Boots On Throats, The Long, Hot Summer

22 Jun

Imagine being told that you need to do something in life and you attempt to do it, but the person that’s very insistent that you do X takes his other hand and actively goes out of his/her way to prevent you from attaining X while each passing moment in time said person begins to label you as “lazy” or not trying hard enough?

That’s what it feels like to the nearly 6 million people who have been out of work over 27 weeks.

(Image Credit: Matt Stone)

There’s no doubting that many of these people (as well as the 16% “underemployed”) would be happy to work. They have the skills, they have the motivation and many of them would most likely work harder to keep their jobs in light of what’s happened in the past 3 years. Yet, I see people who have the power to create jobs dispensing this sage “advice” that those who are unemployed are all lazy and they are not trying. They are trying to find work, many of them at significant (> 50%) less pay than their previous jobs. A job. Any job. What are they met with? Let’s go through a short list that those who like to dispense sage advice with one hand put unemployed people through with their other hand when they apply for their jobs:

  • Overqualified
  • Not the “right skills”
  • Not a “right fit”
  • Unemployed/Unemployed for “too long”
  • ________ Insert your reason du-jour here

It seems to me that many (not all) of the same people who constantly preach that people should “get a job” are actively exacerbating the problem by finding a reason, any reason to not hire those same people that they say need to “get a job”. I’m quite sure that the unemployed know what they need to do and they are actively striving to do just that; find a job. Again, it’s not helpful when those people who have the power to create jobs are trying to come up with every reason not to hire someone. They spend so much of their energy trying to keep people out as opposed to discovering ways to attract talent that may prove to actually possess a shred of loyalty to your company, a harder work ethic and a willingness to evolve and try new things within an organization.

Many people think that entrepreneurship is a solution. It’s a solution for some, not all. But again, constraints are put on those who try to launch new businesses. Lending standards are particularly tight, if you’re unemployed and you walk into your local bank with a business plan but have little to no assets, you’re going to be laughed right out the front door (Unless you’re at a Chase, where you will be accosted by 6-10 personal bankers trying to get you to open up a checking account or credit card).

Bill Gross’s July letter is a must read. This quote is particularly relevant:

 “It is clear, however, that neither party has an awareness of the why or the wherefores of how to put America back to work again”

I agree with this statement. As I wrote in Structural or Structurally Selective, legislation to prevent unemployment “discrimination” will only push it into more subtle, less detectable means. Legislation alone is not going to solve the problem; a grassroots movement to change the perception is needed. But first we must admit that there is a problem, and people that like to preach the “get a job” line don’t want to admit that their other hand is actively working to prevent those who want to work from doing what they are saying with their left hand.

Perhaps Bill Gross is right about structural changes in the economy in terms of fueling job growth on the back of a financial driven economy. There will undoubtedly need to be some work done to position those people who have been affected by this shift, most notably in manufacturing. Technology workers are being subjected to a structurally selective shift in the economy: employers are placing absurd requirements for these jobs in the US and then when a “rockstar” programmer/whatever doesn’t appear out of thin air, they cry from the rooftops that there’s a shortage of skilled workers in the US. Ask any technology professional/consultant about technology job postings and you will begin to see a broader picture emerge.

Stop putting boots on the people’s throats and actively work to remove the barriers of misguided perceptions and prejudice so that society as a whole can benefit.

Happy Recovery Summer.


One Response to “Boots On Throats, The Long, Hot Summer”


  1. Wednesday links: heavy consequences | Abnormal Returns - June 22, 2011

    […] approaches on the issue of structural unemployment.  (Credit Writedowns, Stone Street Advisors, The […]

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