Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Prosperity, Poverty & Unemployment

In an article celebrating the Milwaukee area's good job growth, the most concealing quote has to be, "It's possible to have prosperity and poverty right next to each other. We're kind of accumulating, in the human resources sense, tons of people who just don't have employable skills. I don't know what you do to flip that around."

Another great obfuscation of our increasingly unequal society, alongside the talking-point of structural unemployment

We have poverty alongside prosperity because the prosperous have taken control of government and steered all the economic gains back into their own pockets. There are plenty of jobs [infrastructure, public works] which could employ the supposedly unemployable if only we had the political will.

It should also be noted that there is a general lack of interest in poverty. It's rarely mentioned. It's rarely talked about. They are the unspoken class in American society. We're much too concerned with quarterly returns, tax breaks for the job "creators," and keeping up with the Joneses. 1 in 6 Americans lives in poverty. Yet, we're more concerned about making sure the richest among us don't see their taxes rise 3 percent.

The idea that there aren't skilled workers to do the needed jobs is really just a diversion of responsibility by the job "creators". People can't get by on the wages being offered. We keep hearing how businesses just can't find workers to do the job. It's the fault of government, universities, the technical schools. But all of this myth-making misses the rudimentary economic principle of supply and demand. If there is work that needs to be done, yet workers are hard to find, business either goes to where the workers are, or they pay a wage high enough to attract the workers they need.

This also exemplifies the double-standard many anti-tax, pro-business people hold. They are job creators. They shouldn't have to pay taxes or have social responsibilities. But when they are unwilling to pay the market wage, the government must come to the rescue and train workers, provide subsidies, or help them out in some fashion. And, we shouldn't forget (as Elizabeth Warren recently reminded) about the roads, the court system, police protection, and other public services that allow their businesses to operate - services that we all pay for.

In another [two articles mentioning poverty! - I guess that will be all we hear about it for the rest of the year] recent article (which displayed the usual passerby/woe-is-me/only-time-will-tell attitude toward poverty), Tom Hefty, ex-Blue Cross executive, blamed Milwaukee politicians (i.e. Democrats) for "economic decline and rising poverty rates" in Milwaukee. Backhandedly blaming Democratic policies for all economic calamity. Yet, seemingly oblivious to the fact that poverty is increasing 5 times faster in the suburbs than in the city. 

Policy is failing workers, the poor, the middle class, 99% of us, whether we're in the suburbs or the city. The reality is: tax cuts are no panacea, and, good government does more for the majority of citizens than "free" markets and privatization. Poverty and unemployment are a failure of leadership...business executives included.

For Further Reading:
Assessing Structural Unemployment 
Debunking The Theory of Structural Unemployment
Deconstructing Structural Unemployment 
It's About Job Shortage, Not Skills Mismatch 
Jobs Revisions Bust Structural Unemployment Myths
The Myth of Structural Unemployment
Structural Unemployment & "Skills" Mismatch
Structural Unemployment Myths 
Structural Unemployment 
Structure of Excuses 
Who's Unemployed?

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