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At a time like this, even modest, and potentially temporary, declines in the unemployment rate deserve a round of applause.  Well, unless the decline in the unemployment rate only brings it back to where it was for the first three months of the year.  And unless the rate remains significantly higher for people who had been stranded furthest from opportunity even before the recession.  So, maybe a golf clap?

In all seriousness, the release last week of May unemployment numbers was an important moment, and simultaneously almost entirely meaningless. The fact that the overall rate returned to 9.7% provides some sign that the slight uptick in overall unemployment in April may be an anomaly, and not in fact a signal that we are entering the second downturn of a dreaded "double-dip" recession.  But, when coupled with continued evidence that communities of color continue to bear the worst of the downturn—15.5% unemployment for African Americans, 12.4% unemployment for Latinos—and, when we remember that even the overall 9.7% rate is still exceedingly high by historical standards, the good news becomes fairly thin gruel.

What is meaningful, however, is that Newsweek, a mainstream news source if ever there was one, chose to put a storyabout the dramatic differences in unemployment rates among different communities on the front page of its website, even if the story did portray the situation as a function of the downturn as opposed to a broader and longer-term trend.  Perhaps it will inspire other news sources to cover this reality, or perhaps it will remind policymakers that one-size-fits-all economic recovery strategies are insufficient to address the unique challenges of communities that faced severely limited economic opportunity even before the financial crisis.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Originally posted to The Opportunity Agenda on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 10:17 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The lowdown on Bernanke's World: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade, Pris from LA, OnlyWords

    No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, `less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it.

    by dov12348 on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 10:24:21 AM PDT

  •  the rich getting richer (5+ / 0-)

    works for them until the poor have become everybody but the 1% and have nothing left to lose or until the planet kills off humans as an unsuccessful evolutionary line.

    •  The rich HATED and still hate FDR because he (0+ / 0-)

      put the breaks on the destruction of the middle class.

      What America needs now is another FDR - hope he shows up soon.

      •  FDR saved the system for the rich (0+ / 0-)

        he made it possible for it to limp along another 75 years.   I don't want another FDR.

        •  If that were so, how come ALL Conservatives hate (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:


          •  and FDR Welcomed Their Hatred! (0+ / 0-)

            Madison Square Garden 1936

               For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

               We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

               They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

               Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.

            Hopefully, come 2012, we'll hear a similar sentiment from President Obama.

            I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party

            by OnlyWords on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 12:02:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  because (0+ / 0-)

            they are just like the conservatives today, they want all of it , not just the amount the government decrees they should have to preserve stability.   Greed.

            Plus, FDR represented the first major routine regulatory efforts in business, anti-trust was the first thrust and wasn't as successful.  But we've moved passed that, those rules have been strengthened and then gutted.   The times are different, the world is different.  FDR is a hero, not necessarily the hero for today.   This is not about mending the edges any more.   We need to approach the question is corporate hegemony, NGO's, etc. the appropriate model for governance of the majority of the world's resources.  That's today's problem.   It goes beyond what FDR faced to the same degree that the changes from the Founding Fathers to FDR changed what choices FDR would make.

            •  Well I think FDR IS still a hero for today (0+ / 0-)

              He is a model of effective leadership.

              His cousin (I believe) Teddy was also a model in standing up against corporate interests.

              If you reject FDR as a role model, you are in effect saying history is irrelevant and has no meaning in teaching us the sorts of things that ARE possible.

              •  your conclusory statement (0+ / 0-)

                is not valid, I am not saying history is irrelevant or has no meaning.  I am saying that many misinterpret the lessons of history when they apply them to a world that has radically changed since FDR's time by assuming that acting as FDR did then would work exactly the same way today.  I am also saying that there are significant changes in the world, experiences that have shaped the current situation, differences in laws, expectations, knowledge that mean that FDR may not act as predicted by those who claim that he would have acted in specific ways or passed certain legislation or even had the same legislative success if elected now rather than in 1932.

        •  what you're saying is that (0+ / 0-)

          you want a system in which nobody can be wealthy?

          People panic too much on this site.

          by thematt523 on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 12:12:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  not necessarily (0+ / 0-)

            no one can be wealthy, but one in which the wealthy end up controlling all the levers of power, that wealth amasses so that government and popular vote can no longer provide a counterweight to uninhibited corporate action.  Multi-national corporations, whose interests extend beyond any one nation's borders, who have no loyalty to government, or to any one market place have grown and expanded their power base.  There are no current tools of governments that can effectively address these issues.  Nor do I believe that national interests should trump all global issues.   I just believe the world, the balance of economics and power in the world have moved beyond our current thinking and institutional forms.   Why do conservatives decry anything that looks like international cooperation between governments to address global issues, be it climate change, labor laws, health responses, raise the specter of 'world government' threatening national sovereignty?   Because of the fear of Communists, or Muslim terrorists?   Not in my book.   Because effective international protocols enforced without regard to border would be a more effective counter to a multi-national corporation.

