The sterling-silver New York Times took a break from its long series of tear-stained stories covering the tragic consequences on the rich of our economic disintegration to notice – briefly – how destructive our attitudes toward the unemployed have become.
Ms. Barrington-Ward…was laid off from an administrative position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008; she had earned about $50,000 that year. With the recession spurring employers to dump hundreds of thousands of workers a month and the unemployment rate climbing to the double digits, she found that no matter the number of résumés she sent out — she stopped counting in the thousands — she could not find work.
“I’ve been turned down from McDonald’s because I was told I was too articulate,” she says. “I got denied a job scrubbing toilets because I didn’t speak Spanish and turned away from a laundromat because I was ‘too pretty.’ I’ve also been told point-blank to my face, ‘We don’t hire the unemployed.’ And the two times I got real interest from a prospective employer, the credit check ended it immediately.”
Because as we all know, anybody who’s been unemployed for more than a few weeks doesn’t want to work no matter what their work history says because of course there are pal-enty of jobs for everyone despite the past thirty years of corporate globalization that moved millions – tens of millions – of those jobs to comfortably low-wage, low-tax, low-regulation dictatorships and Third World peasant-rich economies. If you don’t have a job you’re a lazy, good-for-nothing leech and probably a drug addict/thief besides. Of course they can’t hire “people like that“. End of story.
But…but…but this is the economic miracle of run-amok capitalism! How could this ideal labor glut be bad?
For Ms. Barrington-Ward, joblessness itself has become a trap, an impediment to finding a job. Economists see it the same way, concerned that joblessness lasting more than six months is a major factor preventing people from getting rehired, with potentially grave consequences for tens of millions of Americans.
The long-term jobless, after all, tend to be in poorer health, and to have higher rates of suicide and strained family relations. Even the children of the long-term unemployed see lower earnings down the road.
The consequences are grave for the country, too: lost production, increased social spending, decreased tax revenue and slower growth. Policy makers and academics are now asking whether an improving economy might absorb those workers in time to prevent long-term economic damage.
Oh, economists. What do they know? So what if we’re the only First World nation to voluntarily turn itself into a Third World slum? Wall Street’s happy and that’s what counts.