funemployment
February 11, 2010 1:49 PM   Subscribe

How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America
The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years to come. (via rw)
posted by kliuless (84 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why not just set up a website for bidding on day laborers, but instead of using a term with so much baggage they call it "Microemployment" or "p2p labor?"
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:54 PM on February 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


The Great Recession may be over

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

no.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:56 PM on February 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


“if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.”

Uh oh guys, they're on to us.
posted by ghharr at 2:00 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.

Uh oh guys, they're on to us.


I have other, ahem, skills.
posted by Splunge at 2:02 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Splunge: "I have other, ahem, skills."

Yes. I thank Whoever's In Charge for high shelves.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:03 PM on February 11, 2010 [21 favorites]


I still remember my skepticism when one of my colleagues told me that the GOP's basic goal was the elimination of the middle class. Not so much any more. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
posted by mullingitover at 2:06 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Finally! We have something we can blame the feminists for. Having been reduced to being good for nothing productive, except providing money and genetic material, today's male can die a tortuous psychic death as the last thing is stripped away.

Either that or this can be the overdue era of redefinition for the male role. I say we blame the feminists, less effort all around.
posted by LD Feral at 2:10 PM on February 11, 2010


We Americans love our apocalypses. We never do tend to notice when they don't happen; by that time, we're already infatuated with our next doomsday theory.
posted by WCityMike at 2:11 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Warp is such a negative term. Maybe our kids' politics, culture, and character won't swing so much on greed.
posted by carsonb at 2:12 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not kidding when I say that I read the words "How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America" I immediately guessed this was yet another attempt at future telling by the Atlantic.

And I was right.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:14 PM on February 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


This entire notion of a jobless recovery as a fait accompli is absurd. Employment always lags GDP growth. We've been coming out of the trough for what a quarter or two? If things really do continue to get better a year from now and we still don't see a rebound then write these articles. Right now though they just sound hysterical. I mean broadbased unemployment at 1934 levels makes sense given we are in the worse recession since the 30's.
posted by JPD at 2:15 PM on February 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


I mean broadbased unemployment at 1934 levels makes sense given we are in the worse recession since the 30's.

Yeah! Really all we have to do is get into another world war rebuild our manufacturing infrastructure and let the good times roll!
posted by Max Power at 2:22 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Again, who said this recession is over?

I thought it had just begun.
posted by thisperon at 2:25 PM on February 11, 2010


I think you are missing my point for the sake of some snark. I'm not saying everything is hunky-dory, I'm saying a current high rate of unemployment is not predictive of lower employment growth in a future economic upswing.
posted by JPD at 2:41 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


“if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.”

I nearly peed laughing at this. If this were true, I would have so much free time on nights and weekends...

Now that I think of it, I want this to be true
posted by davejay at 2:45 PM on February 11, 2010


A proposed solution to the credibility problem for forecasting-type articles: require the author to invest some portion of their own money in futures tied to their predictions. For instance, you can bet on the future unemployment rate/gdp et cetera on in trade.

Ideally, we would like to elicit everyone's true belief; however, reporters/forecasters have an incentive to predict extreme outcomes to gain attention for their forecasts (ie., get writing jobs) and because their seems to be little penalty for poor forecasts (see Thomas Friedman) in the public arena. Adding this additional cost to the forecasters loss function would recalibrate the predictions.
posted by diftb at 2:58 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning.

I'll be honest: I'm sure there is some financial metric for what is and isn't a recession and when it is and isn't over. But when nobody has a job and things are only getting worse, I don't see how the economy can actually be "fixed" in any meaningful way.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:59 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes. I thank Whoever's In Charge for high shelves.

We tall ladies with long arms smile indulgently.
posted by scody at 2:59 PM on February 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


Ever wonder why there aren't so many rich economists?
posted by Damienmce at 2:59 PM on February 11, 2010


I don't think that this article is exaggerating. There is a serious shift going on in the economies of most first-world nations -- income inequality is increasing, and manufacturing (the primary sector for well-paid, non-professional employment) is decreasing. The article even makes the point that employment lagged significantly longer after the 2001 recession than it had after previous recessions.

Even if employment comes back, it will primarily be in the service sector which, for historical and economic reasons, is not as well-paid as manufacturing has been. And this is also why men are being hurt so much more -- they have traditionally dominated those better paid manufacturing jobs, leaving the service sector more to women. (Transportation being a notable exception).

