Friday, October 25, 2013

Just Who Is The Five O'Clock Hero? (Not The Political & Professional Classes: They Still HAVE Jobs)

"Hello, darlin', I'm home again
                        Covered in shit and aches and pains

Too knackered to think, so give me time to come round
                                                                   Just gimme the living room beat to the TV sound"

("Just Who Is The Five O'Clock Hero?")

In our previous post ("Going Underground: Five Signs That We're Marching Backwards In Time"), we cited five essential statistics that document the continual unraveling of America's social fabric.

Now comes another sign that America's unwillingness to put a stake through its never-ending voodoo economic experiment isn't paying off -- in this case, via the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' unemployment summary for September, which showed the economy adding a mere 148,000 jobs.

And what did we learn about the "official" unemployment rate? At 7.2 percent, it's largely unchanged.

Number of long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more)? At 4.1 million, largely unchanged. Labor force participation rate? At 63.2 percent, largely unchanged.

Number of people forced to work part-time, for purely economic reasons? At 7.9 million, largely unchanged

If this sounds like your definition of need to have your head examined. For the rest of the story, go here:

"My hard earned dough goes in bills and the larder
                            And that Prince Philip tells us we gotta work harder
It seems a constant struggle just to exist
Scrimping and saving and crossing of lists"

When I saw the bureau's release, I immediately thought of this slow-burning lament to the common man, if you like, written by Paul Weller in tribute to the "real heroes" of Britain -- "the ordinary geezer or girl...who works 9 till 5 keeping the country going by working in [a] food shop or clothes factory..." (Mike Nicholls: About The Young Idea: The Story Of The Jam 1972-1982, p. 102).

Mind you, the common man has proven all too easy to lionize in contemporary pop culture -- as numerous second- and third-division street punk bands have shown -- but the lyrics quoted throughout this post ring all too true today. In just two minutes and 15 seconds, Weller lays bare the dilemma that all too many of us are now experiencing, of "scrimping and saving, and crossing off lists."

Originally imported from Holland, the song reached #8 on the UK charts in the summer of 1982, and became a standby of the band's subsequent "Trans-Global Unity Express" tour. It's heartening to hear that Weller has recently begun performing the song again on his own, albeit at a slower-burning pace than the original tempo.

The mood and lyrics remind me of an equally timely observation from University of Michigan economist Sheldon Danziger: 
"Many Americans continue to think that a rising tide lifts all boats. But the bad news is that given the way economic growth trickles down now, the number of poor and disadvantaged will remain high unless we do more to help those in need." 

Perhaps he was thinking about the number of Americans living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's own dismal figures for September: at 46.5 million, largely unchanged.

"From this window I've seen the whole world pass
                  From dawn to dusk I've heard the last laugh laughed
I've seen enough tears to wash away this street
I've heard wedding bells chime and a funeral march"

Now that the U.S. government shutdown finally ran its course -- after 16 slash 'n' burning days -- what's even more striking is the utter lack of ideas on display.

Republicans remain firmly wedded to their supply-side gospel, which is repeated as devoutly as the rosary; most of their Democratic peers cling to an equally moth-eaten mantra of "rising-tides-lift-all-boats"...even though the yacht, figuratively speaking, has long pulled out of the harbor (and left everyone else to drown in the resulting wake).

Before the shutdown flared up, 34 percent of participants in a CBS/New York Times poll identified jobs and the economy as "the most important problem facing the country today". By contrast, just 8 percent mentioned health care, and 6 percent, the deficit -- the two issues that defined President Obama's latest steel-cage encounter with his equally clueless antagonists. Can we say disconnect, anyone?

"When as one life finishes another one starts
             Alright then, love, so I'll be off now
                         It's back to the lunch box and worker-management rows
There's gotta be more to this old life then this
Scrimping and saving and crossing of lists"

As the above poll suggests, the people below have already figured out what the decision-makers above seem unwilling to grasp. Yes, the deficit is a major problem, but if you haven't worked in awhile, or can't get past part-time or temp status, you're unlikely to break out the confetti, if Congress cooks up a "grand bargain" that's proven elusive (at best) and wishful thinking (at worst).

An entire generation is being lost, written off and consigned to the margins of oblivion, while the political class diddles and fiddles, dithers and slithers, fritters and twitters, stumbles and fumbles, all too accustomed to the contours of tailored "power" suits, lifetime benefits and never-ending perks and privileges. Recall how they kept their own paychecks going during the shutdown, while the statisticians responsible for tracking the social train wrecks that they let loose were sitting idle at home. The irony needs no elaboration.

And so it goes, on and on and on and on and on, without a hint of change in the air...but if we don't take it upon ourselves to put pressure on those who need it most, we all know how this particular movie will end. --
The Reckoner

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