Robert Reich: It’s a Depression
Robert Reich points out that, if we make up a new way of counting unemployment, we’ve got a lot of unemployment:
The March employment numbers, out this morning, are bleak: 8.5 percent of Americans officially unemployed, 663,000 more jobs lost. But if you include people who are out of work and have given up trying to find a job, the real unemployment rate is 9 percent. And if you include people working part time who’d rather be working full time, it’s now up to 15.6 percent. One in every six workers in America is now either unemployed or underemployed.
And, if we count people working full time who’d rather get paid a lot more money, put in fewer hours, and do things that are more fun, it’s now up to 99.9 percent. Virtually one in every one workers in America is now either unemployed or underemployed!
This is still not the Great Depression of the 1930s, but it is a Depression. And the only way out is government spending on a very large scale. We should stop worrying about Wall Street. Worry about American workers. Use money to build up Main Street, and the future capacities of our workforce.
Despite skepticism with how he got there, I’m actually inclined to agree. Bailing out bad companies is a stupid idea. Lending a helping hand to people down on their luck, on the other hand, is something I can get behind.
Naturally, however, Reich loses me on implementation:
Energy independence and a non-carbon economy should be the equivalent of a war mobilization.
So, we should declare war on fossil fuels? Will that go as well as the wars on drugs, crime, and poverty?
Hire Americans to weatherize and insulate homes across the land.
We’re going to have a WPA for caulking windows and blowing in insulation?! Really?! Not only would these people presumably be competing with people who currently do that sort of thing for a living but it would surely count as underemployment for the vast number of the recently unemployed. Wouldn’t we rather, I dunno, get jobs that require some level of skill?
Don’t encourage General Motors or any other auto company to shrink. Use the auto makers’ spare capacity to make busses, new wind turbines, and electric cars (why let the Chinese best us on this?). Enlarge public transit systems.
So, we’re going to spend vast sums of money taking a giant leap back in personal freedom and convenience? The automobile was a wonderful invention that made our lives radically better. We’re going to give that up for buses and other forms of public transit? Yee. Hah.
And while we’re at it, we’re going to thumb our noses at the trade regimes we’ve spent sixty years putting in place, subsidizing a pet industry that the Chinese would otherwise dominate in a free market?
Meanwhile, extend our educational infrastructure. So many young people are out of work that they should be using this time to improve their skills and capacities. Expand community colleges. Enlarge Pell Grants. Extend job-training opportunities to the unemployed, so they can learn new skills while they’re collecting unemployment benefits.
Outside Detroit, which was in its death throes before this crisis got underway, education and training isn’t the problem. We’re not less educated than we were eighteen months ago. We’ve got Harvard MBAs out on the streets now. We’re going to, what, send them to learn a trade? Caulking windows, perhaps?
Finally, accelerate universal health care.
It always comes back to that, no? It’s the Democratic Party’s version of cutting taxes. It solves everything, dontcha know?