Now, maybe you are lucky -- maybe you are just one of those people who lit into the right profession and/or went to the right university. But there are millions of other people who haven't got those advantages. And they also want to have the stability and security of having a means to a livelihood. We can't all go to Princeton and be hired by a hedge fund; other than the fact that not all of us have those aptitudes, there are only so many hedge fund managers needed. What about the rest of society?

I'm not saying that we can change the shift away from manufacturing, or even that we should -- the developing world just as much -- no, more than we do. But ignoring what is happening, pretending that it isn't a different world today than it was people entered the workforce in 1955 or 1965 or 1985 or 1995 or even 2005 -- that's just being in denial. (Yeah, I skipped 1975 - wasn't alive then, myself, but I heard it was bad).

Those bits about being unemployed changing you -- that hits home, hard. I've been there -- it completely changes how you think, how you work, how you even see yourself.
posted by jb at 3:12 PM on February 11, 2010 [16 favorites]


The Obama administration's projections suggest 2.5% GDP growth and an average 95,000 new jobs each month. Those figures won't get us below 6% unemployment until 2015. 6% isn't even very good!

That may not suggest that we're moving to a permanent high-unemployment equilibrium, but in the medium term we're pretty screwed. That's certainly long enough to permanently damage lifetime earnings for a generation of young workers.

Those numbers are also assuming that things don't get worse. Ireland, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal are looking very shaky in Europe. Foreclosures aren't even supposed to peak until 2011 in the US. A commercial real estate storm is brewing. Small businesses don't have any customers. The recent promising GDP numbers are not all they're made out to be and, from the same link, Goldman Sachs doesn't think unemployment is going to peak until early next year. So even Obama's terrible numbers look optimistic.

The snark about prognostication seems misplaced to me. The Atlantic isn't doing that here. They're analyzing the implications of an economic reality reflected in official statistics. How is that out of line?
posted by zjacreman at 3:13 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm sure there is some financial metric for what is and isn't a recession and when it is and isn't over.

Two (or more) consecutive quarters of negative real GDP growth, isn't it?
posted by pompomtom at 3:20 PM on February 11, 2010


How long before protectionism for manufactured goods becomes legitimised again?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:25 PM on February 11, 2010


It already has, Spleen, just not in the USA.
posted by zjacreman at 3:35 PM on February 11, 2010


It may sound harsh, but in general, he says, “if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.”

Wow, there's a depressing thought.
posted by madajb at 3:44 PM on February 11, 2010


hey kids, just graduated from college?
But in fact a whole generation of young adults is likely to see its life chances permanently diminished by this recession. Lisa Kahn, an economist at Yale, has studied the impact of recessions on the lifetime earnings of young workers. In one recent study, she followed the career paths of white men who graduated from college between 1979 and 1989. She found that, all else equal, for every one-percentage-point increase in the national unemployment rate, the starting income of new graduates fell by as much as 7 percent; the unluckiest graduates of the decade, who emerged into the teeth of the 1981–82 recession, made roughly 25 percent less in their first year than graduates who stepped into boom times.

But what’s truly remarkable is the persistence of the earnings gap. Five, 10, 15 years after graduation, after untold promotions and career changes spanning booms and busts, the unlucky graduates never closed the gap. Seventeen years after graduation, those who had entered the workforce during inhospitable times were still earning 10 percent less on average than those who had emerged into a more bountiful climate. When you add up all the earnings losses over the years, Kahn says, it’s as if the lucky graduates had been given a gift of about $100,000, adjusted for inflation, immediately upon graduation—or, alternatively, as if the unlucky ones had been saddled with a debt of the same size.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:49 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


How long before protectionism for manufactured goods becomes legitimised again?

As soon as we give China the 800 billion we owe them.
posted by empty vessel at 3:50 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> but instead of using a term with so much baggage they call it "Microemployment" or "p2p labor?"

Microemployment.com and p2pjobs.com are both taken.

P2plabor.com is still available, as of 2352 hours, GMT, 02/11/10.
posted by darth_tedious at 3:52 PM on February 11, 2010


This is a bunch of BS. Recessions don't exist, period. There is no recession as long as I have a job. Get a grip, all you complainers. Of course, when I lose my job, then it's also not a recession - it's the Great Depression, and heads must roll.

