since she's been out of a job. She
"For most folks, the income is already spent when it
comes in. So even if you do get a little extra, you feel guilty
about spending it."
Of course, as Nancy points out, the same could be said about
millions and millions of other people--the ones who have jobs
in today's left-out and left-behind economy.
God bless you all!
IN ADDITION, WE URGE YOU TO DOWNLOAD THE NEW ANTIPAS PAPERS,
PRINT THEM OUT YOURSELF, AND STUDY THEM CAREFULLY; SHARE THEM
WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
FINALLY, WE URGE YOU TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT OUT THE FLYER
WE SENT TO YOU RECENTLY.
Then make copies and take these copies out to the campuses
where you live; pass them out; OR if that seems
too "daring" for you right now, post them on telephone
poles, the sides of buildings, on campus bulletin boards; post
them in union halls, in the neighborhoods of the poor and downtrodden,
near employment offices, wherever you can.
Once again, we URGE you to read (or re-read):
We need your help to spread the word concerning Antipas Ministries and the
eschatological viewpoint it represents; WE NEED YOUR
HELP BECAUSE WE DO NOT "LINK" WITH OTHER SO-CALLED "CHRISTIAN"
WEBSITES which are, for the most part, "in the tank"
insofar as their loyalty to the United States is concerned
- a loyalty that has made them partners in the BLOODY
trail the American military has left in its TERROR-RIDDEN
rampage throughout the world, as well as making them partners
in the abject poverty that American corporations have
imposed on the peoples and nations the American military
machine has ravaged - A BLOODY, TERROR-RIDDEN RAMPAGE
THAT HAS TO A LARGE DEGREE BEEN CARRIED OUT IN THE NAME
OF THE "PRINCE OF PEACE." [Please see our articles,
"The Third World
as a Model for the New World Order," Inside
the American New World Order System" and "The
American Empire: The Corporate / Pentagon / CIA / Missionary
YOU CAN HELP BY EMAILING
THIS ARTICLE TO
YOUR FRIENDS AND