Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Perfect Storm for the Long-Term Unemployed

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

During the Great Depression, New Deal policy-makers were very concerned about the unemployed, and especially the long-term unemployed; so they created millions of job opportunities for them. For example, the WPA employed about 8.5 million different Americans between 1935 and 1943. New Deal policy-makers also expanded unemployment insurance into a national concept.

Today, the story couldn't be more different. The unemployed are scolded by elected officials, threatened with drug testing, and discriminated against by private business. Federal funding for job re-training has been cut, the idea of a public jobs program is off the table, and it looks as though Congress is going to cut off 1.3 million Americans from extended unemployment benefits...just in time for the holidays.

And all the while, there are far more unemployed Americans than job openings. But, to our plutocratic congressmen and women, who take their marching orders from wealthy campaign contributors, this fact is meaningless. It is far more politically profitable for them to demonize the unemployed, or at least ignore them, than it is to help them.

For the long-term unemployed, it's the perfect storm of nastiness, apathy, discrimination, and anemic job growth. And, to add insult to injury, many of the jobs that are being created are low-wage, no-benefit, no-future jobs. Hardly the stuff of the American Dream.  

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