Monday, September 21, 2009

25.8 Million Americans OUT OF WORK and Growing: Some Simple Math

Planet Money writes "The ranks of the unemployed now include 14.9 million people in the U.S., up by 466,000 since last month." But that's not all, "The broadest measure of unemployment -- U6, which includes discouraged workers and those working part-time because all they can get -- hit 16.8 percent. That's up from 16.3 percent in July."

NPR News adds, "Unemployment Hits 26-Year High Of 9.7 Percent - The number of weekly hours worked remained at 33.1, above the low of 33 reached in June. Economists think companies will add more hours for current workers before hiring new ones."

This ain't ending any time soon, friends, if ever. So, why do we stay so fixated on what worked in 1850, when we are here on the cusp of 2050? It's really not that far away, boys and girls; think how recent 1970 was, from today's perspective. That's how close 2050 is, in the other direction.

Let's try some simple math: if 9.7% average unemployment means 14.9 million Americans on or approaching skid row, then the actual 16.8% total unemployment means at least 25.8 million Americans -- human beings like you and me -- out of work, right now.

Of course, we all know that these figures are based upon reports filed by people who are still sufficiently connected to the bureaucracy to even bother filling out the forms; so those who have dropped entirely off the grid are still not accounted for. Let's be super conservative and call that 10% of the 25.8M total.

That brings our number of Americans out of work to 28.4 million. For the sake of thinking just slightly ahead, if we call 20% a more forward-leaning estimate, that puts the total over 30 million. Even if that's a tiny bit high for today, it won't be very long until that number is indeed reached, right? If not during this particular roller coaster cycle, the next one or the one after that, because these numbers do nothing but grow, over time. That's not a direct indictment, because ironically, it's mostly because of how EFFICIENT we've become!

More on that efficiency later.

For the moment, just imagine 30 million Americans Out of Work and told that their only options are to find More Pretend Work or live on the streets. This, while empty housing and commercial space inventories are approaching all time highs. Oh, and housing starts are ticking up so we're building even more Empty Houses and more Empty Offices.

But they'll stay empty, unless you go back to playing YouTube videos in a cubicle instead of doing it right where you are, where you can keep an eye on your kids, help them learn, be involved in your community, and continue your own program of lifelong learning that could very well lead to the next breakthrough innovation -- even small but economically meaningful ones -- because you were finally afforded the 20% time REQUIRED for new solutions to come to fruition.

Yet, here we are, closing in on U6 Total Unemployment of 20%, where suddenly 30% doesn't seem that far out of reach.

Aren't those 30 million American lives enough already, or do we really have to wait for 30%? Do we have to wait until ONE THIRD OF AMERICA is ON THE STREET before we simply call it what it is -- The Ultimate Achievement of Industrial Capitalism: Structual Unemployment -- and move on to the inevitable Basic Income solution? Do we really need to keep stalling?

Why keep kicking the proverbial Good Samaritan while he's down with the same vapid sentiment of kicking the can down the road? We all know that, "yeah, some time in the future" things will be as we describe them; so why not just go ahead and start fixing things now? Do we really need to keep up the same dysfunctional cycle of perpetuating crises before implementing positive adaptations that we all know are inevitable, anyway?

As a nation, as a global village, we can break this cycle of systemic self-loathing procrastination, if we simply choose to do so in large enough numbers. All of "the economic rules" that govern our expectations and interactions are implemented fictions: we made them up, and we can change them to better suit our desired outcomes for a world of sustainable abundance and peace.

I believe that it is no overstatement to suggest that, by the standards of 1776 existence, we are indeed very close to a place where we can confidently declare Mission Accomplished in terms of providing unconditional material sufficiency for everyone. Even if we are not "quite" there, the goal is sufficiently within reach to begin adapting our institutions to that inevitability, today. By what possible logically consistent rationale would we continue to so demure?

Learn more about agalamics.