Unemployment, “official” or not, stinks

By - Dec 11th, 2009 09:41 am
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It feels good to be a part of the dialogue again. Engaging in the exchange of ideas, debating issues, debunking myths — these are the things I love. It’s in my DNA.

I have been out of the game for nearly a year, quietly watching, anxiously twisting inside as event after event provoked thoughts and raised my ire.

With no vehicle to get involved, I felt muzzled, grunting and groaning at the TV, radio and newspaper unable to express my frustration with the commentary offered up by either side — “The Right” or “The Left.”

unemployment officePICI once avidly lent my perspective to and, at times, advocated for critical causes that others meekly cowered from. I was always proud of my work.

Thank you to Jon Anne Willow, publisher of ThirdCoast Digest and Lisa Townsel, managing editor, for giving me my voice back. They have taken off the muzzle, loosened my leash and let the big dog off the porch! (I heard someone ask, “Who let the dog out?”)

But in all seriousness, during the ten months of my somewhat self-imposed exile a particularly sad thing has occurred in this country: unemployment has shot through the roof. All sectors are feeling the pinch: the national unemployment rate for whites has increased by 3.8 percentage points to 7.9 percent in the second quarter of this year. During that same period, black unemployment, while already at disturbing levels, rose more than 6 percent to nearly 15 percent.

I am “unofficially” in the category of the unemployed. “Unofficially” because of the weird formula used to compute the rate of unemployment in this country. You see, I haven’t really looked for a job in the way the system needs you to do in order to count you. Nor have I filed for unemployment benefits. These are two criteria used to determine the unemployment rate.

I could go on and on with statistics and data and the all-too-familiar arguments made by those on both sides of the issue. But there is an angle here that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone consider, and that is that it’s simply unconscionable to think that in the most prosperous nation in the world we can’t figure out how to use our most talented people to the fullest of their abilities.

I know some pretty smart people who are out of work — talented, well-regarded people with advanced degrees and extensive work histories. There are people of all races who make up the swollen unemployment rolls. You have to wonder why. You have to wonder just what affect this absence of the best minds in America’s workplace is having on our productivity.

In sports parlance, we have first stringers sitting on the bench while backups get the starting nod. It makes no sense to me.

Photo from passionatephoto.com

Photo from passionatephoto.com

Oh, I understand the economic reasons behind what we are seeing. But intuitively, there is something so wrong about this to me.

We could spend hours talking about who the unemployed are, but what is even scarier is who is working. Let’s be real; there are some scabs holding down some critical positions in this country. Some of these marginally qualified people are in jobs where they may have to make serious decisions that affect the lives of people in their communities.

Okay, not to alarm you; some may just be working at your local fast food restaurant, but their inability to accomplish that simple task of counting back your change could make you late for that ever-elusive, once-in-a-lifetime job interview, causing you to be told, “We’ve hired someone else.” Even more frightening is the all-too-real scenario where the least-expensive employee gets to stay and hold down not only their own duties, but those of someone more advanced who was let go for “financial reasons.” So maybe you should be alarmed.

Think about it.

Categories: Commentary

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