Impact of Joblessness May Soon Be Evident

I am not an economist, so I don’t have a five- or 10-point plan for pulling the U.S. back from the brink of fiscal ruin.

Nor am I qualified to say whether another, and bigger, government stimulus or dollar devaluation or tax cuts or trade cap suspensions would make a difference for the better, a difference for the worse or no difference at all.

I am, however, an expert on the realities of the current economic ditch the United  States is in. And so are you. After all, we’re the ones living in the culvert while, for the most part, the people making the calls – corporate and Wall Street tycoons, members of Congress, the president of the United States, etc. – dwell well above it all. They hurt on the margins; we hurt at the core.

Whatever big picture, long-term designs the powers-that-be may have in mind, we ordinarians know there is no better cure for what ails us than an honest, reliable and steady source of income. Since most of us can’t count on fat trusts and annuities to pay the bills, the stable source of income we look to is a job – the hottest commodity on the market.

You don’t have to be an economist to know this much about capitalist economies: Prosperity is driven by demand. Get enough people demanding any product or service, and the business world will answer, adding more equipment and more personnel as needed. The money spent by consumers and the wages paid to people who make the goods all pour into the till.

But that’s not happening. More than 14 million Americans have gotten out of the demand game, except for the most basic needs, because, with no job, they are unable to pay. The situation is at its worst in the black community, especially among black males.

While the powers-that-be bicker over what to do about the unemployment epidemic – and while the Republicans on Capitol Hill scheme about how to stop President Obama from doing anything that will relieve the problem – a crisis looms.

It may not be obvious now, but the corrosive effect of the chronic unemployment in the black community will certainly be evident eventually.

Deep and long-term joblessness begets hopelessness, humankind’s most tragic force. Hopelessness breeds desperation, which can only make matters worse. Drugs and alcohol become tempters. Discord grows and breaks up families (One study showed that, during the Great Depression, 1.5 million husbands walked out on their families). The drop-out rate escalates, as kids give in to household stresses or quit school in hopes of finding work to help the family out. Property crimes and assaults increase.

It takes years and sometimes generations to recover from that kind of deterioration. America would be wise to give a damn. The black community should not be expected to absorb yet another big blow without serious consequences to ourselves and to the society at large. Those who refuse to acknowledge that discrimination and double standards have a role in the inordinate suffering of black America may keep their heads in the sand, but that will not stop the damage to their exposed hind parts.

This country simply cannot leave a large segment of its population to suffer at extraordinary levels and then act surprised when all hell breaks loose, and there’s a huge mess to clean up.

We’ve been there before.

For that reason, the decision makers are playing with dynamite when, for political reasons, they refuse to do what it takes to get the country out of this bind. It’s popular to rail against leaving bloated deficits and indebtedness to bedevil future generations. But it is doing them just as
The corrosive effect of the chronic unemployment in the black community will be evident eventually, says Deborah Mathis. Much a disfavor, if not more so, to leave them to a world with a seriously aggrieved underclass that has been so abused, neglected and maligned that all it has to live for is to enact its despair