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whose column for tomorrow asks Did We Drop the Ball on Unemployment?

He acknowledges being part of the problem, which became very clear to him when he vacationed at his childhood home on a farm in Yamhill Oregon, and as he visits old friends he writes

I can’t help feeling that national politicians and national journalists alike have dropped the ball on jobs. Some 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed — that’s more than 16 percent of the work force — but jobs haven’t been nearly high enough on the national agenda.

After acknowledging his own culpability, choosing to ask the President a "gotcha" question when he could have asked about this national problem, Kristof writes

A study by National Journal in May found something similar: newspaper articles about “unemployment” apparently fell over the last two years, while references to the “deficit” soared.

Yet despite that, poll after poll makes it clear that Americans by around a 2-1 margin are more concerned about jobs and unemployment than they are the deficit.

Kristof offers more.

He tells about three neighbors back home in Yamhill who have lost employment, which of course also often means one loses health insurance -  not a pleasant prospect for one in his or her  late fifties or early sixties - not yet eligible for Medicare yet of an age where health problems often magnify.   And with unemployment stress related problems tend to magnify, as I know from own two brief experiences of unemployment in  4 decades in the workforce.

Ultimately we cannot solve the deficit problem by slashing government services and employment,  If anything that might make the situation worse.  Kristof writes clearly in one paragraph the heart of the issue:  

Unless more people are working, paying taxes and making mortgage payments, it’s difficult to see how we revive the economy or address our long-term debt challenge. While debt is a legitimate long-term problem, the urgent priority should be getting people back to work. America now has more than four unemployed people for each opening. And the longer people are out of work, the less likely it is that they will ever work again.

Yet, as he notes, Obama has been timid in his approach on jobs and the economy "while the Republican Congress is saying the wrong things altogether."  On that I think most reading this words would agree.

Kristof ends his column with a question to the President:  

Mr. Obama, with 25 million Americans hurting, will you fight — really fight! — to put jobs at the top of the national agenda?

While that is important, I have a question for Mr. Kristof -  will you hound your compatriots in the press, at The New York Times and elsewhere, to put jobs at the top of the media coverage?  For if you do not, if the press does not, the politicians will apparently refuse to listen to what the American people have been saying for quite some time.  

I thank you for the column.  Your recognition is late, perhaps you finally recognize the problem because it affects people you know well.   I have been seeing it for some time in the families of my students, or among teachers I know around the country who have been losing their jobs, including some at my own school.  I see it in the supermarket when I shop, when I see familiar faces now on the SNAP program as they attempt to feed their families.  I see it in the news stories of hundreds showing up for a  few low-paid entry level positions.  

You are a prominent writer, well-deserving of your two Pulitzers.  Thank you for finally writing about this.

Please don't stop with this column.

Oh, and my answer to your question was milder than it should have been.  It should have contained at least one profanity -


Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 03:50 PM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A free press exists for a reason. It would be (15+ / 0-)

    nice if we had one.

    WHY have the media been all deficit all the time?

    WHY haven't the media talked seriously about jobs and what austerity does?

    WHY have they done nothing but parrot Republican talking points?

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 03:54:20 PM PDT

  •  He "can't help feeling"? (8+ / 0-)
    I can’t help feeling that national politicians and national journalists alike have dropped the ball on jobs.

    It sounds like he's practically apologizing for making the point.


  •  Interesting hidden point in there... (15+ / 0-)

    The media has been emphasizing the deficit, but the public's been increasingly concerned with jobs, not the deficit.

    That implies not only that the media is out of touch with reality, but also that the public is on to them and disregards what they say.

    grieving citizen of the murdered Republic, unrepentant rebel against the Empire.

    by khereva on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 04:02:25 PM PDT

  •  BREAKING: Unemployment a Problem (11+ / 0-)

    It Would Be Nice If There Were More Jobs

    Holy shit... that is some profound stuff there... thanks Kristoff! I learn something new every day!

    </ sarcasm>

    "It is, it seems, politically impossible to organize expenditure on the scale necessary to prove my case -- except in war conditions."--JM Keynes, 1940

    by randomfacts on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 04:09:06 PM PDT

  •  At least Kristof is the anti-David Brooks (7+ / 0-)

    He at least has a clue, and acknowledges his mistake. That oleaginous weasel David Brooks would never cop to any such error.

    Frequently wrong, but never in doubt; that's our Dave.

  •  It can't be said too often (9+ / 0-)

    Our biggest problem is the corporate media. They elected the teabaggers and brought all these austerity on us.

    Dream, that's the thing to do (Johnny Mercer)

    by plankbob on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 04:20:54 PM PDT

  •  Kristof is quick no matter how long (7+ / 0-)

    it takes.

    It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it. Eugene V. Debs

    by JesseCW on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 04:22:12 PM PDT

    •  Hare!Hare! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Err,sorry for the bad pun. Sorrier still that it has taken Kristof so long to see this. My cynical side says that he and most other pundits just couldn't be bothered to write about it.

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 04:58:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Everyone thinks that debt is... (0+ / 0-)

    ...a long term problem, going back to Cheney's 'deficits don't matter'.

