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The plight of the "unemployable worker"

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Alana Semuels, MSN: The Atlantic, March 25, 2017: The mystery of why so many American men aren't working

    We have discussed the plight of the white American male's lack of employment opportunities in this website...that is the relatively low labor participation rate of the 25-54 year olds. Many of these people are the "unemployables" for various reasons, and whether you are a liberal or a conservative, as discussed in this article, you'll have different views on how to make them employable.

    Ms. Semuels discusses another aspect...their health. As job prospects evaporated, especially in the Great Recession, many of them became homeless or dependent on family or relatives for food and shelter. However, now as job prospects have improved they remain unemployable because of poor health. Some are addicted to pain medications and alcohol. Some are obese from an unhealthy diet and suffer from diabetes. It is also a mental state...the feeling of hopelessness brought on by being unemployed a long time. It feeds into the other factors.

    I am certainly not qualified to put forth solutions to this demographic. I have in the past suggested that their immobility to move to other parts of the country where job prospects are better is part of the problem. But for those who have remained unemployed for a long time and let their health decline, they have indeed become less employable for any job.

    For many of them there is a sense of bitterness and despair, which also feeds into the health issues. It is a sort of "death spiral" that is hard to lift oneself out of.

    I suggest reading Ms. Semuel's article -- then we can discuss programs and proposals on how they can be rescued and become a contributing member to our society again . I know Jared has worked with the homeless so his views would be appreciated.

  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Joel Achenbach, Dan Keating, MSN, Washington Post, March 25, 2017: New research identifies a ‘sea of despair’ among white, working-class Americans

    Here is another article that expands on the subject. I extracted this graph from their article.

    © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post

  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Schmidt,again this comes forth out of one simple thing: EDUCATION! Rural America and its stupid antiquated views does get teachers who are just about on the same level as the population there, thus no wonder that they don't evolve. Countries with the best "education" will likely have the best workforce as well social development. Here it is an non coordinated structure,which totally depends on "funding" which then determines the "quality" of the education. Putting an DeVos type in there, makes things only worse. On top of that this is an huge country who refuses to tax the rich, then it is no wonder that education falls short because the "money"is rather spent on the military or "walls" or tax cuts for the billionaires.

    Rural people seldom ever left this country, thus they don't know better; teaching "religion" or "baseball" is more important than an good curriculum, which motivates to adapt yourselves into an independent thinking analytic person.

  • Independent
    Washington
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    Subculture and pride is an incestual factor; a typical 45yo blue collar worker doesn't want to admit he needs\wants help (aside from ranting "Bring back my job that's gone somewhere else").

    I grew up in a small logging town that was long past its heyday of the early 1900s-1930s. At its peak, it would have been considered to be a small city when compared urban areas of that time period. Had train station, movie theaters, public swimming pool, the main street filled with dozens of shops. As the logging moved further and further away, so did most of the population. By the time I lived there, it had become a typical ghost town as seen in the movies. No movie theaters, no train station; everything was gone except a gas station and a couple little shops. Today very little has changed in 35 years. Same people live there, give or take 1%. The biggest employer is the school district, who are a bit like millionaires compared to average income of those who make their living doing something else. State control school salaries, so teachers, admin, etc, earn the same income teachers who live in wealthy parts of the state. Working as a janitor at the school is one the highest paid jobs in the area.

    Progress happens, and those who have an incentive and opportunity to better their lives will make changes in their lives to take advantage of opportunities that are further away or opportunities in a different profession. This is much easier for those who are younger and not as entrenched in things that block them from being more successful. Of my graduating class, 85% are successful because they moved away to other areas that offered more opportunities. The remaining 15%, for whatever reasons, could not make the adjustments to find success.

  • Independent
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    The reasons vary. I don't by the "bootstraps/people are morally inferior/social programs make them dependent crap. Why is there good workforce participation in other OECD countries? on a side note the comment regarding jobs being less strenuous is bullshit. it is broad brush since waitressing and other service economy jobs are most certainly still hard physically.

    As for the why many reasons apply. Some of them are listed in the articles. Some of the comments in this thread are interesting as well. H1B visas are an issue imo.