            I have no solutions other than to say that FDR isn't it.   He was bold enough, but not one to remake the system from the roots up.   Our 'whoever' may not be here yet because maybe we're not ready.  I get more 'zen' as a get older, when the student is ready, the master will appear.

            Obama may be a stepping stone, he has international appeal, he is someone who repeatedly points out the world is small and growing smaller.   He has many good qualities, he is in many ways an internationalist who would not shy from any number of foreign agreements to deal with multi-national problems.    They hate him for many reasons.   He may not say I welcome their hatred, but he does just keep going about business on an international level.

  •  The short answer to your question is (3+ / 0-)

    "Not a recovery."

    There is no recovery without serious job creation and we're not talking about temp census jobs or seasonal christmas sales jobs. - Time to reboot the New York State Senate

    by Andrew C White on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 10:31:51 AM PDT

    •  Sure it's a recovery (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      We all simply need to be clear that Recovery is not jobs and is not being able to afford essentials and is not the goal that will improve the public's lot. The people's agenda is not the agenda on TV or Wall St. or DC.

  •  "Recovery" refers to the economy, not the people (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Anyone who lived through both double digit inflation and double digit unemployment, simultaneously, and the recessions in the '70's and '80's learned that Recovery, or for that matter, the economy being "up" does not translate to jobs or being able to afford essentials for those without wealth.

    Recovery can trickle down, maybe, over a long period, as long as there's no inflation and jobs are not transferred overseas and the high school graduation rate increases and...

  •  History happens when you are distracted (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bee tzu, Calamity Jean, drawingporno

    by other events. The unemployment problem is an indicator of how poorly the economy is actually doing. I think we are entering a new financial crisis of which this stagnation in unemployment is only a part. There is a massive debt problem in Europe and the USA, just massive. Spain's debt is running, for example, at around $1.5 trillion - with a T - and that's about half of the European debt. The USA has a massive debt problem too, of course. So what is Europe doing? Well, it's cutting spending sharply. See the new UK budget out today, for example. That is going to plunge Europe into a severe recession, another one worse than the previous one, and we'll see real deflation, I think. But the European leaders see no choice because no one will lend money to these governments while they are running these big deficits. Gold is going up sharply. It's a good indication of financial anxiety. It's how you hold onto money.

    The US picture is complicated in a different way. The US is not cutting spending in any serious manner. Like the Walter Mathau character in "A New Leaf" - one of the funniest movies nobody's heard of - we cannot grasp the concept of "broke". We are trapped in budget hell because we do not have the political mechanisms to break out of hell. To live within our means, we would have to:

    1. Halve our defense budget (at least). That means closing foreign bases and getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
    1. Eliminate subsidies almost across the board, especially agricultural subsidies. For agriculture, go back to the loan program pre-1970's. Agricultural subsidies also allow production of low-cost hogh calorie foods that are making people sick and driving up health care costs.
    1. Alter the tax code to look more like that of the 1960's. We have to reduce income inequality to ensure that capital works more efficiently.
    1. Use reduced deficits to pay for improved energy technology, revamped infrastructure, and new health technologies to contain healthcare costs and drive up quality.

    There are a number of other reforms that are desperately needed. But just because they are needed doesn't mean we will get them. If we do not do these things, I think we are facing significant inflation as opposed to the European deflation. China is now increasing wages - doubling them in some cases - to counter unrest. So inflation is coming our way with every container load from Shanghai.

    Look for renewed economic turmoil over the next 12 months. There will be no recovery, IMO.

  •  Capitalism requires Capital (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bee tzu, drawingporno, Deep Texan

    There is none to be had, because speculation is better than investment.

    The system is broken.

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

    improvements in gross domestic product (the statistical measure for whether we're in a recession or not) ALWAYS precede improvements in job growth.

    Yes, this economy is taking its good sweet time. Yes, unemployment is too high. Yes, some sectors have it even worse. Yes, it could be qualified as "fragile".

    But would you have it be the other way? A declining GDP? What would be the prospects of job growth under THAT scenario?

    We're not in a depression. We're not even in a recession. We're in a SLOOOOOW recovery. You can't just redefine the terms because you don't like the story they tell.

    Frankly, I think the unemployment metric is FUBAR, because it doesn't capture folks like me at all. I have been self-employed for 5 years, so don't qualify for unemployment compensation, don't count as a job hunter, or a job loser, or even as "employed".  

    My business took a pretty big hit last year, and is now slowly (and I mean SLOOOOWLY) recovering. Not where I was three years ago, but it's getting better.

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it -- GB Shaw

    by kmiddle on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 11:47:10 AM PDT

  •  Short Answer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    good times for Goldman Sachs

    Lets hope that the FCIC is gonna hog-tie these mo-fos:

    The Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission is pretty pissed at Goldman Sachs. Actually, make that really  pissed. "We’re not going to let the American people be played for chumps here," said co-chair Phil Angelides.

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party

    by OnlyWords on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 11:50:15 AM PDT

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