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Eminently factual commentary by UMass Amherst Economics Professor Nancy Folbre (who's quickly becoming one of my favorite pundits on our economy), from Monday's NY Times' Economix blog (SEE: "The Plight of Generation Un"), and Ezra Klein, over at the WaPo Voices' blog on Wednesday (SEE: "The hollowing of the middle in one graph"), virtually eviscerates most of the "positive economic outlook" double-speak we're hearing from inside the Beltway these days.  

The truth is that the cacaphony of American economic propaganda increases while the distance between economic fact on Main Street versus Wall Street and Beltway fiction widens by the day.

Even Austan Goolsbee, the chief economist for the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board and the chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, knows that the nation's U.3 unemployment rate is actually a full percent or two higher than what he's spinning to the MSM every month. Then again, the Gallup Organization provides us with similar inconvenient truths on an ongoing basis, as well.

We hear talk of a "positive" economic outlook for our economy, but the truth is it's not our economy they're talking about. It's their economy; once you do a deeper dive and realize the government's numbers--and even our nation's G.D.P., itself--are myopically focused upon record corporate profits, and the "positive economic outlook" for the upper 10%-20% of our society during an ongoing, jobless recovery for the remaining 80%-90% of us.

Meanwhile, 10% of our population owns virtually all but a sliver of the marketable securities in this country while the housing market, which accounts for the single largest investment--by far and away--of the U.S. middle class, is still in a full-blown downward trajectory which has already surpassed the metrics of the Great Depression.

As Presidential advisor Elizabeth Warren noted in December 2009, it's the destruction of the U.S. middle class, and it's closer than you think.

But, that was in December 2009. It's 14 months later, and as noted in a couple of MSM blog posts over the past 72+ hours, the truth is that (for many) things are getting worse.

IMHO, when you combine the latest commentary from Klein and Folbre you end up with a front row seat to the absurdity of the pretzel logic propaganda that's being crammed down Main Street's throat as we blog.

Klein points out "the continuation--and perhaps the acceleration--of a multi-decade trend..."

The hollowing of the middle in one graph
By Ezra Klein
Posted at 3:17 PM ET, 02/16/2011
Washington Post Voices Blog

Gallup has new data out measuring the change in unemployment over the last year for workers with different levels of education. What you'll notice in the graph is that the number of jobs created has nothing to do with the number of jobs lost. Rather, it has to do with where the jobs were lost. Low-skill and high-skills jobs are coming back. The jobs in the middle aren't:

BAR GRAPH: The Hollowing of the Middle

Klein tells us this isn't exactly new information. It's a continuation of a "multi-decade trend" detailed by MIT economist David Autor in his recent paper (PDF):

The structure of job opportunities in the United States has sharply polarized over the past two decades, with expanding job opportunities in both high-skill, high-wage occupations and low-skill, low-wage occupations, coupled with contracting opportunities in middle-wage, middle-skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Concretely, employment and earnings are rising in both high education professional, technical, and managerial occupations and, since the late 1980s, in low-education food service, personal care, and protective service occupations. Conversely, job opportunities are declining in both middle-skill, white-collar clerical, administrative, and sales occupations and in middle-skill, blue-collar production, craft, and operative occupations.

As Klein notes: "Economies don't generally do well without a middle."

But, it's Professor Folbre's highly-annotated piece from Monday's Times which truly slams the door on the propaganda: "The Plight of Generation Un."

The Plight of Generation Un
New York Times
February 14, 2011

Nancy Folbre is an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Neither lofty rhetoric surrounding a new “ competitiveness agenda]” nor bipartisan invocations of the importance of public investments in human capital can conceal the emerging reality.

Apart from the American Opportunity Tax Credit and modest increases in financial aid, public policy is not doing much to help young people from moderate- and low-income families who can’t find a job or afford the education they need to improve their chances of finding one.

When last reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in August, unemployment among those aged 16 to 24 was about 19 percent – unchanged from the previous year. Partly as a result, community college enrollments, already on an upward trend, have grown in the last two years. However, state budgets, already groaning under fiscal pressure, have been unable to provide additional support.

As a result, tuition and fees are increasing at community colleges, as well as at major universities, part of an intensifying trend toward privatization of higher education that I describe in more detail in “Saving State U.

Folbre points out that, in many instances after students scrape up the funds to enroll in their local community colleges, they can't even get the classes they need. And, as states cut their budgets in coming months and years, this is only expected to get worse. She quotes the Wall Street Journal (see link earlier in this paragraph), which mentions the reality that local community colleges in California may have to turn away 350,000 students this year.

In Texas, she notes, "the state legislature is proposing to close four colleges and slash state-subsidized health benefits for all community college employees."

Another inconvenient truth noted by Folbre is that, with stricter welfare rules being implemented in states across the country in coming months, it's a virtually proven fact that lower college enrollment levels will be forced among that portion of the population that needs education and training most.  The economics professor also provides quantitative analysis from no less than the National Bureau of Economic Research to support this truth.

Closing out her column on the Economix blog on Monday, Folbre cites BusinessWeek to underscore the severity of the situation confronting our "lost generation."

...Maybe we should dub them Generation Un, in recognition of those unable to find a job, unable to pay for college and unable to find the opportunities they need to help generate sustainable economic growth for the rest of us.

We Democrats like to talk about how 30 years of Reaganomics has driven our economy into a ditch; meanwhile, we ignore the mile-long, 12-foot wide pothole in the middle of our road to November 2012.

Originally posted to on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 02:46 AM PST.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos and Jobs Wages and Community Investment Working Group.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Good Diary (19+ / 0-)

      I wish more people understood economics and had the sense to recognize the path we are on is self destructive.