    Imo there is one issue that is critical but not often discussed. Creative destruction is a known characteristic of capitalism. Creative destruction led to the massive growth of cities and the creation of "the job" as opposed to artisan work. The innovations of the period from approximately 1870 to 1940 created what we have grown to believe is how a job is defined. Whether or not someone supports unions we must acknowledge the impact of the labor movement in conjunction with the innovations. Thus we had huge factories where people worked making steel, building cars, appliances and so on. Thus we had smaller companies that helped support the major industries. The impact of innovation on agriculture didn't just allow for migration to the city it forced migration as bigger farms required fewer workers. To say that technology hasn't been the prime mover in conjunction with circumstances is blind and foolish. It most certainly has been. As an example the USX plant in Gary, IN used to employ 36,000 workers. When I was selling products for doing the reline of the North and South pickle lines at the plant in approximately 2006 they were employing 6000 workers. Creative destruction has completely changed the landscape of work by destroying labor. When we add in the fact that so-called high tech manufacturing does not require the employing of nearly as many people and the shift of "workshop" manufacturing overseas while shifting to a so-called service economy the end result is obvious.

    So we have political-economic reasons, social reasons and psychological reasons for the changes we are seeing. The real question is what, if anything, should be done about it. Imo, the only solution is government as the employer of last resort. Education, while important, will mean nothing to a 53 year old man when a company can hire a 23 year old college graduate at half the rate of pay. And even then despite claims of needing engineers the numbers simply do not add up. If every male became an engineer no matter their age there would be a massive glut of engineers and wages would drop like a rock. And despite the claims of old time economists workers will not take any job if the wages simply do not meet their material needs.

    While we decry this issue in the U.S. and do little to nothing about it eventually it will impact everywhere as population rises and countries buy into the concept of westernized "development." The problem with capitalism isn't exploitation of labor although that is a major concern. No, the problem with capitalism is that it is a backwards looking static snapshot. it cannot and does not accurately predict future economic trends and impacts yet economists make blanket assertions about the future based upon its theology. When the messes occur, and they ALWAYS occur, government is left to attempt to clean up the mess with economic priests fighting over the commandments about what should or shouldn't be done when they actually have no clue what should be done.

    You want an actual answer as to why this is happening? It is happening because it must happen due to the system we have. what is failing is our response to the problem.

  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Dutch, wwjd, and lonely bird -- All good points for thought and discussion. Carlitos has pushed the Job Guarantee (the employer of last resort) and I can agree that will work for some people temporarily. And certainly many of the government and NGO programs that help the unemployed can lessen the economic hardships. We've discussed them all here before...job retraining, education, apprenticeships and such for work as well as unemployment, and health and welfare benefits.

    What we haven't really discussed is the psychological impact that long term unemployment has on individuals. For example there is a strong correlation between PTSD and long term unemployment. Not only that, other studies have suggested that one's personality traits can also be altered by being unemployed a long time. Depression and suicide are common amongst the unemployed.

    Our society has failed those who are long term unemployed, especially those who for whatever reasons cannot migrate from their home base. Or physically, mentally or economically are unable to take on a new job with differing skills. Many of them become prey for the unscrupulous politician or the religious recruiters. I don't think Donald Trump or for that matter Bernie Sanders were being honest by blaming China for their plight. Or trade deals in general. It just shifts the blame.

    As one who has interviewed people for jobs I can empathize with those who have been unemployed for a long time. They don't interview very well....and getting rejected feeds into more feelings of despair.

    I have mocked China in this website for building entire cities in areas where no people live. However, what the Chinese leaders realize is that their people need to be gainfully employed making things. They not only build entire cities but also send their workers to places in Africa to build infrastructure projects there as well. They are now the world leader in solar energy projects as well as other innovative projects like building islands in the South China Sea, designing and building fast trains, or just about anything.

    We could do likewise by a major investment in infrastructure all over the country...roads, bridges, solar and wind energy and energy transmission, fast trains, and more. However, our inability to think beyond our capitalist and free market ways has handicapped our ability to think big on infrastructure, except for those projects initiated by private capital. Our worldviews have been corrupted...that government is the problem. I do not see how we can extricate ourselves from the metality that lowering taxes is the solution to all of our problems.

    I believe that government is the employer of last resort, but in addition to Job Guarantees and other programs we need a massive countrywide rebuilding of our infrastructure financed by the taxpayer. It is the biggest remedy for the unemployed.

