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
In the 1930s, no one out of work saw it as their fault. The
problem was clearly economic, national, and beyond individual
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
"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.