Friday, March 05, 2010

How Much Does That Cost ?

I’ve been reading a very painful article in The Atlantic by Don Peck.

How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. And I’m not going to lie about it. This is a typically-long and in-depth Atlantic article. It’s the only magazine I read for which I need a bookmark. All grumbling aside, I wouldn’t read it (or write about it) if I didn’t think it was important.

There’s something else to keep in mind while you’re reading this. I -- and I suspect many of my friends and readers -- graduated from college during a deep recession in 1980-81. A lot of the psychology mentioned in this article hits a little too close to home for me. I remember the pain of being unemployed and underemployed after graduating from college. Or, more precisely, after working my way through college.

I also recognize that my current unemployment is full of queasy conflictions. I know that if it wasn’t voluntary -- without being able to call it retirement -- it could turn emotionally ugly. Work defines a man. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but, it’s strange going from being the one of the best in the world at something, one day, to...nothing the next day. I still wake up rejoicing everyday that I don’t have to go to work. That is a whole lot different than waking up and realizing that you can’t work today.

When you read this article (and the quotes below) I hope you’ll ask yourself, “How much does that cost ?” Ask yourself if it’s worth your government borrowing money and you paying taxes to avoid these costs to your society.

”Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. “

”Five, 10, 15 years after graduation, after untold promotions and career changes spanning booms and busts, the unlucky graduates never closed the gap. Seventeen years after graduation, those who had entered the workforce during inhospitable times were still earning 10 percent less on average than those who had emerged into a more bountiful climate.“

”A large and long-standing body of research shows that physical health tends to deteriorate during unemployment, most likely through a combination of fewer financial resources and a higher stress level. The most-recent research suggests that poor health is prevalent among the young, and endures for a lifetime. “

”Especially in middle-aged men, long accustomed to the routine of the office or factory, unemployment seems to produce a crippling disorientation. At a series of workshops for the unemployed that I attended around Philadelphia last fall, the participants were overwhelmingly male, and the men in particular described the erosion of their identities, the isolation of being jobless, and the indignities of downward mobility.“

”In November, 19.4 percent of all men in their prime working years, 25 to 54, did not have jobs, the highest figure since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the statistic in 1948. “

”And regardless of social class, the stresses and distractions that afflict unemployed parents also afflict their kids, who are more likely to repeat a grade in school, and who on average earn less as adults. Children with unemployed fathers seem particularly vulnerable to psychological problems.“

Please take the time to read the whole article. There is an excellent summation at the end. And a plea that Americans should heed.

Don Brown
March 5, 2010


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