And that's how it translates into the political discourse. When I have a job, the government should not give handouts to "those people" (illegal immigrants, minorities, affirmative action whiners etc.) - that's why I vote GOP, because the demorats and Obama are bankrupting the country with handouts to those people. When I lose my job, it's because of "those people" (illegal immigrants, minorities, affirmative action whiners), took the jobs and bankrupted the country, so I'm gonna vote GOP, because the GOP is against welfare for those people. And if the GOP is not gonna be hard core enough against those people, Tea Party here I come./HAMBURGER/

Now, I wonder if the Don Peck of the Atlantic has factored all that in - he says the "Great Recession" will transform all sorts of things... but will it transform the political discourse in this country?
posted by VikingSword at 3:53 PM on February 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


> I immediately guessed this was yet another attempt at future telling by the Atlantic

I like to think of it as Big Picture Bong Hits Monthly.
posted by darth_tedious at 3:56 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pro tip for men: Get up in the middle of the night and tighten the lids on the jars in the pantry.
posted by digsrus at 4:05 PM on February 11, 2010 [31 favorites]


Relax and watch the Winter Olympics. Especially the curling. It will remind you of your next job, sweeping the floor at Wal-Mart.
posted by empty vessel at 4:06 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


On the plus side, if you've ever thought to yourself I would just love to hire a pool boy with an MBA . . . Ladies, your moment has arrived.
posted by thivaia at 4:10 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Obama administration's projections suggest 2.5% GDP growth and an average 95,000 new jobs each month. Those figures won't get us below 6% unemployment until 2015. 6% isn't even very good!

The Obama administration seems completely oblivious to the jobs problem. The "Jobs program" they're talking about is $80 billion dollars. On the other hand, the senate is also talking about a $233 billion dollar extension to the estate tax break for people making between $5 million and $600k (plus a reduction on the percentage above $5m) which sunsets this year.

Tells you a lot about where their priorities are.
posted by delmoi at 4:16 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, the senate is also talking about a $233 billion dollar extension to the estate tax break for people making between $5 million and $600k (plus a reduction on the percentage above $5m) which sunsets this year.

What, are you are Communist Nazi? Don't you understand that we have to incentivize the most productive members of our society, letting them keep more of their hard earned money, so that they'll keep being productive? I personally know of quite a few trust fund babies who worked hard to get the right parents and it is generally agreed that it's the trust fund babies who are the most productive and should be most rewarded with their hard earned money.

Don't you understand that $233 billion dollars is going to stimulate ECONOMIC GROWTH AND JOBS?? Because it is going to the most productive members of society.
posted by VikingSword at 4:25 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


"On the plus side, if you've ever thought to yourself I would just love to hire a pool boy with an MBA . . . Ladies, your moment has arrived."
I'm not a lady, but I imagine the new thinking might go like so: "An MBA ain't worth anything but school debt, but at least he's a fucking pool boy!
posted by The Potate at 4:25 PM on February 11, 2010


Tells you a lot about where their priorities are.


If companies are off spending money on frivolous things like workers, how are they going to have enough money to spend on TV ads to help these guys get re-elected?
posted by empty vessel at 4:27 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


And your toilet paper will turn into a Sears catalog by 2011.
posted by medea42 at 4:31 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't you understand that $233 billion dollars is going to stimulate ECONOMIC GROWTH AND JOBS?? Because it is going to the most productive members of society.

The rich people aren't going to tolerate this kind of talk. They're going to start laying off people in droves and not hiring anybody, while still making a killing off the stock market, seizing land through forecloses, and flexing their power even more all while soaking up vast government subsidies while waving the cudgel of "capital and job flight" if they don't get their way and then that'll show.... oh, sorry, wait, this already happened.
posted by peppito at 4:34 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


It may sound harsh, but in general, he says, “if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.”

I guess we should start freezing a bunch of sperm and use the bulk of the male population for the Soylent Green option.

I wonder if Whole Foods will carry organic version made with 100% vegetarian men?
posted by empty vessel at 5:15 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer"
Sure, they say that now, but wait until the CHUDs appear.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:24 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> We tall ladies with long arms smile indulgently

That's ok: there's always the stuck salsa jar. Cha-cha-cha!
posted by Decimask at 5:33 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, this article was great because I have been feeling like Paul Krugman was getting annoyingly peppy these days.
posted by palindromic at 5:40 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


McCArty.Tim Why not just set up a website for bidding on day laborers, but instead of using a term with so much baggage they call it "Microemployment" or "p2p labor?"

Personally I like the term, Day-Slaves or micro-whores. It sets up a nice energetic dynamic and they're just thankful I don't break any bones.

