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August 07, 2003
I was on my lunch break, okay?

He might as well have called the article, "Unemployment Is Hell."

How bad is it? The Economic Policy Institute in Washington reported last week that "since the business cycle expansion began in November 2001, payrolls have contracted by 1 million (1.2 million in the private sector), making this the weakest recovery in terms of employment since the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] began tracking monthly data in 1939."
Coincidence? I think not. I think businesses are "expanding" their bottom lines and future plans using the salaries of laid-off workers.

The good news, of course, is that there's a limit to how far they can do down that path. We don't yet possess the resources to fully automate business. The bad news is that those already doing the work of two people are going to find themselves doing the work of three or four, and grateful to have the chance, before long.

It's also, not coincidentally, I'm sure, a perfect environment for union-busting. I'm going to be watching for the signs.

The official jobless rate, now 6.2 percent, does not come close to reflecting how grim the employment situation really is. The official rate refers only to those actively seeking work. It does not count the "discouraged" workers, who have looked for jobs within the last 12 months but have given up because of the lack of offers. Then there are the involuntary part-timers, who would like full-time jobs but cannot find them. And there are people who have had to settle for jobs that pay significantly less than jobs they once held.
For the record, this has always been my problem with the "jobless" figures. They only include the relatively recently unemployed and there's no methodology for counting the under-employed.

Why, you ask, do I have no faith in the power of the Republican party to turn this around?

Right now there is no plan, no strategy for turning this employment crisis around. There is not even a sense of urgency. At the end of July the Bush administration sent its secretaries of commerce, labor and treasury on a bus tour of Wisconsin and Minnesota to tell workers that better days are coming. But they offered no real remedies, and the president himself went on a monthlong vacation.
When the going gets tough, Bush goes on vacation.

What else is happening in the Administration? Well, Cheney, aside from addressing his bunkmates at the AEI not long ago, seems to be MIA most of the time. (Since he's the one who does most of the work in this Administration, it worries me a trifle when he's not seen for a month or two.) While Powell protested that rumors of his leaving were greatly exaggerated, he didn't say he was staying on. By all accounts Ashcroft's assault on...well...the country, is spiraling out of control. The Bush Administration's pet legislature, Medicare reform, the one designed to win him the senior vote and get him back into the White House, is a hopeless mess. Other budget-cutting measures have alienated a significant percentage of the armed forces and the history of Republican "outsourcing" to their good corporate buddies is turning service life into even more of a hell than it has to be. Stories routinely surface about dissent within the Administration and between federal agencies. Diplomats and department heads have resigned, some with better excuses than others but most using the coded "more time with family" phrase. The questions we ask this Administration have shifted from, "did you lie" to "does it matter" and no one seems to notice. Afghanistan is falling apart. We're not even close to victory in Iraq, no matter how you count victory. Our contribution to Liberia consists of 2,300 people on a boat and 7 guys on the ground. (Oh. And a few tough remarks.) Iran is acting up, North Korea is polishing their gun sights and their rhetoric, and Homeland Security-sponsored commercials begging us to stockpile food and water have become common on television.

Why am I pondering these things?

Well, maybe because my blogversary is approaching. (Please, hold all applause until the end of the show.)

Yes, almost a year since I decided to spare my personal friends the tedium of my political rants and created this peevish little space instead. Checking back on that first day's entries, I see that I was saying much the same things then as I am these days. It's sad how much the world is, you know, not a better place than it was a year ago.

(So, am I happier, wiser, more content, more trusting, or more optimistic after a year spent focusing on the intricacies of domestic and occasionally international politics? Are you drinking Draino?)

I was going to have some profound thoughts on the subject of blogging for a year, but I just dribbled water down the front of my shirt and will be occupied in holding my arm strategically across the wet spot for the next ten minutes.

I'll be back. (But, unlike Arnie, I will not be asking for your votes.)

Posted by AnneZook at 04:49 PM