"LIKE THE SHIPWRECK OF THE TITANIC"
US labor market statistics set a negative record. Experts predict a jobs decline of more than 600,000 posts. Many impacted fall into the social void.
By Ralph Sina, WDR-radio, Washington
[This article published in: tagesschau.de, 3/8/2009, is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.tagesschau.de/wirtschaft/arbeitslosigkeit104.html.]
The 47-year old man who is president of the United States admits he has never seen anything like this in his whole life. Today's economic crisis eclipses everything in the past, Barack Obama emphasizes. He is right at least as to unemployment data. According to these statistics, the number of unemployed in America is higher than at any time. Around five million Americans have no job. "If nothing is done," the president warns, "the unemployment rate will soon be in double-digits."
With his economic package in the billions, Obama will create around three million new jobs. However that is nothing more than a wish. No one knows whether he can even approximately realize this through the state jobs program. The fact is several hundred thousand jobs are now destroyed monthly in the US. Whether Chrysler, General Motors or Ford, the managers of the few remaining factories announce almost daily that tens of thousands of workers will soon be released again.
SHARED SUFFERING DOES NOT HELP
"I have worked here since I was 15 years old and was never jobless. This is a completely new experience." Patsy Young lives in Ohio, the state with an unemployment rate near 17 percent. Obama will explain his economic program in Ohio today. However Patsy is skeptical whether even one cent of the billions from Washington will come to her place of residence Wilmington where every third person is unemployed. It is a little like the shipwreck of the Titanic, Patsy says on the NPR-radio station. One is not alone with one's fate but that doesn't make life better.
Whoever is unemployed in the US usually also loses his health insurance and given the high doctor bills is quickly threatened with personal bankruptcy. For a half year, a maximum 50 percent of the last check is paid as unemployment insurance. Exceptions in particular states confirm the rule. Afterwards there are a handful of dollars of income support that one can claim for at most five years in one's life.
COMMUNITIES TOTALLY OVERSTRAINED
America's politics provided no social net for mass unemployment for years. Now - after a year of economic crisis - many states face bankruptcy and do not know how they will pay money to the unemployed.
The jobless Mary Kendall from Ohio says in amazement that she never experienced such a situation and assumed this only happened in the so-called third world. For one-and-a-half years, Mary has been unemployed and could only feed her three children in Ohio in a halfway rational way thanks to the support of a private relief agency.
BUREAUCRACY AND CONTEMPT OF HUMANKIND
For long-term unemployed, there are limited food stamps. But the poorest have problems in fighting through the jungle of the American bureaucracy, pastor Dean Feldman says on the NPR-radio station. "Often the afflicted do not know how they can obtain food stamps. When they do receive them, they cannot endure the authorities' contempt for humankind.
All over America, the afflicted form jobless camps to learn how to cope with a minimum budget or gain further training. These camps have a future. America has long been a nation of mass unemployment, even if the unemployment rate in official statistics has been only seven percent. These statistics are based on a trick. In America, one who works one hour - a week - is counted as employed.