      Practice tolerance, kindness and charity.

      by LWelsch on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 05:12:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You needn't understand (22+ / 0-)

        economics to know the path is destructive. All you really need is to be one of the "throw-aways" getting shafted.

        •  "Middle Class" Was a Myth (13+ / 0-)

          There have always been three classes in our society: Wealthy, Working Class, and Poor.

          The "middle class" myth is designed to divide the lower classes who would otherwise band together to get their fair share. If you work for a living, you are working class.

          This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

          by Mr X on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 09:45:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  We Can Change That (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Justina, Joieau

            We don't have to accept the divide and conquer game plan of the plutocrats - we can change it, by working together.

            •  Nothing to it, eh? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              alizard, esquimaux, Wom Bat
              we can change it, by working together
              If the lower classes are working together, you have effectively already changed it. Unless things get much worse, you stand a better chance of herding cats.

              This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

              by Mr X on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 10:56:20 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah. All we need to do is (0+ / 0-)

              get rid of the R & D parties. That's what it would take. Long as these corrupt bastards run everything, we're not getting anywhere ... ever.

              So far President Obama's big accomplishment is proving that support for either party is neither Hope-inducing nor Change-producing.

              by Wom Bat on Fri Feb 18, 2011 at 06:21:47 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Middle class is actually (7+ / 0-)

            made up of professionals who organized early on to protect their trades with certification and educational requirements only their professional associations could provide.  The skills they have they then protected by government rules requiring use of their services (lawyers, doctors, accountants) and outlawing practice of these skills by others (practicing medicine without a license, for example).  This allowed professionals to raise their rates, and become the occupations everyone else wanted to be like.  Craft and industrial unions were an attempt to "professionalize" other industries, sometimes with great success.  The key is associations which educate and certify their skills, and laws that require these certifications and educations to practice.  The assault on unions, and on professions, by the Republicans is of course an assault on the "middle class" because they--unions and professions--are one and the same in kind.  The targetting of unions and the buyout of professionals by setting up alternative conservative certification and education programs so that ideology would trump self interest for long enough to dismantle things so much they could not be restored, was the explicit aim announced in the Powell memo. Defense of the "middle class" and real economic opportunity starts with defending professions (like teachers and lawyers), unions and in providing proper education based on merit, not ability to pay.  The so called opportunity society Republicans say they want to build is opportunity only for the rich to restore a form of feudalism based on a new inherited nobility of wealth.

            When you lie down with Blue Dogs, you wake up with Teaparty fleas

            by monkeybrainpolitics on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 01:03:44 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  The Unbelievable Stupidity of Obama & Dems (6+ / 0-)

          Look, I understand the supposed need to lie about the economy to trick people into voting for you.  I get it.

          But what I don't understand is why Obama is cutting the budget in the middle of a depression.  If Obama believed that the Stimulis Program, also know as increased government spending, would improve the economy, then he also must believe the opposite is true.  Decreasing government spending will hurt the economy.  

          The problem with the original stimulis program was that it was too small.  There was not enough goverment spending to get the economy completely turned around.  It did help, but it didn't do enough.

          The obvious remedy for too little stimulis is more spending, not less.  So why is Obama taking actions that he knows will hurt the economy?  Does he actually think that meeting the GOP halfway on the path to ruin will help him in 2012?    

          When we go into a double-dip recession, people will not be thinking about all the times Obama tried to meet the GOP halfway.  Instead, they will rightly blame Obama for the worsening situation.   Not only will cutting the budget hurt the economy, but it will also hurt Obama and the Dems in the next election.  

          Sadly, I see little reason for hope.  Instead of hope, I see a shittier economy and a GOP landslide in 2012.  Much like the GOP landslide last year, it's preventable.  But corporate whoring and selling out on democratic principles isn't going to get it done.      

          •  and he didn't create a federal jobs program (9+ / 0-)

            like WPA or CCC. Instead we got trickle down.

            New improved bipartisanship! Now comes in a convenient suppository!!! -unbozo

            by Unbozo on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 11:09:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  He's levied a hiring and pay freeze (4+ / 0-)

              on government employees, too.  That basically means that there will be attrition; and that government services will be negatively affected by the inability to keep or replace talent that is required to run the government.  So, as the head of government he's added the extra layer of now having to explain why services are not being performed at a high and efficient level.  

              On so many levels, the Obama Administration has put themselves behind the eight ball.

          •  A few thoughts (6+ / 0-)

            One is that there is actually a case for lying about the economy because it builds confidence and if there is no confidence the whole house of cards falls.  I am not of this school, by the way.  My inclination is to acknowledge the problems and fix them, but fixing them will require taxing the rich, cutting military spending drastically, investing in infrastructure and rethinking "free" trade agreements.  This would require acknowledging that the entire neoliberal movement has failed the people of the US.  Obama is neoliberal and he would have to admit that his entire economic philosophy is wrong.

            Second, I am not sure the stimulus was too small, but there were too many tax cuts in it.

            Third (and related to 1), I am forced to conclude that Obama is an economic lightweight.  The alternative is that he knows that the country will be screwed but Wall Street will do OK and he will be rewarded after he leaves office.

            I'm truly sorry Man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union--Robert Burns

            by Eric Blair on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 11:15:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You can take the POTUS out of UChicago (4+ / 0-)

              You can't take the UChicago out of the POTUS, however.  I like your post in general, and I love your "economic lightweight" thesis.  I suspect that there are others in his WH who are looking forward to cashing in, but he's not that venal.

              Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

              by RFK Lives on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 12:11:46 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  personally, I think that (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RFK Lives, Wom Bat, Lucy2009

                Bill Clinton is going to go pale with awe when he finds out in 2013 what Obama's post-Presidential payoffs are going to look like.

                The Clintons have to borrow rides on private jets. I expect the Obama Foundation to wind up owning or getting someone else to pay for a long-term lease on at least one.

