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.
In closing as in opening, it seems to me that Bernie Sanders was foolish in a Democratic primary to refrain from specifically mentioning the identity groups that Hillary Clinton has just ticked off in her closing statement.
Today’s empires are born on the web, and exert tremendous power in the material world.
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t had the best week.
First, Facebook’s Free Basics platform was effectively banned in India. Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. “Why stop now?”
After that, the Internet went nuts.
Andreessen deleted his tweet, apologized, and underscored that he is “100 percent opposed to colonialism” and “100 percent in favor of independence and freedom.” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, followed up with his own Facebook post to say Andreessen’s comment was “deeply upsetting” to him, and not representative of the way he thinks “at all.”
By announcing the first detection of gravitational waves, scientists have vindicated Einstein and given humans a new way to look at the universe.
More than a billion years ago, in a galaxy that sits more than a billion light-years away, two black holes spiraled together and collided. We can’t see this collision, but we know it happened because, as Albert Einstein predicted a century ago, gravitational waves rippled out from it and traveled across the universe to an ultra-sensitive detector here on Earth.
This discovery, announced today by researchers with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), marks another triumph for Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And more importantly, it marks the beginning of a new era in the study of the universe: the advent of gravitational-wave astronomy. The universe has just become a much more interesting place.
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
By mining electronic medical records, scientists show the lasting legacy of prehistoric sex on modern humans’ health.
Modern humans originated in Africa, and started spreading around the world about 60,000 years ago. As they entered Asia and Europe, they encountered other groups of ancient humans that had already settled in these regions, such as Neanderthals. And sometimes, when these groups met, they had sex.
We know about these prehistoric liaisons because they left permanent marks on our genome. Even though Neanderthals are now extinct, every living person outside of Africa can trace between 1 and 5 percent of our DNA back to them. (I am 2.6 percent Neanderthal, if you were wondering, which pales in comparison to my colleague James Fallows at 5 percent.)
This lasting legacy was revealed in 2010 when the complete Neanderthal genome was published. Since then, researchers have been trying to figure out what, if anything, the Neanderthal sequences are doing in our own genome. Are they just passive hitchhikers, or did they bestow important adaptations on early humans? And are they affecting the health of modern ones?
If Bernie Sanders is serious about a political transformation in America, he needs a better plan.
If there’s one thing that fires up Bernie Sanders supporters—and makes his detractors roll their eyes—it’s his call for a “political revolution.” To his base, it’s the very point of his anti-establishment, anti-elite candidacy. To his critics, it’s the very embodiment of his campaign’s naïve impracticality and vagueness.
But now that voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have spoken, it’s time to take the idea of political revolution more seriously—more seriously, indeed, than Sanders himself appears to have. It’s time to ask: What exactly would it take?
It starts with Congress. And here it’s instructive to compare Sanders and Donald Trump. Both rely on broad, satisfying refrains of “We’re gonna”: We’re gonna break up the big banks. We’re gonna make Mexico build the wall. We’re gonna end the rule of Wall Street billionaires. We’re gonna make China stop ripping us off.
Once it was because they weren’t as well educated. What’s holding them back now?
Though headway has been made in bringing women’s wages more in line with men’s in the past several decades, that convergence seems to have stalled in more recent years. To help determine why, Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, the authors of a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research parse data on wages and occupations from 1980 to 2010. They find that as more women attended and graduated college and headed into the working world, education and professional experience levels stopped playing a significant role in the the difference between men and women’s wages. Whatever remains of the discrepancy can’t be explained by women not having basic skills and credentials. So what does explain it?
When four American women were murdered during El Salvador’s dirty war, a young U.S. official and his unlikely partner risked their lives to solve the case.
On December 1, 1980, two American Catholic churchwomen—an Ursuline nun and a lay missionary—sat down to dinner with Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. They worked in rural areas ministering to El Salvador’s desperately impoverished peasants, and White admired their commitment and courage. The talk turned to the government’s brutal tactics for fighting the country’s left-wing guerrillas, in a dirty war waged by death squads that dumped bodies in the streets and an army that massacred civilians. The women were alarmed by the incoming Reagan administration’s plans for a closer relationship with the military-led government. Because of a curfew, the women spent the night at the ambassador’s residence. The next day, after breakfast with the ambassador’s wife, they drove to San Salvador’s international airport to pick up two colleagues who were flying back from a conference in Nicaragua. Within hours, all four women would be dead.
After a pair of poor showings in New Hampshire, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina drop out of the race.
The Republican race is headed to South Carolina with two fewer candidates. The day after finishing sixth and seventh in the New Hampshire primaries, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced on Wednesday that they were suspending their campaigns.
Fiorina was always a long shot—she was practically a political newcomer, having only run one unsuccessful Senate campaign. And while her record at HP was vulnerable to attack, Republican figures saw in her both private-sector experience and a woman who could counter Hillary Clinton’s monopoly on a “historic” woman’s candidacy. While many political professionals sniffed at Fiorina’s candidacy, remembering that 2010 Senate race, she broke out after a commanding performance in the undercard to the first Republican debate. That earned her a promotion to the main stage at the next debate, where she scored another victory. But it was all downhill from there. Dogged by questions of honesty and unable to earn media attention, her campaign faded quickly.
The hit new indie release is the opposite of action-packed, yet it’s compelling in its simplicity.
Solitude, it turns out, can be addictive. So I learned playing the new hit indie game Firewatch, where all the action amounts to you, the player, being alone in the woods. You’re a lookout assigned to a summer posting in the Shoshone National Forest of Wyoming in 1989, meaning your job consists of nothing more than wandering around, clearing brush, and calling in any fires you might spot. Most video games equip you with tools and weapons, complex missions, and action sequences. All Firewatch gives you is a map, a compass, and a walkie-talkie—but it’s still one of the most compelling video games I’ve ever played.
It’s the latest in a quiet movement of video games, more psychological products that tap into the atmosphere and wonder of loneliness rather than looking for the simpler thrills the medium usually provides. It’s tempting to trace this trend’s origins back to Minecraft, which launched in 2009 and became a worldwide phenomenon on the back of its extraordinary simplicity. But in Minecraft, you start armed only with your bare hands in a world of monsters, and can eventually upgrade into a city-builder armed with powerful tools. Firewatch is a more intimate affair: a short story, playable over a few hours, that succeeds first and foremost as an emotional experience.