What happens to workers when jobs leave for good?

WASHINGTON — Over the last year, out-of-work Americans, already down on their luck, have had to endure a barrage of unsympathetic, even mean-spirited, criticism from several of their elected representatives. Many Republicans, especially, have portrayed the jobless as either shiftless deadbeats too lazy to look for work or pompous failures too proud to take a job beneath their social standing.

Neither analysis is an accurate reflection of the desolate landscape in which many American workers find themselves. Surely those Republicans know that the unemployment rate has been stuck near ten percent for a year and a half; there are about five applicants for every job opening.

And, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said recently on “60 Minutes,” we’re unlikely to see a flush economy for several more years. That’s because the recent recession, brought on by Wall Street excesses, isn’t the only culprit.

For decades now, globalization and technology have been grinding away at American jobs, a process which has gained speed of late. And most of those jobs are never coming back.

Take my southern Alabama hometown. Best known as the  setting for Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it was never a prosperous place, but its textile mills and pulpwood plants used to provide a decent living for working-class residents.

The textile company now known as VF Corporation brought factories to Monroeville in the 1930s, providing paychecks to women (mostly) from the white working-class. By the 1970s, black women were also employed at its sewing machines, making Vanity Fair underwear sold in well-known department stores.

By the 1980s, Parsons & Whittemore Enterprises, one of the world’s largest producers of pulp for paper-making, was operating several mills in Monroe County. Its Alabama River Companies became the local standard for good wages. In 2000, Medline, a huge manufacturer and distributor of health care products and hospital scrubs, opened a small facility that seemed to promise a semblance of security.

But times have changed. The sewing mills have largely moved to low wage countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. Medline closed its Monroeville facility, though it has expanded its operations in Mexico and other locales.

For its part, the pulp business has been buffeted by such disparate technology-related trends as the decline of newspapers (a huge consumer of newsprint) and the rise of digital cameras (which circumvent the old print-snapshots-on paper habit). Plants have been shuttered and workers laid off. Some may eventually be re-hired, but many will not find work again that pays as well.

While the state of Alabama has an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, lower than the national average, Monroe County has an unemployment rate of about 16 percent. Its jobless residents can knock on doors, submit applications and spend countless hours in re-training classes at the local community college, but most are unlikely to find work any time soon. If your job experience is limited to cutting and dying at a textile mill, you’ll find it difficult to remake yourself as a nurse or a computer technician.

The prospects for Monroeville’s jobless workers won’t be transformed by the deal that President Obama has struck with Republican leaders, who insisted on maintaining Bush-era tax cuts for the richest Americans. The owners of textile plants are unlikely to decide that southern Alabama has suddenly become better for business than Brazil. Nor will the hiring plans at Georgia Pacific, which bought Parsons & Whittemore’s Monroe County holdings, change because its executives keep more money in their pockets.

The best news for the unemployed all over the country is that Obama managed to wrest a year-long extension of unemployment benefits out of the deal. For those workers who have nothing else, that’s the difference between eating and going hungry, paying the heating bill and sitting in the cold.

Indeed, Congress — despite its deficit hawks and its compassion-less conservatives — needs to reconsider the old idea that unemployment benefits are a short-term lifeline that is dropped after a recession ends. This was no ordinary recession; it is an earthquake that is destroying the old economy and creating a new one in its wake.

The victims of those tectonic shifts — especially workers too old to learn a new skill or move to a new city – may need long-term, government-funded assistance. It’s not their fault that the ground suddenly shifted beneath their feet.

457 comments Add your comment

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:36 am

BW

I grew up around guns. The cardinal rule was never bring a loaded gun in the house. Right now, i have a loaded 12 gauge in my hall closet and a loaded 45 auto in my nightstand. That’s AFTER I moved from within walking distance to some of Atlanta worst ghettos. When I lived there, I carried a loaded 45. There were liberal women taking shooting classes to protect themselves. Scared the hell out of me.

So will it be worst than that?

A Lumpkin Resident

December 8th, 2010
10:37 am

CT wrote: Congress needs to reconsider the old idea that unemployment benefits are a short-term lifeline that is dropped after a recession ends.

So, CT finally admits that she would allow folks to receive unemployment compensation…. forever. I often said that a liberal would never answer this question because it would reveal their true goal. Cynthia has stated their intentions nicely for us. She, and liberals, would create a new entitlement, permanent unemployment for all those who managed to put together a couple years work during their lives… and then were laid off . Many (most?) would receive benefits higher than minimum wage, and would have no incentive to EVER go back to work at a lower wage, and would lose the skills necessary to take a job in their chosen field.

