Saturday, March 21, 2009

Forget the Bread Line, Now It's The Job Fair Line

Floyd Norris, a business columnist for the New York Times, sternly lectured us in his column today that we should grasp the reality of our lost trillions and permanently shrunken economy with attendant extinction of jobs and adapt to a new downwardly trending lifestyle

Okay, I've done that. I'm an intelligent, articulate, multitasking professional with a powerful academic and business background. By August 2007, I knew the economy was going to take a disastrous fall. I took all of my money out of equities and put it in Treasuries. I paid down my debt. I predicted company deleveraging and the shedding of jobs, because cutting labor is the quickest and easiest way to cut costs. I became a consultant, paid for my own health insurance, and tried to adapt to any contingency. I knew how to maximize value without investing capital. Yet I still lost consultant jobs, one after another.

I've had to make plenty of socioeconomic and psychological adjustments to my downward spiral. All I want is hope for new employment. I need and love to work.

Norris is wrong to say that most of us, the "poorer", those losing their jobs, their homes and their equity on an escalating basis, are in denial. We're somewhere mired in the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In Susan Dominus's article, also in today's Times, illustrates this perfectly with a quote from one Arthur Bernstein, a recruiter from Bramson ORT College who manned a booth at a NYC job fair yesterday where the line for applicants wound its way down a cold, dreary street way before it opened at 11 am. He was trying to drum up students but many of the attendees thrust their resumes at him, hoping for a position.

"This situation," he said to no one in particular, "is really sick."

I got news for you, Floyd. Out here we know the score. It's in DC and Wall Street, those overlapping bubbles, that permanent denial lives on. That's where lifestyles haven't changed even though these are the people responsible for all the destruction. Robert Rubin and Larry Summers blocked the regulation of derivatives during the Clinton administration, yet they've come back to oversee the collapse. Politicians whose hands are in the pockets of financial lobbyists shred any rules that might interfere with permanent employment. They are millionaires. They have free health care. They have large pensions and golden parachutes. The financial institutions are on government life support which allows them to continue their lavish lifestyles.

I hear a lot of heated rhetoric but I don't see any strings attached or iron-clad laws passed against fraud and criminality. The credit rating agencies that gave out the triple-A ratings to the worthless mortgage-backed securities because they were paid by the issuers are still in charge of rating trillions of dollars worth of assets. They are also rewarded for failure.

The overlapping bubbles of DC and finance are sociopathically reinforcing: they are grandiose, and narcissistic without a shred of remorse. And they wonder why there is populist rage. Rage that is nonpartisan.

I am a strong writer. I wanted to be an investigative journalist like Sydney Schanberg or Seymour Hersch, but the Internet with its insatiable desire for free written content (except for and its ability to destroy income for dead tree media leaves few openings for someone to make a living. Does Arianna Huffington pay enough for the Huffington Post to do great primary reporting? Or does the Post steal content from other sources ("not stealing, merely aggregating")? Are we in a drive to the bottom, where writers will have to offer the lowest bid for their services? The NY Times used to pay $750 for an op-ed piece. Now it pays $300.

Is labor in a race to the bottom? Will the taxpayer pay private equity and hedge fund firms to take toxic waste off the banks' hands, thus subsidizing systemic risk and perverse incentives? Is the Pope Catholic?

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