It’s the Unemployed, Stupid

We fully expect that in his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama will make abundantly clear that his administration’s top three priorities are jobs, jobs and jobs.

Government leaders must “do everything we can to ensure that businesses can take root and folks can find good jobs,” Obama said last week in naming General Electric Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt to lead a panel on job creation. (Some have questioned the choice, saying that GE under Immelt has been sending jobs overseas.)

Of particular concern are the 4.4 million people nationwide who have been out of work for a year or more. These individuals make up more than 40% of the total unemployed, the highest percentage since World War II.

[EXPAND More]In his 1942 book The Future of Industrial Man, Peter Drucker likened the problem of lingering joblessness to an iceberg, noting that “unemployment is the part that shows above the water. But the real danger, lies below the waterline.”

“The unemployed has lost his livelihood as well as his status and function in society,” Drucker added. “He is an outcast . . . for whom society has no use and nothing to do.”

Don Peck echoed Drucker’s concerns in a haunting article in The Atlantic last year: “There is unemployment, a brief and relatively routine transitional state that results from the rise and fall of companies in any economy, and there is unemployment—chronic, all-consuming,” Peck wrote. “The former is a necessary lubricant in any engine of economic growth. The latter is a pestilence that slowly eats away at people, families, and, if it spreads widely enough, the fabric of society. Indeed, history suggests that it is perhaps society’s most noxious ill.”

What do you think: Are we headed for an era of extended high unemployment, no matter the efforts of President Obama and those on Capitol Hill? And, if so, what will that mean for society?[/EXPAND]