Long-term unemployment is our most urgent crisis, and we're doing nothing about it.
In fact, Congress can barely be bothered to even talk about it. As Niraj Chokshi of National Journal reports, only four lawmakers showed up for the Congressional hearing on long-term unemployment on Wednesday. And three of them got there late.
For the first time since the 1930s, there are millions of people who want work who can't find it, no matter how long they look. That's what what happens when a downturn goes too long and a recovery doesn't go far enough. You can see that depressingly enough in the chart below that compares job openings and layoffs the past decade (which is as far back as the data goes). After Lehman failed, and it looked like everyone might need to brush up on their farming skills, there were more people getting fired each month than there were jobs available. But even after the panic passed, the jobs have been slow to return given the depth of the hole.
Look at how few job openings there were six months after Lehmangeddon. It was just incredibly tough for people who got laid off during the depth of the crisis to find work soon afterwards -- or even years later. The chart below, via Megan McArdle, shows the cumulative effect of our horribly dysfunctional labor market: there were over 6.5 unemployed people per job opening in 2009, and that dismal ratio has since only gradually declined to something approximating a less complete disaster.
In other words, there are lots of people who have been out of work for six months or longer who only made the mistake of losing their job at the wrong time. But that's unfortunately been enough to make them finding a new job a long shot.
Something happens when you've been out of work for half a year. Employers ignore you completely. That was the conclusion of a new field study by Rand Ghayad, a visiting scholar at the Boston Fed and a PhD candidate at Northeastern University, that showed that resumes with otherwise identical qualifications get called back far less if they list six months of unemployment. As Matt Yglesias points out, the problem is this kind of statistical discrimination against the long-term unemployed is pretty rational. Companies with a big stack of resumes to get through (which is all of them nowadays) will still have more than enough strong candidates left over if they screen out the long-term jobless, who presumably would have gotten a job before if they themselves were strong candidates. Now, this heuristic makes sense, but it makes less sense in the aftermath of the worst crisis in 80 years -- and much less sense on a macro level. After all, it makes us collectively poorer if the long-term unemployed become unemployable.
What is to be done about this unemployment trap? Well, there are two possible policy approaches: macro or micro. In other words, trying to reduce unemployment in general, or long-term unemployment in particular.
Mike Konczal, for one, thinks we should just focus on the economy, stupid, since nothing helps the long-term unemployed like a tighter labor market. As you can see in his chart below, people out of work for a year or more were 40 to 80 percent more likely to get a job during the tech boom as they are today.
This is true, but being true isn't enough. It's not as if Congress is about to do more fiscal stimulus anytime soon or the Fed is about to do much more monetary stimulus beyond its already open-ended easing. In the meantime, long-term unemployment threatens to consign people to lives permanently at the fringes of the labor market. We can't wait for more stimulus.
There are some smaller-bore things we can and should do to help the long-term unemployed. Indeed, that's exactly what the sparsely-attended Congressional hearing was about. Former Romney economic adviser and current American Enterprise Institute fellow Kevin Hassett thinks it's time for a whatever-it-takes approach. Practically-speaking, that means the government should introduce work-sharing programs like Germany's Kurzarbeit, give businesses tax incentives to hire the long-term jobless, and hire the long-term jobless itself if nobody else will. Congressional Republicans probably wouldn't go along with this last idea, but the first two are the kind of thing that, in a sane world, shouldn't be ideologically polarizing. Now, these kind of targeted policies would admittedly only help at the margins, but helping at the margins is better than not helping at all. (Or, in the case of the sequester, actively hurting).
More stimulus and more direct help for the long-term unemployed are two great tastes that go great together. Either or both would be a welcome change from our malign neglect of the urgent crisis all around us.
It leaves people bed-bound and drives some to suicide, but there's little research money devoted to the disease. Now, change is coming, thanks to the patients themselves.
This past July, Brian Vastag, a former science reporter, placed an op-ed with his former employer, the Washington Post. It was an open letter to the National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, a man Vastag had formerly used as a source on his beat.
“I’ve been felled by the most forlorn of orphan illnesses,” Vastag wrote. “At 43, my productive life may well be over.”
There was no cure for his disease, known by some as chronic fatigue syndrome, Vastag wrote, and little NIH funding available to search for one. Would Collins step up and change that?
“As the leader of our nation’s medical research enterprise, you have a decision to make,” he wrote. “Do you want the NIH to be part of these solutions, or will the nation’s medical research agency continue to be part of the problem?”
Also notable about this brazen show of might is that the missiles traveled through two countries, Iran and Iraq, before hitting their 11 targets in Syria. This means that both countries either gave their permission or simply didn’t confront Putin about the use of their airspace on his birthday.
A new report details a black market in nuclear materials.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press published a horrifying report about criminal networks in the former Soviet Union trying to sell “radioactive material to Middle Eastern extremists.” At the center of these cases, of which the AP learned of four in the past five years, was a “thriving black market in nuclear materials” in a “tiny and impoverished Eastern European country”: Moldova.
It’s a new iteration of an old problem with a familiar geography. The breakup of the Soviet Union left a superpower’s worth of nuclear weapons scattered across several countries without a superpower’s capacity to keep track of them. When Harvard’s Graham Allison flagged this problem in 1996, he wrote that the collapse of Russia’s “command-and-control society” left nothing secure. To wit:
What will happen to digital collections of books, movies, and music when the tech giants fall?
