Views on politics and current events

Monday, September 11, 2006

From 'Brilliant At Breakfast'.

These guys had better wake up and realize this is the economy they voted for

I wonder how many of these guys voted for George W. Bush!

Accumulated savings can make dropping out more affordable at the upper end than it is for Mr. Beggerow, but the dynamic is often the same — the loss of a career and of a sense that one’s work is valued.

Maybe that's because politicians have decided that the work Americans do is NOT valued, and that's why they've made it so easy to outsource jobs to low-wage countries, essentially turning high-paid jobs here into sweatshop jobs overseas.

I'm not solely blaming the Bush Administration; the exodus of high-paying jobs began with the sainted Bill Clinton, who triangulated his way into NAFTA and really got the ball rolling. But it has been Republican rule over the last six years that has accelerated the trend towards less opportunity, less pay, and fewer benefits.

But there's an issue of culture shock here too, for it seems women -- the very same women that Republicans and their Christofascist minions would like to see out of the work force -- have a better sense of Doing What Has To Be Done. For all of the residue of Reagan's "welfare queen" speeches during the 1980's, it's women who are out there working menial jobs, sometimes more than one, in order to feed the kids and keep a roof over their heads:

Even as more men are dropping out of the work force, more women are entering it. This change has occurred partly because employment has shrunk in industries where men predominated, like manufacturing, while fields where women are far more common, like teaching, health care and retailing, have grown. Today, about 73 percent of women between 30 and 54 have a job, compared with 45 percent in the mid-1960’s, according to an analysis of Census data by researchers at Queens College. Many women without jobs are raising children at home, while men who are out of a job tend to be doing neither family work nor paid work.

And while Bush loves to crow about the low unemployment rate, the numbers do not take these guys into account:

Despite their great numbers, many of the men not working are missing from the nation’s best-known statistic on unemployment. The jobless rate is now a low 4.6 percent, yet that number excludes most of the missing men, because they have stopped looking for work and are therefore not considered officially unemployed. That makes the unemployment rate a far less useful measure of the country’s well-being than it once was. Indeed, a larger share of working-age men are not working today than at almost any point in the last half-century, which raises the question of how they will get by as they age. They may be forced back to work after years of absence, they may fall into poverty, or they may be rescued by the government. This same trend is evident in other industrialized countries. In the European Union, 14 percent of men between 25 and 54 were not working last year, up from 7 percent in 1975, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Over the same period in Japan, the proportion of such men rose to 8 percent from 4 percent.

Of course, we are also living in a country where businesses largely put their workers out to pasture around age 50, so where the jobs for these guys are is an open question.

Perhaps it's because men have always defined themselves by what they do for a living, and have devalued hobbies and other nonpaid pursuits. I'm not sure that's changed all that much over the years. So perhaps being out of work, and not being able to find work, frees these guys to do things they've never felt free to do before. The problem is that our society is more unforgiving than every of those who can't pay their bills, as evidenced by the punitive bankruptcy legislation passed by Congress last year and signed into law as a means of protecting the credit card industry against just the kind of contracting job market we're seeing now.

Here in New Jersey, we've seen some job growth, but it is modest, it's expected to remain that way through the end of the decade, and the growth that does occur is expected in low-wage industries, such as education, health, hospitality and restaurants, and other leisure activities -- which means that an ever-growing sector of working poor will be providing the leisure fun for the wealthy.

Men like the one that opens this article may be able to get away with tapping home equity for a while, but with a falling real estate market, these guys may find themselves tapped out for more than their houses are worth:

the number of unsold homes is at the highest level ever. Housing starts are starting to fall, but remain at a high level by historical standards. If sales do not pick up this summer, when sales are usually seasonally strong, it could be a sign that prices are going to come under pressure and lead to a much larger decline in housing starts.

The accompanying charts show year-over-year changes in sales of existing single-family homes and apartments, using six-month moving averages to smooth out monthly fluctuations. The latest figures show sales of single-family homes down 4.4 percent, the largest dip since 1995, and apartment sales off 6.6 percent. Statistics on apartment sales are only available back to 1999, but that is the worst showing in that period.

Meanwhile, the number of existing single-family homes on the market is up 33 percent year-over-year, measured the same way. Figures from the National Association of Realtors, going back to 1983, show no comparable increase in homes for sale. The number of condominiums and cooperative apartments for sale is up 61 percent. The picture is consistent with demand for homes suddenly drying up, while sellers are reluctant to cut prices.

If men continue to shun jobs that aren't "good enough" for them, while their wives swallow their pride and become grocery cashiers, fast food service workers, and other menial workers, there's going to be a poverty problem among the elderly in about 20 years that's going to be monstrous.

Perhaps this is why the president wants to revive privatization of Social Security.

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