As for cheap goods from other countries… this too will pass. It might take a very long time, though. The corporate world continues to grind through the third world, jumping from country to country as wages and the cost of doing business rise in the countries that establish facilities.

China is resource starved… including forests, metals, energy and water. China is heavily polluted. At some point the 700 million impoverished Chinese that are not part of the new middle class will want a share of the prosperity. China has worked so far because every citizen started with so little and most have gained at least a little during the rise to prosperity. But sooner or later, the Chinese will demand unpolluted air and strong property rights to keep what they have acquired. And then the totalitarian dream will unravel much the way it did in the Soviet Union.

Manufacturing is nearly always a double edged sword. Pollution and manufacturing jobs are always entwined. We get cheap goods from China. They get jobs and pollution.

Harry Callahan

December 8th, 2010
10:37 am

Keep Up..you need to change your handle. Not only are you failing to put up a good fight, you can’t even Keep Up with the news. I guess it’s your contention that all of the tea partiers who descended on Washington and elsewherer were all bankers in clever disguise? LMAO. As hard as you try to portray conservatives as people looking to government for a handout, you just keep making yourself look sillier and sillier.

Here’s another hint, sweetie…keeping your own money that you earned, instead of letting government confiscate it via taxation, is NOT a handout.

Libertarian

December 8th, 2010
10:38 am

Cynthia,

You offer no solutions to the problems of outsourcing. You just criticize Republicans. Do you propose that we just keep people on Public assistance forever? Isn’t it Democrats who love globalization and outsourcing and free trade? Companies will go overseas for their labor until Americans are willing to work for less, and unions go away. But Americans also have to be willing to pay a little more for their goods and services. The same people who whine about no jobs are the same ones who go to Walmart to buy $2 underwear that was made in Vietnam. The only solution is probably to tax the heck out of imports.

As for the recession…its a little difficult to buy this doom and gloom scenario when I tried to get a table at Rathbun’s last week on a Thursday night and there were none. That place ain’t cheap.

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:38 am

Nothing Is Free

How many people on the news have you heard got tied up in their homes even though they had guns? Simple fact is that if you’re not used to living like that it’s only a matter of time until one is a victim.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:38 am

Keep Up the Good Fight!

It ain’t Wall Street. It is the lack of jobs on Main Street.

Stocks are doing pretty well. The rest of the economy isn’t.

ButtHead

December 8th, 2010
10:39 am

Hey here is a stupid idea, for those that receive public assistance they will need to take a piss test, and have them perform some type of work for their public taxpayer help. That is if they are healthy enough too. I would bet that implementing those two things and let’s see what happens…

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
10:40 am

Do you think that the hundreds of thousands of jobs that have moved to other countries was because of Wall Street?

Yes.

Another episode of one word answers to simple(ton’s) questions.

RxDawg

December 8th, 2010
10:40 am

“For decades now, globalization and technology have been grinding away at American jobs”

Umm… you don’t think outrageous taxes, working conditions (thanks unions) etc don’t have anything to do with that? It’s not that hard, you want jobs back in America than do something to motivate the companies to build here.

wtf?

December 8th, 2010
10:40 am

Here’s an example of how lazy some people are. My company needed a few extra hands at our office durring a busy shipping week, so we called a temp service and they sent 3 workers over. i assume these workers were otherwise unemployed and desperate for a good paying job. We paid twice minimum wage plus lunch.

Guess what, when 5PM rolled around, all 3 quit about 2 hrs. before we were finished with that days orders, leaving us in a bind. I guess they earned enough to get them by for the next couple of days.
If that is the attitude of a lot of unemployed workers in this town, that’s pathetic.

Trust me, I have spoken with lots of people that recieve aid, disaster relief, benefits, ect., they game the system as much as they can and aren’t ashamed to do it.

To those people, I give the middle finger proudly.

Keep Up the Good Fight!

December 8th, 2010
10:41 am

Harry…really hard to be clueless isn’t it. Try to answer the question because according to you, no one came asking for a bailout. So why did the “smart” people in Wall Street need one if they were so very very smart.

Keeping your own money is fine. Taking government services without paying for them is just failing to pay the bill. The bill is due. Pay the bill or you are taking a handout. Even the dense like you should understand. PAY YOUR BILL!

hobby

December 8th, 2010
10:41 am

seems like ole Ross Perot was right!! That hugh sucking sound is jobs going out of this country!

ctucker

December 8th, 2010
10:41 am

TO THOSE OF YOU WHO COMMENTED THAT THERE ARE PLENTY OF GOOD JOBS:

Please tell me exactly where those jobs are, who to call about them, and I’ll write a column about all those good jobs that are going wanting. I keep hearing that there are five applicants for every job, but if you know something I don’t, please show me where those jobs are.