                Peak Oil is NOW! Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

                by alizard on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 01:55:29 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I am not sure about that. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  There will be benefits for him, for sure, but I think that if he loses in 2012, he's likely to be treated like poison the way Jimmy Carter was after he lost to Reagan.

                  •  I am sure (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    inclusiveheart, Lucy2009

                    If Obama doesn't get his payoff, what happens to the next billionaire who goes to a head of state anywhere in the world where political payoffs are done after retirement with a proposition both know is bad for the country?

                    The super-rich owe Obama a lot more than they owed Clinton. Quite a lot more, actually, in large part, Obama's going to cash in on the situation Clinton and Bush largely set up.

                    Peak Oil is NOW! Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

                    by alizard on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 07:06:50 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The super-rich owe a lot of people (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      including you and me, but that doesn't mean that they'll ever pay their debt.  Trusting that crowd to make good on a future promise is as stupid as thinking that being soft on the stimulus would make it easier to get your healthcare bill passed into law.

                      See Senator Dodd - big time friend to Wall Street - now he's retiring - what's he maybe going to do?  He's going to go work for MPAA - yes that is a plumb job in Washington - but guess what?  Not Wall Street!  Not a partner position at Goldman Sachs!  Not even the same industry that he served so dutifully.  Why is that?  Because he was a chump, imo.  He was never going to be an insider and I think that it is more than possible that Obama would find himself in a similarly unappreciated position post-Presidency - especially if he only survives one term.

                      •  Dodd may not be as dumb as you think (0+ / 0-)

                        There are other ways to collect a payoff than a good job after retirement. For instance, an unending stream of "insider" investment tips that always work. IIRC, Hillary Clinton's plays in the commodity futures markets some years ago were an example of that.

                        Dodd and his owners may have decided that this kind of payoff is a lot more discreet than turning him into a GS partner.

                        The model for the Obama Presidency appears to be Clinton's, and IMHO, this includes the post-Presidential phase.

                        Peak Oil is NOW! Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

                        by alizard on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 10:45:39 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

              •  I'd say (0+ / 0-)
                Third (and related to 1), I am forced to conclude that Obama is an economic lightweight.  The alternative is that he knows that the country will be screwed but Wall Street will do OK and he will be rewarded after he leaves office.

                your alternative is the closer choice. After two years' watching these guys, I have no more passes for them. God help our country.

                So far President Obama's big accomplishment is proving that support for either party is neither Hope-inducing nor Change-producing.

                by Wom Bat on Fri Feb 18, 2011 at 06:34:46 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Obama is budget-cutting (0+ / 0-)
            But what I don't understand is why Obama is cutting the budget in the middle of a depression.
            in a depression because the people who have profited by causing this depression paid to put Obama in office. Because he now wants them to pay for reelecting him, he's doing what they want him to do.

            What the little people want or need, that gets presidential lip service only--like Win The Future and other silly slogans yet to be rolled out.

            By now nobody (even here, I hope) still thinks Summers & Geithner and all those Rubin punks (like Orszag) got in Obama's WH by accident. Do they?

            So far President Obama's big accomplishment is proving that support for either party is neither Hope-inducing nor Change-producing.

            by Wom Bat on Fri Feb 18, 2011 at 06:31:49 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I wish that some in West Wing understood (23+ / 0-)

        economics like this.  Our SecTreas, instead, is enamored w/ more financial engineering:

        I asked Geithner if he had a grand vision for the postcrisis landscape—for, say, a less bloated financial sector with a smaller role in the economy—and a map for how to get there. Could he be a figure like George Marshall, who helped win the World War and then remade Europe so that it couldn’t happen again?

        Geithner hunched his shoulders, pressed his knees together, and lifted his heels up off the ground—an almost childlike expression of glee. “We’re going, like, existential,” he said. He told me he subscribes to the view that the world is on the cusp of a major “financial deepening”: As developing economies in the most populous countries mature, they will demand more and increasingly sophisticated financial services, the same way they demand cars for their growing middle classes and information technology for their corporations. If that’s true, then we should want U.S. banks positioned to compete abroad.

        “I don’t have any enthusiasm for … trying to shrink the relative importance of the financial system in our economy as a test of reform, because we have to think about the fact that we operate in the broader world,” he said. “It’s the same thing for Microsoft or anything else. We want U.S. firms to benefit from that.” He continued: “Now financial firms are different because of the risk, but you can contain that through regulation.” This was the purpose of the recent financial reform, he said. In effect, Geithner was arguing that we should be as comfortable linking the fate of our economy to Wall Street as to automakers or  Silicon Valley

        After 3 years (and counting) of economic disaster caused by excessive financial engineering, our SecTreas is looking forward to more of it in the future.  I guess his superior did campaign on a CHANGE platform in 2008.  I had other changes in mind then, but what do I know?

        Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

        by RFK Lives on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 08:31:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  well done Bob (30+ / 0-)

      anyone who is optimistic is either very rich, or simply not keeping up on what is happening.

      Things are going from bad to worse.

      Our states and municpalities are broke, so layoffs, furloughs are coming in hard. No hiring will come from govt at any level and GOVT is the biggest employer BY FAR in this nation.  - IMagine if GOvt was a company, now imagine this company employed ( 8-10%) of all jobs in this country.  Now imagine this company is in trouble, laying off people etc.  Then there is the trickle theory, many private companies rely on local and state contracts, which have all but dried up. This is a HUGE headwind for an american recovery.

      Next we have energy problems.  Hell Shell oil, the world second largest oil company just basically said, peak oil is here. We are screwed, what do you think is gonna happen to energy and food prices from here on out?  How is 4 buck gas this summer gonna fuel a recovery?  answer it wont.  Truth be told, huge gas prices are almost always a bellweather of a coming recession. Which leads to inflation.

