Like the millions of NPR-o-philes out there, ears glued to the local public radio station while maneuvering through afternoon/evening traffic, I heard a story that made me wonder if the country would ever recover from this economic meltdown.
The story was about the long-term unemployed: those who have been looking for work for six months or longer. While I admit to being somewhat of a pessimist and cynic, I really do want the economy to turn around. I am hoping to not become one of the long-term unemployed, but the prospect is becoming more evident.
It’s difficult to swallow the economic reality of the United States, especially with historical perspective. As the country continues its transformation from an industrial country to a service and leisure country I get more nervous. I get this feeling like the country can’t run on Starbucks and gas stations. There needs to be more girth, more meat. We need to sustain ourselves. And that might mean turning inward.
In this globalized economy it’s foolish to think that a country can become isolationist, especially a country with the GDP and consumer power of the United States. But America is in trouble. People need to work. People need to work without having a higher education degree. Someone needs to figure out how to put America back to work in a meaningful way. That equals well-paid, stable jobs with good benefits. Americans need a job that they can actually live on and perhaps earn enough to support a family. It happened once, and it seems it can happen again. Maybe if we stopped buying so much cheap crap from China. Maybe if we curbed our consumer appetite. Maybe if we concentrated on long-term objectives rather than instant gratification.
When the housing bubble burst it was a shocking correction, but a correction that was desperately needed. It signaled need for reform, not just of the financiers who helped to cause this mess, but for the way our society operates and the stock it places in the intangible. President Obama’s election was another signal for change.
I see these signals and I try to push aside my cynicism and pessimism with optimism. I try to believe that we can change, we can progress, we can move toward a more sustainable way of life. And it’s possible, that with more time on their hands, the long-term unemployed, and the newly unemployed will find opportunity for creative restructuring. Revolution begins with a few, and revolution brings change.