*Sticks cigar back in mouth. Opens Wall Street Journal*
posted by Skygazer at 5:43 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is this an apposite time to post Neoliberalism for Children? Contains amusing analogue computing too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:46 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does Obama get it yet? Paul Krugman thinks not:

I’m with Simon Johnson here: how is it possible, at this late date, for Obama to be this clueless?

The lead story on Bloomberg right now contains excerpts from an interview with Business Week which tells us:

"President Barack Obama said he doesn’t 'begrudge' the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay..."


[...]

Oh. My. God.

First of all, to my knowledge, irresponsible behavior by baseball players hasn’t brought the world economy to the brink of collapse and cost millions of innocent Americans their jobs and/or houses.

And more specifically, not only has the financial industry has been bailed out with taxpayer commitments; it continues to rely on a taxpayer backstop for its stability. Don’t take it from me, take it from the rating agencies:

"The planned overhaul of US financial rules prompted Standard & Poor’s to warn on Tuesday it might downgrade the credit ratings of Citigroup and Bank of America on concerns that the shake-up would make it less likely that the banks would be bailed out by US taxpayers if they ran into trouble again..."


***

I'm with Krugman on this; If it isn't clear to you that we have a double-standard in this country between what's good for the very rich and well-connected versus what's good for the rest of us, then I would say you are deluded.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 6:04 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh how I miss you 1990's. Have a college degree and you can type? Walk into a temp agency in any mid-size to large American city and you'll be making ten dollars an hour before the day is over and in all likelihood the place will end up hiring you permanently with benefits if you stick it out for a few months.

Seriously kids, that's how it used to work. Graduating from college in the 90's you didn't sweat getting a job your senior year so much. There'd be plenty of time and opportunities once you grabbed your diploma and took some time off to chill.
posted by bardic at 6:16 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, this is totally offtopic, but- plastic.com is still around? How long has that been going on?
/quickly checks to see if adequacy.org is being updated...

posted by hap_hazard at 6:20 PM on February 11, 2010


People these days can't do anything useful. It's amazing any of them have jobs.
posted by planet at 6:40 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Re: Neoliberalism for Childen: My Brit with a whiteboard can beat up your guy with a chalkboard.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:59 PM on February 11, 2010


That's ok: there's always the stuck salsa jar. Cha-cha-cha!

Pfft. We loosened it up for you.
posted by Salieri at 7:12 PM on February 11, 2010


Generation Y (~1985-present?) is the largest generation in American history, over 100 million strong, dwarfing the previous largest generation the Boomers (about 75 million). Generation X? About 60 million. What we are seeing here is simple Demographics. As the boomers retire and move up the carreer lader, they leave open more jobs than the Gen Xers can possibly replace - so the 1990s were a dream, jobs were easy to find. But now we are seeing the reverse. As Gen Y moves into the market, there are fewer positions available because Gen X is a much smaller group. Outsourcing jobs overseas is where all those positions went. I truly feel sorry for anyone in Gen Y entering the workforce - all I can say is, the sooner you do it the better, because there is a huge wave of Gen Y still in school, over the next 10 years they will be looking for jobs. It's just simple numbers and Demographics.

BTW that's how GenX'ers got such a bad rap, not because they are bad people, but because there are so few of them, they could not participate in society at the same level as the Baby Boomers - they didn't vote as much (because there were less of them), they didn't pay as much in taxes, they didn't have as large a pool of talent to draw from etc.. so they got tagged as "slackers", but it's just simple Demographics, there are just fewer of them. They were ignored by mainstream marketers and alienated simply by being a generational minority. On the upside they never really had employment problems.
posted by stbalbach at 7:32 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read this last night and I came away, thinking it was well researched, but tone deaf. Neither understanding the resilience of human nature or changes in the idea of work, or the expectations and hopes of whole generations.

Gen X, my age group, got creamed by the recession of late 80s and early mid-90s (Peck thinks Gen X was unable to find work in the early to mid 80s, when most were in middle or High school and the very leading edge was beginning college at the extreme later spectrum of that), and sure it had some effect on the general sensibility of the demographic, but also many of us experienced, and benefited, from the Clinton economic expansion and the dot com explosion (Even as being in your early 20’s and single at the time killed you tax-wise), that led many of us to much better salaries and a plethora of new media /IT / Web /Content related skill sets. Gen Y never even had to deal with the misery of the early 90s Reagan/Bush Sr. recession and went straight into an established and voracious new environment of employability and innovation that they never doubted would be waiting for them once they got out of college work or that it would be anything but a success.

