Monday, August 31, 2009

U3 and let 'em eat cake


If Marie Antoinette were alive today, she'd be down with the U3 method of calculating unemployment. This method of calculation is cold-hearted, soulless and a downright infuriating insult to the American people. For it declares some of the worse off among us, those that have exhausted unemployment benefits and have given up looking as non-persons unceremoniously tossed out of numerator and denominator.

Perhaps economic calculations should indeed be soulless, but they shouldn't be Satanic, and the U3 calculation is.

It's simply a way to gin up a better looking number to report, by creating an ever-shrinking "eligible employment base," down to almost 59% of adults these days, from a high of 65% just a few years ago. This measure simply tosses those folks out of the base and recalculates. Poof - through modern day statistical witchcraft, hoards of our fellow Americans disappear. A potion no less offensive than that of the witches of Macbeth, whose brood called for "liver of blaspheming Jew."

By the end of 2009, 1.5 million Americans will be thus cooked out of the sauce. Look for some of theses government-declared non-people to be taking to the streets in food riots by Christmas.

Our government needs to stop hiding the truth in statistical chicanery. The closest measure we have to an apples-to-apples measure of comparison to the way we calculated unemployment during the Great Depression is the U6 method. The U6 method adds back in the discouraged lookers and those who have had to settle for crappy part-time work to put some food on the table. Even that measure does not adjust for the millions of people who are working but have had their hours and pay slashed, sometimes dramatically. By the U6 measure, unemployment isn't far from 18%, and is up in the low twenties in some cities. This is flirting with Great Depression territory, and our government and media needs to start being upfront about this. True, the U6 number is released every month, but it's the U3 that gets all the attention. A number that actually ticked down a tenth of a percent in July, even as 247,000 more Americans found themselves out of a job.

Let's start reporting honest numbers, using methods that would please a Teddy Roosevelt or Thomas Jefferson, and leave cold-hearted Marie, whose thoughtless inconsiderations have already been judged, to the ash heap of history where she belongs.

No comments:

Post a Comment