Bob Herbert's column (which really ought to be called "A Voice Crying in the Wilderness" since that's what he always seems to be doing) wants to remind us that it isn't the rich or even the middle class that got hurt the worst by the banksters' shameless manipulation of the economy, a fact, he notes, that we have steadfastly refused to acknowledge.
While there is now, finally, a great deal of talk among the politicians and in the news media about unemployment, there is still almost a willful refusal to focus on just who is suffering the most from joblessness and underemployment.
When it comes to employment, there are roughly three broad categories in the United States. The folks in the upper-income group are not suffering much, if at all, from the profound reversals in employment brought about by the Great Recession. Those in the middle have been hit hard. The job losses there have been severe and long-lasting. But for those in the lower-income groups, the scale of the employment crisis has been mind-boggling.
What you're not hearing from the politicians and the talking heads is that the joblessness and underemployment in America's low-income households rival their heights in the Great Depression of the 1930s - and in some instances are worse. The same holds true for some categories of blue-collar workers. Anyone who thinks this devastating problem is going away soon, or that the economy can be put back on track without addressing it, is deluded.
And there are lots of people who are, thanks to the Right Wing Noise Machine that has spent the past 30 years ceaaselessly pounding it into our heads that we should ignore all that screaming and pain coming from offstage because it was just low-lifes complaining about they hate working for a living and lazy bums like that didn't deserve any better. Of course, they insisted, that would never happen to you. You're not a lazy bum.
And we, much to our everlasting embarrassment and shame, believed this malarkey. It has to be a lesson to us, and one that we remember: if we hadn't closed our ears to their destruction by Social Darwinist upper classes who lied about what they were doing - and going to do - we would have understood much earlier what was happening and realized that we were likely next on the hit list. We might also have been able to put a stop to it before it wrecked the global economy.
Alexis de Toqueville wrote that "[t]the more I consider the independence of the press..the more am I convinced that...it is the chief and, so to speak, the constitutive element of liberty." It follows that if the press loses interest in liberty or becomes co-opted, as it has in modern America, by corporate interests and right-wing plutocrats who use it to disseminate little more than corporate propaganda, there is nothing left to take its place and liberty is threatened. Today's "media" have little use for liberty and even less for truth. They have been conned and manipulated by the RWNM to a frigthtful extent, following their leads like blind puppies following a string of raw hot dogs. They have abandoned professionalism, ethics, and even fact-checking. They repeat right-wing rumors and innuendos as if they were fact and when they're proved false, they refuse to either apologize or correct. Worse, they keep their noses pressed firmly to the string and go right on following on.
This stubborn refusal to recognize uncomfortable reality led them - and us - right to the edge of the economic cliff. And yet, having taken only one step back from the precipice and with the other foot clinging to the crumbling rim like a leech in a draining pond, the right-wing urges us to continue down the same path and our press dutifully echo them.
The overt attempt to sell us an "Ownership Society" failed miserably, perhaps, but the covert program was a smashing success.
It has damn near smashed the country all to hell and it has smashed the poorest and weakest of us.
There has been talk about income inequality over the past several years, but what is happening now is catastrophic. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston divided American households into 10 groups based on annual household income. Then it analyzed labor conditions in each of the groups during the fourth quarter of 2009.
The highest group, with household incomes of $150,000 or more, had an unemployment rate during that quarter of 3.2 percent. The next highest, with incomes of $100,000 to 149,999, had an unemployment rate of 4 percent.
Contrast those figures with the unemployment rate of the lowest group, which had annual household incomes of $12,499 or less. The unemployment rate of that group during the fourth quarter of last year was a staggering 30.8 percent. That's more than five points higher than the overall jobless rate at the height of the Depression.
The next lowest group, with incomes of $12,500 to $20,000, had an unemployment rate of 19.1 percent.
Tell me again, Sean and BillO, that I'm not working because I'm lazy, not because there aren't any jobs, you fucks. Which is the way the corpo's want it: a tight labor market is a cheap labor market, right?
If Sarah Palin is a populist, I'm a millionaire.