VOODOO EMPLOYMENT ACCOUNTING:
Jobs, Jobs Everywhere and Not a Job to Find
The problem with the numbers, however, is what's wrong with nearly every pronouncement from this administration. It's clothed in a semblance of truth, but it disguises the real facts. The truth is we have more educated, specialized, articulate, unemployed workers than ever in our history. It doesn't consider The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 80,000 to 90,000 unemployed become ineligible for unemployment benefits every week and therefore, are no longer counted among the unemployed.
We're not told that we have lost over three million industrial jobs since George Bush took office, nor are we told that since our "recovery" we have lost over a million manufacturing jobs or three million private sector jobs. The fact that the job "boom" was in low-salaried temporary and retail positions has been left out of the explanations for the "good news," or that very few new jobs were in high-paying trades and services.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor, "employment rose substantially in several service-providing industries, construction continued to add jobs, and there was a noteworthy job gain in durable goods manufacturing." The truth is there are more than 11 million unemployed citizens looking for work.
According to Dr. Martin Regalia, US Chamber of Commerce vice president for economic policy and chief economist, "These job figures are the last piece of the economic puzzle. Our expansion is strong, well balanced, and sustainable."
But, if you are an engineer from the Silicon Valley like John L., who has worked 9.5 weeks out of the last 105, do you think he's feeling the new boom? Or, if you own a small consulting firm in Kansas City, like Lance Chalmers, do you think he and his employees are benefiting from this new boom? It's doubtful, considering he is excluded from bidding on state contracts because his workforce consists only of Americans. Do you think Jody Zenkel is feeling the effects of this new surge? Twenty years in the job market as an IT specialist and never out of work in all those years--that is, until she lost her job to a foreign worker.
Jody and John and Lance are just a drop in the bucket of the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of American workers who are losing their homes, their will, their fortitude, their belief in the American dream. They are the forgotten. The dispensable. They are among the hordes of citizens that grew with the times. They educated themselves. They sacrificed so they could assure their family's security only to be discarded like so much excess trash.
Excess trash is exactly how our corporate entities view our workforce. Worse than trash is how our government has protected them.
We are being told that we're in a boom economy, when the opposite surrounds us. What are we to do?
According to one executive, a man who coincidentally advises corporations interested in outsourcing and in-sourcing, one solution is for the IT specialist to: (1) Find a role to play on the offshore bandwagon or fight against the movement of business abroad, or (2) Embrace offshore operations as yet another opportunity to expand one's professional skill set and position oneself as an offshore management leader. Another expert advises that the IT specialist keep changing jobs and learning new modalities.
I suggest, however, that this "option" is a misnomer, at best. Chances are once the employee leaves a job, finding another will be an act in futility, particularly if that person happens to be 35 or older. Statistics prove that the older the programmer or engineer, the harder it will be to find employment. According to the American University, it will take three more weeks for a laid-off programmer or engineer to find a job for each year of his/her age.
And if the manager doing the hiring is younger than the applicant is, well, statistics indicate the chance of getting that job is close to nil.
Here's another statistic not bantered around: only 19% of computer science grads are still employed as computer programmers 20 years later. Furthermore, if you are 40 and an unemployed programmer, and lucky enough to find a job in your field, you can count on taking a cut in pay.
The statistics also don't reflect the multitude of workers who have given up finding employment in the profession they trained for.
Underemployment is a very real and serious condition in the US. So, too, is our minimum wage. Back in 1967, a family of three could survive above poverty level on the minimum wage. Not so today. Currently, a full-time minimum wage earner can only sustain his or her family at 84% of the poverty line for a family of three. These are not teenagers, folks, these are the people in the grocery lines with you. That is, if they can afford groceries.
So, what are we to do? For one, we need to begin by replacing our legislators, representatives, and our country's leaders with truly concerned and compassionate representatives. We need to demonstrate by our vote that we the people are in charge. We need to send a loud and resounding message to anyone seeking political office or holding office that they work for us, the people. We need to shun the deceptive political commercials and the spin weavers and use our own very perceptive minds.
It is time, my fellow Americans, that we make our voices heard, for if we don't, we could liken our situation to that of Pastor Martin Niemoeller's famous warning about the Nazis. To paraphrase: First, they came for the Manufacturers, but I was not a Manufacturer, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Service Jobs and the Tradesmen's Jobs, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the IT Technicians, but I was not an IT Specialist, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
It is time, my fellow Americans, to take action--or we, too, will be lamenting the jobs we lost because we didn't speak out.
©Norma Sherry 2004. Norma Sherry is co-founder of TogetherForeverChanging.org, an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and igniting personal responsibility, particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning writer/producer and host of television program, "The Norma Sherry Show," on WQXT-TV, Florida.
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This story was published on June 6, 2004.