Reflection

I chose to write about unemployment because I knew less about it than any of the other issues presented. I automatically assumed that I would reach the conclusion that the legislation passed was based on lightly veiled racism, but I soon found that it’s practically impossible to find quantifiable evidence of racial bias, and that I would have to change my analysis of the issue.

I think that being forced to completely change my original analysis based on an inability to effectively argue it (even though I stand by its validity) was the most valuable part of this exercise. I was forced to completely reevaluate my way of thinking and analyze where my assumptions about the topic came from. For example, I had to analyze what made me think racial bias was present, and when I discovered that minorities are more likely to be unemployed, I had to figure out a direct and tangible link between that fact and the new legislation’s wording. It forced me to question each of my thoughts, even the most basic ones, and hopefully, that way of thinking will carry over to future work.

Class Links

Check out these blogs for information on other political issues in North Carolina:

nceducationdilemma.wordpress.com/
This blog provides an interesting viewpoint on the state’s education budget, with a focus on how best to reward good teaching. I found it interesting to watch the author’s point of view surrounding the issue change over time; it’s definitely worth reading to challenge your perceptions about teacher pay.

http://votingid.wordpress.com/
T
his blog provides a balanced view of the recently passed voter ID laws, giving information for both sides and proposing a workable, bipartisan compromise. 

http://purplegrapetrees.wordpress.com/
An interesting perspective on inefficiencies in the US healthcare system, their effects on North Carolinians. 

Links

If you want to learn more about unemployment on either a national or statewide level, check out some of these websites/blogs:

http://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm
If you have any lingering questions about the basics of unemployment- what it is, how it’s measured etc- READ THIS. Plus, it was published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so all definitions are the official government jargon.

http://www.wral.com/q-a-unemployment-insurance/12874544/
T
his gives a good, basic overview of the technical aspects of how unemployment insurance works in North Carolina. 

http://www.thenation.com/article/175760/punishing-unemployed-north-carolina
This article provides a more personal narrative about a small town’s firsthand experience with unemployment while also providing specifics about the recent legislation.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/30/the-myth-of-welfare-and-drug-use.html
R
ead this for a rundown of the welfare drug testing policies in other states, and the reasons why they’re ineffective.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/28/these-seven-charts-show-the-black-white-economic-gap-hasnt-budged-in-50-years/
T
his series of charts illustrates the pronounced racial disparity in unemployment rates with a historical spin. It gives statistics about marriage, education, incarceration etc. to present a more complete view of the possible reasons behind the racial gap. 

http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/pages/North%20Carolina%20State%20Profile.pdf
Good- if a little old- view of Latino people in the workforce in North Carolina. Interesting especially with North Carolina’s agricultural sector being as present as it is.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/16/us-usa-fiscal-northcarolina-idUSBRE99F00Y20131016
Describes more recent North Carolina legislature actions concerning TANF and WIC (for women and children)

http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2013/10/report-unemployment-economy-grow-in-north-carolina
A good overview of unemployment specifically in North Carolina and from the point of view of job creation instead of benefits. More of a description of the causes rather than the effects and the potential methods of alleviating the problem.

Implications?

It sounds like a horrible generalized doomsday prophecy, but it’s true: if current trends continue in legislation surrounding unemployment benefits, everyone will suffer. 

According to the American Psychological Association, unemployment and underemployment can lead to depression, more punitive parenting practices, physical symptoms of stress, risky sexual behavior, and an increased risk of suicide (https://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/socioeconomic/unemployment.aspx). In the same study, they discussed the vicious circle that arises in communities with high unemployment rates– fewer resources in areas with high levels of unemployment means less funding for infrastructure and schools, leading to less jobs and elevated danger in the community.

Perhaps one could argue that some level of unemployment will always exist, but in an article published in The Atlantic, the dire need for TANF (short term welfare for those unemployed people actively seeking a job) becomes clear (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-terrifying-reality-of-long-term-unemployment/274957/). The psychological effects of unemployment are compounded with time, and, on top of that, rehire becomes less likely as the amount of time unemployed increases. 

The economy as a whole suffers as a result of unemployment. Each unemployed person is a person not paying income taxes, and further, necessitating spending in the form of welfare. (http://elitedaily.com/news/business/how-unemployment-rates-affect-the-economy/). Further, it undermines the social structure of the country; when asked whether or not they agreed with the statement “having a strong leader who does not have to bother with Parliament or elections,” 38 percent of unemployed people agreed, as compared with 27 percent of employed people (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/business/long-term-unemployment-carries-risks-for-us.html).  These results, collected by the World Values Survey, imply that the risk of social discord increases with unemployment.

