Has anyone in Washington noticed that 20% of American men are not working? That's right. One out of five men in this country are collecting unemployment, in prison, on disability, operating in the underground economy, or getting by on the paychecks of wives or girlfriends or parents. The equivalent number in 1970, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, was 7%.
Both political parties have proven their talent in ginning up outrage over the federal budget, whether it's spiraling spending or millionaires collecting tax breaks on private jets. So today a tiresome, and dangerous, debt drama unfolds in real time, freezing leaders in both parties in their respective partisan corners. Are these same leaders capable of confronting the fearsome fact that 4.3 million Americans have been jobless not just for months--but going on years? We are in danger of losing a generation of work-habituated Americans, especially men--and lawmakers can't see their way past November, 2012.
This is a conversation that goes beyond a stubbornly high 9.2% unemployment rate and last week's unnerving news that company layoffs are ticking up again. While we all know there is a job shortage, employers are increasingly talking about a "talent shortage" -- they can't find qualified workers even for the jobs that are available. "We found that 30% of companies surveyed had openings for six months or longer, and can't find the right person," says Susan Lund, research director for the McKinsey Global Institute.