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:42 am

Wow RxDawg….and what motivation is that? I’ll put money down that even if corporate taxes are lowered to zero and every union disbands tomorrow the unemployment gauge doesn’t move more than a half a percent.

James

December 8th, 2010
10:43 am

Keep Up- fully expected you to say that versus “hey, good point, I will go do something more productive than sit in my glass house, throw stones, and think about other folks money”

James

December 8th, 2010
10:43 am

CT- coming to you shortly. Working on a rather large commercial cleaning contract- should know if a week.

Connie

December 8th, 2010
10:44 am

James

December 8th, 2010
8:25 am

Keep Up the Good Fight- I have this picture of you playing the theme to Rocky while you air box Greta every night while sipping a martini- go do something productive dude.

And James I get the picture of you doing the same with that “if I only had a brain” song from the Wizard of Oz.

ctucker

December 8th, 2010
10:44 am

Libertarian@10:38, Are you really suggesting that REpublicans are NOT huge proponents of outsourcing and free trade?

A Lumpkin Resident

December 8th, 2010
10:45 am

p.s. Anyone notice the liberal-progressive shift from using the term “Bush Tax Cuts” to “Bush-era Tax Cuts”. This has occurred in the last couple of months. I can’t figure out this new semantic twist, but the last time something like this happened is when Obama went from “jobs created” to “jobs created or saved” in his state of the Union address.

We know THAT semantic shift occurred so that Obama could lay claim to “saving jobs”… an unverifiable claim to make numbers to justify the stimulus.

ctucker

December 8th, 2010
10:45 am

Libertarian@10:38, Do you think the unemployed are going to Rathbun’s? Do you think the average American goes to Rathbun’s? I think you are elitist and out of touch.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:45 am

BW

- -How many people on the news have you heard got tied up in their homes even though they had guns?- -

Maybe I missed that story. I had a neighbor who air conditioned a thug’s chest who broke into his home, carrying an AK with a 9mm. But after the AJC featured an article about the guy, saying that his house was the only yellow house on a specific street, he was forced to move because of the death threats.

I visit the old neighborhood where a guy was unloading his car, three thugs beat him almost to death for 16 bucks and some gifts meant for his kids.

I’ll take the chance. I hope I never have to shoot someone, but I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

Russ555

December 8th, 2010
10:45 am

What happens – either someone helps or they do they same thing they did in Ireland in the 1840’s when the potatos dissappeared.

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:45 am

Financial engineering creates no positive effect on the economy….it creates money on paper and a guaranteed fee in tangible money.

@wtf?

Blue collar workers are lazy…got it…what about all those white collar guys sitting at home?

wfclyon

December 8th, 2010
10:45 am

That’s a very general accusation. Could you be very specific about who, when and where when you make the following statement: “Many Republicans, especially, have portrayed the jobless as either shiftless deadbeats too lazy to look for work or pompous failures too proud to take a job beneath their social standing.”
One of my uncles lives in Kansas, is in his late 70’s, and a life-long Democrat. He became very disgusted with his son who was laid off and did not raise one finger to obtain a job for almost two years while he was collecting unemployment, but miracle upon miracles, was able to get a new job withing weeks of his last unemployment check. Oh forgot to add, my uncle wishes he had his vote for Obama back and will no longer be voting a straight Democrat ticket.

Connie

December 8th, 2010
10:46 am

Don’t hold your breath on any of these blowhards answering that job question Cynthia. Most of them are from that crowd that still believes Saddam Hussein had WMDs. They have all the answers without being able to answer anything.

ctucker

December 8th, 2010
10:46 am

A Lumpkin Resident@10:37, Whatever gave you the impression that my column was about people who “managed to put together a couple years work during their lives.” You know nothing about the people about whom I wrote.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:46 am

C Tucker

- -Please tell me exactly where those jobs are, who to call about them,- -

That’s like the man who has beat the crap out of every women he has ever dated saying: Where are all the good women.

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:47 am

Nothing Is Free

And you shouldn’t hestiate but thinking that no one has a bigger gun or is smarter when they are intent on getting something is a dangerous thought.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
10:48 am

How funny that many want to blame unions for jobs going overseas?

More NON UNION jobs have been outsourced to other countries than union jobs. Why no mention of that?

Customer service, programmers, engineers……. All sorts of jobs in industries that have had little to NO union representation.

