It’s fashionable nowadays to howl about the nine-percent-plus unemployment rate and the so-called “jobless recovery.” But you know what? We’re howling about the wrong problem.
Yes, that official unemployment number is way higher than it ought to be. And yes, the latest Treasury figures probably whitewash the real unemployment picture in this country, which, if you believe this article, is actually up around sixteen percent. (That’s if you use the calculating methods that are standard in Japan, Canada, and Western Europe.) That many out-of-work people is a national disgrace. But I draw a different lesson than most people do about this.
The big lesson I draw from all this is not that the government needs to do something about the employment picture. The big lesson I see in our current situation is that more people need to stop howling, get moving, and get a freaking job.
I realize most people don’t want to hear this, but there are plenty of jobs out there. People have just deluded themselves into believing that the jobs they can get right now are beneath them. And that is where the national disgrace really lies.
Every fast food place needs help, local retailers need help, the cities need help. Unemployed people could go to temporary labor agencies like LaborReady or Manpower and, in all likelihood, be working within 72 hours if they really wanted to. Yes, these are all low-paying jobs, but I think that actually proves my point. A job is a job. The way our country works is, if you want to put food on the table, you either go out and get one of those jobs, or you don’t, and your kids run the risk of going hungry because of that choice you made.
Now, if your lifestyle has to change as a result of the kind of job you took in order to keep your kids fed, guess what? At least you’ve kept your dignity. And the beauty of our country is that your lifestyle can change again, fast and in the other direction, if you work hard and you work smart.
But don’t tell me we’ve got an unemployment crisis in this country, because we don’t!
What we’ve got is a howling crisis, a pickiness crisis, a “that’s beneath me” crisis. You know when we had an actual unemployment crisis in this country? The Great Depression. Now, some people think that was a long time ago, too long ago to matter. Let me tell you something: It still seems like yesterday to the people who lived through it, and enough of them are alive and kicking and ready to talk about what happened for us to get some perspective.
Track some of those people down and ask them whether they think what we’ve got now counts as an “unemployment crisis.” You know what they’ll tell you? They’ll tell you that, during the Great Depression, people took whatever job they could get and held on to it with both hands. If you found something with a paycheck, you took it. Period. I can guarantee you that plenty of “white collar workers” in those years counted themselves extremely lucky to get paid for digging ditches and painting houses, because doing that beat selling apples on the street or waiting in line for free soup. Even selling apples shows initiative we now lack! Today, people go on welfare, or unemployment, and then blame the government for not making the economy generate enough of the kind of jobs they like. Get real!
Before welfare and unemployment checks, you did whatever it took to feed your family and keep your dignity. I hope we get some perspective, and soon, about the unemployment myth we have bought into in this country. I hope we find a way to remind ourselves, both individually and as a nation, that there is absolutely no dignity in turning down honest work.
MSN: The real unemployment rate? 16.6%