Media’s Egypt coverage shows disconnect on unemployment

Watching MSNBC News during the Egyptian protests, NBC anchor Brian Williams made a comment that Americans may not understand a society where intelligent, college-educated youth can’t find good jobs.  This sentiment was repeated by many other American media pundits. Slate’s Annie Lowery wrote that Egypt’s “youth suffers from crippling unemployment, with tens of thousands of college graduates unable to find good jobs.”  CNN even did a story about  a 26-year-old unemployed college graduate from Tunisia, who began a fruit and vegetable stand to earn a living.

News reports like these show the disconnect the media elite have with the plight of the unemployed in their own country.  In the United States, it’s not just tens of thousands of college-educated people who can’t find full-time work, it’s millions.  Out of 140 million in the labor force, 15 million of them are unemployed, and 4.4 million of them have been out of work for more than  one year.  Many of them, like myself, have college degrees and years of experience, but can’t find full-time work in this market.  (See http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2011-01-23-longterm-unemployed_N.htm ).

At least one-fourth of the unemployed in this country have college degrees.  I’ve been looking for nearly two years and can’t find any full-time work in my field, despite 20 years of experience.  I’ve applied for more than 700 jobs.  And I’m not unique. A Houston man interviewed by USA Today recently has two graduate degrees, one in sociology and another in human services counseling, plus 14 years on the job as a corporate trainer and experience working abroad, but has gotten only a few telephone interviews from the 2,000 applications he sent out since last September.  (Read more in the Jan. 25, 2011 article in USA Today entitled “Who Are America’s Jobless?)  http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2011-01-25-1Ajobless25_CV_N.htm?csp=34news

Instead of covering Egyptian youth’s troubles in finding employment, American reporters would serve us better if they covered the unemployment crisis in their own country.  They should know the troubles many college-educated Americans have in finding decent work: many of them, after all, are journalists.

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Unemployment extension to run out

   This Sunday evening, 60 Minutes will run a segment about the “99ers” – unemployed Americans whose unemployment extensions will run out at the end of next month. From all reports, Congress will not renew the extension, despite the fact that millions who have diligently sought work in their fields are about to lose their main source, if not their sole source, of income.  I look forward to seeing the piece because it is an issue most of the mainstream media ignores, and because the segment will focus on unemployed professionals with advanced degrees who have been unable to find decent work. 

   Earlier this summer, all Republican senators and representatives voted against a small extension to unemployment benefits.  I wrote my congressman – Republican Howard Coble — about my disappointment over his vote.  Here is an excerpt from my letter:

Dear Rep. Coble:

I was appalled and shocked about your comments today on the floor of the House arguing that the long-term unemployed should not receive extended benefits from the federal government because “it is not paid for.” As one of those 2.5 million Americans, I am mortified that I am being used as a political pawn in the fight between the Republican and Democratic parties.  I have been battling every day to find a full-time job since being laid off from my previous employer last year.  I don’t want a handout, I want a job.  Even though I was a director, I have resorted to applying for jobs that pay less than half of what I was making. I’ve tried networking, social media, recruiters — everything.  I got laid off through no fault of my own and this unemployment insurance has been a lifeline to support my family and keep our house (we’ve already lost our health insurance because we can’t afford it). Without it, we would probably lose our home.  Now I hear you say we don’t deserve this insurance like it’s some sort of government handout. Listening to part of this debate today, I see a real disconnect between congress people like you and real people who are trying to support their families.  Both Republicans and Democrats think these benefits go to just the “truck drivers” and “janitors” who lost their jobs. Well, here’s a news flash, this Great Recession has affected everyone, including long-term professionals like myself who have 20 years of experience in their field. I’ve applied for more than 500 jobs in the last year without success. Many times I hear the position has been closed or they picked an internal candidate or some other excuse.  Each time I pick myself up and try the job search grind again. So listening to you get up there on your high horse and talk about “when the Democrats did this” and “when the Democrats did that” when I’m trying to save my house and support my family, shows to me you care more about political posturing and the blame game than you do about your constituents. 

   Congressman Coble wrote me back and I wanted to share that in this post.  It’s an example of how political and ideological in-fighting has paralyzed Washington from actually serving anything but big business:

 August 30, 2010

    Thank you for contacting our office to request information on recent legislation signed into law extending federal unemployment insurance.  We appreciate hearing from you. 

 President Obama signed the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213) into law on July 22, 2010.  The bill extends unemployment benefits through the end of November.  We are acutely aware that the recession has hit Sixth District residents especially hard and that persistent unemployment is making it difficult for many families to make ends meet.  Despite our concern for unemployed workers, we voted against this bill for several reasons. 

 First, Congress has recently focused all its attention on extending unemployment insurance.  We voted for several extensions while the economy was in danger of a complete collapse, but Democratic leaders in Congress have simply extended unemployment insurance instead of enacting policies that will create jobs.  We firmly believe the economic stimulus bill, the new health care law and financial reforms will actually prevent job creation.  When businesses are saddled with new regulations and new costs, they simply will not hire new employees. 

Second, H.R. 4213 added an additional $34 billion to the deficit.  Republicans in the Senate offered an amendment that would have offset this cost by using unspent stimulus funds.  Despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s insistence that unemployment payments were a form of stimulus, Democratic leaders refused to allow a vote on this amendment.  The White House recently stated that the deficit for Fiscal Year 2010 will reach $1.47 trillion.  Increasing the annual deficit and the long-term debt is no small matter.  For every dollar the federal government spends, it must take one dollar out of the private economy.  These are dollars that businesses would normally use to hire new employees.  The federal government cannot create long-term job growth.  By sucking resources out of the private economy, they will merely extend the misery of persistent unemployment.  In fact, White House officials have projected unemployment to remain above nine percent for several more years. 

 Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views.  Please feel free to contact our office if we may be of assistance to you in the future. 

     Sincerely,

     HOWARD COBLE

     Member of Congress