The official unemployment number came out Friday: 9.1 percent. That’s 14 million Americans without work. Not counted are the underemployed who can’t make ends meet or the people labeled as discouraged workers, more than 200,000 unemployed people who have tried so hard and for so long to find a job that they’ve given up, at least for now. The Congressional Budget Office does not expect the unemployment rate to fall below 8 percent for two more years and says we won’t see 5 percent unemployment until 2017. Further, mass layoffs – when 50 or more workers lose their livelihoods at once – rose 3 percent in August.
There doesn’t seem to be much to celebrate this Labor Day. Too many Americans have Labor Day off – and every other day, besides. Labor itself is under attack. The very concept of collective bargaining is vilified. Wall Street always rejoices when a corporation lays off hundreds or thousands of workers, and the stockholders get a nice dividend when the pink slips go out. And our native criminal class is divided between being either disinterested in the problem or actively interested in prolonging it for vile, selfish political traction.
We are told that we may be seeing the dawn of the jobless economy. If that’s right, then 2017 is a false hope Some of the best jobs in the next few decades may be as purveyors of bread and circuses to keep the peasants from revolting and eating the rich. That doesn’t mean we writers can take heart: so-called reality shows and the cheap, mindless retoolings of old movies and TV shows will help to keep us either under- or unemployed.
Something has to change. Give it a thought as you pass the mustard at this year’s Labor Day barbecue. Report back here if you’ve got any solid ideas. Personal attacks and ideological posturings can be posted on the restroom wall.