Friday, July 3, 2009

Fireworks, Festivals and Fortitude

Between the fireworks, parades and community festivals of the Independence Day weekend, I ran across the following online article by Heather Boushey from the Center for American Progress.

For me, this article served as a reminder that, despite the forecasts of impending economic recovery, millions of American families will continue to struggle to survive, cobbling together a patchwork of government assistance, and short-term or under-the-table work when they can find it. Many of those fortunate enough to have accumulated assets when times were good are depleting their resources to maintain standards of living, while confronting the uncomfortable realization that those standards will need to change significantly in the future.

Although there’s nothing dramatically new presented here, the timing is perfect and some of the facts in the article deserve a second look:

  • · The share of the population with a job fell to 59.5%, lowest since 1984
    · The number of mass layoffs in May reached an all-time high of 2,933 incidents, indicating more pain to come in the pipeline
    · The average hours worked fell to 33/week, a historic low
    · The unemployment exhaustion rate for the initial benefit period (26 weeks)reached 49.2% in May
    · Only 67.7% of adult men are employed, a number that had never previously fallen below 70.5%
    · The number of discouraged workers has more than doubled to 793,000 since the recession began in December 2007

These are stark reminders that this recession has transcended the cyclical shedding of jobs impacting those with marginal labor force attachment to penetrate the broad spectrum of the American population. While the massive debt resulting from efforts to stimulate the economy and shore up our safety net is painful, desperate times call for desperate measures. One thing is clear, however…the stimulus investment must be treated with a level of critical importance. These funds cannot be treated as simply “more of the same” to be used in precisely the manner to which we have become accustomed. Our traditional workforce, economic development, education and community resources are being called upon to facilitate the kind of revolutionary practice needed to make a difference in the future direction of our economy and our nation.

So, while I'm participating in this most American ritual watching tonights fireworks, I'll feel just a little more connected to those around me and further convinced that what we do, indeed, matters.

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