Friday, March 7, 2014

After big business promises not to discriminate against the long-term unemployed, the number of long-term unemployed Americans rises by 200,000

Above: New Deal policymakers didn't rely on the word of Corporate America with respect to hiring unemployed Americans, and for good reason. Instead, they simply hired over 10 million jobless Americans into public work & construction programs like the CWA, CCC, WPA, and NYA. In the photo above, we see some of these (formerly) jobless Americans on a bulkhead project on Hooper's Island in Maryland, 1938. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

On January 31st, 2014, it was reported that about 300 businesses promised President Obama not to discriminate against the long-term unemployed. Among those business elites who signed the pledge were "21 of the top 50 and 47 of the top 200 largest companies ranked by Forbes Magazine..."

On March 7, 2014, a little over a month later, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of long-term unemployed Americans shot up by 200,000. So much for promises...

It looks like discrimination against the long-term unemployed--which has been proven by empirical research, not just anecdotal evidence--continues to flourish despite the promises (and crocodile tears) of Corporate America.

The promises of Corporate America are about as valuable as the happy-words and job search gimmicks that business leaders, academic administrators, and government officials have used to brush off encourage unemployed Americans for the past 5-6 years: "Hey, be an entrepreneur!" "Wow, be innovative!" Yippee, tap into your creative energy!" "Holy smokes, have you tried LinkedIn?!?" "Zowie! You just need some new skills!"

All this nonsense--the pledges, the happy-words, the job search gimmicks--are more about PR than substance. Business leaders, academic administrators, and government officials know that saying "be innovative" requires much less energy than changing the structural problems of the U.S. labor market that have persistently caused long-term unemployment, stagnant wages, bankruptcy, family breaks-ups, and increased rates of suicide. The simple fact of that matter is that there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone (let alone good jobs). That's why the labor force participation rate is at a 35-year low.

Above: In the audio above, we hear President Franklin Roosevelt explain why he and his fellow New Dealers created work & construction programs like the WPA and the CCC (the statement was made at Madison Square Garden in 1936): "We will provide useful work to the needy unemployed, because; we prefer useful work to the pauperism of a dole!" Unlike today's Democrats, who fight continuously for extended unemployment benefits but rarely for a public works program, and unlike today's Republicans & Tea Partiers, who consistently try to cut off extended unemployment benefits and tell the unemployed they should go on the church dole if they need help, New Deal policymakers believed that government could provide useful work as an alternative to long-term government cash relief, non-profit charity, or church hand outs. They believed in the dignity, hope, and skills that such useful work could preserve. The results were nothing short of phenomenal, which is why even Ronald Reagan praised the WPA. America's infrastructure was modernized and served as the backbone for America's post-World War II economic expansion. And we still utilize thousands of WPA projects today. Image courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. Audio courtesy of the Miller Center, University of Virginia.              

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