       Inflation in product prices is here, problem is, it really isnt your fathers inflation, because unlike old inflation in which wages increased in order to keep pace with cost, here only the very rich are seeing wage increases.  The rest of us are just going to see a loss of standard of living and worse. Meanwhile food prices and energy prices are skyrocketing and will not be coming back down.

      Next up, we have complete idiots running the congress. There is no other way to put this. Congress is always corrupt, imcompetent etc, but with this current crop of Republicans in control, its being taken to a whole new level.  Its like watching a monkey drive a car, the only question remaining, is how much damage is gonna be done.

      Next up, wall street, nothing has been fixed, nadda fucking thing.  I know its hard for americans to keep a focus on any subject for more than 2 minutes and 22 seconds, but thing is, the crooks are still running the show, and noone is being held accountable.  

      next. Large american companies dont really exist anymore.  They are large multi national corps, and being so with a full 50% o their revenue coming from overseas, continues to care less and less about the american worker and consumer.

      next, healthcare is still out of control.  For ten years or more now, any truthful business owner will tell you, healthcare cost are their biggest concern, not freakin taxes.  Taxes may shift a percentage here and there, but they are nominal.  Healthcare cost however go up every year by up to 10 to 20%.  Hiring is scary because of this very reason.

      next up, jobs,  show me the good jobs coming back?  show me the industry that is going to employ millions of high school educated americans paying a fair wage with benes?  Only 28% of americans have college diplomas, so what are the 72% suppose to do in the 21st century?

      Then we have federal debt problem, and the problem with debt with almost all the nations of the world.  This simple cannot continue. There is limits and we are coming up against them.  This shit just doesnt go away.  It will end as these crisis always do, world war.  Witht he weapons now at the worlds disposal, how many people you think will be killed?  Its not a question of if, but rather where and when.

      and of course we have our climate.  Look at what is happening to this world. In the past, huans remained mobile enough to pick up and move when mother earth made some changes, Now,  how are we going to move the vast population of humans that live of coast?

      and these are only some of the things happening right now..

      Problem is, this is all happening now,  not in 2050. The shit is hitting the fan, so I really really dont get, why anyone would be optimistic about our future.

       Of course people will just dismiss reality by attacking the messenger, doom and gloom and all.  As if I get some great pleasure from this.   But hell Im sure some people tossed the lifejacket back at the cabin boy on the titanic, calling him a doom and gloomer, after all, its just a little bit of water.

      Bad is never good until worse happens

      by dark daze on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 07:41:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I can't wait till the 2% own everything. Then will (4+ / 0-)

      come the great payback.

    •  Ageism on Daily Kos (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Since about 2007, I've harped on the exact issues the wonderful NYTimes writer just elucidated.

      I am a student. I've written about that experience. I've written about job loss and unemployment... and I was treated very kindly by Daily Kos' white-collar, red-carpet security detail who told me that, you know, some of us just don't work hard enough.

      On a progressive website, no less.

      We're just not qualified.

      Sorry, there's age warfare here, and it's because a lot of older people resent the young. They do.

      The generational double standard is astronomical, farcical.

      The same generation that benefited from the most intensive government investment in education and welfare gutted it for us.

      Sorry to all the ageist schmucks out there for not boasting a wonderful Ph.D by now, so as to express concepts in lovely, conventional form. I spent half a decade unable to even pursue a Bachelor's; now that I'm finally able to take on about 40 grand for one degree, I'm running a bit behind.

      •  This is ridiculous (3+ / 0-)

        I don't know anyone my age that resents young people.  Most of us have children and grandchildren that are your age and we love them and their friends.  I am 58 years old with no college degree and I have worked hard all my adult life.  This economy caused my husband and I to lose almost everything we had, including a business and our home.  He is disabled and can't work anymore, so we are living in a little tiny rental house and I am lucky to have a job making $15.00/hour to support us.  I would love nothing better than to retire and leave this job open to someone younger.  It doesn't require a college degree.  Unfortunately the system doesn't work that way, but that's not my fault.

        I guess my point is this:  Stop feeling sorry for yourself and whining, and generalizing about a bunch of people you don't even know.  It just makes you sound like a child.

        Lunch is over & I have to get back to work, since I am lucky to have a job.

        •  Way to make it all about YOU (0+ / 0-)
          I guess my point is this:  Stop feeling sorry for yourself and whining, and generalizing about a bunch of people you don't even know.  It just makes you sound like a child.
        •  Seriously? That's the best you can do? (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not whining and feeling sorry for myself.

          I'm feeling sorry for a generation.

          Did you not read the fucking article linked in the first paragraph.

          I have a job. I have an education.

          Think about the young people whose lives are put on hold.

          But resort to the actual childish tactics of belittling the younger person, actually writing, "It just makes you sound like a child."

          "Lunch is over & I have to get back to work, since I am lucky to have a job."

          You're full of shit.

  •  This is the key. (44+ / 0-)
    We hear talk of a "positive" economic outlook for our economy, but the truth is it's not our economy they're talking about. It's their economy; once you do a deeper dive and realize the government's numbers--and even our nation's G.D.P., itself--are myopically focused upon record corporate profits, and the "positive economic outlook" for the upper 10%-20% of our society during an ongoing, jobless recovery for the remaining 80%-90% of us.

    There is a machine at the top of our society that is designed to use our political and economic institutions -- elections and markets -- to relentlessly concentrate wealth.  There are individuals who participate in operating this machine but I'm not sure that if you removed them, they wouldn't be replaced; the machine itself produces replacement parts.

    It's unsustainable from our perspective but entirely self-sustaining from theirs.   The only way out is to break the machine.

    Who is John Connor?

  •  The mantra we should all be reciting (46+ / 0-)

    We make all the sacrifices and get none of the gains.