Those people have expectations and have seen first hand what the power of innovation can have towards overcoming all sorts of limitations and obstacles and to lift all boats, as well as how the wrong innovation (Wall Street) and rapacious greed can sink all boats. So the future belongs to whoever invents it and wants it the most. Yes, bad times can damage people, but it can also make them stronger, smarter, wiser and kinder. Strong enough to overcome damage and strong enough to embody a whole lifetime of experiences.

The other flaw is Peck’s limited view of employment. To him it is this narrow full-time situation, on-site, job with more or less conventional hours and conventional benefits and salary, and that's a short sighted thing to do. He points how some young people right now have a different view of employment, but doesn’t follow through, and it's right under his nose, of how the idea of a job is, is metamorphosing. The hours, the tools, the physical work space from that of a linear fixed point in spacetime with predictable dispensations of money.

So where is the money to make all this happen going to come from? The banks are not doing the job, they've established unrealistic profit margins and compensation packages based on a failed experiment.

And the answer is obvious, the federal government needs to pass a second stimulus as ambitious as the one passed by China, and as ambitious as the New Deal that FDR established, but it's not going to happen until and if Obama gets re-elected or barring that a truly horrid depression that once and for all renders completely empty the rhetoric of the right. Health care reform has to be a big part of it and needs to be put in motion this year, because the loss of wealth creation that occurs in this country because individuals (hell Gen X and Y and Next and especially the in limbo boomers waiting anxiously for their Medicare to kick in) who want to go into business are in a glacial state, that is terrible, and obscene.

The amount of wealth that could be introduced into this country but won’t be, because of those two factors (lack of investment and healthcare) is OBSCENE.

I’ve gotten completely off topic here, but the main thing is really that I don’t share in Peck’s idea that people who don’t work conventional jobs are “damaged.” I just think they’re onto something else and there’s wealth of creativity and innovation ready to be unleashed if the status quo (Banks, Real Estate, health insurance Co.s, the GOP, the back asswards Teabaggers, old media etc) can be held off and the government can grow some balls.
posted by Skygazer at 7:43 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I truly feel sorry for anyone in Gen Y entering the workforce - all I can say is, the sooner you do it the better, because there is a huge wave of Gen Y still in school, over the next 10 years they will be looking for jobs. It's just simple numbers and Demographics.


As a Gen X slacker who has held a C level position at a small technology firm I would highly advise the Gen Y folks to start getting politically active early, which I saw happening in the last presidential election. You need to keep the heat on. This health care thing this is all about what your life will look like in the next 10 - 20 years. Email mail your congress person and senators daily. Get your parent and grand parents to do it.

The next thing is don't what my generation did and get addicted to credit, they pulled a fast one on us when they changed the bankruptcy laws.

Lastly start figuring out how to take advantage of the out sourcing thing. It isn't going away any time soon. Figure out what you are good at and build an international network\ Rolodex*. Don't do the work yourself learn to manage people and tun this to your advantage. This is not the solution for everyone but if you can make it work you won't have to worry about finding a job.

My two cents, which is about what we all will have left at the end of the month after they're done with us.

* Rolodex - a device consisting of a rotating set of alphabetically arranged card used by my parents generation to keep contact information on.
posted by empty vessel at 7:53 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, I can't believe I'm the only one to assume that a deepening wave of joblessness doesn't mean it's pitchforks and torches time?

Isn't "underemployed young people with little hope of it getting better" the first ingredient in Societal Disruption Stew?
posted by emjaybee at 8:25 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Isn't "underemployed young people with little hope of it getting better" the first ingredient in Societal Disruption Stew?

I guess we could add a new product the Soylent Green line. I like the name "Societal Disruption Stew" made of 100% pure under employed young people.
posted by empty vessel at 8:31 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Mrs. Bitters is going to be the icon for the early 21st. century? "You're all doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed...."
posted by happyroach at 8:31 PM on February 11, 2010


Societal Disruption Stew

OK so who's going to start the band?
posted by desjardins at 8:33 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


A way to actually maybe do something.
posted by empty vessel at 8:37 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm 26 years old and just got hired for an $11/hr job with no benefits. I spent the whole day yesterday being congratulated by my friends for being lucky enough to land a job.