    We don't need to build government financed weapons for export to 3rd world countries that cannot afford them.

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Pensacola, FL
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    Money velocity. Plain simple solution. But why is everybody terrified scared to death to demand that money be put to work. Worried about offending the people that are strangling the economy? Give people jobs and they will spend the money and prosperity is the result. Leave the money in control of the money changers and correction after correction happens until they have it all. The King of money hoarders is president. You think there are unemployables now, just watch as the master and his henchmen take the rest of the money away from the faithful. Reregulate trading.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Yes Schmidt your last section says it all; like in Europe where things are more socialistic as well having an sliding scale tax system as well did not start wars and militarism and spent the money on that, then there is money left for "infrastructure" which helps employment. As example the Delta works in the Netherlands as well social structure to educate and continuous improvement of living conditions as well modern public transport and jobs in clean energy and solar power, then everyone benefits.

    Thus as I said many times; change priorities here; put "militarism" and its expenditure on the last place and not the first place. Put infrastructure which benefits ALL people on the first place. However I'm afraid that "infrastructure' here will be translated into the wrong things which benefits no one, except the "billionaires". ( like building "wall's" which don't give any benefit to the people)

    In the first place, since I bet that any budget here will be restrained, because of all the other things we need money for as well the refusal to tax the rich with at least 50% to 70%. Then on top of that the "fixing" of the present infrastructure due to lack of maintenance, is like chasing your own tail. Thus I'm afraid that there will be no money for "real" modernizing of our present infrastructure, like high speed rail, flood control structures, new airports; new roads; solar and wind energy etc. which also will help to develop the rural countries, by having proper public transportation which creates commuter jobs including the maintenance jobs for it.

    If Trump wants to follow Hitler,then he should copy what Hitler did with his "Autobahn" project; it did work and still does. I drove on it at 200Km/hr. No speed limit either!!

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    Schmidt Wrote: Dutch, wwjd, and lonely bird -- All good points for thought and discussion. Carlitos has pushed the Job Guarantee (the employer of last resort) and I can agree that will work for some people temporarily. And certainly many of the government and NGO programs that help the unemployed can lessen the economic hardships. We've discussed them all here before...job retraining, education, apprenticeships and such for work as well as unemployment, and health and welfare benefits.

    There are multiple problems I could foresee with a job guarantee, but the one that sticks out the most is that a job guarantee is pretty much worthless if the minimum wage isn't dramatically increased to an actual livable wage. Someone working full time on the Federal minimum wage earns $290/week. That's $1,160/month.

    A high school drop out who hasn't worked in 4 years is extremely unlikely to find any place of employment that isn't the most menial of tasks. A job guarantee may help him find that menial task job, but that individual will need intensive education and training if they are ever able to break the chains of poverty.

    That's why I'm a much bigger proponent for massive investments in education and trade programs for the chronically unemployed than a job guarantee.

    Another thing a job guarantee doesn't take into account is someone's age. A 53 year old out of work coal miner with no post secondary education is going to have a hell of a time retraining themselves for the highly technical jobs in the modern age.

    Schmidt Wrote: What we haven't really discussed is the psychological impact that long term unemployment has on individuals. For example there is a strong correlation between PTSD and long term unemployment. Not only that, other studies have suggested that one's personality traits can also be altered by being unemployed a long time. Depression and suicide are common amongst the unemployed.

    It's not just us on this website who haven't discussed it; our government hasn't discussed it!

    How do we get someone who has been out of work for five years, homeless, suffering from PTSD, and dependent on drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism back on their feet and in the workforce? It's not as simple as just throwing money at them or "guaranteeing" them a job.

    Schmidt Wrote: Our society has failed those who are long term unemployed, especially those who for whatever reasons cannot migrate from their home base. Or physically, mentally or economically are unable to take on a new job with differing skills. Many of them become prey for the unscrupulous politician or the religious recruiters. I don't think Donald Trump or for that matter Bernie Sanders were being honest by blaming China for their plight. Or trade deals in general. It just shifts the blame.

    I agree. That was the thing that bugged me most about Senator Sanders campaign. He was promising things that he could never have delivered on. Donald did as well, but his supporters are still standing by his side. I have a feeling that he won't be able to make that last forever though.

