The Washington Post has done a poll that shows lower-income workers are terrified they will lose their awful jobs. Then it interviewed one of those workers, who commutes three hours a day for $5.25 an hour:
"I can't save money," he said recently, "to buy the things I need to live as a human being."
Happy Thanksgiving, America. Try not to think about the "unprecedented economic anxiety" that we're suffering [emphasis added]:
More than six in 10 workers in a recent Washington Post-Miller Center poll worry that they will lose their jobs to the economy, surpassing concerns in more than a dozen surveys dating to the 1970s. Nearly one in three, 32 percent, say they worry "a lot" about losing their jobs, also a record high...
Are you one of the perpetually vocationally insecure? It's far more acute among workers who make less than $35,000: A majority of those low-earners seriously fear for their jobs, which is 46 percent more than were worried in similar polls during recessions in 1992 and 1975. Higher earners are more insecure than they used to be, too. Just less so than the poorer.
What does it mean to "lose a job to the economy," exactly? It sounds like a natural mechanism, as if the laws of science ordain it: action, reaction. Interest rates move this way, earnings move that, and the shifting between them sheds jobs, like the earth sighing out hot liquid rock when tectonic plates bump.
But the economy doesn't fire anyone; executive boards and operations officers and middle managers do—people who either are under orders to lay off company-building paycheck-earners for "the good of the company," or are members of the elite cadre that gets to define "the good of the company," usually in terms that ensure not economic survival or long-term growth, but maximized shareholder value.
Somehow, along the way, America's poorest, hardest-working, least-secure citizens accepted this elision: Their jobs are endangered not by the avarice of the management or investors who exploited them in the first place, but by periodic indigestion in the mysterious guts of this cosmic clock known as The Economy. This economy, man. It's the economy, stupid. Can't anyone fix this economy?
But don't you see? It's already been fixed. Just not for you. Enjoy your green bean casserole and pumpkin spoon bread. Maybe invite some other poors over for a taste.
[Image: Al Melquist, shown with his daughter preparing to watch the 2010 State of the Union, gave up looking for work. The house in Las Vegas where he lived sits empty and bank-owned after his landlord didn't make mortgage payments for 13 months. AP/Laura Rauch]