Third Party, Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?
Despite the addition of 151K new jobs in the U.S. in October (and 1.1 million jobs since January), unemployment numbers still suck.
Nearly 15 million people are out of work and actively looking, and the unemployment rate, which remained steady at 9.6 percent, has been relatively flat since May.
A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who are working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs and people who have given up looking for work, ticked down slightly to 17 percent from 17.1 percent in September.
To get a little personal here (on my blog? The nerve!), I think I am in the latter group. I chose to be a stay-at-home dad, mostly because I could not find full-time or part-time librarian positions that would either accommodate my child-rearing responsibilities or afford before-and-after school daycare. And I am in one of the few parts of the country where libraries are eagerly supported by public levies or by educational institutions. There are still hiring freezes and maintaining productivity with less — “less” being either fewer workers or fewer hours to employ those workers. Perhaps these are special circumstances — especially for creative types like me — that would hold no matter the state of the economy; but I have met more parents in similar situations over the past couple years. I am a lucky ducky to the extent that I am on the on-call lists at two library systems, so I get to pull in some extra bucks at about one shift a week. Rollin’ in the green!
So speaking as one of the under-employed, I get the frustration the rest of the electorate has expressed (if we read the tea leaves correctly) in the mid-term elections. But that only takes me so far. The argument goes that if the Obama White House had done more to create jobs and had done a better job advertising this fact, the demise of Blue Dog Democrats and the rise of Teabag Republicans could have been avoided. There is truth there, but what I don’t understand is why the electorate would put in place people even less likely to solve the country’s economic problems. If the GOP or the Tea Party had actually advanced real ideas about creating jobs and strengthening the economy’s fundamentals, their victories on Tuesday would make more sense. But they didn’t. They espoused only a more extreme version of the same tax-cut-and-small-government rhetoric we heard ad nauseum during the Bush years — an eight-year reign that ended only two years ago, mind you, with disastrous results. They should have been “shellacked” at the polls just as harshly as the Blue Dogs.
But by what? This is a two-party system. If you punish one party, you can only do it with the other. The only virtues of the Tea Party has been their espoused distrust of both parties and their tactical infiltration of GOP. A more reasonable and more productive response by voters would have been to form a strong third party to propose policies and solutions that the other two parties are incapable (by virtue of their corporate backing) of formulating. So far, this has not happened. I won’t rehearse the history of third party failures over the past 20 years (Perot, Nader, etc.), but they have direct bearing on what happened on Tuesday.
If we have no party to articulate alternative solutions and policies, then the only ones we will hear and become enacted are the same old formulas that corporate and political elites are capable of cobbling together. (To wit, Obama’s “infrastructure spending and tax breaks for businesses.”) If no political movement bothers to organize and maintain the involvement of youth and minorities, then those groups will not show up to vote, because they see no positive expression of their interests among the choices available. “Lesser of two evils” is not a sustainable motivation for most people to get involved in the process. Not when one side is bat shit crazy and the other side is corrupt. Or both.