That sent chills down my spine, although I wasn't sure exactly why at the time.
posted by Avenger at 8:57 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


> Gen X, my age group, got creamed by the recession of late 80s and early mid-90s

Earlier today, I thought posting about how you can get "Generation X" for ten bucks new from Amazon-- or 1 penny, if you want to buy used and cut Douglas Coupland out of the picture-- but then I concluded I was too lazy.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:09 PM on February 11, 2010


Unemployment is not the problem.

The problem is, being unemployed is tantamount to a death sentence in this country.

Unemployment is the natural progression of any advanced civilization. The question is, what becomes of a system where your very existence is predicated on your employment? That is the fundamental problem with capitalism. It is self-destructing. We jump labor markets, slowly bringing the rest of the world into parity, and at the same time we innovate production to the point where we simply don't need warm bodies.

And then what? Hundreds of millions of people standing in a queue for the dole. If your system is progressive enough to even have a dole. But in the U.S.? You're fucked. The answer from high above: die.

Europe has had high unemployment for decades. Ah, but they have social programs. Paid for, how? TAXES. Great, giant, hulking, TAXES. The social programs that make not having a job easy are being decimated in this country. If you'd like them to come back any time soon, I have a simple, two-part program for you.
  1. Reinstate 99% estate taxes. Hire a thousand new IRS estate tax agents to pursue absconders and tax cheats.
  2. Graduate income taxes to levels not seen since the early 20th century. We're talking ~90% for income over a few million.
And voila! Safety net. And all-of-a-sudden, the unemployment "problem" disappears.

If you're thinking of running for President/Congress on this program, be sure to hire lots and lots of body-doubles and security guards. Because you will not be long for this world. (Boy, don't these ideas sound familiar!)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:11 PM on February 11, 2010 [25 favorites]


That is the fundamental problem with capitalism. It is self-destructing. We jump labor markets, slowly bringing the rest of the world into parity, and at the same time we innovate production to the point where we simply don't need warm bodies.

I can't favorite this hard enough.

It used to be that just doing the things people need required lots of unskilled and semi-skilled laborers toiling thanklessly (but getting paid, at least). Today, managing information is almost free (sorry, clerks, couriers, secretaries, and accountants) and mass-production is even "masser," so fewer factory operators are needed. Where did those folks go? Now they make iphones, search engines, cable TV shows, websites, culture, and stuff. Most people just aren't in critical industries anymore. So how can you keep society going when having enough jobs to go around depends on lots of people buying things they don't really need? The only answer I can see is to have a government that buys lots of stuff it doesn't need when the people aren't doing it.

I know my understanding of the subject is very simplified, and I don't mean to be glib. Just saying. That's how things look to this non-economist.
posted by Xezlec at 9:36 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes. I thank Whoever's In Charge for high shelves.

Silly boy.

Call me.
posted by Splunge at 9:50 PM on February 11, 2010


When I was a kid, I loved to read books about what The Future would be like. Usually, the idea went something like this: as fewer things need to be produced and as production becomes automated, humans will have more free time and more of their needs will be provided for thanks to Progress. I guess they got the free time part right.
posted by the jam at 10:12 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ever wonder why there aren't so many rich economists?

I think it's pretty well established by now that the people who know nothing about economics are the ones using that ignorance to get rich.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:32 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, I can't believe I'm the only one to assume that a deepening wave of joblessness doesn't mean it's pitchforks and torches time?

that's what i was thinking, too - just what does it take to get people to raise hell in this country, anyway?

it's too soon - but if this goes on - why should people accept their marginalization quietly?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:36 AM on February 12, 2010


Sure, eventually we'll have 1% of the population actually involved in production, and 5% running the prisons which house the remaining 94%.
posted by hattifattener at 12:48 AM on February 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


oh, yeah, here's the other side of the coin - those of us who are fortunate enough to be employed in this crappy job market are getting the hell squeezed out of us with increased expectations and more stringent rules - what are you going to do? - find another job? - employers are using this against people ruthlessly - the article said that milennials require a more structured workplace to function well, but that's a half-truth - the reality is that they're mickeymousing people to death with policies that actually have little to do with actual productivity or actual disciplining of true problem people and more to ensure that those who remain employed with them will be mindless, malleable and easily disposable ciphers - not that the people in charge are anywhere close to knowing how to DO anything - no, they're busy fixing problems that don't need fixing while the major reoccuring screwups go on unsolved

the reason why we're in the mess we're in today is that the business class has screwed up - and they are amassing all the petty tyrant power they can to enforce conformity and plantation mentality among the people

the bitterness and disgust among the working class is increasing - we are becoming a dysfunctional society and those who are running things are trying to take ruthless and pitiless advantage of it

life is getting nasty for a lot of us

this is what class war looks like - good luck keeping the lid on when the pressure keeps building
posted by pyramid termite at 12:56 AM on February 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


People these days can't do anything useful. It's amazing any of them have jobs.
posted by planet


To be honest there really isn't that much useful work to be done. I sorrow at the amount of energy the human race wastes on useless production without a long term goal.

