Innovation Blog

America’s 99’ers:  BO, Phone Home!

By Shlomo Maital

 A disturbing and angering segment on the CBS show 60 Minutes featured the 99’ers – Silicon Valley high-tech engineers and managers who are unemployed, and whose unemployment benefits are running out because they have used all 99 weeks – after Congress extended unemployment benefits at a cost of $100 b.  San Jose alone, the capital of Silicon Valley, has 75,000 persons who have lost their jobs.  In October nearly one American in 10 were unemployed.  Some 42 per cent of them had been out of work for 27 weeks or more; and 20 percent, for a year or more.  Many of the 99’ers are about to lose their homes through mortgage foreclosure.  Many are 50 or over, and have no hope of gainful employment, other than working at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s for as much as $9 per hour.  Many have used up their IRA’s, their savings, their 401k’s, believing the jobless period would be temporary – and finding it might well be permanent – at least at the level of skill they worked at previously.    

  The actual unemployment rate is far higher than 1 in 10.  Those who have given up job-hunting are no longer considered part of the labor force, hence do not count as unemployed. The legions of workers who can find only part-time work are also not counted. So, true unemployment rates must be 16 per cent or higher.  And a very large segment of the American workforce believes they might become unemployed in future, living under a sword of Damocles. 

   The only way America will regain well-paying jobs for its middle class is by curing its addiction to inexpensive Chinese imports and producing far more of its consumption goods in America.  This is America’s #1 issue.

    After badly losing the Nov. 2 mid-term elections, President Barack Obama spoke with the press, intimating that basically he felt the American people were ungrateful, and failed to understand what a heroic job he and the Democrats had done in grappling with the worst economic crisis since the Depression, a crisis dumped on him by Bush and the Republicans.  He indicated he thought the election drubbing was caused by his failure to communicate.

     BO, phone home!  Right now you are travelling the world, visiting India, Indonesia and Portugal.  Apparently you think that by playing foreign policy games, somehow the American people will come to admire you more.  Phone home, Obama.  Phone the Silicon Valley unemployed.  Come home!  Stay home, unpack your bags.  Focus every day, all the day, on jobs.  Never since the 1930’s have so  many Americans been unemployed for so long.  They are losing hope.  This is the #1 problem – and #2 and #3.  How is it that neither you nor your Administration get it?  What must happen for you to come home and deal with it?