“Somehow, the Unemployed Became Invisible,” the New York Times reported on the front page of its Sunday Business section a couple days back.
“Unless you are one of those unhappy 14 million, you might not even notice the problem,” Catherine Rampell reported with all the authority the Gray Lady can muster.
Which is not much. This is how out of touch America’s self-proclaimed serious journalists have become. And it goes well beyond liberal bias. I don’t question Ms. Rampell’s political motives nearly as much as I wonder what planet she lives on.
As native-born Earth residents, I and everyone I know are starkly aware of unemployment and the damage it has wrought. Covering Washington, I noticed that just last week, the most powerful Republican in Washington, John A. Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, took to Twitter, a widely used social media site, to ask Barack Obama, a man also of some note, where all the jobs were that supposedly came with that $800 billion stimulus package.
The idea that we’ve forgotten the unemployed is hardly the most fanciful peddled by Ms. Rampell. Even if we did remember the poor bastards, she writes, we’re not paying attention to them because they’re politically irrelevant. At just 9.2 percent of the work force, “the unemployed are a relatively small constituency.”
Never mind that those 14 million people are married (affecting 28 million) and have 1.4 kids (47 million) and many of them have a best friend (61 million), a sibling or three (75 million) and a parent or two (96 million). If you considered those facts, you might get the idea that nearly everyone is connected to unemployment, and intimately at that. Then there are the millions of Americans who don’t count as unemployed because they have given up their job search or can only find part-time or menial work for which they are overqualified. Then there are the millions more who work at companies where they’ve seen co-workers laid off and all those people’s children, parents, siblings and friends who fear what comes next.
And, of course, that scarcity of jobs and the failure of this administration to do anything of substance about the problem are at the center of the Republican Party’s critique of President Obama. The only way anyone could not hear about the jobless every day would be if he neither knew nor listened to any Republican and lived in a world where exposure to any Republican or his ideas would immediately lead to a call to the exterminator.
Which may well be true in Ms. Rampell’s case because the next words to sally forth from her pen were “And with apologies to Karl Marx, the workers of the world, particularly the unemployed, are also no longer uniting.”
You see the unemployed vote less than those with jobs, according to some political scientist or other. Therefore, obviously, they don’t count. Never mind that unemployment and the economy were top issues in the 2010 election and voters smashed the party they blame for the fact that the economic “recovery” is a spluttering mess hardly worthy of the name.
Surely we should believe the words of political scientists rather than our own lying eyes and silly election results. Elections aren’t scientifically designed, and the electorate is not representative of Americans as a whole. The last election could really have been about the availability of corn fritters in Saskatchewan.
So what would make Ms. Rampell happy and turn our attention back to the forgotten, invisible, suffering unemployed? “During the Great Depression, riots erupted on the bread lines,” she writes, quoting a historian who says, “There used to be a sense that unemployment was rich soil for radicalization and revolt.”
So why not today, the intrepid reporter wonders. “Intellectuals used to play a big role. … In the 1930s, Communists and socialists were a major force.”
Without the communists to lead them, the poor, uneducated and easily led unemployed don’t know what to do. Ms. Rampell writes, “To the extent that frustrations are being channeled at all, they are being channeled largely through the Tea Party. But the Tea Party is mostly against devoting government resources to helping the unemployed.”
It is as if those silly unemployed people think it’s the private sector that might give them a new job.
If only we had a bunch of 1930s communists around to lead us, we wouldn’t have made this mistake. I guess we all owe a big apology to Karl Marx. Dude, we’ve failed you. I only hope you can forgive us our Tea Parties.
David Mastio is the deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times.