The Shrill One Is Shrill
But after all, who's crazy enough to listen to economists these days?
Consider one crucial measure, the ratio of employment to population. In June 2007, around 63 percent of adults were employed. In June 2009, the official end of the recession, that number was down to 59.4. As of June 2011, two years into the alleged recovery, the number was: 58.2.
These may sound like dry statistics, but they reflect a truly terrible reality. Not only are vast numbers of Americans unemployed or underemployed, for the first time since the Great Depression many American workers are facing the prospect of very-long-term — maybe permanent — unemployment. Among other things, the rise in long-term unemployment will reduce future government revenues, so we’re not even acting sensibly in purely fiscal terms. But, more important, it’s a human catastrophe.
And why should we be surprised at this catastrophe? Where was growth supposed to come from? Consumers, still burdened by the debt that they ran up during the housing bubble, aren’t ready to spend. Businesses see no reason to expand given the lack of consumer demand. And thanks to that deficit obsession, government, which could and should be supporting the economy in its time of need, has been pulling back.
So we're facing a jobs crisis as well as a economic crisis, and it's looking more and more like private employers can't/won't pick up the slack.
So why the hell not another WPA program?
I know, I know, the Teabaggers would have it be nothing but digging holes and filling them in again so they could complain about the uselessness of it while humiliating the people doing the work, but there's no reason it'd HAVE to be like that. The original WPA supported creative works as well - art, music, theater, poetry even. The WPA even, god forbid, built libraries:
South Carolina had one of the larger state-wide library service demonstration projects. At the end of the project in 1943, South Carolina had twelve publicly funded county libraries, one regional library, and a funded state library agency.[22
But I suppose that's just too radical an idea for now. I mean, there's nothing like that we could do at present - except maybe for hiring heath care workers from doctors to nurses to pharmacists to home health aides to med techs, hiring people to work on infrastructure repair and maintenance, having people set up public wi-fi systems, expanding the library system even further, working on ensuring affordable housing, helping with recycling of everything from paper to plastics to electronics, doing actual research journalism, supporting small publishers, independent filmmakers, and independent music labels, working as outreach to the elderly (who after all will be increasing in number as the Boomers continue to gray), working to reclaim areas scarred by mountaintop-removal mining, working on small-tech projects like A Liter Of Light, organizing public archives for libraries and museums, working with seeing-eye dogs and other assistance animals, helping to rescue dogs and cats and spay/neuter them and find 'em homes, repairing flood/hurricane/tornado damage, building levees that don't leak, helping to ensure coastal communities can deal with erosion and rising water levels, acting as tutors/home school teachers/counselors, helping to put public records and old books/newspapers/magazines into accessible digital form, proofreading manuscripts and OCR scans, working with cities to promote and create green spaces and public parks...
and that's all just off the top of my head.
But that's just crazy talk, I know.