Editor’s Note: unfortunately my rented house has become a beehive of warehouse moving activity in the past few days at the exact same time as I’ve had some minor technical problems with this website and although the ordeal is finally ending; I’ve had precious little time to sit down and write.
As such today’s A Brief Thought is a quick and dirty look at the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s shifting position on the monthly Jobs Report – there is indeed an important truth the report is hiding; but it sure as shit isn’t the nonsense our swine emperor is selling on TV:
Note: if you’re having trouble reading the above meme, just right click on it and select “view this image” to pop out a larger version. As always please feel free to share this image anywhere you like; lord knows that nobody from New York or Washington is going to visit the abandoned factories in the Midwest, the crumbling mining towns in Appalachia or the empty, dilapidated farmhouses in the heartland to find this shit out for themselves.
Look, we can spend all day quibbling about the way the jobs report classifies people who’ve been unemployed for long enough as “no longer looking for work” but the truth is that wasn’t what Trump was talking about when he accused the previous government of fudging the unemployment numbers and that practice certainly didn’t start under Obama; it’s a long term flaw in how the US government represents the work force and the number of “hidden” unemployed workers fluctuates wildly with the tides of seasonal labor.
The reality that Trump is a partisan liar however, doesn’t change the fact that life on the ground for Americans who don’t live among the so-called “coastal elite” paints a vastly different picture of the US economy than the rosy, “everything is fine” message touted by bigwigs waving monthly unemployment charts around like they’re the fucking bible. When you’ve got guys with law degrees moonlighting as Uber drivers and mothers unable to spent any time with their children because they’re slowly working themselves to death at three part-time jobs; you aren’t interested in partisan blather about “the dangers of full employment,” bromides from the filthy rich about “inclusive capitalism” or “heartwarming” tales about seven year old children rummaging through neighborhood garbage cans in the hopes that some day they might be able to afford college. Furthermore, the situation is even bleaker for non-white Americans; the truth is that if you’re an African American male living in many parts of the country, there simply hasn’t been an economic recovery of any kind for you!
All modern economies are actually vast, regional ecosystems where virtually everything affects everything else; a jobs report doesn’t discuss soaring medical insurance premiums, the staggering futility of trying to start a life under the crushing weight of outrageous student loan debts or what it’s like trying to raise a family without fresh, clean water for 1,051 days in one of the most economically depressed parts of the nation. The jobs report won’t tell you about the looming twin specters of corruption and automation, or why mocking “economic anxiety” from working class Americans of all racial backgrounds is a really bad idea right now.
Finally, the jobs report won’t tell you about my own father; a man who after working for more than twenty years in stamping plants that closed down, actually went out and got himself a college degree – only to discover a dwindling job market swarming with young, better candidates who weren’t carrying half a lifetime of hard labor in their bones. He found himself delivering pizzas to make ends meet in his early-fifties which undoubtedly limited his health care options on the way to dying painfully of cancer a few years later while my mother spent herself into debt trying to save him. According to the jobs report, my father was a wildly successful “economic recovery” story; he had “a job” right up until he was too sick to work anymore, at which point he wasn’t looking for work and thus didn’t even exist as far as the report was concerned.
Still, the papers will tell you to “relax folks; nothing to see here and everything is fine so long as we keep bringing the unemployment number down” and I suppose all wars have casualties; even class wars. If I were a rich American elite however, I’d be more worried about the weather report than the jobs report because there’s still a quiet storm brewing in the West and from where I’m sitting – it looks like rain.
- Nina Illingworth
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