The Unemployment Rate is a Problem

The unemployment rate has been firmly stuck at 8.2% and neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is going to be able to fix the unemployment rate¬†anytime soon. Let’s take off our partisan hats just for second. Let’s think about the things that we do on a daily basis. Let’s take, for example, going to the grocery store. Fewer than one out of four times that I go to the grocery store do I actually check out with the clerk. For the most part, I get in those lines in which I can scan the stuff myself, bag it myself and be on my way. The scanning devices have replaced the checkout clerks in many grocery stores. I know the conservatives like to point at the Postal Service as the example of government waste and fraud, but let’s think about the mail just for second. For birthdays, I send birthday cards. Now, to at least half of my friends, I’ll send an E-card. 20 or 30 years ago, I sent 10 to 15 bills in the mail every month. Now, I send fewer than one or two. I pay my bills online. Multiply my experience by tens of thousands of Americans and suddenly the post office, no matter how good their services, needs less personnel.

Americans have been laid off because of advances in technology and manufacturing. Where are all of these Americans going to go? There’s not a bucket full of new jobs where these workers who have been laid off can go apply. This is a serious problem for our economy.

I’m not saying that we should throw up our hands and give up. I’m not saying that we need to accept an unemployment rate of 7-8%. What I’m saying is that we have other forces in our economy besides political ones that are at work keeping our unemployment rate high.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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