Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Politics of Neglect

Here is a post on the NY Times Economix blog that asks the question "why is high unemployment being ignored by Washington?":
High unemployment has become the new normal. Two years after the official end of the recession, the monthly refrain of poor jobs reports showing an unemployment rate stalled at about 9 percent does little to increase any sense of political urgency.

The monthly employment numbers, released Friday, were more bad news, showing that for the second month in a row, employers added barely any jobs in June.


Why isn’t unemployment reduction front and center on the policy agenda? More specifically, why has the debate over deficit reduction shoved it aside?

Here are three possible reasons.

First, unemployment is concentrated among the less educated, blacks and Hispanics who lack political or economic clout.

Second, high unemployment is not hurting overall business profits, which have soared to historic heights. In the 1930s, joblessness reduced the demand for consumer goods, idling many businesses as well as workers, creating economic incentives to support public job-creation efforts.

Today, our largest corporations and richest investors are well positioned to take advantage of growing demand in emerging markets far from our shores, whether in the form of increased exports or new investment opportunities.

As a small-business owner explained in a recent Wall Street Journal article, he only sells domestically and does not have the opportunity to “exploit foreign markets that are growing faster.”

Third, the jobless individuals, public employees and small-business owners who could, in theory, form a strong political coalition to support more active job creation are constantly subjected to a barrage of arguments that we should do nothing but cut government spending and hope for the best.
In short, the disadvantaged and politically marginalized are being ignored. If you are a Wall Street banker you get access at the highest levels in Washington. But if you are poor and unemployed, nobody in Washington cares. You are expendable.

In theory a democracy lets everybody have a voice in government. But when you have a party like the Republicans busy tightening up access to the polls in the name of "voter fraud" (how reminiscent of the "literacy tests" in the Deep South during the Jim Crow days), those at the bottom of the social heap don't even get to cast a ballot.

In modern America the poor get taxed and taxed while the rich keep getting more and more "tax cuts". But I have a little voice in the back of my head that keeps reminding me of a political upheaval in 1776 over "taxation without representation". When you have parties making it increasingly harder for the disadvantaged to vote while piling on taxes (income, property, sales, payroll, and all those new "user fees") then 1776 may come back to bite the greedy and powerful who think government is a buffet meant to serve up "tax cut" after "tax cut" (or subsidy after subsidy, or bailout after bailout).

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