    The richest get all the gains and make none of the sacrifices.

    Repeat until clue sets in.

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 04:17:19 AM PST

  •  This is a great diary. I'm at the bottom, (65+ / 0-)


    I'v worked in hotels and restaurants and retail
    all my working life,
    about 35 of my 55 years.

    18 years in retail,
    15 for OfficeMax,
    and 3 for Walmart,
    the big boy of retail,
    the big boy of business.

    By the way,
    those of us at the bottom,
    but with at least a few years experience,
    we are not actually low skill.

    We are paid as such,
    below $10 per hour,
    and less than 40 hours a week,
    but we are not low skill.

    For example,
    unloading a truck at Walmart,
    on the general merchandise side,
    requires the truck unloaders to sort the freight
    into about 35 different categories,
    stacking the items on 27 different pallets,
    and 8 different carts.

    Then, sorting breakpacks involves
    taking little tiny items,
    all mixed in large boxes,
    and sorting them into boxes,
    into about 27 categories.

    Then take everything out to the proper departments.

    Then, using a handheld computer,
    pull items out of the bins
    that the computer says will go out to the floor,
    and stack those items on carts,
    and roll them out.

    It is physically very hard work,
    and it is hard brain work.

    I's simply not true that brain work is the work of the white collar workers
    the higher paid workers.

    The truck unloaders at Walmart do brain work,
    and hard work,
    and get paid less than $10 per hour.

    I don't know what this does to the overall economy.

    But the idea that brain work is only done by those with college degrees,
    is simply false.

  •  Many Kossacks are optimistic (23+ / 0-)

    about the economy according to the poll on the front page.  I was surprised to see such a large percentage given the unemployment rate and all the austerity madness, especially since the government doesn't seem concerned about jobs or what effect their draconian measures will have on real people.

  •  The demographics of this website (14+ / 0-)

    The results don't surprise me at all.

    From the facts that I have seen, this community doesn't even come close to mirroring the diverse make up of this country as a whole.  Minorities are definitely not represented at the same level.   I believe a majority of the members are educated, professional, and male.  Progressives certainly have more empathy for those who are less fortunate than them but that doesn't mean there isn't a bit of rose-colored glasses gazing going on.  Sometimes it is hard for people to acknowledge something when they really aren't forced to face it firsthand.

    I'd rather die than give you control ~ Trent Reznor

    by JustJennifer on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 04:56:37 AM PST

  •  I'm inside the beltway (14+ / 0-)

    I'm a federal attorney.  

    My pay is frozen.  I have $90,000 in student loans.  My rent will increase 50% on May 1.  My health insurance has gone up.  I've spent $500 on health care so far this year with what looks to be much more to come.  And I live in a one bedroom apartment with little hope of ever owning a home of my own.

    Fuck you Obama.  Fuck you.

  •  In 2004 it became clear to (28+ / 0-)

    me that there was a plan and it involved the destruction of the middle class.  Not particularly insightful, I know.  

    What was remarkably insightful was the observation by my poli sci professor 20 some years ago that "They" are going after the middle class.  I laughed.  Who would want to destroy the middle class.  Who would be that stupid.

    Question answered.  Multiple times by many people.  Sickening.

    •  PS. Bobswern, I always enjoy your (12+ / 0-)

      diaries.  Keep up the good work.

    •  "They"--and an historical failure. (13+ / 0-)
      “One needs not erase history. One needs only fail to teach one generation of children. Fail with two, and the destruction widens.”

      (C. J. Cherryh in Hammerfall)

      For much of the nation's history the "barons" ruled and by 1930 the misrule led to disaster again. Many people lived in a "Hooverville". Some "lived" in cardboard and scrap shelters along railways in order to find scraps of fallen coal for heat. The misery became so great at a time of ferment the nation sat on a knife edge: follow into Fascism as was the trend in Western Europe or Communism as in Eastern Europe. A guy named Roosevelt got us on a middle way.

      "They" opposed bitterly. "They" had a Supreme Court in their court. "They" blocked, harassed, dragged feet and then came rumblings of a war. "They" gave gala receptions to Nazi officials. "They," even when war came to us, sometimes still resisted. There is a famous photo of one of "them" being carried out of his executive office in his executive chair by armed Army soldiers because he refused to conform to wartime emergency directives on resources and price controls. "They" lost. "They" never stopped the guerrilla war against the reforms  of the New Deal. "They" included the family names of two Presidents we've had with the "Bush" name and many of the parents of others in the resurgence of the robber barons. The reason Reagan became their "saint" and a reason there is undue celebration of his name today is that he was their first real victory in retaking the land.

      Back to the top. A notable part of that retaking was that many a young voter fell for the message that all that federal regulation, those limits on "Capitalism" and "free market" and "worker's rights" was just silly. The parents, those not of "They," had taught a lot. They had failed with one and then two generations to teach the gut level justice of the core of the New Deal--that the government of the people, for  the people and by the people justly stood between people and undue greed and exploitaton.

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 06:10:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  At some point (16+ / 0-)

    one would think, this "hollowing" of the middle class that has occured and continues unabated would drive the people to protest.
    Voting, letter writing etc. to our politicians has not influenced change.

    Same shit different day for the middle class.
    I had a conversation the other day with an acquaintance and the topic of protesting came up. He said when the middle class cannot get enough food to eat, on top of all the other items they are acccustomed to, you may very well see them marching in the streets.

    I wonder though, what it is going to take to awake us from our slumber. Will there be a tipping point where all bets are off the table?

    "The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism." Sir William Osler

    by wxorknot on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 05:11:54 AM PST

  •  good diary..... (10+ / 0-)
    Then again, the Gallup Organization provides us with similar inconvenient truths on an ongoing basis, as well.