It seems a strange twist on the idea of ephermalization. Instead of Buckminster Fullers thought that our more efficient methods of production would lead to a greater standard of living for a greater amount of people, it is instead concentrating power/money into the hands of the already wealthy.

Personally, I hope we can find something more useful and fulfilling for our population than just getting them jobs for jobs sakes.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 2:57 AM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I despair for the US.
There are still millions employed in worthwhile industry, and millions more inventing the future, but the way the US treats those that hit a rough patch is really despicable.
And some of it is self interest too, on my part as an Australian. There is a regular buzz of talk from our business group leaders and conservative politicians that we should emulate American labour laws and tax rates.
Luckily, I guess, there is lots of inertia in the system, so our single mothers, unemployed workers and old age pensioners still get paid enough (barely) to survive. It helps a lot that they get real healthcare paid by the taxpayers.
I have a good job that is well paying, but I would much rather lose another couple of percent tax to avoid the massive social problems evident in the US than be able to own a boat or mansion.
I guess that in the long term the US will come around to this way of thinking too, but I suspect it won't be a peaceful, happy change, I suspect you will have to drag decency out of your higher earners like pulling teeth.
posted by bystander at 3:31 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Asimov's Caves of Steel is a depiction of a future in which robots have replaced humans in a lot of work -- only to leave out of work humans in a miserable existence on the dole, desparate to claw their way up and not fall down again.

Meanwhile, off Earth all of the humans live in luxury because each individual owns the robots that work for them, and receives the profit of their endeavour.
posted by jb at 5:19 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know much about economics, but as someone who works in childcare - HOLY CRAP DOES THIS RING TRUE:

In her 2006 book, Generation Me, Twenge notes that self-esteem in children began rising sharply around 1980, and hasn’t stopped since. By 1999, according to one survey, 91 percent of teens described themselves as responsible, 74 percent as physically attractive, and 79 percent as very intelligent. (More than 40 percent of teens also expected that they would be earning $75,000 a year or more by age 30; the median salary made by a 30-year-old was $27,000 that year.) Twenge attributes the shift to broad changes in parenting styles and teaching methods, in response to the growing belief that children should always feel good about themselves, no matter what. As the years have passed, efforts to boost self-esteem—and to decouple it from performance—have become widespread.

These efforts have succeeded in making today’s youth more confident and individualistic. But that may not benefit them in adulthood, particularly in this economic environment. Twenge writes that “self-esteem without basis encourages laziness rather than hard work,” and that “the ability to persevere and keep going” is “a much better predictor of life outcomes than self-esteem.”


Oh man, the self-esteem movement creating a herd of special snowflakes is positively nauseating. I'm all for creating strong, independent children, but telling them that EVERYTHING they do is revolutionary and awesome is definitely counter-productive especially as it eclipses any actual achievements since EVERYTHING is "special." Ugh.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:04 AM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Asimov's Caves of Steel is a depiction of a future in which robots have replaced humans in a lot of work -- only to leave out of work humans in a miserable existence on the dole, desparate to claw their way up and not fall down again.

Another relevant sci-fi story is Philip K. Dick's Autofac which portrays a future in which there are factories designed and programmed to provide all the necessary things for life as long as the humans they are providing for can't do it for themselves. They seek out resources and process them into food, consumer goods, etc.

The problem is that the humans that are around in the story (the autofacs having been created long ago) don't want the autofacs to take care of them anymore and want to take care of their own survival and thus have control of their own culture. Because they are competing for the same resources as the factories it makes reducing their dependence on the machines really hard.

It's pretty much a perfect metaphor for the modern world. We've designed this society to do what it does really well. But no one understands it well enough to make it stop or change what it's doing. We have several options. We can sabotage the machines, let the machines eventually run themselves into the ground, and/or try our best to be independent of the machines despite competing for the same resources. None of these options are mutually exclusive.
posted by symbollocks at 8:44 AM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh man, the self-esteem movement creating a herd of special snowflakes is positively nauseating.

