Archive for February 23rd, 2010

Penny Apple Airlifts

I watched part of The Frontline last night but turned it off in disgust. Pat Kilroy Kenny was at his best, deftly defending his fellow millionaires from any talk of wealth redistribution. Oleaginous dirtbird Bill Cullen was on, an Irish Norman Tebbit’s father with a mullet, demanding that unemployed young people assume slave labour conditions, and telling those swamped with debt to get out of the country.

A dominant theme of the first part of programme was that all you needed to do in order to resolve your unemployment worries was to pimp yourself for free and lose the attitude. One Smurfit Business school graduate proudly declared that she and her course colleagues had found employment, in a marketing position, and suggested that the recovery might be on the way because marketing is one of the first areas where firms start to increase spending in a recovery. She did not see any contradiction in this observation and the fact that she was working for nothing. The things they teach at Business School.

I didn’t watch the second part of the programme because Cullen makes me physically sick. I was rather hard on the assembled yoof on Twitter last night, but that was mostly from the privileged voices who seemed to think that their rightful place among the ruling elite had been denied them.

Anyway, here is an excellent story on unemployment in the United States from the New York Times. Maybe Bill Cullen can organise a Penny Apple Airlift, showering the unemployed of the US with a copy of his book so that they buck up their ideas.

The New Poor – Despite Signs of Recovery, Long-Term Unemployment Rises – Series –

Here in Southern California, Jean Eisen has been without work since she lost her job selling beauty salon equipment more than two years ago. In the several months she has endured with neither a paycheck nor an unemployment check, she has relied on local food banks for her groceries.

She has learned to live without the prescription medications she is supposed to take for high blood pressure and cholesterol. She has become effusively religious — an unexpected turn for this onetime standup comic with X-rated material — finding in Christianity her only form of health insurance.

“I pray for healing,” says Ms. Eisen, 57. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got to go with what you know.”

A New Scarcity of Jobs

Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce — particularly for older, less-educated people like Ms. Eisen, who has only a high school diploma.

Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.

“American business is about maximizing shareholder value,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “You basically don’t want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.”

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February 2010