Saturday, May 22, 2010

Excellent Frontline Program About the Effects of the Recession on New York's Upper East Side

I just finished watching the PBS Frontline documentary Close To Home. I never thought I would have an interest in watching a documentary filmed in a hair salon, but the documentary consisted of interviews with patrons at a (seemingly) upscale hair salon describing how the recession and job loss has affected them.

It isn't a profound documentary, but I think it has value in that it helps to chronicle the depression and give people a sense of its depth. Most of the people interviewed had years of experience and college educations. It thus helps serve as anecdotal evidence that, contrary to what many smug free market dogmatists who downplay the recession believe, hard-working experienced college-educated people who are seeking employment can suffer great difficulty finding employment commensurate with their education, experience, and abilities through no real fault of their own.

I enjoy debating politics on various forums and I often end up in protracted debates with people who are employed and successful. They often have difficulty believing that global labor arbitrage is bad for Americans and that it's hard to find a job. Many of these free market advocates seem to maintain the delusional belief that the unemployed are turning down jobs and mooching government benefits. (To hear them tell it, "We wouldn't have so many unemployed people if only those lazy sots would get off the dole and start working all of those jobs that are out there!") They also argue that global labor arbitrage is good for us but can never provide an intuitively convincing argument addressing the supply-and-demand of labor aspects of it. (I'll discuss this further in a long primer I am preparing about global labor arbitrage.)

I'm sure that the message of this documentary will probably fall on deaf ears in regards to the free market dogmatists, but it is still good to have a documentary anecdotal that provides evidence to hopefully rattle their confidence in their position and weaken their resolve. Perhaps it will also help laid-off free market advocates question their economic belief system. (Long-term unemployment and underemployment can go a long way towards changing a person's world view.)


HardKnocks said...

I hadn't heard of this new Frontline documentary. It looks interesting. I was at an upscale NYC salon last year and the hairdresser told me a lot of stories about her regular clients who stopped coming to the salon because their husbands had lost their jobs. I'm sure one can find similar stories all across the country in both upscale and low end salons. When your job is on the line or you're unemployed, you can no longer afford extra pampering at the spa or salon.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this has been going on for some time now. There was a time that you could have a decent high school education, and still get a decent paying job. As time moved on, and as those blue collar jobs moved out to third world nations, those workers with a high school education were not able to find the decent paying jobs anymore. But many people did not seem to care, because they were not the ones suffering from this plight.
Then we were told that we were going to be a post industrial socciety, and that education and skills were the keys to prosperity. So many of us piled up the credentials in both areas, only to find out, that what we were told, was not exactly true.I am old enough to remember when the rust belt did not have rust, and the general attitude was that if those jobs went overseas, it would be ok because those workers could receive more education and training for new jobs. Yet, those workers who took up the gambit, and who could find jobs, made less than what they had earned prior in their old blue collar job. In fact we have had real income stagnation since 1973, and you can check government figures for that as well. Thus,this effects everyone that wants to make a decent living, and have a future for themselves and their families.
Now this crisis has hit the educated and skilled in a trickle up manner. Crushing debt, little opportunity, and deep resentment in which the promise of the American Dream is being outsourced to every third world nation. Those that outsource do not have an understanding as to who will buy their goods and services, since most of those businesses that go overseas for cheap labor and huge non tax profits, export their goods back to American shores, with no tarriffs, thanks to our trade laws and related treaties.
I graduated from The University of Texas twenty three years ago, and I was fortunate to have two job offers. Many of my fellow classmates weren't that lucky. I have one friend who has NEVER had a FULL TIME JOB!!! It was not because he was not trying to land one either. The timing was wrong, the economy was not right, and yet when we had the "recovery of the 90's", he was still out of luck. My friend has gone from one temporary job to another, but like he tells me, at least I am lucky to have a job, and I am fortunate to be in good health with no debt.
Since my graduation, I have seen this nation become economically and socially stratified in which it is becoming more of a have and have not society. Our national leaders in both government and in the private sector talk about "the middle class". Yet, they do more to harm the middle class, and remove the ladders of opportunity. I do not believe that they realize that without a growing and vibrant middle class, the nation that we celebrate every July 4th ceases to exist, and thus could give us great instability. No one wants to talk about that, but yet it is very real possibility.
Until we as a nation stand up to those that control our economic destiny, nothing will change, and yet the "lies" about opportunity will remain the same. I have empathy for people in their twenties and their thirties, because their life is going to be more of a struggle, and I am affraid that their earning power will be more diminished, and that has ramifications for the present as well as for the future.
For the first time in my life, i have genuine fear about the direction of our society, and the fact that we seem to be powerless to make any change for the better.

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