FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Jarring Disconnect

by DAVE LINDORFF

In his latest speeches on the Middle East, President Obama, both at the State Department and at the G8 meeting in France, has pledged billions of dollars in economic aid to Middle Eastern countries, drawing a direct connection between the unrest and demonstrations that brought down the dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and the joblessness and hopelessness felt by the young people in those two countries.

His adviser on international economics, David Lipton, has been more specific, saying that, “We believe that these two pillars go hand in hand. Without economic modernization, it will be hard for governments trying to democratize to show people that democracy delivers.”

Unemployment in Egypt among young men and women is about 30%. In Tunisia, it is over 40%. The White House claims that with figures like that, the future for democracy in those countries is tenuous.

But wait a minute. What about the US? Unemployment and underemployment here is still up around 20% overall, and it is much higher among young people. Black youth unemployment fell so far in 2011 to an official rate of 44% from 50% last year! Among Latino youth, the official unemployment rate is stuck at around 30%. Overall, youth unemployment, according to the official Labor Department figures, is 20%, but remember, the official rate does not count those who are working part time who want full-time work, and does not count those who have given up looking for work. Among young people, it may be that many who work part-time (those who live at home or who are in school or college) actually are not looking for full-time work, so that upward adjustment may not be as great as for older workers, but at the same time, there are certainly more young people who give up looking for jobs than is the case with older workers who have families to support. In any event, it is clear that all these youth unemployment figures are actually too low by a significant amount.

If the official rate of unemployment for all Americans of 9% is actually less than half of the actual rate of 20%, then even if we took a conservative estimate, simply eliminating the adjustment of those working part-time who want full-time work from the youth unemployment figure, and just keeping the adjustment for those who have dropped out of the labor force (stopped looking for work) because it is fruitless, we would still see actual unemployment figures for young people in the US at staggering Egypt-like levels: 30% for all young people, 45% for young Latinos, and as high as 66% for black youth!

So why is the president so concerned about providing economic support to boost jobs in countries like Tunisia and Egypt, in order to “support democracy,” while in here in the US, he has basically thrown in the towel on job creation efforts, and is just talking about cutting the deficit–a Republican theme? Cutting the deficit, even as economists are increasingly warning that the so-called “recovery” is sputtering, is a recipe for even worse unemployment.

The answer can be found by looking at the way the young have reacted to joblessness in Egypt and Tunisia on the one hand, and in the US on the other.

In Egypt and Tunisia, they took to the streets and stood down police and soldiers, ultimately bringing down their governments.

Here in the US, young people, like their parents, are largely quiescent. Their reaction to the frustrations of joblessness tend to be either self-destructive (drugs and alcohol) or anti-social (gang activity or crime).

If they were to band together and take over city squares to demand action by government to give them jobs, to provide them with access to college funding, etc., they would get the same kind of attention and help from local and state governments and from the White House and Congress that Egyptian and Tunisian youth are getting from the G8 countries.

Sure, they’d have to face down police armed with tear gas and batons, just like their compatriots in Tunisia and Egypt had to do, but once aroused, motivated and organized, young people have the stamina and courage to do that.

What is lacking is any real effort to organize these frustrated and angry young people, and to get them out into the street. The traditional groups that would have done this in the past–the labor movement, civil rights organizations, and political groups on the left–have been somehow neutered. Their focus, such as it is, is on now on elections, on recall campaigns, and on the coming 2012 presidential contest. It is not on organizing unemployed young people.

Expecting the White House to act on this crisis of long-term joblessness and diminished expectations for the future among young workers is foolish. The Obama administration knows what the problem is. It just doesn’t care.

As an “unnamed White House official” put it at a press briefing recently,
“I think it’s important to note that the political movements of nonviolent protests that we’ve seen are rooted in part in a lack of opportunity in the region. You have very large populations of young people, many of whom — too many of whom cannot find a job. You have a history not just of political rights being restricted but of economic corruption that has also frustrated opportunity.

“So we think it’s important to note that some of the protests in the region are deeply rooted in a lack of individual opportunity and economic growth, as well as a suppression of political rights.

“We also know from our study of the past that successful transitions to democracy depend in part on strong foundations for prosperity, and that reinforcing economic growth is an important way of reinforcing a democratic transition.”

That analysis clearly applies equally to the impoverished inner cities of the US, and indeed increasingly to the entire population of young Americans, who are seeing national policies, state policies and corporate lobbying — all focused on cutting taxes and boosting corporate profits — rob them of their futures.

And so it will be, unless and until the youth of America do what Bob Marley long ago advised: “Get up, stand up, stand up for their rights.”

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run, reader-supported online alternative newspaper approaching its one-year anniversary of daily publication.

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail