How can you tell that we’ve gone from a Republican to Democratic administration? Reading the New York Times provides readers an instructive guide for unemployment coverage. Gone are the snarky references to “McJobs” in a Republican recovery, when unemployment was at 5.4%, or political criticism disguised as pseudointellectual etymology when it was at 5.8%. Now, the NYT highlights the blessings of unemployment when it reaches 9.7%, especially to community organizers-cum-politicians (h/t Geoff A)
The work is often mundane: Investment research analysts are now making cold calls to voters, and headhunters are handing out leaflets at subway stations and supermarkets.
But the experience, coming at a time of crisis in their lives, has been surprisingly powerful for many of them. Volunteering, they say, restores some of what they lost along with their jobs: a place to go every day, a reason to put on a clean suit, people to work beside, a sense of purpose.
And for some of the jobless, the experience has triggered a profound reassessment.
Yukyong Choi, 36, a former litigator who has not worked in a year, is now an unpaid volunteer for P.J. Kim, a City Council candidate in Lower Manhattan.
“One thing that I’ve discovered through this process is I don’t really want to go back to that life,” Mr. Choi said. “That was a life filled with 18-hour days, and having to work with people you may not enjoy. It’s not the money anymore; I want to do things that will have a real effect on people’s lives, as opposed to just trying to get a company out of a situation.”
During the Bush administration, the Times and other media outlets routinely disparaged job creation as somehow beneath the dignity of the workers, even as wages rose and unemployment fell. The work was demeaning and mundane, and the pay inadequate. Every chance they had to use anecdotal complaints about supposed burger-flipping or paper-shifting wound up in front-page stories about how deceptive the Bush recovery was.
Now that the Obama administration has utterly failed to control job losses through its stimulus package, the Times shifts gears. Now work itself was demeaning, and unemployment is liberating. People can volunteer for political campaigns and come home tapping their toes and singing a song! The jobless can now have “profound reassessments”!
Did the New York Times acknowledge in 2003 and 2005 that so-called “McJobs” also gave people a “place to go every day, a reason to put on a clean suit, people to work beside, a sense of purpose”? What’s more, those jobs paid people to do all of that. Private enterprise didn’t just restore a sense of purpose, they gave people a way to pay their bills and contribute to the economy. Somehow, though, that’s more demeaning than doing all of these menial tasks for no pay whatsoever.
What’s next? A series on the joys and liberation of homelessness?