Posts Tagged ‘Unemployment Rate’

401K? Not Even Close.

October 5, 2018

On the 10-5-18 edition of PBS NewsHour, Mark Shields answered a question asking “how do we heal after the Kavanaugh hearings?” with a reference to the fact that even with record unemployment in the country, we retreat to tribal camps when it comes to issues of difference. Though unspoken, the assumption was that “with things going so well” it would be a little easier to persuade one another (since the foundation would be this overall sense of shared prosperity, “wellness”). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics claimed this week that the unemployment rate for September 2018 fell to 3.7%, the lowest it has been in almost 50 years. The dialectic of it all is hard to miss. Polarization 50 years ago centered around a colonial era war that the U.S. was engaged in. That very same war was what was driving the low unemployment figures. Fast forward to today’s polarized country and the same dialectic applies with regard to unemployment figures and polarized lack of consensus. Interesting to note, but hidden in all the polarization, was that 50 years ago some of what was possible during the run up to low unemployment was continued to be possible during those same low unemployment days, economically. A person with “a decent job” (what is an “indecent job”?) could afford housing, could afford transportation, could afford medical (dental, etc.) care, and could even afford to record memories of a vacation or of “college life”. Can as much be said for today? 50 years ago those in the “middle class” could afford a summer retreat or RV, even a retirement home in Florida or Arizona. Who can count on their retirement today where most feel they will be working at least until they are 70, if not beyond? Who can savor their “college life” when paying for it all but displaces everything else, even study? Mark Shields was on point while at the same time failing to elaborate a fundamental difference in the statistics of “unemployment rates” over time. That fundamental difference is the enormous spread of income disparity over the last 50 years, where today a “decent job” pays for little more than being one step away from living under a bridge. This income disparity has shrunk the middle class while making anything regarding health care, vacation, education, or retirement available only to 1% of Americans. Face it Mark, low unemployment rates do not reflect a misery index, something today’s polarized America shares with that of 50 years ago. “By now, you’ve likely heard the conventional wisdom: that you should aim to have a nest egg of $1 million to $1.5 million. Or that your savings should amount to 10 to 12 times your current income [to retire].” (AARP The Magazine). Really? What percentage of folks, employed or not, have that kind of money socked away? 401K? Not even close.