by Bartleby the Scrivener | Happy day-after-Labor-Day-2009. According to The New York Times, the recession is worse than it sounds, even when you look at the rising unemployment rate (9.7%). Those statistics are misleading.
"To be included in that measure, which is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from a monthly nationwide survey, a worker must have actively looked for a job at some point in the preceding four weeks.
"For an increasing number of people in this country who would prefer to be working, that is not the case.
"It is difficult to assign an exact figure, because of limitations in the data collected by the bureau, but various measures that capture discouragement have swelled in this recession.
"In the most direct measure of job market hopelessness, the bureau has a narrow definition of a group it classifies as “discouraged workers.” These are people who have looked for work at some point in the past year but have not looked in the last four weeks because they believe that no jobs are available or that they would not qualify, among other reasons. In August, there were roughly 758,000 discouraged workers nationally, compared with 349,000 in November 2007, the month before the recession officially began." (NYT)
At WaPo, looking at other and equally disturbing statistics, Harold Meyerson comments:
Gather all [the] mournful numbers -- the millions of Americans unable to find work, the 70 percent of workers under 35 who are unable to set aside any money, the nearly two out of three Americans approaching retirement age who fear they won't be able to retire, and the sub-nation of low-wage Americans routinely cheated on the job -- and what emerges is a picture of a country in decline.
The first nation in human history to create a middle-class majority looks increasingly to be losing it. The economic security that was common, though by no means universal, in this country when the institutions created by the New Deal were strong, often provided by unionized corporations that felt compelled to offer insurance and pensions to their workers, is as dead as the dodo.
The Reaganite ideology of the past 30 years insisted that if Americans were freed from the constraints of government and unions and made responsible for their own economic security, a golden age would come. Sure enough, American businesses have eluded regulation and cast off their unions -- but they've left their workers in the lurch. If we fail to enact universal health care and laws that truly make it possible for workers to form unions again, each of our Labor Days will be grimmer than the last. (emphasis added)
Since our current vocal minority is too blinded by ideology to look out for its own interests, it's anyone's bet how long it is going to take before America provides its citizens with the safety nets available in other western nations.
Anna Turner at the Economic Policy Institute lays out some of the numbers. Here are some of them.
TOTAL JOBS LOST DURING THE RECESSION: 6.9 MILLION
AMERICANS UNINSURED IN 2007: 45 MILLION
• Drop in children covered through parents’ employers, 2000 to 2007: 3.4 million
• Share of people under 65, with incomes in the top 20%, covered by employers in 2007: 86.4%; Share with incomes in the bottom 20%, covered by employers: 21.9%
• Share of Hispanic workers who are uninsured: 39.8%
• Percentage of under-65 Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance in 2000: 68.3%; In 2007: 62.9%
• Average monthly cost of COBRA with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act subsidy: $370; Without American Recovery and Reinvestment Act subsidy: $1,057
• Rise in out-of-pocket spending for the 1% of adults with the greatest medical expenses, 2004-2007: 42%
• Increase in health care premiums since 1999: 119%
• Amount by which U.S. private health insurance administrative costs exceeded all Canadian national health spending in 2007: $25 billion**
• Share of total U.S. health care costs paid by private insurers in 2007: 35%
• Share of total health care costs paid by U.S. government in 2007: 46%
Meanwhile, also at WaPo, Karl Vick reports on a spate of rescissions by health-care insurers.
The untimely disappearance of Sally Marrari's medical coverage goes a long way toward explaining why insurance companies are cast as the villain in the health-care reform drama.
"They said I never mentioned I had a back problem," said Marrari, 52, whose coverage with Blue Cross was abruptly canceled in 2006 after a thyroid disorder, fluid in the heart and lupus were diagnosed. That left the Los Angeles woman with $25,000 in medical bills and the stigma of the company's claim that she had committed fraud by not listing on a health questionnaire "preexisting conditions" Marrari said she did not know she had.
By the time she filed a lawsuit in 2008, she also got a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and her debts had swelled beyond $200,000. She was able to see a specialist by trading office visits for work on the doctor's 1969 Porsche at the garage she owns with her husband.
"I've had about 10 visits," Marrari said of the barter arrangement that has proved more reliable than her insurance. "The car needs a lot of work."
Good for Marrari. But what about all those insureds out there who can't offer value for office visits?
It's pretty clear when you look at the numbers what we need to do and how we need to go about it, but the corporatists and their blind-to-their-own-interest shills are doing their all to prevent it from happening.
Well, as we like to say around here, better that you and I be deprived of the means to pay for our or our families' cancer or lupus treatments than a single insurance company executive be deprived of a private jet.
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