Uncle Sam Does(n’t) Want You: America's Reserve Army of the Unemployed

Discussion in 'Economy' started by hvactec, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. hvactec
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    hvactec VIP Member

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    Not long ago, the city council of Ventura, California, passed an ordinance making it legal for the unemployed and homeless to sleep in their cars. At the height of the Great Recession of 2008, one third of the capital equipment of the American economy lay idle. Of the women and men idled along with that equipment, only 37% got a government unemployment check and that check, on average, represented only 35% of their weekly wages.

    Meanwhile, there are now two million ”99ers”—those who have maxed out their supplemental unemployment benefits because they have been out of work for more than 99 weeks. Think of them as a full division in “the reserve army of labor.” That “army,” in turn, accounts for 17% of the American labor force, if one includes part-time workers who need and want full-time work and the millions of unemployed Americans who have grown so discouraged that they’ve given up looking for jobs and so aren’t counted in the official unemployment figures. As is its historic duty, that force of idle workers is once again driving down wages, lengthening working hours, eroding on-the-job conditions, and adding an element of raw fear to the lives of anyone still lucky enough to have a job.

    No one volunteers to serve in this army. But anyone, from Silicon Valley engineers to Florida tomato pickers, is eligible to join what, in our time, might be thought of as the all-involuntary force. Its mission is to make the world safe for capitalism. Today, with the world spiraling into a second “Great Recession” (even if few, besides the banks, ever noticed that the first one had ended), its ranks are bound to grow.

    The All-Involuntary Army (of Labor)

    As has always been true, the coexistence of idling workplaces and cast-off workers remains the single most severe indictment of capitalism as a system for the reproduction of human society. The arrival of a new social category—“the 99ers”—punctuates that grim observation today.

    After all, what made the Great Depression “great” was not only the staggering level of unemployment (no less true in various earlier periods of economic collapse), but its duration. Years went by, numbingly, totally demoralizingly, without work or hope. When it all refused to end, people began to question the fundamentals, to wonder if, as a system, capitalism hadn’t outlived its usefulness.

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  2. Moonglow
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    Moonglow Diamond Member

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    A world war will take care of the unemployed.
     

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