Yet, incredibly, many of the unemployed think it will all turn out fine. A poll conducted by The Washington Post with Ipsos and released on Thursday found more than 3 out of 4 laid-off workers believe they will return to their positions when the shutdowns end. We’re just assuming our jobs will come back, not that they went permanently poof.
No doubt some of this is because they are being told their layoffs are temporary furloughs — that they will be rehired as soon as permitted. No doubt this is because President Trump is portraying it that way. “Those jobs will be back and they’ll be back very soon,” he claimed on Fox News Friday morning.
Wrong! The layoffs, which began in low-wage sectors and public-facing industries hit hard by shutdowns, are spreading. Hollywood powerhouse WME is widely reported to be laying off about 20 percent of its workforce next week. Many of those so-called furloughs will turn into something much more permanent.
The experts sound petrified. JPMorgan Chase analyst Bob Michele said in a Thursday interview that it would take a decade for the economy to return to its previous position of strength. City National Bank Chairman Russell Goldsmith — hardly one of the usual left-wing suspects — told the Los Angeles Times this week that he wants to see large investments in infrastructure, education and combating climate change. “I am speaking out in this way because I think there really has to be a concerted effort by people to push Congress and make the case for why we can’t wait for recovery stimulus. With an election looming, this is the last train out of Dodge.”
Let me repeat that: The last train out of Dodge. A bank chairman said it, not me.
We need action now. Don’t count on getting it later. Wait, and the American instinct to blame the victim — much in evidence during the Great Recession — will almost certainly kick in. “I am worried when the later stage comes, we will also lose all political ability to legislate for any kind of support for unemployed workers,” Ofer Sharone, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who specializes in studying the long-term jobless, told me Friday morning.
And, in fact, there are already blame articles galore. MarketWatch, in an article published Friday, reminded unemployed people over the age of 50 that they need to beef up their LinkedIn profile. “It is feasible to meet this challenge,” they chirped.
Not alone it’s not. Not one by one it’s not.
We need much more than we’ve gotten so far. The first rounds of the federal stimulus and relief acts gave temporary boosts to unemployment and botched desperately needed help for small business owners, while making sure billionaires and big business received gobs of aid. At the same time, state unemployment systems can’t keep up with the demand, there are miles-long lines at food banks, and 1 in 5 children under the age of 12 is not receiving enough to eat.
We’ve got one more chance to get this right. Democrats in Congress need to carry out their promise to propose their own covid-19 relief bill, one that contains, as Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer promised Thursday, “Franklin Rooseveltian-type action.”
We need permanent — not temporary — fixes to our inadequate unemployment systems. SNAP needs to be both more generous and easier to access, so families can feed their children even if the adults don’t have jobs.
But we need bigger-picture items too. How can the suddenly unemployed — and the unlikely to be rehired — be retrained and redeployed to positions that will need to be filled for the sake of all our futures, in health care, education and saving the environment?
No, this isn’t going to happen immediately. We’ve got Mitch McConnell, Trump and the rest of the Republican gang to thank for that. But Democrats need to go on the offense. They need to explain to the American public just what a mess of economic trouble we are in.
They can’t let the deficit stop them. They can’t let the fear of Republican opposition stop them. They then need to fight harder than they’ve ever done before, for the sake of all our futures. If they don’t, people won’t realize the severity of the damage done to our lives, politics and nation until it is irreparable.