I came across an article this weekend that caught my eye. Despite all the happy talk about the improving economy, the sense that we never recovered from the 2008 crash has always been with me, and with many readers of this blog as well. This feeling was not only reflected in my own experience, but also by some of the more truthful stories and posts about the effects of long-term unemployment, and the changing of the job market to a much more part-time/no-benefits model.
Per the linked article, it seems that these feelings have a basis in reality.
The number of long-term unemployed in the world’s major economies has increased by 85% since the financial crash, according to the latest employment monitor by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD).
More than 16 million people have been out of work for at least a year in the first quarter of 2014, up from 8.7 million before the crisis, or more than one in three of all unemployed across the OECD‘s 34 member countries, the report said.
The Paris-based forum gave a stark warning to countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, which recorded the biggest increases in unemployment after the 2008 crash. It said there is growing evidence that part of what was originally a cyclical increase in unemployment has become structural and “will thus be more difficult to reverse during the economic recovery”.
It said: “Therefore, tackling unemployment where it remains high and driving down long-term unemployment remain key policy priorities.”
Paul Krugman warned that this would happen. Does he ever get tired of being completely right, and having no one pay attention? From an April 21, 2013 NY Times post entitled “The Jobless Trap:”
… Five years after the crisis, unemployment remains elevated, with almost 12 million Americans out of work. But what’s really striking is the huge number of long-term unemployed, with 4.6 million unemployed more than six months and more than three million who have been jobless for a year or more. Oh, and these numbers don’t count those who have given up looking for work because there are no jobs to be found.
It goes without saying that the explosion of long-term unemployment is a tragedy for the unemployed themselves. But it may also be a broader economic disaster.
The Krug’s bleeding liberal heart feels for the long-term unemployed, and he writes from their perspective. The article in the Guardian takes a wider view, and focuses more on how the members of the EOCD should fix the structural issue of long-term unemployment from a policy perspective. To me, the recommendations are a little confusing.
The main message from the report is that governments need to work harder to equip workers with the skills needed to cope with a fast-changing economic landscape.
Um, huh? I like the idea of investing in job training, but I remember hearing this trope from both GWB and Obama and not buying it then. How difficult is it to learn to say “Welcome to Wal-Mart, how may I help you?”
Good Thursday, Widdershins. It’s been a sad week. as yet another American journalist met an untimely and rather grisly end at the hand of extremists. Phil, the Southern caricature patriarch of Duck Dynasty recommends the capture of ISIS extremists and offering them the choice of forced conversion vs. execution. I stand in awe that this college graduate fails to see the historic antecedents of this exceedingly flawed statement. Or maybe he does and he is tossing it out as red meat to his audience base. However, his timing is perfect, as Crackpots of all stripes are coming out of the woodwork and campaigning night and day for the forthcoming election. Even if Phil is not running, he is bidding for a seat at the table.
Oh, and there are a lot of them To be certain, none quite as pungent as candidates fielded by the Repubs last midterms. There was the Crackpot who decried all pensions while living on them (Sharon Angle), and the gentleman who pontificates that a woman;s body could shut down unwanted pregnancies (Aiken), or the memorable Crackpot who filmed a teevee commercial to advise us all that she is not a witch (O’Donnell). The current crop is somewhat more vanilla, and we may require some help to ferret out the true crackpots from the merely underinformed.
Science has more than its fair share of crackpots, dating back to the time of Copernicus. Some of the crackpots turned out to be correct, but a vast number were proven to be wrong. Some of the differences are major, some just a matter of degree. To that end, John Baez (yes, Joan’s cousin) has proposed a Crackpot Index, to be used to review scientific papers. Here’s an overview:
1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.
5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.
10 points for each new term you invent and use without properly defining it.
20 points for talking about how great your theory is, but never actually explaining it.
40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.
50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.
