Saturday, September 12, 2009

out of work in america?

Time Magazine's Joshua Cooper Ramo is lying through his teeth if we can call the use of an adverb--in this case, "unthinkably"--a lie. Cooper Ramo writes, "Jobless figures released Sept. 4 showed a 9.7% unemployment rate, pushing the U.S.--unthinkably--ahead of Europe, with 9.5%." I'd bet my house (the bank's house that is) that Cooper Ramo knows darn well that high unemployment is very thinkable in the United States and that Europe has had some recent years of robust economic growth.

This could be seen as nitpicky, but it could also be seen as editing by corporate-media elites. Time wants to save whatever audience it has left, so Cooper Ramo's original sentence gets two dashes and an adverb, or it is just too depressing or too honest to sell magazines and advertising.

Could Cooper Ramo believe that unemployment above Europe's is so unthinkable? Is his pay check based only on how well he sculpts sentences and not at all about his knowledge of his subject? In the same issue, Time is kind enough to inform us that we have 131 millions workers in our economy, and that is the same number we had in 1999. In other words, just as my earlier post suggests, we have lived through a jobless decade.

In reality, both Cooper Ramo and Time provide good information in the recent "Out of Work in America" issue, and I appreciate their work. I'm sure they are well aware of the limits to what their subscribers can take when it comes to a focus on negative news that is hitting quite close to home. Click here to learn that 80 percent of us consider the economy to be poor and over half of us are worried about our own ability to make ends meet.

When it comes to a poor economy, Africans Americans are a group that would never find any of this information "unthinkable" or perhaps even less than expected.

Barbara Ehrenreich has an effective summary of the African American Depression of the 2000s, and I doubt the findings would shock any black person or anyone with eyes open living in close proximity to the half of black America that has never seen the good times roll, rock, or animate themselves in any way.

On Tuesday, I return to literature class, armed with James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues," and it is convenient to teach this as a pre-Civil Rights "that's how things were but they're so much better now" story about redlining and segregation and discrimination and everything else that used to be but then magically disappeared with a long, looping LBJ in cursive script. I hope I can offer my students more than that.

At the same time, my teaching strategies are superficial compared to today's larger problems of how President Obama can help us retain or obtain healthcare and jobs. It is Obama's time, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that any compromise bill that passes will be one that can help us all.

And please, if you are in a position to hire anyone at all, please do so.

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