Prospective employees stand in line to enter a job fair in New York. It's a hirer's market. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
For many Americans, stock market vicissitudes and debt-ceiling debates and a steady income derived from fair pay for a job well done are all theoretical notions that have no graspable meaning in their day-to-day travails. Unemployment in the U.S. is a scourge and a shame, and everyone has someone to blame. Republicans blame President Obama for weak job creation. Republicans are faulted for impeding job growth and defunding agencies and programs that might put sidelined Americans back in the game. Unemployment is blamed on the recession (akin to blaming blood loss for causing a hemorrhage). Economist Lakshman Achuthan points his finger at the “structural shift that has taken place in our jobs market.” And then, of course, some secure individuals blame unemployment on the unemployed themselves.
None of that assignment of culpability makes the struggle more livable for the many thousands of furloughed participants who have been dropped by America’s societal safety net. No one should be alone facing long weeks of wondering if they will ever have a purposeful day-to-day routine again. There are things to be done to help a friend in need, and to be helped by friends. The good news and the bad news is that these things are very much the same as they were at the start of 2008.