    The policy of just about everyone is to run up as much debt as possible, then to default. The Repubs want to do this, and so do the Dems.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 04:22:38 PM PDT

  •  HELL YES!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, lcrp


    Thanks for this.

    The trouble with normal is it always gets worse. -- Bruce Cockburn

    by clarknyc on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 04:40:29 PM PDT

  •  The national conversation, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    such as it is,is changing. Awfully late but here we are.
    Tipped and rec'd for this most especially:

    ... I have a question for Mr. Kristof -  will you hound your compatriots in the press, at The New York Times and elsewhere, to put jobs at the top of the media coverage?

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 05:03:40 PM PDT

  •  Well, he's right but for the wrong reasons. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, Abelia

    This is a foreshadowing of a GOP/right wing punditry effort to "get serious" about jobs.
    It's completely cynical, of course.
    But, expect more.

    •  Which is yet another reason (0+ / 0-)

      why this admin. needs to come out with a clear and substantive JOBS program that Democratic candidates and voters can support. (by substantive I mean a hell of alot more than an under-funded infrastructure bank & a trade deal that the UAW thinks might provide 800 new jobs) To fail to do so will allow the GOP to wave their faux populism banner right into a sweep in 2012.

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 07:01:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly (0+ / 0-)

      They'll just rewrite recent history, as they get away with all the time, and claim they've been on the jobs thing all along.

      Then get elected and implement policies to kill jobs, destroy workers rights, dismantle the safety net that keeps workers from slipping into the abyss, etc. What a racket.

  •  No one is paying to push stories about unemployed (6+ / 0-)

    I don't think most people understand just how much the mainstream media is driven by PR and communications people in political organizations.

    I asked dozens of people if they knew that a billionaire hedge fund manager has spent ONE BILLION dollars to get DC and the EC media to focus on the deficit. A billion can get you a lot of attention.

    I asked one owner of a Popeye's chicken franchise if he had heard of this billionaire, Pete Peterson. He said no and said, "well there are probably groups and other billionaires lile George Soros who are pushing for jobs."

    I asked him,"do you really think that a group of unemployed people are pooling their money to pitch stories, hold conferences, buy advetorial features in the WaPo and fund dozens of think tank op-Ed pieces?"

    He said no.

    The other thing is that the story that the papers Could run, because it fits what they like to write about, are conflict stories.  Who will the MSM side with if people start getting angry and violent because of lack of work? The economic violence that comes from the destruction of millions of jobs is considered a "cool" story and okay to unemotionally cover. When the anger, sadness and fear comes out they retreat into experts and stats. Unemployment is very personal, too personal, for some writers. They would rather talk to an expert than embrace the horror of doing everything "right" and still getting fired.

  •  People have been losing their jobs for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, tardis10

    three, four years on.   Job loss and unemployment among the middle and upper middle classes has been ubiquitous for some time now. It's practically impossible--at least for most of us-- not to know someone who is or has been unemployed for a significant period of time.

    That Kristof is seemingly coming to this revelation only now--and only upon visiting his old haunts--would appear to confirm something that has been intuitivel for some time--that living and breathing the air of the esoteric professional class, which is the same space our Democratic politicians inhabit,  has a deadening effect on one's ability to sense or respond to the plight of others.  In Kristof's case that's a minor professional handicap, perhaps. In the case of our elected representatives it's a fatal aspect of our Democracy.

    Kristof's writing about his experiences in Third World countries often carries a revelatory quality--as if he is discovering something for the first time and is compelled to share it in vivid terms. That's the strength of his writing style and what makes it effective. But the key is that he is discovering those problems in those countries, they are a revelation, they do demand his immediate attention.  They are driving him, they're his focus, and the domestic issues are not--clearly, as this column suggests.

    So when Kristof addresses  unemployment here in the U.S. he serves up only the weak tea, years after it could have made any difference, that he "can't help feeling" something is wrong. But he's really seeing and understanding the reality, rather than the abstract, of unemployment for the first time.  Because he's been occupied elsewhere.

    I think there's a parallel here of sorts between Kristof caught up in his Third World ventures and our modern politicians caught in their constant, unrelenting money chase.   In both cases we have myopia of a sort--with abstract issues (like unemployment) relegated to second-class status in light of more pressing, immediate concerns.  That creates a wholly removed, distant perception of the reality on the ground, with no resultant impetus or motivation to address it in concrete terms.

  •  My little town (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, teacherken

    is just ten or so miles up the road from Yamhill (the town and the county). This part of rural Oregon is in bad, verging on desperate economic shape.  Mr. K. needs to visit his old stomping grounds more often if he is just now realizing how bad thing are here.  The downhill slide started with the decline of the logging industry a decade ago, and has continued to get worse ever since.  I know it's not a unique situation, but it's the one I see around me every day.  Interestingly, Yamhill Country appears to have been taken over by Tea Party types in the last couple of years. I'm pretty sure that won't help them recover any sooner than the rest of us.

    Alpacas don't spit unless you piss them off. Does that answer your question?

    by alpaca farmer on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:32:48 PM PDT

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