When you purchase a movie from Amazon Instant Video, you’re not buying it, exactly. It’s more like renting indefinitely.
This distinction matters if your notion of “buying” is that you pay for something once and then you get to keep that thing for as long as you want. Increasingly, in the world of digital goods, a purchasing transaction isn’t that simple.
There are two key differences between buying media in a physical format versus a digital one. First, there’s the technical aspect: Maintaining long-term access to a file requires a hard copy of it—that means, for example, downloading a film, not just streaming from a third party’s server. The second distinction is a bit more complicated, and it has to do with how the law has shaped digital rights in the past 15 years. It helps to think about the experience of a person giving up CDs and using iTunes for music purchases instead.
Somewhere in Europe, a man who goes by the name “Mikro” spends his days and nights targeting Islamic State supporters on Twitter.
In August 2014, a Twitter account affiliated with Anonymous, the hacker-crusader collective, declared “full-scale cyber war” against ISIS: “Welcome to Operation Ice #ISIS, where #Anonymous will do it’s [sic] part in combating #ISIS’s influence in social media and shut them down.”
In July, I traveled to a gloomy European capital city to meet one of the “cyber warriors” behind this operation. Online, he goes by the pseudonym Mikro. He is vigilant, bordering on paranoid, about hiding his actual identity, on account of all the death threats he has received. But a few months after I initiated a relationship with him on Twitter, Mikro allowed me to visit him in the apartment he shares with his girlfriend and two Rottweilers. He works alone from his chaotic living room, using an old, battered computer—not the state-of-the-art setup I had envisaged. On an average day, he told me, he spends up to 16 hours fixed to his sofa. He starts around noon, just after he wakes up, and works late into the night and early morning.
The presumptive successor to John Boehner abruptly ended his bid after determining he could not get the support he needed from conservatives.
Behind Kevin McCarthy’s stunning decision Thursday to end his bid for speaker lay a simple calculation: Even if he could scrape together the 218 votes he needed to win the formal House election later this month, he would begin his term a crippled leader unable to unite a party that he said was “deeply divided.”
The majority leader and presumed successor to John Boehner had been widely expected to win the House GOP’s secret-ballot nomination on Thursday. All he needed was a simple majority of the 247-member caucus, and he easily had the votes over long-shot challengers Jason Chaffetz of Utah or Daniel Webster of Florida, who won the endorsement of the renegade House Freedom Caucus. But even if he’d won on Thursday, McCarthy knew he was still short of the threshold he needed on the floor, knowing that Democrats would vote as a bloc against him.
American politicians are now eager to disown a failed criminal-justice system that’s left the U.S. with the largest incarcerated population in the world. But they've failed to reckon with history. Fifty years after Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report “The Negro Family” tragically helped create this system, it's time to reclaim his original intent.
By his own lights, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ambassador, senator, sociologist, and itinerant American intellectual, was the product of a broken home and a pathological family. He was born in 1927 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but raised mostly in New York City. When Moynihan was 10 years old, his father, John, left the family, plunging it into poverty. Moynihan’s mother, Margaret, remarried, had another child, divorced, moved to Indiana to stay with relatives, then returned to New York, where she worked as a nurse. Moynihan’s childhood—a tangle of poverty, remarriage, relocation, and single motherhood—contrasted starkly with the idyllic American family life he would later extol.
Why Americans tend more and more to want inexperienced presidential candidates
The presidency, it’s often said, is a job for which everyone arrives unprepared. But just how unprepared is unprepared enough?
Political handicappers weigh presidential candidates’ partisanship, ideology, money, endorsements, consultants, and, of course, experience. Yet they too rarely consider an element of growing importance to voters: freshness. Increasingly, American voters view being qualified for the presidency as a disqualification.
In 2003, I announced in National Journal the 14-Year Rule. The rule was actually discovered by a presidential speechwriter named John McConnell, but because his job required him to keep his name out of print, I graciously stepped up to take credit. It is well known that to be elected president, you pretty much have to have been a governor or a U.S. senator. What McConnell had figured out was this: No one gets elected president who needs longer than 14 years to get from his or her first gubernatorial or Senate victory to either the presidency or the vice presidency.* Surprised, I scoured the history books and found that the rule works astonishingly well going back to the early 20th century, when the modern era of presidential electioneering began.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
A nearly real-time chronological inventory of the missteps, miscalculations, and misstatements of the race for the White House
* Scroll down to see the latest installment *
Every presidential campaign is full of unpredictable twists and turns. After a brief moment where it looked like the nation might slouch into a Bush-Clinton rematch, the 2016 election is taking its place in that line of strange journeys. The one sure thing: There will be gaffes.
Some will be humorous verbal slip-ups of the Bushian variety (“we ought to make the pie higher”), while others will seem more revealing of a candidate’s weaknesses (Herman Cain’s tetchy dismissal of questions about “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan”). Some will seem important but ultimately have little effect (like “Bittergate”). Some will seem damaging but actually do little (Rick Perry’s “oops”), while others will seem minor at first but prove more damaging (Perry’s statement that those who oppose education for illegal immigrants “don’t have a heart.”) Some, like the latter Perry remark, will be Kinsley gaffes, where a politician accidentally tells the truth about facts or his own views. The very occasional gaffe will end up defining an entire cycle, as Mitt Romney’s secretly videotaped comment about “the 47 percent” did.