Ergo, the higher the score, the more likely the subject is to be considered a duly qualified Crackpot. So, I got to thinking that this would be a great test for political candidates, as we have always had an embarrassment of incipient Crackpots in the political arena. Anyone else remember that Nixon ran for president and likely won because he claimed to have a secret plan to win the Vietnam War? (1+5+20+50=76) Then there was Spiro Agnew, who called anyone who did not agree with him silly names, with alliteration. e,g, “nattering nabobs of negativity” (H/T to Pat Buchanan and William Safire), “pusillanimous pussyfooters” and “hopeless hysterical hypochondriacs of history”. Nope, no Nazi references, but I vote that it qualifies and award 10+40 points, minimum. Dubya and Cheyney were masters. They would rack up at least ten separate 1-pointers on WMD presence, any number of neologisms, e.g. “truthiness”, were coined, and those who argued against them were “unpatriotic”, and the Iraqi resistance was “a few dead- enders.” Again, we must be a little bit flexible. By me we should consider any repetitive epithet as a qualifier, as opposed a stricter adherence to Godwin’s Law. Therefore, “unpatriotic” and “Nattering nabobs” are both easy 40-pointers. If we take the time to do it, these gentlemen will all likely rack up triple digits. See how easy this is? If we can review these folks before we elect them, we can save ourselves a lot of grief.
John Baez recommends donning a tinfoil hat as protection when the index begins to inch up. Of course, he designed this for scientists to self-administer in order to test their latest theory. I’m not so certain that many politicians would be this honest, so we shall have to do this for them. There are two short months until elections, so keep this handy and pick up an extra-large roll of Reynolds wrap. We’ve had a few beauts already, such as the candidate who is absolutely certain that Al Qaeda is crossing the Rio Grande, and another who exhorted a busload of kids from the local Y to go back to Mexico. I can hardly wait for the rest.
Feel free to propose the candidate of your choice at any time, and we’ll administer the CI. Seriously, this may be the most important midterm of our lives, and we need to be really committed to a good election. In fact, I will challenge all to see whose candidate attains the highest CI score. That lucky Widdershin will then win one solid week of choosing the topics for our posts. Let the games begin.
This is an open thread.
It’s back to the comfort of routine after Labor Day. I hope the long weekend was a good one for all of the Widdershin world.
While I’ll leave the college football prognostication and updates to Chat and Fredster, there is a new Bluegrass Poll out about the Kentucky Senate race. Given that Mitch McTurtle has been the primary roadblock to meaningful Congressional legislation and judicial appointments, I thought an update might be in order.
The results are still essentially a dead heat between McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes when you consider the margin of error of the poll. As the preferences stand now, McConnell has a small four point lead over Lundergan Grimes with eight percent of voters remaining undecided.
While this is a sobering alignment for Alison, there is still little for Mitch to celebrate. If this were grade school, Mitch would be trying to figure out how to get rid of a major case of the cooties. His popularity remains significantly underwater with no prospect for growing a functioning set of gills.
Mitch suffers from a healthy case of unfavorability. His unfavorable rating is 46% with just 36% of respondents holding a favorable opinion of him. For a thirty-year incumbent to have such a robust case of the “no-like-him” is problematic, but Mitch is a world-class artist when it comes to painting his opponents as even more unlikable than he is.
In this election, Mitch is tarring and feathering Alison as the alter ego of President Obama whose favorability in Kentucky can be found in the bottom compartment of Davy Jones’ locker. Obama’s unfavorable rating is 57% with just 29% favorable. This primarily revolves around the “War on Coal” — an imaginary concoction existing in the heads of non-reality thinkers or better said, “those who prefer living in a non-fact based existence“.
On a myriad of issues, control of the Senate, coal, foreign policy, the economy, and immigration, Alison trails Mitch. The only issue where Alison buries Mitch is with women where Alison enjoys a 52% to 31% lead over Mitch. My question is: Who are the 31% of women who could possibly believe otherwise?
The other positive for Alison is the popularity of the Big Dawg. Bill Clinton enjoys 53% favorability among voters. I expect to see him several times this fall particularly in western Kentucky where Mitch has gained since the last polling due to his extended bus tour through the region. Few people realize just how diverse the voters are in a state spread out over almost 800 miles tip-to-tip.
