Saturday, June 4, 2011

Behind Every Statistic There Is a Human Face

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Back in January of 2009, I wrote a diary titled I Am Unemployed but Not a Statistic. I was thinking about that diary this morning. With all the discussion of statistics, unemployment rates, jobs created or unemployment claims filed, there is a human being somewhere who is affected. I started Just A Small Town Country Boy as an attempt to put a human face on just one of those people (myself) who sits behind the statistic. But as we all know, I am just one voice among the millions.

I am not alone as a human face though. Every time the politicians decide to vilify a teacher, there is a human being back there, on both sides of the issue. Yes, even the politicians have to be considered human. Every state and public sector employee who is laid off or demonized is a human being. We hear about the occasional worker who commits suicide; sometimes we see the stories about individuals since we do all love the human face of the stories and the human interest story has long been a staple of TradMed. Just last month there was the story of the "laid off federal worker confronts Obama at a town hall meeting." One human face confronting the President about losing her job because of federal budget cuts. How many millions of other federal, state, and local workers have lost or are losing their jobs due to budget cuts and austerity measures?

When McDonald's had their McJobs fair day back in April, they were planning on hiring 50K workers in one day. They wound up hiring 62K (out of over a million applicants). Each of those 62K who were hired and the over 900K who were not hired are human beings with a story to tell of how they arrived at this point. Students trying to find summer jobs or mid career people who were caught in a "rightsizing" (one of the more Orwellian terms going around these days), all are humans trying to survive.

Nate Silver at the NY Times 538 blog had a post last night on economic models. Nate made his bones developing and analyzing baseball statistics. When he puts together facile explanations such as the following, he shows he might need to stay away from some topics:

It affects a relatively small number of voters (although underemployment is another matter). There is ample room to critique the way that it is calculated, such as by excluding “discouraged workers” from the calculation, and it’s subject to reasonably large measurement errors.
Those "small numbers of voters" are actually millions of human beings.

CNN talks about consumer confidence - each of those "consumers" is a living, breathing human being.
The American consumer is now feeling the cost of $4 gas and higher food prices, seeing their wages rise very little and still being held back by declining home values, which recently fell to their lowest level in nine years.


When consumers aren't feeling confident about the economy, they're likely to reduce spending. Businesses begin to anticipate lower demand for their products, and become reluctant to hire -- or worse -- cut jobs.

In May this appeared to be true with a variety of consumer industries. Retail, for example, cut 8,500 jobs after adding a whopping 64,000 in April.
MSNBC has this on how jobs are not the top agenda item in Washington among the politicians:
The jobs debate is a sideshow to the main event in nation’s capital: bargaining between Obama and congressional Republicans over an agreement to raise the government’s borrowing limit.

If the two sides clinched a deal, it wouldn’t in itself create jobs.

But Obama economic advisor Gene Sperling argues a deficit-cutting deal would give financial markets greater confidence that government wasn’t dysfunctional.

By passing a fiscal discipline bill, “you will create confidence in your country,” Sperling told the Peterson Institute fiscal summit last week. “You will create confidence for people to make long-term investments because they believe we have the political will to compromise and do things that are significant to get our fiscal house in order and live within our means.”

Fiscal responsibility has now replaced job creation as the order of the day; whether fiscal responsibility will be enacted, and whether it will lead to job creation, remain open questions.
As one representative of the long term underemployed, I will state categorically that "fiscal responsibility" not only has fuckall to do with job creation and not only will it not lead to job creation, it will in fact throw more people out of jobs at all levels of the economy. Living, breathing humans who are far more than just the numbers in the statistics.

And because I can:

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