I continue to ponder last Friday's jobs report in part because I'm still puzzled by the cheer of Main Street media. I guess you can get beaten so badly that what was once thought of as ho-hum can be viewed as glorious. I remember years ago James Earl Jones starred in a television show ¡§Paris¡¨ that lasted just a single season. In that show, however, a critic remarked at Jones' amazing acting ability, pointing to a scene where Jones bites into a hot dog. Just released after years in prison, Jones' character, Paris, walks to the hot dog cart and takes a healthy bite into the street meat. The expression on Jones' face revealed a kind of joy that could only come from not having the simple pleasure of eating a hot dog in a decade.
I think of that scene when I hear talk that 243,000 jobs in a single month is somehow magical, and all is now well in the land. I¡¦m a rose-colored glasses kind of guy, and I've asked people to be in this market, but I hold no illusions about the jobs market. It's a mess and getting better at such a glacial pace that it has everyone ready to applaud any bit of okay results. What does this say about America as a nation? I like a good hot dog, especially those sold on New York street carts, but the day one melts in my mouth like a good steak means I'm in difficult financial and emotional straits. In fact, I pray and work like a dog so that day never happens to me or anyone in my family.
Terra Cotta Soldiers
It's a blessing to have a job these days, but we shouldn't have to leave it up solely to divine intervention. In addition to all the folks that dropped out the jobs market, an equally disturbing trend is the 5.5 million long term unemployed. This is a staggering number that amounts to a giant army of idle, formerly proud, workers. These folks could be the legacy of failed policies, bad politics and a nation that accepted mediocrity in place of greatness.
In this (not so) brave new world of thy brother's keeper, the government makes it too easy to give up and sit on the sidelines. But we know even when we are taking from the rich and battering corporations that nothing is free. These idle workers will be expected to pay back a debt. Indeed, these chronically unemployed Americans might be compelled to be something of a modern day living version of China's terracotta soldiers. They may be guarding the ruling class in perpetuity.