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While it is a deeply-held American belief that we’re all in this together, there has long been a truism that when the economy gets a cold, the poor get pneumonia. It’s a glib way of noting that any downturn in the economy has a disparate impact on those least prepared to handle it.

On February 20, 2010, the New York Times published an article on the "new poor," millions of Americans struggling with long-term unemployment. As the Times notes, changes in the economy have stripped away some of the jobs that traditionally offered a path to the middle class for those with less education. "Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce." … "Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks."

These stark facts support the argument that our economic recovery must be carefully crafted to ensure an equitable recovery for all. Although American social safety nets over the past two decades have been designed with an eye toward self-sufficiency, it’s clear that underlying principle doesn’t apply in current economic circumstances. The Times article quotes Timothy M. Smeeding, the director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, "We have a work-based safety net without any work."

Mr. Smeeding notes that the expected recovery is not anticipated to be quite as robust for some sectors of American society. "People with more education and skills will probably figure something out once the economy picks up. It’s the ones with less education and skills: that’s the new poor." However, rather than accept a lessening of opportunity for those who have already experienced disadvantages, we must craft a recovery that, indeed, lifts all boats with the rising tide.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Originally posted to The Opportunity Agenda on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 09:06 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  72% (7+ / 0-)

      72% of Americans have a high school education or less.

      It’s the ones with less education and skills: that’s the new poor

      The Poor is quickly becoming the new majority.

      Welcome to Mexico, US style.  The rich live in gated secluded communities, they rest ( the vast majority) scramble for scraps.

      (regarding the bank mess) They want to cure the patient but not deal with the disease.

      by dark daze on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 09:16:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  most jobs don't require a college degree (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tmo, mataliandy, PsychoSavannah

        the problem is that those jobs have no dignity because of low pay and lack of healthcare.

        I would like to make sure that those who want to pursue college grad type careers have the opportunity to do so, but if someone doesn't want that, they should be able to earn a living - and have food, decent shelter, and healthcare - doing one of the millions of jobs that we need to have a functioning country.

        Ultimately it probably means fewer toys for the upper middle classes but more freedom all around as you can really choose what you want to do in life.

        •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

          but as you mentioned, when there isnt a enough jobs to go around, you have the problem of supply and demand.  We supply far outweighs demand, you get low prices.  Same thing with salaries.  If I have 100 people lined up for a 10 buck an hour job, screw it some may say and say, hell I'll pay 8 bucks an hour and still get 20 -30 people lined up for it.

          (regarding the bank mess) They want to cure the patient but not deal with the disease.

          by dark daze on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 12:48:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Hmmmm.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tmo

        ..definitely a thought-provoking comment about the comparison Mexico.

        Donk: Poker term referring to someone who pretends to be talented, smart and good at life. Syn.: Poser, faker, wannabe, loser.

        by DonkSlayer on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 09:39:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  this is america (0+ / 0-)

          But in Illinois, we've deferred our problems until it's almost too late. Like in Downstate Alexander County, for instance, where all the squad cars were recently repossessed, and 75 percent of the sheriff's department was laid off. Imagine.

          (regarding the bank mess) They want to cure the patient but not deal with the disease.

          by dark daze on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 12:49:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Mark Warner/Technical Education (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PsychoSavannah, GrumpyOldGeek

    One of Senator (then gov) Mark Warner's big intiatives in Virginia was technical education in the high schools. I was a BIG proponent of this because I know a lot of tradesman who struggle mightily to find good competent help, both at the laborer and foreman level.

    But expanding on that, there are a lot of things one can learn without going through a college program, that also wouldn't be thought of traditionally as a "trade"; I think computer programming and healthcare are two such areas where sufficient and focused training would suffice.

    Donk: Poker term referring to someone who pretends to be talented, smart and good at life. Syn.: Poser, faker, wannabe, loser.

    by DonkSlayer on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 09:42:19 AM PST

  •  Nepotism class vs. Application class (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mataliandy, PsychoSavannah

    Edwards' concept of Two Americas exists in the existence of a nepotism class vs. an application class.  The children of well-connected families get their jobs by means of nepotism.  The rest of the population has to go through application processes designed to exclude people.  The media has justified nepotism by fusing it with "networking" and in the true manner of blaming the poor, persons who don;t get a job are accused of not engaging in networking, or not knowing how to network.  Unfortunately nepotism is rife even in liberal circles.  Another problem is that public policy jobs fall into that class of jobs filled by nepotism, so that the people formulating policy often never had to apply for and obtain jobs on their own.  This is one of the reason I have so much mistrust of "policy expertise."

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