America’s unemployed and under-employed: are riots inevitable?

“You have a lot of kids graduating college can’t find jobs. That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the radio with John Gambling, Friday morning

Riots or no, Mr. Bloomberg does have reason to be concerned about unemployment. He frequently describes New York City as having recovered from the recession more fully than the rest of the country. [...] Recently, though, the difference between New York and the rest of the country is not looking so clear. Figures released on Thursday by the State Department of Labor show that the city’s official unemployment rate rose to 8.7 percent in August from 8.6 percent in July, as the total number of jobs declined. (Age groups were not broken out in that report. Statewide, the unemployment rate among 22- to 27-year-olds in the first half of 2011 was 11.4 percent, compared with an overall unemployment rate for people 16 and over of 8 percent.) Continue reading…

Here’s an interesting observation on employment, manufacturing, and the middle class from Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University (via):

Indeed, the manufacturing sector is also where the world’s middle classes take shape and grow. Without a vibrant manufacturing base, societies tend to divide between rich and poor – those who have access to steady, well-paying jobs, and those whose jobs are less secure and lives more precarious. Manufacturing may ultimately be central to the vigor of a nation’s democracy.

The United States has experienced steady de-industrialization in recent decades, partly due to global competition and partly due to technological changes. Since 1990, manufacturing’s share of employment has fallen by nearly five percentage points. This would not necessarily have been a bad thing if labor productivity (and earnings) were not substantially higher in manufacturing than in the rest of the economy – 75% higher, in fact.

[...] The loss of US manufacturing jobs accelerated after 2000, with global competition the likely culprit. …there is an uncanny negative correlation across individual manufacturing industries between employment changes in China and the US. Where China has expanded the most, the US has lost the greatest number of jobs. In the few industries that contracted in China, the US has gained employment.

In Britain, where the decline of manufacturing seems to have been pursued almost gleefully by Conservatives from Margaret Thatcher until David Cameron came to power, the numbers are even more sobering. Between 1990 and 2005, the sector’s share in total employment fell by more than seven percentage points. The reallocation of workers to less productive service jobs has cost the British economy 0.5 points of productivity growth every year, a quarter of the total productivity gain over the period.

Let’s not forget the London riots last month: London’s rioters are the products of a crumbling nation, and an indifferent political class that has turned its back on them.” — Telegraph | Aug. 8, 2011

Incidentally,  What If The Tea Party Wins | ThinkProgress — 13 things the Teaparty thinks are unconstitutional: 

  1. Social Security
  2. Medicare
  3. Medicaid
  4. Children’s health insurance
  5. All federal education programs
  6. All federal antipoverty programs
  7. Federal disaster relief
  8. Federal food safety inspections
  9. Child labor laws
  10. The minimum wage
  11. Overtime and other labor protections
  12. Federal civil rights laws
  13. The union

And a timely graph from Paul Krugman (via), real income of non-elderly households:

Meanwhile in Greece via Reuters

A man pours a flammable liquid on his body to set himself on fire outside a Piraeus bank branch in Thessaloniki in northern Greece September 16, 2011. The 55-year old man had entered the bank and asked for a renegotiation of his overdue loan payments on his home and business, according to police, which he could not pay, but was refused by the bank. REUTERS/Nodas Stylianidis/

So is rioting inevitable here in America?  I suppose it’s possible that the Teaparty Republicans might decide to work with the President on some kind of jobs bill instead of just fucking around until the Nov/2012 election. It’s possible that people who once earned (or could hope for) middle class wages will come to accept a Rick-Perry-income for the rest of their lives. And it’s possible that if conservatives have their way and continue with this bottom-to-top income redistribution to the nation’s wealthiest (how? see 13 items listed above), that people will continue to be grateful for their paycheck to paycheck (or unemployment check to unemployment check) lives — losing their homes, unable to afford a doctor, never to retire — because at least they’re not Evil Socialists.

The better question might be: when people have nothing to lose, why would they NOT riot?