    Seems as though MSM, pollsters, pundits and our WH Administration base every news item these days on inconvenient truths or propaganda if one prefers.

    Tipped and rec'd for this :

    ''meanwhile, we ignore the mile-long, 12-foot wide pothole in the middle of our road to November 2012.''

    We have been bought and sold, and we just don't realize yet. So many are out there thinking ''that won't happen to me....'' If our government continues the destruction of the working and middle class it will be many more sitting where I am now, jobless since 2007.

  •  The end of of meritocracy. (19+ / 0-)

    At least we'll know our incompetent doctors and lawyers and school teachers come from "good families", even if they've got not one bit of the talent and intelligence of the poor kid who would have gotten their job were the playing field at all level.

    Everyone knows that only witches stand up for accused witches!!

    by JesseCW on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 05:31:31 AM PST

    •  One thousand (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alizard, bablhous, Noor B

      rec'ds for the truth!  You rock JesseCW.

    •  You have identified ANOTHER characteristic (9+ / 0-)

      of the "less developed nation" status into which we are headed. A lock on certain professions, particularly law related, is common. Those at the bottom find every path to justice, every simple thing as low as proper documents, has to pass through the filter of "their betters" and all the family members they have sprinkled through the system.

      The path of the TP/gop is absolutely leading us toward that reality instead of the nation the founders envisioned. Their ideology is much more akin to the Tories, the junior "Lords" and "Ladies" and appointed officials of Crown privilege that the Colonials did not much like. It is truly ironic they paint themselves as associated with those rebelling against that very system.

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 06:25:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Politically there is only on tactic left (11+ / 0-)

    Personal consumption is not really recovering and not likely to as corporations "control costs", that is keep lowering wages and salaries.

    Government spending is decreasing everywhere, not increasing because of state balanced budget amendments, tax freezes, and the President's mistaken concern with a deficit aggravated by unemployment.

    The President, in his State of the Union speech, essentially staked his policy on export increases unwinding balance-of-trade deficits.  That's what innovation, education, infrastructure, and reform was about.  But even here, the GOP is going to make sure that the US remains a non-exporting nation.

    That leaves only one lever for the people to pull -- business investment.  Incentives have not worked.  Tax cuts were failed from the start.  What's left is political direct action against Wall Street and the media.   "You got the tax cuts.  Where are the jobs?"  Shake loose that $2 trillion to Main Street job-creating investment instead of another paper bubble or parking cash in getting interest from the national debt.

    Absent any action, we spiral down the same drain we've been looking at for four years.  Or is that 30.  Or 41.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 05:36:22 AM PST

  •  Just before (18+ / 0-)

    the great crash of 2008, if you remember, the tech bubble crashed in what 1999 and that also was a jobless recovery.  Many individuals with computer science degrees were tossed out on the streets overnight (in the 1980's and early 1990's most jobs in the computer field demanded a computer science degree).  

    In 1999, Greenspan began cutting interest rates to stimulate the ecomony and pretended to stimulate the economy to create jobs, didn't happen.  Many people were going back to get second degrees or second Masters, I remember that time well.  Increment by increment we have been crawling slowly to the bottom while obtaining more and more personal debt trying to get ahead (I could just scream).  

    I kinda disagree with Klein since there were many middle people who did have college degrees and post-graduate degrees in fields that were drying up due to cuts in social programs, outsourcing, etc.,  (my neighbor's human resource job was outsourced to India, and she is now a receptionist with a college degree working for a boss with an equal education to hers, but she is now back to being a subordinate).    

    This has been a steady decline for the last thirty years, first we couldn't get a better job or better salary unless we had a college education.  As soon people became upward mobile including the poor through education and demanding better salaries is when we started seeing people with less education hired in a newly "defined" position to fill the job with someone not quite as qualified as an educated licensed individual.  Hell, I had a family member by marriage working for Countrywide, with no college degree, making three time more than I was with a Master's and a state license which held me to a higher standard of perform and morality than any senator has been held to in the last thirty years.  Geez.

    But, not to worry Bobswern did you see the great plan our politicians have come up with in Missouri?:

    In a move that is raising plenty of eyebrows, Missouri state Senator Jane Cunningham has proposed a bill that would "modify" child labor laws, eliminating the prohibition on employment of children under 14.

    Now that should fix our unemployment problem and create more jobs for the younger generation, right?  And now I'm going to go scream because I'm living in a insane asylum.

    As always thank you, Bobswern!

  •  This economic situation is not an accident (12+ / 0-)

    it is the result of purposeful legislation, deregulation and the complicity of both major political parties in policies that;

    1) destroy domestic manufacturing,

    2) encourage the destruction of labor unions,

    3) allow tax havens and special tax treatment for corporations that relocate both manufacturing and administrative units overseas,

    4) reward egregious financial risk taking,

    5) supports obscene corporate/personal concentration of wealth and power.

    How do Americans react? They react by bouncing like ping pong balls between political party candidates, as if both Parties  have interchangeable ideologies and bases for policy. How do the Partys' react? Why  both continue to pander to the monied interests that fund their campaigns with no concern for the young, poor, old, people of color, women, workers, public employee or anyone else seen as low turnout- working class voters.

    When was the last time you heard Obama talk about anyone but the "middle class". This is code for white exurban middle aged voters, people too ashamed to identify themselves with the Tea Party, who were Republicans before "W" sullied the brand. They are the "Center-Right Independents" that the President is courting to get re-elected now, because he's lost the new voters he brought out in 2008. He's in for a big surprise, they are not going to vote for him, he abandoned them by not fixing the economy and focusing on a Healthcare Bill that doesn't affect them that much, he's barking up the wrong tree. Assuming that the left will vote in support of his failed policies because they have nowhere else to go, doesn't recognize the fact that in 2010, voters stayed home in record numbers, do you think it will be any different in 2012...

