The Opposite Of Labor

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Memo to the economy: IT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE STUPID, STUPID.

Since it's Labor Day, I thought I'd spend some time talking about unemployment. Because electorally speaking, we're headed toward a ridiculous nightmare scenario in two months, and unemployment is the reason why.

Because you can talk about GDP and the stock market all you want, but in the minds of the people casting the votes in November, economic recovery means just one thing. Job. Do they have one, can they get one, are they about to lose one, and does the one they can get manage to pay enough for them to survive. And on all fronts, that picture is as bleak as it was nine months ago.

And not to go all Atrios on you, but that dude is right. That picture is as bleak as fuck specifically because the powers that be have been propping up the banks and the stock market, while any initiative that might hire people to do things meets epic-level resistance from Republicans and Blue Dogs and Beltway wonks who think that the government paying people to build things is a travesty, while the government paying people to blow things up is the coolest thing ever.

If there is a Democrat bloodbath when November rolls around, pin 60% of the blame on the fact that Obama has done too little, too late on the jobs front. And pin the other 40% on everyone, from the administration to the media, trying to spin the unemployment statistics so that they sound good, or sound like progress is being made. Here's an example from this week, from the Wall Street Journal.

"Fewer workers filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, the second week in a row such claims declined and a rare bright spot in an otherwise grim job market. Initial jobless claims fell 6,000 to 472,000 in the week ended Saturday, the Labor Department said Thursday. Several other reports released Thursday were also positive...

Six thousand fewer jobless claims out of 472,000 is not a bright spot, and is only "positive" in the absolute loosest sense of the term. It's around a 1% change, for fuck's sake. Four-hundred-and-seventy-two thousand people essentially lost their jobs in a single week, and we're supposed to feel better because it's six thousand less than the week before?

Also, a two-week decline is not a trend, it's a statistical fluctuation. New jobless claims have been zigzagging between 425,000 and 500,000 all year. Nine months into the year, and the trend line is flat. This week-to-week scorekeeping always ignores the overall context and the scale in favor of this pointless binary "up is bad, down is good!" reporting that seriously conflicts with the street-level view of the economy, which, like the actual data, still sucks and has sucked all year. Things aren't actually getting better.

In 2006, back when all we were dealing with was the systematic and deliberate expansion of income inequality in America, new jobless claims were in the 300K-350K range. Things weren't great then, but at least we were all under the impression that our fake money was still real. Then that illusion evaporated,and at the peak, 650,000 people were losing their jobs every week. So we were at 350,000 when things sucked a little, we were up to 650,000 when things sucked a lot, and now we're dicking around over whether to pop champagne corks or slit our wrists over changes smaller than 10,000 right in the middle of Suckville.

And the people this recession will never touch? They're going to try and convince us that this is the new normal. It's already started. Then they're going to pin the blame on Obama's half-sized stimulus and half-hearted plans to raise taxes on the wealthy - but because they went too far, not because they didn't go far enough. And it will work, because intentionally or otherwise, they've spent the better part of the past three years painting Obama as hard left, to which Obama responded by jumping right and compromising, which changed the public perception not the tiniest fucking bit.

We've already got an economy based on who can fuck people over the hardest. Who can rip off the most people. Making a better product or providing a better service as an operative force has been relegated to a few niche areas of the economy. The real money is borrowing at 0%, lending it as credit cards at 25%, then finding that so insufficient a source of income that they have to invent new secret ways of boning their customers because their previous best techniques were finally and belatedly rendered illegal.

Fuck, if I didn't have a memory longer than two weeks and weren't therefore cognizant of the fact that the only alternative to what we have in place is something incomprehensibly worse, I wouldn't vote for any of these assholes in November, either. But even to an informed electorate, convincing people to vote for status-quo incompetence over malicious kleptocrats is a long-shot. With the nation of morons walking the streets now? Well, since it's way too late to pay them all to build bridges and trains and solar panels, you'd better cross your fingers and hope things don't go too badly.

And I know you know how to do that, because I've been watching you do it for a very long time now.