If you want to make the point that unions played a part that is a valid issue up for discussion, but stop being disingenuous or just plain ignorant to the fact that it isn’t just union jobs being sent overseas. Regardless of the tax rate or regulations, many companies are still saving money by outsourcing and would be doing it no matter what. That is their right to do so, but lets deal in facts not pundit talking points

Equality 7-2521

December 8th, 2010
10:48 am

Cynthia,

It’s pretty amazing that you want to know where the good jobs are without being willing to create an economic environment that will generate good jobs.

And as we continue down this path, the reality is we do not deserve good jobs if we are going to penalize the successful, subsidize the unprofitable, and support forever the unemployed.

Bad businesses must be allowed to fail. Bad choices must have consequences.

“Through no fault of their own” is Obama and Company’s newest catchphrase.

Decades of ever expanding taxes and regulations on business has consequences. And this would not have happened without the votes of the masses, many who are now unemployed or underemployed, and it is indeed their fault.

wtf?

December 8th, 2010
10:48 am

ctucker – mistake number one in job hunting, you don’t pick up the phone to call and ask for a job. Get off your lazy ass and impress the employer, don’t call, that’s horrible advice

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:48 am

Kammy

One word answers are your strong suite. That and cut and pasting articles.

Now run along. K?

ctucker

December 8th, 2010
10:49 am

TXM@10:25, I am utterly delighted that you commented and brought some actual knowledge of the situation in Monroeville. Many of my commenters are mean and vicious and completely ignorant of the people of whom they speak.

Keep Up the Good Fight!

December 8th, 2010
10:50 am

James..child..your table is over there. Adults are over here. I am still not into you.

ButtHead

December 8th, 2010
10:50 am

Kamchak;,
It was our loser president and congress that GAVE wall street the billions they wanted so they could screw the America people so why not put the blame where it needs to be; on the Obozo administration. They are the ones who decided where the money would go…

AmVet

December 8th, 2010
10:50 am

Yep, tons of great jobs out there!

Or is this is a “jobless recovery”?

(I can never keep the Republirube talking points straight.)

Good times in Delusionville…

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:50 am

BW

What would you suggest?

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

December 8th, 2010
10:51 am

Ms. Tucker, the Duhmerican economy is turning out jobs all the time – lapdancers, prostitutes, Walmart greeters, and gardeners – and bodyguards – for the Wall Streeters on Long island, are the fastest growing fields… although wages are down for all of those positions.

And look at your “conservative” bloggers, Ms. Tucker – would you hire any of those idiots for anything?

George W

December 8th, 2010
10:52 am

Then it is time to re-educate and possibly seek a new line of employment.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
10:52 am

@wfcyclon

Citing your family member doesn’t make it a microcosm of all who are seeking work. Yes there are LAZY, dirtbags who will mooch off the system. We can argue all day about what that percentage is, but millions of people just didn’t become lazy as layoffs, etc exploded in the last few years

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:53 am

Who is saying that there are jobs out there?

They are gone, folks. They are in Mexico and India.

Yes, CT. Most of America is screwed. So why do you think the companies left?

George W

December 8th, 2010
10:53 am

CTucker….Actually you seem to know nothing about the people that you wrote about.

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:54 am

@Butthead…yes pretend Bush didn’t initiate TARP…completely absolve him of his bailout and pretend that Republicans are pro-small government. And while you’re in fantasy land keep pretending the corporations, those that actually have the money and run this country, give a damn about the “American people”

atp

December 8th, 2010
10:54 am

– Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

– Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

– Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

– Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

– In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

– People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
10:54 am

@Butthead

Bush didnt initiate TARP? I’m sorry I must have been mistaken.

PUT IT ALL IN CONTEXT or STFU with you right wing talking points

dumbcrkr

December 8th, 2010
10:54 am

My Great-grandfather used to tell us of how he kept his rifle by his bedside because the so-called men from town would come by after getting liquored up and shoot into houses and other acts of terror. He used to tell us how any incident you tried to report went nowhere because the sheriff was one of them. I guess if some people are scared now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:55 am

They BOTH suck

It doesn’t take a lazy dirtbag to become frustrated and cease looking for work, especially when the government is taking up the slack.

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

December 8th, 2010
10:55 am

There used to be jobs for middle-class folks with limited educations. There used to be jobs for middle-class people with good educations.

Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Indian, Pakistani, etc. workers work much cheaper. And, increasingly, smarter, as our education system continues its rapid decline to third-world (a.k.a. Dixie) status.

atp

December 8th, 2010
10:55 am

funny how liberals are all about charity…as long as someone ELSE is paying for it!!!!

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:56 am

Nothing Is Free

A slap of the fingers and morning in America again….there is no magic solution without pain…but I’m not going to pretend that either political party cares enough to fix it and wouldn’t rather pit us against each other on b.s.