Thursday, April 16, 2009
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Populist Anger: The Toxic Legacy of George W. Bush
By TED RUHIG
Something strange is happening in today’s job market. Jobs are becoming harder and harder to find — particularly entry level jobs. The young are after these jobs, but the elderly want them, too. It’s very competitive out there.
The young are complaining that the elderly are squeezing them out; the elderly are complaining that they need low level jobs because they cannot make it on their retirement income in the wake of the economic mess inherited from President Bush.
The U.S. employment picture is in this mess because of the absence of appropriate governmental regulations in the financial sector. They were brushed aside under President Bush. It is obvious now that we need to bring back regulations first adopted under FDR. The non-regulated system we have now is facing a populist revolt as the rich get even richer while the rest of us are being taken to the cleaners.
Results from recent surveys reveal that 40 percent of all American workers between 51 and 61 years of age can expect no pensions or income in retirement beyond Social Security. Compounding that, approximately 20 percent have no personal savings, investments, real estate or other assets. And 14 percent carry no health insurance. Thus, the need for individuals to keep working beyond the traditional retirement age of 65 is paramount.
Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell the story. The amount of employed workers between ages 16 and 24 has fallen by two million over the last two years to 18.3 million while the number of those 65 and older working has risen by 700,000 to 6 million.
Each of these two groups needs new jobs, and they both feel they’re being pushed aside in today’s labor market. What is true is that the economy is not generating enough jobs to meet the needs of both the young and the old.
The New York Times reports: “The proportion of older Americans who hold jobs has also risen strongly — 16 percent of Americans age 65 and over had jobs last month, up from 11 percent 10 years earlier. Workers age 55 and older are now the fastest growing segment of the work force. But for workers age 16 to 24, the percentage with jobs has fallen to 49 percent, down from 59 percent a decade ago. As for Americans age 25 to 29, 74 percent now have jobs, down from 81 percent a decade ago.”
The younger generation just starting out in the job market appears to be in real trouble. Those graduating from college in 2009 are facing the worst employment prospects in 20 years, an independent research company has discovered. In addition, this generation is saddled with more debt than any one previous (an average of $5,631 per year in student debt alone, not to mention the load sitting on their credit cards and what they’re doling out in car payments). One analysis suggests that this younger generation is poorly prepared to weather a tough economic storm.
It may be that the older generation is poorly prepared to weather the tough economic times, as well. Before the turmoil on Wall Street decimated many retirement portfolios — in a survey conducted in 2007 for a report released by the AARP in late 2008 — 70 percent of older workers said they would retire late for a lack of money. There is little doubt that this number has increased since the survey was conducted.
“A lot of younger people are waiting for those good jobs. To the extent that older people are not giving up those jobs, that’s going to cause problems,” said Richard Johnson, researcher at the Urban Institute in Washington.
You would think, then, that choosing to join the military would help resolve the need for job opportunities among young people. This does not turn out to be such a satisfactory solution for some. Stressed by war and long overseas tours, U.S. soldiers killed themselves last year at the highest rate on record, the toll rising for a fourth straight year and even surpassing the suicide rate among comparable civilians.
At least 140 soldiers committed suicide in 2008, the Army has reported. But new data from the Army this month showed the number potentially jumping even higher this year. Forty-eight soldiers have already killed themselves so far this year. If that rate keeps up, nearly 225 Army soldiers will be dead by their own hand by the end of 2009.
Healthcare officials at various installations who are struggling to help reverse this trend say they’re overwhelmed by huge numbers of troops returning from two, three or even four deployments with acute mental problems directly related to combat.
There is a campaign these days to boost former President Bush’s legacy. Bush, himself, is saying that it is premature to judge his presidency just yet. But history starts now.
The former president must be held responsible for what occurred under his watch and its aftermath. Think of those who have died by their own hand upon their return home from military duty; think of those, both young and old, not finding the jobs they need to stay afloat, and what you get is the first picture of the Bush legacy, a toxic legacy indeed.
— Capitol News Service