Yeah. Feeling good about oneself is an important skill that can prevent you from getting stuck in all the little potholes of disappointment in life. But it's also important to be able to have the skills to work yourself out of a real rut. Which extend far beyond simply feeling good about yourself.
posted by symbollocks at 8:55 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh how I miss you 1990's. Have a college degree and you can type? Walk into a temp agency in any mid-size to large American city and you'll be making ten dollars an hour before the day is over and in all likelihood the place will end up hiring you permanently with benefits if you stick it out for a few months.

I don't know what large American city you lived in during the 1990s, but San Francisco during most of the 1990s was not like that at all for me. Maybe I was just knocking on the wrong doors. Thinking about it now, that's certainly how it felt, especially in the latter part of the decade. There were periods when I idled jobless in cafes and glumly read all the peppy articles in the Chronicle about the limitless local growth that would be engendered by the "dotcom industry" (anybody remember that?). Meanwhile, the gap between the haves and have-nots in the city just grew wider and wider. One thing you hint at is true though -- if 1999's inequality was horrible in that city (and too many others), 2010 makes it look like paradise.

And the answer is obvious, the federal government needs to pass a second stimulus as ambitious as the one passed by China, and as ambitious as the New Deal that FDR established, but it's not going to happen until and if Obama gets re-elected or barring that a truly horrid depression that once and for all renders completely empty the rhetoric of the right.

But in times of privation and anxiety, the empty rhetoric of the right becomes only more appealing, not less. Xenophobia, class hatreds, protectionism, isolationism, scapegoating, fear-mongering -- all properties that the right has cornered. Those elements only thrive in a period of deep economic turmoil. Witness the escalating appeal of a former Alaska governor who shall remain nameless.
posted by blucevalo at 10:03 AM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, that was a fun and cheerful read, a great prequel to The Road or this gem of a New Yorker short story I just read, or, hell, the oft quoted To Serve Humans.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:42 AM on February 12, 2010


psycho-alchemy: Personally, I hope we can find something more useful and fulfilling for our population than just getting them jobs for jobs sakes.

I fear that this will come in the form of an horrific depression that.....

blucevalo: Witness the escalating appeal of a former Alaska governor who shall remain nameless.

Leads to a de facto uber patriotic fascist government....

Who decides to declare war on Iran and Lebanon and Yemen and Syria and North Korea, and limited nukes will be exchanged and we will live in an empty hollow inhuman world full of extremism and violence, genocide (Progressives and "fags" will be the first up against the wall) and disease and death....where many people will simply look for a comfortable way to end it all....

Alrighty then. Sorry to get all dark, but sometimes it's just best to articulate and imagine ones worst nightmares and bottom out as it were and begin to think of some Goddamn solutions, some actual dreams and ideas.

Do we have anymore of those left, or has Metafilter had one huge hive mind depressive breakdown?
posted by Skygazer at 1:35 PM on February 12, 2010


There are plenty of terrific dreams and ideas to go around. The problem is not with the quantity of ideas, it's with the paucity of determination of the part of those in power to implement them.
posted by blucevalo at 3:06 PM on February 12, 2010


Mass exodus of the best and brightest. That's another thing never seen in the US, so expected by almost no one. I more than half expect that 15 years from now, when my now elementary school-aged children graduate from college, the whole family will be packing up and moving somewhere in Asia where they will start their adult careers and lives and my wife and I will retire. I've never been to Asia, so I'm planning summer vacations there for the foreseeable future so we can find which countries we like and find out which ones offer the greatest opportunities. I'd like if it doesn't turn out that way, but I owe it to my family to prepare for the worst.
posted by Rafaelloello at 3:19 PM on February 12, 2010


Cheerful bunch then. Chin up.
posted by Lleyam at 2:18 AM on February 14, 2010


"just what does it take to get people to raise hell in this country, anyway?

it's too soon - but if this goes on - why should people accept their marginalization quietly?"


People don't need pitchforks and torches to express their rage any more -- they can do it from the comfort of their home, by posting snarky comments on the internet.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:51 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs
posted by homunculus at 8:39 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


homunculus -- thank you again for your excellent contribution of links. My gratitude is not lessoned by the fact that it's suggesting that what might happen is just what I most fear -- a permanent reorientation of our economy into one with a large number of permanently unemployed or underemployed people.
posted by jb at 10:03 AM on February 22, 2010


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