    If this President wins in 2012, it will be because of blundering clowns nominated by the Republicans, not because of his popular support. This will be a close race that may be driven from below, as Democrats show up to vote for down ticket candidates that they feel strongly about and incidentally also vote for Obama. If this economy doesn't improve and by that  I  mean significant job growth, Obama's re-election will be a miracle.  

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 06:50:41 AM PST

    •  It is also not new... (4+ / 0-)

      What we are now seeing are the neoliberal economic policies being applied on the home turf. These things have been going on for centuries in the developing countries and resulted in a massive transfer of wealth to the developed countries.

      In fact, this transfer of wealth (which had escalated since the end of WWII) is what has created the large, relatively (by world standards) wealthy  middle class in the rich nations in the first place.

      What is different is that the companies have become giant multinationals and have ceased to fly any flag. The tax structures combined with lack of effective regulations have allowed these companies to operate above any constraints. They have effectively become sovereign entities unto themselves and untouchable.

      We are going to see a massive transfer of public wealth into private hands in the coming years - just as has occurred in the third world countries for decades. The current popular uprisings around the world are a taste of what is in store for America. These uprisings are fueled by economic disparity and will not end with the sop of 'democracy'.

  •  Housing bubble replaced by stimulus bubble (7+ / 0-)

    The fundamental problem is income disparity. The economy was kept afloat in the naughties (2000s) with a massive housing bubble. The money for this came from wealth buying mortgage backed securities. It went to builders, folks who took equity out of their homes, brokers, mortgage originators, retirees downgrading, and derivative re-packagers. Credit card debt was another example of narrow wealth investing in broad based debt. The effect of all of this was to infuse cash into the economy to keep it humming. But this is critically flawed as it required massive increases in debt every year to keep this up.  Just as an aside, imagine if the broad base were paid a fair wage and could have avoided debt  based spending.

    Now we are augmenting the decreased cash flow from these debt instruments with government stimulus, essentially creating more debt. It's the same thing except that future tax payers are assuming the debt. This will not work unless it's accompanied with fundamental restructuring of the economy to eliminate income and wealth disparity. We are also going to have to provide debt relief for the bottom 90%, to undo the damage done over the last 30 years. I'm not going to hold my breath that this happens. The more likely outcome for our economy is a Japanese style moribund economy for decades.

  •  Depressing diary Bobswern (8+ / 0-)

    but thanks anyway.  I have a daughter caught up in the generation "un" with a degree, a pile of student loans to pay off, and no job in sight that passes for a self sustaining job.  I have had well meaning relatives ask why does she not go into teaching; have they not read newspapers or watched as teacher layoffs are an epidemic across the country?  The disconnect between perception and reality is really pretty scary.

  •  MSM is a surprisingly good source of information (4+ / 0-)

    At face value, of course, their claims are total garbage.  However, it's possible to squeeze out the truth by pondering why our oligarchs would want you to believe the lies they distribute in the newspapers and on TV.  The media are telling us that we're facing unprecedented economic harship, with high unemployment and permanently lower wages--if this is what they want us to believe, then the truth of the matter must be horrific indeed.

    We didn't win the Cold War. We lost it to the same corporate oligarchs that Russia did.

    by verdastelo on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 07:05:49 AM PST

    •  even at Bloomberg (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alizard, bigjacbigjacbigjac

      here you wouldn't necessarily expect it.

      Here's a columnist in today's edition, questioning just how, exactly, will the Fed know when it's time to adjust interest rates vs. possible inflation from all that loose money--given that their track record in past hasn't been so stellar.

      I know nothing about this writer, but what caught my eye is that she's questioning the Fed and sounding a whole lot like some of the folks here. And I'm pretty sure she has regular employment.

      It is only by not paying one's bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes. -- Oscar Wilde

      by Mnemosyne on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 10:22:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Education & training really don't matter (17+ / 0-)

    when there aren't any jobs to be found in the field for which one has trained and worked an entire lifetime.

    The job fields exist -- just not in this country.

    And still, nothing is being done about the startling number of people over 50 who are out of work and don't qualify for any benefits. We are too young for Social Security and too old to be hired. We're just hanging out here, because nobody seems to want us and our experience, because it comes with higher medical bills and bigger salaries than those of a younger person.

    Everyone is going to get old -- unless you die too soon, like my father did -- so if this is going to remain a decent society to live in, something needs to be done about all the older people who can't find jobs.

    And don't tell us to retrain. Most of us have retrained two or three times in our lives already, and it didn't make any difference. We have spent our retirement savings on retraining, and we are just as unemployed. I want to know who is going to be hiring that 60-ish woman President Obama recently touted as an example of retraining. Some enterprising reporter should follow her for a few years and see just where she ends up.

    I wonder if the young people in this country who have been screwed out of their futures could ever get up enough collective anger like there is in other countries now to change the status quo before they end up like so many in my generation -- too old to get a job but way too young to retire.

    "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

    by Brooke In Seattle on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 07:26:19 AM PST

    •  problem with young people (9+ / 0-)

      problem with young people, and we all know this since it wasnt long ago we were among them, is its all about hormones and getting laid.  They are to busy worrying about how they are gonna get screwed, to realize they are already being screwed daily by this society.

      Problem is, we have hindsight and perspective , they dont.  They dont realize that living in moms basement, with heat, water, food a plenty, cable tv, cool computer and games is as good as its ever going to get for them.

      They have already peaked in life, it will just take then 30 years to figure it out.

      Bad is never good until worse happens

      by dark daze on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 08:15:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OLinda, alizard, esquimaux, dark daze

      with you Brooke, I feel like I've been seriously stressed out for the last forty years.  Another problem that will have to be faced down the road is who is going to be able to help their family members.  Many of us in our fifties have parents that are elderly, children who don't have a future, and we ourselves have uncertain futures and shaky financial security.  This will eventually wind up being a very difficult time for families I'm afraid.  

