Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A strange, sad story

This happened in my old neighborhood in Boston. This guy, a former Massachusetts state representative who graduated from UMass Amherst and went on to study at the London School of Economics (no word in the story on a degree), was busted after having 480 grams of crystal meth mailed to him at the middle school where he was working as a tutor. He's about my age.

How or why you go on from being Chair of the House Committee on Ethics, Chair of the Education Committee, and Chair of the Taxation Committee, to becoming a meth dealer in your 50s, I don't know. But it gives me occasion to think on the trajectory of people's lives. I've been very fortunate -- my career has continued to be nothing but up, in the terms that matter to me, even as I come almost within sniffing distance of the age when many people retire. (I have no such intention.) But what's happening right now to a whole lot of folks is just the opposite.

This editorial in Bloomberg News should shock us all. More than 4 million Americans who are still looking for work have been out of work more 6 months or more. Many more people -- it's hard to find out how many -- aren't counted because they have simply given up looking for work. And once you lose your grip on the job market, it's very hard to get back in -- employers actually discriminate against long-term unemployed people in hiring.

We hear countless stories about people who have worked all their lives, managed to carve out a decent middle class standard of living, and then just fell right off the rails. They're in their 50s, they can't get a job in their field, and it's just too late to start over. People have lost their homes, sucked out their retirement savings, and now they're looking at a bleak old age. There are millions of these people.

The political leadership doesn't seem to care. The only way to tighten up the job market and give these folks a chance is for the federal government to adopt a stimulative fiscal policy. In other words, spend money to rebuild the national physical and human infrastructure and put people back to work. We know damn well this is what we need to do, and that in fact it would reduce the federal budget deficit in the long term because we a healthy and growing economy will mean more tax revenues and less expenditures on the social safety net. But as Eduardo Porter laments at the linked essay, we're doing the exact opposite because we've been taken over by ideologues who have no connection to economic reality. (Porter goes off the rails himself by saying we need a grand bargain to fix the crisis in Social Security and Medicare by raising the retirement age and restricting benefits. Bullshit. All we need to do about Social Security is eliminate the cap on income subject to the SS tax. Problem solved. As for Medicare, reforming how we pay for services and rationalizing our health care system will do the job, but nobody is talking seriously about that. But I digress.)

The cruelty and fundamental irresponsibility of our political leadership is appalling. I'm not saying y'all should go out and start dealing meth, and in fact I don't know what happened to Doran. But his story did get me to thinking . . .

1 comment:

Don Quixote said...

Oy vey. Great, and sad, column. I think Anthony De Mello would say: Most of us are asleep our entire lives.