Thursday a man flew an airplane into the Austin, Texas, IRS Building. The Left claimed he was a “Tea bagger,” their vulgar term for Tea Partiers, apparently because he was anti-government. The Right claimed he was a whacky leftist, apparently because he was critical of Bush. A Muslim group claimed he was a terrorist, apparently because he wasn’t a Muslim.
They all miss the point, and quite frankly, the attempt to make political points out of personal tragedy is pretty disgusting.
Today, there is a report of a Moscow, Ohio, man who bulldozed his home before it was foreclosed. No doubt someone somewhere will try to make political hay out of this man’s misfortune. That will be as misguided as the response to the Texas man’s misfortune.
What these events really do is highlight the human costs of recessions, costs that increase in recession severity and duration. These are the more extreme examples, but the fact is, people’s lives are ruined in recessions. Some working families will suffer a permanent decrease in income. Some of our young people will never recover from a bad start to their working lives. Some families will be destroyed because of financial stress. Some individuals will commit suicide. A few will do things like bulldoze their home or fly into a building.
To ask how big a problem we have is to ask how many are unemployed and how long have they been unemployed. Here are the numbers as of January 2010:
- 14.8 million Americans were out of work and looking for a job.
- 6.3 million Americans had been out of work over six months.
- 9.3 million Americans were underemployed
- Over half of unemployed Americans had been out of work for over 19 weeks.
- The unemployed American’s average unemployment duration was 30 weeks.
- 4.5 million Americans had left the labor force.
All of these people deserve our sympathy. They also deserve more from our society and our leaders. Most of them are in their current circumstances through no fault of their own. Even worse, our political class appears to be far more interested in election, reelection, rewarding supporters, partisanship, and political purity than they are in providing the environment for job creation. They have also failed to provide a humane safety net, one that provides at least a minimum standard of living, maintains dignity, and provides appropriate incentives.