There are a couple of imponderables looming out there in the political ether that might affect the race and are not accounted for in this latest poll. The first is McConnell’s little Father’s Day jaunt out to the Dana Point, California St. Regis, where a night will run you from $395 to $1,155, in order to hobnob with the Brothers Koch and their well-heeled friends. McConnell was caught on tape bemoaning humdrum votes on such pedestrian issues as the minimum wage, unemployment, and making student loans more affordable. I expect the greatest hits from that tape will be etched in the brains of every Kentucky television viewer before election day.
One thing that has been overlooked on the St. Regis/McConnell story: How did the tape ever see the light of day? The St. Regis is not exactly a Motel 6 and after Romney’s self-delusional 47% speech was caught on tape, you can bet the Brothers Koch vetted the bartenders and wait staff.
My theory is this: The Brothers Koch don’t like McConnell — never have. He’s too “establishment” and still believes the government should function at some level. In the delusional self-grandeur only a billionaire can ooze, wouldn’t it be a kick in the shell to McTurtle if the Kochs believe they can win the Senate without McConnell’s seat and want him ousted as Majority Leader? The light of day for the secret taping becomes a little clearer under that scenario.
The other issue perhaps affecting the Kentucky Senate race is the abrupt resignation last Friday evening of Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager. A little pedigree update is in order.
Jesse Benton is the grandson-in-law of Ron Paul. He ran Ron Paul’s Presidential primary efforts in Iowa in 2012. An Iowa state senator and supporter of Michele Bachmann was indicted and has pleaded guilty for taking a $73,000 bribe to switch campaigns. The state senator says Jesse Benton was fully apprised of the transaction. (Here’s a query: In terms of good judgment, who pays $73K for a Bachmann supporter?)
Benton’s hiring by McConnell was little more than an ambulatory peace pipe offering to the Paul family and the Tea Guzzlers. As far as actually shepherding the campaign, long-time McConnell loyalists are and have always been at the helm. The question is: Can McConnell be infected with the taint of an Iowa indictment for these 2012 primary shenanigans?
One thing is clear though, McConnell might be immune, but you can be sure Rand Paul will be a carrier of the Iowa indictment bug. Iowans won’t soon forget this little tawdry episode and if they do, there will be plenty of ever helpful Republican candidates to remind them of it.
There’s your Senate update, so what’s on your mind today — take the conversation wherever you like since this is an open thread.
Per chat’s post over the weekend, we can celebrate many things today – the grand idea that is Union; the strides the union leaders made for American workers, which we now take for granted; a day off, for those of us still toiling in the corporate fields; the return of college football; or for me, a variation on the word. After several hours of labor last week, my sister-in-law successfully produced…a beautiful baby boy. I am now an aunt! (Apologies, but I won’t be sharing names or photos on social media per my brother’s request. Trust me, he is the cutest baby ever – and I am, of course, completely objective. :-) )
So sit back, enjoy your day off, and discuss whatever you’d like…and enjoy this amazing video of Leontyne Price singing both the alto “He shall feed his flock” and “Come unto Him, all ye that Labor” from Handel’s Messiah. You. Go. Girl!
This is an open thread.
We’ve somehow managed to make it to the weekend. Not only is it Labor Day weekend, but also it’s the official kickoff of the college football season. Yessir, the Dark Times have ended.
At any rate, work is a cherished American value. From the earliest days of Jamestown, “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” has woven itself into the thread of American life. In fact, our work ethic is so renown that we take less vacation time than any other developed nation, and our productivity is off the charts. Maybe, just maybe, this weekend will make Americans remember that most of the good things that our workers enjoy, such as vacations, sick time, worker’s compensation, etc., came to be because of unions. The decline of American unions correlates directly toward wage and benefit stagnation.
Whether we are to celebrate labor or decry our jobs, let this be a good and safe weekend for all. And for those of us that dearly love football, settle down. It’s gonna be great.
This is an open thread.
(1) The Is Power In A Union – Billy Bragg
(2) 40 Hour Week – Alabama
(3) Allentown – Billy Joel
(4) Working In The Coal Mine – Lee Dorsey
(5) Take This Job and Shove It – Johnny Paycheck
(6) We Are Coming to Your City (College Game Day Version) – Big and Rich
Good Thursday, Widdershins. We have once again had ourselves quite a week here, and continue to hold out hope for better times ahead. I certainly hope that we feel increasingly patient while we wait for said better times. In the meantime, there are a number of things that have happened that make Fonzie’s shark jump look rather commonplace by comparison.
