Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke did a very unusual thing Sept. 28, when he described long-term unemployment as a “national crisis.”
It’s a shocking statement for the head of the Fed, which has the dual mandate of promoting price stability and maximum employment. The holder of this spot typically leans Republican, simply by virtue of the Grand Old Party’s symbiotic relationship with markets.
That’s what makes Bernanke’s declaration so amazing.
He was essentially wading into the new “Greed is Good” wingnut branch of The Republican Party and saying “enough already, you are threatening the nation with your ruthless partisanship.”
You have to wonder how many sands are left in the Tea Party’s political hourglass when they start fielding attacks like this. Bernake is the man essentially entrusted with the nation’s economic health. It’s not like he’s running for higher office. He’s already in the perch most economists dream about.
About 45 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for at least six months, according to Bernanke, who fretted about idled workers losing their edge.
“This is unheard of,” Bernanke said. “This has never happened in the post-war period in the United States. They are losing the skills they had, they are losing their connections, their attachment to the labor force.”
Bernanke suggested that Congress should take further action to combat unemployment. However, that’s never going to happen because it’s becoming more and more clear that our ridiculously high health care costs are a big reason why so many mutlinational companies are hesitant to hire in this nation, but piling on staff overseas.
The health care industry spends so much time trying to game our pay-for-play political system in Washington, D.C., that it sometimes runs short of new lobbyists to hire.
It’s no coincidence that Republican-lobbyists created the Tea Party movement in the middle of the battle over health care reform in the first year of the Obama presidency. They were trying to hijack the huge reservoir of popular energy for political change that elected our nation’s first black commander in chief, and tap into a tsunami of health care bribe money meant to maintain the status quo.
Unfortunately, the damn thing is now spinning out of control and the GOP can’t seem to rein it in.
We’re not talking about the normal economic cycle here, or the normal political cycle, which is probably why the man once known as “Helicopter Ben” for his aloofness is suddenly desperate enough to speak up like this.
Huge numbers of unemployed workers are the stuff revolutions are built on. And it doesn’t matter what ideology is espoused by the nation where they live.
Massive unemployment is fuel for revolutionary change. Always has been, always will be.
That’s too high a price to pay to ensure that health care profits keep growing, endlessly.