Tie That Binds

     Rain is rare enough in Southern California that most folks don’t go out on a rainy night.
     So on a stormy Friday, for example, the people who have braved the elements to get out to restaurants, bars and clubs share a bit of a bond, like, “We are in this together.”
     Watching Obama abroad, I wondered whether the economic storm that has descended on the world is not having the same effect. The goodwill among the nations at the G20 summit was palpable, despite the early antics of the French.
     It had no doubt a lot to do with the Obamas themselves who seem to grow in stature by the week, both in terms of intelligence and statecraft as well as, when standing next to the Queen of England, in physical terms.
     You could tell Obama himself was exhausted and yet he retained his humor and willingness to take on questions from the press, including those from the emerging countries.
     While Michelle Obama seemed to garner almost as much press as the President with, for instance, a visit to minority school in London where a few head scarves could be seen in her enthusiastic audience.
     But it was also the circumstance of crisis that caused a surge of goodwill.
     What got me thinking about crisis characteristics was the U.S. job report on Friday, chronicling the descent of our economy and the individual suffering it will cause — a loss of 660,000 more jobs.
     As reported on our website, the commissioner of labor statistics was asked if he could see a ray of hope anywhere in his job report. Keith Hall replied, “No. There is no sign of the decline slowing down.”
     A Republican congressman asked Hall if he was looking for trip wires that would signal a further downturn. “There are not too many trip wires that haven’t already been tripped,” said Hall. “I’m not sure the labor market could fall any quicker right now.”
     The hearing as a whole was free of political polemic and ideological confrontation. The storm that threatens us all has that effect.
     As noted in our reporting, a quarter of those unemployed have been without a job for six months or more, the highest percentage in a quarter century. “We began this recession with an already high level of unemployment,” said statistical chief Hall, “and it has grown from there.”
     While unemployment is bad for anyone, the residents of Europe have a lot more protection through their health care and unemployment systems. But Americans often lose everything when they lose a job — healthcare, house, income.
     Those losses in the U.S. throw into doubt the effect of the massive increase in federal spending, suggesting that it is, incredibly, not enough. They also put into question the few signs that an economic bottom had been found.
     And they point to something certain, that the harm to millions of people caused largely by sellers of financial snake oil will go on for a miserable long time.
     The big initiatives contained in the budget now being pushed by the Obama administration are an attempt to stem that misery, not just by creating jobs, but also by improving the availability of healthcare and education for all.
     Let us hope that we can weather the storm and, in so doing, pull together — without, perhaps, the help of Republicans in Congress — to ease the hardship that comes from the loss of a job, and to get this nation back on track and back to work.

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