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Pensacola, FL
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    "How do we get someone who has been out of work for five years, homeless, suffering from PTSD, and dependent on drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism back on their feet and in the workforce?"

    Offer good paying jobs and they will be taken. There is no evidence anywhere of people refusing to take good paying jobs. After every major depression people were willing, able and ready to take on any good paying jobs. At one time there were millions of people working good paying jobs. The jobs didn't go away because people quit. Give them jobs and they will work. Reregulate the stock market and prosperity will proper.

  • Independent
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    Chet Ruminski Wrote:

    "How do we get someone who has been out of work for five years, homeless, suffering from PTSD, and dependent on drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism back on their feet and in the workforce?"

    Offer good paying jobs and they will be taken. There is no evidence anywhere of people refusing to take good paying jobs. After every major depression people were willing, able and ready to take on any good paying jobs. At one time there were millions of people working good paying jobs. The jobs didn't go away because people quit. Give them jobs and they will work. Reregulate the stock market and prosperity will proper.

    Regulation of the stock market in what manner? Will regulation of the stock market create demand? Will it make companies hire people? No, it will not. The stock market is symptomatic. It is not the problem in and of itself. Destruction of labor is the problem. Capital seeking reproduction in any manner possible is the problem. Regulatory and legislative capture is a part of the problem.
  • Liberal
    Independent
    Durham, NH
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    Once again it all boils down to greed and capitalism. Pure socialism isn't the answer by any means but unless government has substantial power to control corporations and their interests (which are not the interests of the workers by any means) none of these problems will ever be controlled.

    The mantra of the Right "Corporations are people", "We have to run the country like a business" will only serve to drag the American worker and citizen even deeper into desperation. We are almost there today thanks to the last 40 plus years of supporting the robber barons over the public and the current administration certainly doesn't show any improvement in the future.

  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Chet Ruminski Wrote:

    "How do we get someone who has been out of work for five years, homeless, suffering from PTSD, and dependent on drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism back on their feet and in the workforce?"

    Offer good paying jobs and they will be taken. There is no evidence anywhere of people refusing to take good paying jobs. After every major depression people were willing, able and ready to take on any good paying jobs. At one time there were millions of people working good paying jobs. The jobs didn't go away because people quit. Give them jobs and they will work. Reregulate the stock market and prosperity will proper.

    Chet, are you giving good paying jobs to an person who is on drugs, alcohol, mentally unstable. Sorry I would not want such a person in my company. Thus that does not make any sense.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Dutch -- Yes you are right. At my former company in hiring new employees, a condition of employment was to pass a physical which included testing for substance abuse. We had no issues of hiring the handicapped, but we otherwise expected our employees to be in good health. Oh and they also had to provide references and pass a background check by the FBI.

    While I would not have been able to hire these people for multiple reasons, I still empathize with their situation. They need help to extricate themselves from their "death spiral". It is not easy as I have read stories of people hooked on opioids and alcohol and are living in despair...many are homeless. Yes they need a job for their own self esteem, but they cannot get hired until they get clean.

  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Schmidt Wrote:

    Dutch -- Yes you are right. At my former company in hiring new employees, a condition of employment was to pass a physical which included testing for substance abuse. We had no issues of hiring the handicapped, but we otherwise expected our employees to be in good health. Oh and they also had to provide references and pass a background check by the FBI.

    While I would not have been able to hire these people for multiple reasons, I still empathize with their situation. They need help to extricate themselves from their "death spiral". It is not easy as I have read stories of people hooked on opioids and alcohol and are living in despair...many are homeless. Yes they need a job for their own self esteem, but they cannot get hired until they get clean.

    Yes,the problem here is that there are way too few "mental health" institutions as part of the healthcare system. Especially because this country loves wars, then you get plenty of "mental" patients coming back from the battle field, who in most cases don't get the right help or are left in the state they are. Also an "capitalistic" structure creates more tensions, because of the push to succeed and be number "one"; number "second" does not count in this country. Mental health is not achieved by having an good paying job alone; it is driven by culture, personal happiness, and surroundings. Here it is way too much concentrated on "money" alone and spending it. Only few people here enjoy nature, space, clean environment, personal freedoms without interference as well not getting daily pressure from the society we live in.