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Painting by Numbers

George Orwell had it all wrong you know, rather than a monolithic Big Brother enforcing conformity, there are thousands of Big Brothers. Choirs of angels singing a siren’s song as devil sings along in three-part harmony, in this, the misinformation age. Hosanna, halleluiah! Great news, a great victory for Oceania!

The Huffington Post dedicated its entire front page: “The unemployment rate dipped in June from 6.3 percent in May to its lowest level since the financial crisis struck at full force in the fall of 2008 with the bankruptcy of the Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers.”

Bloomberg News called it: “Payroll Surge Fuels Self-Sustaining U.S. Expansion”

224,000 new jobs in May and now, 288,000 in June, with unemployment falling to 6.1 percent! It’s all good, isn’t it? It’s all good, proof positive, the participation rate now stands at 62.8 percent and that’s great, isn’t it? Last June, the participation rate stood at 63.5 percent.

Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. –George Orwell

America’s labor force bulges to 155,694,000 with the addition of 288,000 new jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the number of unemployed workers fell this month by 325,000, leaving 9,474,000 still unemployed. That’s the keyhole view, the media view, the headline view.  For while the federal government can tell you how many endangered newts might live in a particular stream bed. Their concern for living, breathing and formerly tax paying citizens, isn’t quite as precise. They began as unemployed and when their unemployment benefits expired, they became “marginally attached to the labor force.” From there it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to the “discouraged worker” category.

Like a pinball machine, once these unemployed miss that last flipper, they go down a hole and just disappear. They’re Americans who aren’t employed and are no longer counted as unemployed; they just disappear from the labor force, from the headlines and from their government’s concern. 3.8 million Americans are down that hole with 293,000 more circling that dark vortex this month.

Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.
 –George Orwell

Every new job is a good job, right? If we forget that 19th century cotton planters in the south had achieved full employment. There is what is known as “part-time for economic reasons” it is also known as involuntary part-time and this month the number of Americans working part-time for economic reasons rose by 275,000 to 7,544,000. The numbers who could only find part-time work rose by 111,000 to 2.6 million. It is somehow difficult to explain this self-sustaining economic expansion, when the other 4.5 million Americans are working part-time due to slack work or business conditions.

The number of hours worked by Americans each week is unchanged from a year ago at 34.5 hours. The economy added a 138,000 new construction jobs since last June and that’s down from 142,000 in April. The improvements are incremental, trumpeting 288,000 new jobs is wonderful, if we can forget that for every one of those new jobs this month, 540 unemployed Americans found none.

The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink George Orwell

The average retail worker in the US, have seen their paychecks rise by a whopping, nine dollars a week, since last June. Professionals and business services have seen their incomes rise by less than $25.00 per week. Average hourly income has increased this month by six cents per hour, against an annual inflation rate of 2.1 percent.

  • Ground Beef + 10.4%
  • Flour & Prepared flour mixes – 2.7%
  • Bacon +15.3%
  • Coffee – 4%
  • Milk +7.3%
  • Sugar & Artificial sweeteners – 6.2%
  • Butter + 6.8%
  • Salad Dressing – 2.5%

‘How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’

‘Sometimes Winston, sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’ — George Orwell

There is still another category of American worker, the temporary worker. They’re considered neither fish nor fowl, jumbled into the same category as job losers. This month there were 4,862,000 temp workers and job losers. They’re offered few if any benefits and never know if this paycheck is their last. Many agencies offer health insurance to temp workers, but by in large, temp workers are working temp jobs trying to make ends meet, until they can find a permanent position. The number of temp workers has fallen from just over six million to just under five million. Is that a good statistic or a bad one? Did they find a permanent job or are there just fewer temp jobs available?

Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. George Orwell

Americans officially unemployed: 9,474,000 part-time for economic reasons: 7,544,000 marginally attached to the labor force: 2,028,000 discouraged workers: 676,000. Long term unemployed, no longer considered unemployed: 3.8 million. The numbers equal 23,522,000 Americans unemployed or under employed. Now add in 4,862,000 temp workers and the total reaches 28,384,000 remembering that those detached from the armed services, aren’t counted as unemployed.

The home foreclosure crisis, once so prominent in the headlines has disappeared, but only from the headlines. Bank repossessions are up in 26 states from April and have risen, year over year, in 16 states. The Commerce Department reported new home sales surged 18.6 percent in June, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 504,000 units annually. That’s great! Strike up the band! New homes sales for June (pre-crash) are at the lowest level since 1982. New home sales in June of 1963 were 526,000 when the US population was only 180 million. The rate of home ownership in the US has fallen below China, Romania and Mexico.

Existing home prices are rising due to institutional investors buying homes for rental property. It creates a two-fold effect, rising prices and tighter mortgage standards pushing the average American out of the home market. The number of American adults “Doubling Up” living with friends or relatives has more than tripled since 2007. 37 million American’s hold 1.1 trillion dollars in student loan debt and 47 Million Americans are receiving food stamps. 600,000 thousand Americans are homeless on any given night. Wages are flat, the good job is nearly extinct in America, and full-time work is an endangered species.

Our economy is a stumbling, wheezing old man, presented as the next heavy weight champion of the world. Yes, the Dow passed 17,000 but what does that mean to Main Street? 288,000 new jobs, gosh that’s good news! 288,000 new jobs is a great number, too bad 275,000 of those new jobs are part-time. So let’s paint a pretty picture, a clown juggling baby ducks, riding on a unicycle… peddling through a minefield.

There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad. –George Orwell

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The Roundup for July 28th, 2014

David Cox

David Cox