Initial jobless claims didn’t go up last week but are still well above a number that would point toward the recovery of the eight million lost jobs or really 12 million jobs if you provide for the 100,000 young adults that reach working age each month. The consistently high claims numbers also reflect an deliberate churn in the corporate workforce designed to drive down wages as more and more workers are fired and replaced with temps, part time workers or are themselves “converted” to some type of contract labor that don’t count as employees but rather are just a disposable commodity.
This steady conversion of Americans to neo-feudal serfs is demonstrated in the burgeoning poverty rate with 1 in 7 now below the official poverty line. This was a 10% jump over the previous year and this change was in fact not as bad as expected by economists. Extended unemployment kept the increase in the number of Americans newly falling into poverty to about half of what it would have been. The Census numbers aren’t really current however as hundreds of thousands of people each month are running out of benefits. The total number of Americans in poverty is the largest since they started to count the poor fifty years ago.
The poverty line is artificially set at about $22,000 for a family of four but this number is really an inadequate marker. In fact a family really needs three times that in most urban areas to live anything like the American Dream. Fully 2/3 of Americans are below that American Dream level and most are falling steadily behind. Continuously increasing tuition and health care costs; impoverished parents and children with children to care for, all these things drag down middle-class families. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that anything more than a small percentage will ever rise to the American Dream level.
Americans like to think this is the land of opportunity but it really has become the most stratified in the developed world caused by the death of the unions, the end of small business and a lack of any meaningful social safety net. When combined with the economic realities that allow no opportunity for those outside the corporate elite and corporate serfdom enforced by the threat that you will become one of the millions of hopeless unemployed, the fact is that upward mobility is officially dead. Even a college education becomes nothing but a mill stone of debt consigning most graduates to wage slavery. Colleges have gone from cautioning freshman about putting weight to instructing them on how to apply for food stamps with applications up 120% just this year.
We are well into a new gilded age without the equivalent to industrial revolution of the 19th century as we are becoming de-industrialized. During the last gilded age American financier Jay Gould said after hiring strikebreakers, "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half”. Today this is reflected by the tea bagger movement that is portrayed as populist but is entirely funded the current likes of Jay Goulds to further the interests of billionaires.
Jay Gould, I liked his cough drops though.
To end on a bit of good news: there was another little spark of hope from the Obama Administration with the President bypassing the Senate and appointing Elizabeth Warren to form the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. In name she is an assistant to the President and senior advisor to the Sec. of the Treasury Dept.
Elizabeth Warren, describing Republicans perhaps?