Thursday, September 17, 2009
A Question of Morality
Perhaps my viewpoint is biased because I sympathize with the millions of professionals currently unemployed, but are there others out there who like me see a decided increase in the number of heart-rending stories from "ordinary" Americans struggling to survive from the effects of a recession predicted by experts to be over? We've lost millions of jobs during this recession, and not just the blue-collar type that have constituted the rolls of previous recessions but a new breed of long-time dedicated workers across many age groups and from higher income levels. And, tragically, a vast majority of these jobs are lost forever, never to return again. With noticeable new job creation still months or years away, you now have a tremendous pool of experienced and qualified workers applying in huge numbers for the small number of jobs that remain. Often competing against hundreds or thousands of applicants for any one job opening, you have executives competing with young people for summer, part-time jobs or for step-down, blue collar janitorial jobs, retirees adversely affected by challenging financial markets having to come out of retirement seeking jobs, stay-at-home moms reentering the workforce, long-time, usually secure government workers at all levels downsized due to reduced revenues and program funding cutbacks joining the ranks of the unemployed for the first time, as well as individuals from hundreds or thousands of failed small businesses (i.e., victims of the Great Recession, denied new bank loans or facing reduced/eliminated credit lines, unable to afford health insurance for themselves or their workers, etc.) forced to return to the overall, generalized labor pool. And what about the thousands of recent or soon-to-be new college graduates entering the workforce, many needing jobs to pay back the thousands and thousands of dollars of student loans they have incurred to earn their college degrees, a burden most will have to bear for years to come? Where are the new jobs for this vastly expanded labor pool of new workers, unemployed and underemployed going to come from? I'm not sure even the most celebrated experts can answer this with accuracy. Suffice it to say, the wait will be long for even those financially able to weather the storm. But for thousands, perhaps millions of others, the waiting period has already or will soon expire. For so many workers thrust into the nightmare of unemployment for the first time in their lives, their rainy day savings are already gone, they have had to deplete their retirement nest eggs to survive, they have already or will soon exhaust their unemployment benefits or are being forced to turn to credit cards or temporary family loans to support everyday living expenses. Can more be done by others more fortunate in society, business leaders or in governmental power positions to help? To me, this is a deep-seated moral issue and is the greatest challenge facing our country today, bigger than health care, bigger than the environment, bigger than national security and bigger than Iraq or Afghanistan. It is a cancer within and I pray that someone is listening.