We’ve spent much of the past week discussing Michael Brown, the hypermilitarization of local police forces, and the need to heal the divides separating class and color. Mr. Brown has finally been laid to rest, SOD Chuck Hagel is considering an end to the DOD program which has so effectively armed the local gendarmes, and Sen. McCaskill states that she will ask for Senate hearings on the problem when – her words, not mine – Congress returns in September from their “work period at home”. Please feel free to take a moment or two should you need to compose yourself.
I have been amazed, indeed somewhat discomforted, to discover that Sen. Rand Paul shares some of our feelings, He commented that the US has recently funded significant arms and equipment specifically for anti-terrorist use in Fargo, N,D. Paul rightly comments that, should the terrorists make it to Fargo, we can assume that it’s pretty well over. A chat with some self-identified Libertarians friends enforces the notion that Libertarians as a group are unhappy with aggressive policing of any fashion. They are also unhappy with the concept of gun control, assuming that the government wants us all to be helpless when the black helicopters arrive to attack our citizens. In a way, especially after last week, I can see their logic. However, that’s the very logic that validates law enforcement’s concept that everyone they encounter is armed to the teeth and ready to shoot. The Far (Far, Far) Right seems okay with aggressive policing (as far as engaging “them” or any one else not a member of the FFR goes), and is fine with the whole concept of locked and loaded citizens. In fact, the FFR has now decided that Liberals hate the Bill of Rights.
Frank Donatelli wrote an amazing screed for Real Clear Politics in which he accused Liberals, Barack Obama, and Nancy Pelosi of attempting to gut each and every one of the first ten amendments instead of the usual more limited assault om the Second, Ninth, and Tenth. Of course the degredation of the First is based on the Hobby Lobby and Citizens United decisions that will forever enshrine this particular court in the Judicial Hall of Shame, but rather than the usual victory laps, Mr. Donatelli is still shrieking like a ruptured water buffalo that grave harm almost befell the land. Read it and weep, smile, or a combination of both. He admits that “they” still regard privacy. He did not address quartering, search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, or the right to a speedy trial. I hereby submit that we awful folk still hold any number of rights closely, as evidenced by this Politico post written by Lee Rowland, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. The salient difference is that liberals believe that the umbrella of rights belong to all.
In the interim, we have heard of yet another police shooting, or perhaps if one is blessed with an active imagination, not. Seems that back in March in New Iberia, La. a young man named Victor White III was arrested, frisked, placed in handcuffs and transported in the back seat of a police car for further questioning. He reportedly declined to exit the vehicle, so the officer went inside for some assistance. Upon return to the cruiser, the victim was found dead of a gunshot wound to the chest, which the local coroner has declared to be self-inflicted. The police state that they did pat him down, and no weapon was found. Somehow, some way. this young man found a .25 caliber handgun and mystifyingly shot himself in the chest with his hands cuffed behind his back, while magaging to lacerate the left side of his face as well, and all in the relatively brief period of time that it took for the officer to go inside and obtain help to remove Victor from the vehicle. The coroner insists that Victor’s habitus, plus the testimony of the officer, makes the death a clear case of suicide. Go figure. Disbelief, consider yourself to be indefinitely suspended. We’ll get back to you later.
Finally, the last and only amusing contender for the shark jump. is the ice bucket challenge. The challenge itelf is a wonderful thing, and has raised beaucoup bucks for a worthy cause. The shark was jumped when collegiate mascots were included. The University of Connecticut’s husky called out the University of Georgia’a bulldog. Challenges are being considered for Texas A&M’s collie, University of Tennessee’s blue tick hound, and LSU’s tiger. Anybody up for giving a bucketful to Ralphie or Bevo?
This is an open thread. Since football is back on, I’d better get busy cleaning behind my sofa. I spend a fair share of time there during my Georgia games, sucking my thumb for comfort while the Cardiac Kids plod downfield.