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Reality check

I’ve got mine.

Now it looks as though increasing numbers of Americans are seeing reality clearly, too.

In an article entitled, “Jobless and hopeless in America,” Carl E. Van Horn, Professor of Public Policy and director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University writes that:

“The Great Recession has been an economic catastrophe for jobless and underemployed American workers and their families.”

Well, THAT’S not “rocket science.”

Van Horn co-directs, along with Rutgers professor Cliff Zukin, the center’s national Work Trends surveys that gather information about attitudes toward work and the American economy. The December jobs report (I will write more about that in the next day or so) released today, according to Van Horn, shows “only modest private-sector job growth and offers slim hope that the nation’s 15 million unemployed are going to find relief anytime soon.” Oddly enough, the article is published in the “CNN Opinion” section.

I say “oddly enough” because the only real “opinion” that I see in the article is in a few suggestions at the end for how the economic situation can be improved. The overwhelming bulk of the article presents results from surveys and logical conclusions from those results. I suspect CNN put the article in “opinion” so that it could distance itself from the author, should reality become too controversial.

A research report published by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, which is entitled, “The Shattered American Dream: Unemployed Workers Lose Ground, Hope, and Faith in their Futures,” presents the following main findings after interviewing a national sample of 1,200 unemployed workers who lost their jobs in August 2009 (over 900 were re-interviewed in March 2010 and 764 in November):

“Joblessness not only leaves deep scars on people — financially and psychologically — but also has enduring effects on families, communities and societies. Beyond the personal suffering, the despair of unemployed workers undermines their trust of employers, the economy and government.”

Please read the article for all of the results. I present a list of some of the salient points here:

  • Of the initial 1,200, 25% had found full-time jobs 15 months later, most for less pay and benefits. Of these, 40% had to change careers to be employed.
  • Of the remaining unemployed, 60% had looked for a job for at least ONE YEAR, and 1/3 had looked for TWO years. One-half of the unemployed believe that ANOTHER year will go by before they find jobs, if EVER!
  • Unemployed workers, by 2-to-1, believe that they will never regain the financial position they had before the recession.
  • Some 76% of the long-term unemployed say that they have “a lot less” income and savings now.
  • A majority of the unemployed do not believe that simple hard work will guarantee success.
  • A “staggering number of those surveyed” worry “that the national economy has undergone fundamental, lasting changes.” (Yes, I agree with them.)
  • Some 65% think that older workers will not be able to retire when they want.
  • Some 51% say that it will be harder for young people to go to college. (I think that this was perhaps intentional.)
  • Some 49% say that workers will have to take jobs below their skill level.
  • A minority of 30% were hopeful that the November election will lead to an economic recovery.
  • When asked who they trust to do a better job handling the economy, between President Obama and Republicans in Congress, 41% chose “neither” (the winner), 32% chose President Obama, 17% chose congressional Republicans (“word to the wise,” Republicans), and less than 10% chose “both.” :-)

The Carl E. Van Horn article states:

“Public policies designed to cope with the Great Depression more than 70 years ago will not be sufficient to overcome the obstacles faced by millions of unemployed and underemployed workers scrambling to find their way back from joblessness to meaningful work.”

As one of those affected by the Great Recession, I am not at all surprised by the numbers. I think that the results presented represent a clear view, by those interviewed, of the current economic conditions in America. The incompetence and short-sightedness of (particularly) LARGE corporations – small and middle-sized businesses are now starting to “hire back” – are now accurately viewed by more Americans, as is their total disregard for the economy of the U.S.A, in which these large corporations are primarily based. Americans are also developing a clearer view of their politicians.

Experience keeps a dear <expensive> school, but fools will learn in no other.” – Benjamin Franklin

As with most natural and man-made disasters, the most important aspect is how we RESPOND to the situation. With the clarity of hindsight, both election results (perhaps “cyclically” removing incumbents until politicians “catch on”) and the treatment of corporations in the U.S. may be altered as fundamentally as has the nature of “Living in America,” itself.

-Bill at

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