It's Not About Jobs

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Copyright (c) 2011 Scott F Paradis

With government reported unemployment hovering around nine percent and the real unemployment rate much higher, those with constituencies to please are talking off a script intent to create jobs. Along a commuter route heading into Washington, DC, on a granite wall in front of upscale townhouses, graffiti artists stenciled in five-foot letters, "Mr. Obama we need jobs." It seems both the politicians and the electorate believe the government is in the business of creating jobs.

Conventional wisdom here asserts that by giving everyone something to do prosperity will naturally and inevitably follow. This is not however, how an economy flourishes. While nothing confuses pundits and politicians like facts, this time, the pundits and politicians are focused on the wrong issue. There is something far more nefarious at work (pun intended).

The rancor over unemployment is not about jobs. The seminal issue is prosperity. The dilemma the United States faces is a declining standard of living for the middleclass. Lack of jobs is just one more symptom in a system increasingly dependent on life support.

The United States has been concentrating wealth in the hands of a privileged few at an ever increasing and alarming rate. For the masses, in terms of real buying power, household income has actually declined over the last two generations. The poor never had anything to lose, so the welfare state safety net is of immeasurable value, but the middle classes have faced a withering assault.

The initial response to a declining standard of living was to send a second wage-earner into the marketplace. As the attack on middleclass wealth continued households, spurred on by a system promoting credit, began to rely on ever increasing loads of debt. Debt now is the modern day equivalent of the "company store". Citizens comprising the backbone of the American economy, those aspiring to better themselves, work for a decent wage, own a home, raise a family, and retire in comfort are scrambling to protect the meager assets the system has yet to claim.

Riding the wave of debt from crest to crash effectively shifted wealth from the middle classes to the elite. Piling on, while purporting to soften the blows, government embraced the upside of debt, enacting a palatable "borrow and spend" means of appeasement.

Now the last hope of the overstretched empire is to leverage the dollar's coveted position as the world's reserve currency and print its way out of the mess. The ongoing devaluation of the dollar, however, has ignited inflation around the world - forcing other nations to raise interest rates to contain prices. The unintended consequence of "printing to prosperity" will be to sabotage the mainstay of the American economy: borrowing.

Repeatedly choosing the easy way (relying on debt, defunct monetary and fiscal policy, and government and financial sector largess) demonstrates our capacity and willingness to persist in this folly. The disease we face is hubris and greed. Unemployment is but a symptom of a failure of the people, by the people.

Incessant bickering and banal banter over inconsequential concerns, and sophomoric debates over one percent of the federal budget will not suffice. Those who seized power seek more, while the masses line up for scraps at the table of discontent. As the final curtain draws we reach the moment of truth.

The promise of America once was - opportunity for all. The American dream was more than a trite maxim, it was the means to act, create and prosper. Jobs are not the issue; there is no shortage of constructive, productive things to do. So let us get to work treating the disease. The first step is to reverse the process of concentrating wealth - efforts applied here will be positive and pervasive.


Scott F. Paradis, author of "Promise and Potential: A Life of Wisdom, Courage, Strength and Will" publishes "Insights" available for free at

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