Media Employment Myth #1 Things are Getting Better

Improvement in the employment outlook is trumpeted from every side. The economy is growing, inflation is under control, the future looks bright. A myth circulates that the new jobs being created will energize job seekers and give them hope. The reality is that it is more emotionally destructive to be unemployed in a good economy than during a recognized recession. The stigma carried by the unemployed is that somehow their plight is their own fault. Workers laid off after their company downsizes, or after they have trained foreign workers to take over their jobs and watched as their livelihood headed overseas, internalize their confusion and turn it into guilt and self-condemnation. In the 1930s, no one out of work saw it as their fault. The problem was clearly economic, national, and beyond individual control. In the middle 1980s and early 1990s, there were recognized recessions and multiple company closures. The pain of lay- off was as real as always but was acknowledged as an economic hiccough and unemployment benefits were repeatedly extended to tide over workers until the labor market improved. What is different about 2004? Politically, the problem is painted as a national economic non-issue - after all, there were extensive tax cuts and interest rates continue at historically low levels. "A chicken in every pot" was transformed into "A house for everyone with an SUV in the garage." The government insists, and the media reports, that the job outlook is positive and the infamous jobless recovery finally over. The fact that 150,000 new jobs have to be created for newcomers to the labor market every month, just to maintain the status quo, is neglected. The fact that there are more than 8 million workers without an income, more than 1 million of them for over a year, is too painful to think about - so it isn't. The fact that new jobs are predominantly in poorly paid service jobs while manufacturing and skilled production work continues to decline is not worthy of comment. "Everyone who wants to work will have a job." What a great political tagline. But what does it imply? That anyone without a job does not want to work? The logic is: Let's not blame unsuccessful economic strategy, or the corporate greed of top executives making millions while trimming their work force to increase profits, or repetitively poor political decisions - let's put the blame on the poor saps out of work who must have done something wrong to get into that position. And let's not extend unemployment benefits because that will force them into taking those awful bottom level jobs which will make the unemployment rate go down and ourselves look good. We just have to get the media to buy into the big lie and we're all set. Arrogance, dereliction, and disinformation. The big lie, often enough repeated, apparently works.