  •  At some point we have to recognize that neither (9+ / 0-)

    party stands for the People.

    Both sides are made up of Rich People looking out for Rich People and the rest of us are just here to clean up after their yacht parties.

    We will have some truly progressive legislation only after we either have a Revolution, ala the middle East, or have an Article V Convention.

    I prefer the Article V Convention.

    Much more civilized and besides its expressly written into the Constitution.

  •  it's a design feature (5+ / 0-)

    from neoliberalism to neofeudalism. don't be shocked. it's a doctrine.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 08:48:18 AM PST

  •  I can't think of a break people are getting (3+ / 0-)

    for anything. Prices for ALL necessities and for most modest comforts rise while we're told inflation is low, even practically nonexistent. Good jobs keep NOT appearing, while the ones which still exist are being threatened by the war against unions and domestic producers, while we're told the jobs picture is improving.

    Many saw that email yesterday from OFA, I think it was, touting the President's economic policy. I wrote back asking if they were on dope, and got a cheery auto reply asking me to help them out.

    Does anyone remember Pres. Ford's "Whip Inflation Now!" weak tea campaign. Doesn't "Win the Future" have the same feel?

    I can see how the Democratic Leadership expects to win in 2012, because after all any Republican candidate mentioned so far seems like a sure loser. But to give the voters a choice between Double-Pneumonia and Ebola... What the fuck are they thinking in the White House?

    Until we break the corporate virtual monopoly on what we hear and see, we keep losing, don't matter what we do.

    by Jim P on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 09:23:24 AM PST

  •  Genuine question (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Blair, Sychotic1, bobswern

    I can't discern from this diary what the diarist's policy recommendations are to set the economy back on the right track.

    I see this:

    help young people from moderate- and low-income families who can’t find a job or afford the education they need to improve their chances of finding one

    which sounds great. But I gather from the description of the depth and intractability of the problem that more funding for education isn't the only solution the diarist would advocate.

    What should the Obama administration be doing now that they aren't now?

    My number one would be go back and insist on repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy. What else?

    Our cause: a More Perfect Union

    by Roby NJ on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 09:32:44 AM PST

    •  huge stimulus (5+ / 0-)

      we need huge stimulus and HUGE job programs.  We should have a trillion dollar infrastructure program, where anyone able to do a days labor can get a job at a decnt wage, all the while we rebuild our infrastructure.

      Our pipes, roads, bridges are all falling apart, we have millions of able body people looking to work,  not hard to do the math.  YET......

      we are instead following HOoverism, and cutting spending at the exact time we should be spending like there is no tomorrow, because in fact, there may be no tomorrow. ( for many families and homes)

      Bad is never good until worse happens

      by dark daze on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 09:45:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A lengthy list... (6+ / 0-)

      --A transaction tax on the securities industry
      --Cutting subsidies to the wealthy, in general
      --Taxation of hedge fund industry employees/managers at the same rate as the rest of our society; not based upon capital gains formulas
      --Heftier fines upon the financial services industry--not the wristslaps that affront Main Street (even now)
      --Elimination of the financial support of Wall Street by the taxpaying public, in general (this is well over $100 bln per year, right now, and that's just for the stealthier bailouts)
      --Higher corporate taxation and penalties for offshoring of cash, personnel (the myth that companies will move out of the U.S. if they're faced with marginally higher levels of taxation than they are now is exactly that)
      ...I could go on, into cutting the defense budget, and a myriad of other topics...and, in fact, I have done so in previous diaries...but, the reality is that when banks like Bank of America and Citigroup are more readily backstopped by U.S. taxpayers than our states (i.e.: Illinois, California, New York, New Jersey), it all begs the questions of much more deeply-rooted issues, doesn't it?

      "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

      by bobswern on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 09:54:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bigjacbigjacbigjac, bobswern

        These are largely revenue-side policy changes. On the spending side, you mention defense budget cuts.

        This can either be directed at deficit reduction / debt payment, or to redirect cash flows into stimulative investment (i.e. infrastructure, direct state aid).

        Is it fair to infer you're calling for Obama administration to take a stand for more stimulative spending, to be paid for by revenue enhancement from corporations and wealthy?

        I apologize for coming so late to your ongoing contributions. I teach business communication and the issue is how are moral positions translated into effective policy advocacy. So I'm genuinely curious what policy ideas accompany your assessment of our situation.

        Thanks again.

        Our cause: a More Perfect Union

        by Roby NJ on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 10:09:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Tarrifs, Stimulus, Transactional Tax (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Stimulus, repeal the tax cuts, stimulus...

      "If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."- J. Danforth Quayle

      by Sychotic1 on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 11:34:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Between (3+ / 0-)

    kids, outsourcing and automation, this is probably going to be an extremely long, jobless recovery.

    "Raise your hand if you think Social Security and Medicare are Socialism."-Lawerence O'Donnell

    by AZphilosopher on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 09:49:03 AM PST

  •  Sounds like we are devolving back (0+ / 0-)

    To the feudal set up, where there are servants and masters, with no one in between, and no way to get ahead if you are born into the lower classes.

    So much for meritocracy, innovation and progress.

  •  So In the End, Not Only is Ralph (0+ / 0-)

    Nader correct: "We have a one corporate party system", John Edwards is also correct: "We have two Americas". (yeah, I know Edwards is a prick, but the point has merit).

    so... tell me again what's going to motivate people to vote for Obama in 2012??

    "I don't feel the change yet". Velma Hart

    by Superpole on Sat Feb 19, 2011 at 06:06:09 AM PST

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