Nicholas Kristof’s column for tomorrow asks Did We Drop the Ball on Unemployment?
He acknowledges being part of the problem, which became very clear to him when he vacationed at his childhood home on a farm in Yamhill Oregon, and as he visits old friends he writes
I can’t help feeling that national politicians and national journalists alike have dropped the ball on jobs. Some 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed – that’s more than 16 percent of the work force – but jobs haven’t been nearly high enough on the national agenda.
After acknowledging his own culpability, choosing to ask the President a “gotcha” question when he could have asked about this national problem, Kristof writes
A study by National Journal in May found something similar: newspaper articles about “unemployment” apparently fell over the last two years, while references to the “deficit” soared.
Yet despite that, poll after poll makes it clear that Americans by around a 2-1 margin are more concerned about jobs and unemployment than they are the deficit.
Kristof offers more.
He tells about three neighbors back home in Yamhill who have lost employment, which of course also often means one loses health insurance – not a pleasant prospect for one in his or her late fifties or early sixties – not yet eligible for Medicare yet of an age where health problems often magnify. And with unemployment stress related problems tend to magnify, as I know from own two brief experiences of unemployment in 4 decades in the workforce.
Ultimately we cannot solve the deficit problem by slashing government services and employment, If anything that might make the situation worse. Kristof writes clearly in one paragraph the heart of the issue:
Unless more people are working, paying taxes and making mortgage payments, it’s difficult to see how we revive the economy or address our long-term debt challenge. While debt is a legitimate long-term problem, the urgent priority should be getting people back to work. America now has more than four unemployed people for each opening. And the longer people are out of work, the less likely it is that they will ever work again.
Yet, as he notes, Obama has been timid in his approach on jobs and the economy “while the Republican Congress is saying the wrong things altogether.” On that I think most reading this words would agree.
Kristof ends his column with a question to the President:
Mr. Obama, with 25 million Americans hurting, will you fight – really fight! – to put jobs at the top of the national agenda?
While that is important, I have a question for Mr. Kristof – will you hound your compatriots in the press, at The New York Times and elsewhere, to put jobs at the top of the media coverage? For if you do not, if the press does not, the politicians will apparently refuse to listen to what the American people have been saying for quite some time.
I thank you for the column. Your recognition is late, perhaps you finally recognize the problem because it affects people you know well. I have been seeing it for some time in the families of my students, or among teachers I know around the country who have been losing their jobs, including some at my own school. I see it in the supermarket when I shop, when I see familiar faces now on the SNAP program as they attempt to feed their families. I see it in the news stories of hundreds showing up for a few low-paid entry level positions.
You are a prominent writer, well-deserving of your two Pulitzers. Thank you for finally writing about this.
Please don’t stop with this column.
Oh, and my answer to your question was milder than it should have been. It should have contained at least one profanity –