Never believe what people tell you they want. Yesterday’s No Fixed Abode was widely reviled as being inside-baseball journalist-drama time-wasting — yet it did more traffic on Day One than any supercar review I’ve done on TTAC has ever seen. In that article, I mention my time as a fast-food worker, leading “VoGo”, one of our more prolific commenters, to write the above.
I don’t require that anybody agree with me, ever — which is why I value VoGo despite his steadfast opposition to the vast majority of what I write. When I read the comment above, however, I realized that Mr. VoGo and I inhabit very different worlds.
The claim that we have “full employment” in this country is a common refrain among those who venerate President Obama and his anointed successor/opponent, Hillary Clinton. I suppose that it is possible that the United States has “full employment” according to some bullshit semantic manipulation, the same way that “lifetime warranties” in the state of Ohio are often limited to seven years, but if you think that this country is fully employed then you are smoking your breakfast. Either that, or you live somewhere within the United States that is, in fact, experiencing a full-employment situation. That’s a willful sort of blindness, equivalent to my believing that there’s no crime in America because there’s no crime in Powell, Ohio, but it’s at least based on honest observation.
Looking for more information on the “full employment” wonderland in which Obama’s America finds itself, I came upon a few articles, the most comprehensive being this one at Bloomberg. I’ll excerpt the relevant part:
The government counts as unemployed people who don’t have a job, have “actively looked” for one in the previous four weeks, and are available for work. A wider measure of people needing work would count other potential job-seekers as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1.8 million people were “marginally attached to the labor force” at the end of 2015 — meaning they wanted a job and had looked for one in the previous 12 months, but not in the past four weeks. This included 663,000 “discouraged workers” who had stopped looking because they thought there were no openings. The number of marginally attached had swelled partly because the recession was so deep and long; it’s likely to shrink as the recovery continues. Other kinds of disguised unemployment may be temporarily high as well.
John Williams provides a different view at ShadowStats, where he estimates that about twenty-five percent of adult workers are unemployed. He describes his methodology in detail on the site. I have no idea whether it’s correct or not, but it’s worth reading just to see how the government’s statistics manage to “forget” people who have been out of work for more than a year.
Long-term readers of this site may recall that I spent a couple of years a while back playing guitar for a rural church outside of Bellefontaine, Ohio. I can say with confidence that the ShadowStats pessimistic view is well-supported by the employment situation in the area — and remember, this is one of the few places in the Midwest with a robust manufacturing presence, courtesy of Honda. Presumably this is balanced out by places like Seattle, which serves as an alimentary tract for Chinese garbage being dumped in the American market and therefore enjoys a robust economy at the expense of all the places where workers are displaced by Chinese products.
Let’s say that the true unemployment figure is somewhere between Mr. Obama’s five percent and Mr. William’s twenty-five percent. Surely nobody is going to claim that the “employment” in question offers anybody outside Palo Alto or Manhattan much upward mobility or even economic stability. On my way to Shenandoah this past weekend, I stopped at Subway and wound up chatting a bit with the woman who was working the store entirely by herself. She was a Black woman in her thirties and she told me how she worked 12 hours a day Mon-Thurs before working four shifts over three days at Subway.
“When do you have time for yourself?” I asked. She thought about it for a minute and said,
“I definitely get to take a breather most Sunday afternoons.” Her overall situation, then, is slightly worse than that of a factory-town economic slave of the early twentieth century, because at least that fellow could look forward to a whole Sunday off in the cause of attending church and perhaps sleeping in the pew. This woman is fully employed, and no doubt she is considered to be an Obama success story — but she works nearly seventy hours a week for under ten dollars an hour.
The American society ignores the silent armies of the unemployed and McJobbed at its peril. The excitement stirred up by Messrs. Trump and Sanders is indicative of this. Both of those men are fundamentally working within the Establishment, whether you like them or not. A genuine demagogue could do much, much worse with this country’s simmering resentment. But hey — as long as the idiots at Twitter cash out big from their Salesforce acquisition, who really cares about the little people. Am I right?