So, in short, gloom and doom.

Theory

Inherent in the divide over aid for jobless people is a divide over fundamental ideas of government’s function: one side believes that government’s role should be restricted, the other embodies the more liberal side government, and the idea that government should provide assistance to the people.  I think addressing this divide would be futile. These beliefs are so deeply ingrained and mutually exclusive that attempting to bridge them would be nearly impossible.

The challenge, then, is to find common ground that addresses unemployment while allowing the small-government folk to feel that their privacy is respected, and the large-government contingent to feel that they are providing necessary assistance. I think a two-pronged approach that both strives for equitable education and job creation would best serve to meet the needs of the unemployed 

No one can argue with the fact that there is a pronounced discrepancy in education attainment based on factors like race and class (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/aer/achievement/) and that this directly affects employment opportunity ( http://www.businessinsider.com/college-vs-no-college-unemployment-rates-2013-6). Addressing educational failings would not only address unemployment in an indirect and palatable enough way to appease both sides, but would also address the very foundation of the issue. Instituting education reforms that strive to bring up traditionally underserved and underemployed populations while maintaining high standards for higher achieving students will provide the state with a more educated workforce. In this way, the racial discrepancies present in unemployment statistics as well as the budgetary concerns would be confronted. 

The Educational Policy Institute (rather pessimistically) disagrees completely with this idea, stating that job creation is the only way to alleviate our current economic situation (http://www.epi.org/publication/education_is_not_the_cure_for_high_unemployment_or_for_income_inequality/). There is some truth to this; as the number of college graduates swells, the number of unemployed and underemployed BA’s rises. There simply aren’t enough jobs, despite the level of education. 

To counter this, job creation should take priority. Government jobs should be created in public works (a nod to FDR, to be sure), but to counter the potential small-government contingent’s detraction, small businesses should be supported and large corporations taxed more. 

Analysis Revisited

In my analysis post, I discussed two unique aspects of unemployment: racial inequality manifest in unemployment rates and economic factors affecting legislation concerning welfare for unemployed people. I (futilely) tried to make a connection between the claim that cutting welfare for the jobless- or even creating programs designed to make it more difficult to apply for and receive welfare- were financially responsible, and the fact that minority groups are especially vulnerable to job loss. I wanted to discuss the subconscious and deeply ingrained racism and classism inherent in our legal system, (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-quigley/fourteen-examples-of-raci_b_658947.html) and discuss how this factored into the recently passed legislation. Being that it is nearly impossible to find tangible evidence of such insidious tendencies, my argument was weak (or nonexistent as the case may be). 

I think that two valid and irrefutable conclusions can be drawn from the individual sides that I attempted to join, though. To avoid being redundant, I will refrain from reposting links; all information is drawn from the sources used in my original post.

1.  Minorities and Unemployment:
The statistics don’t lie: minority racial and ethnic groups have historically been, and continue to be, unemployed at rates much higher than the white population. Black and Latino people especially have seen high levels of joblessness even in non-recession times. At the same time, less minority students matriculate from high school or attain passing grades on standardized tests (http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/data/reports/). There is a traceable connection between schooling and unemployment (eg. http://www.businessinsider.com/college-vs-no-college-unemployment-rates-2013-6), so if fewer minority students are able to fully take advantage of educational opportunities, then it logically follows that there would be more unemployment among minorities. Thus, the root of the problem lies within the educational system, and to address the discrepancies within unemployment rates, it is necessary to address the discrepancies in education.

2. Unemployment benefits and the Economy:
Supporters of the recent legislation argue that cutting unemployment benefits and requiring drug testing for welfare are fiscally responsible and necessary to balance the state’s budget. The drug testing bill, however, will have no positive economic effects based on evidence from every other state that has enacted similar legislation. Taking away TANF and other unemployment benefits will have longer term negative effects: TANF is short term and based on the requirement that the person relying on the aid must be actively pursuing employment. Taking away this ‘bridge’ insurance makes the search for employment that much harder on the individual and the family, which could lead to longer term unemployment and increased reliance on longer-term government assistance. And this doesn’t take into account the intangible arguments against the fiscal responsibility stance. For example, is it moral to balance the budget by cutting funds that aid vulnerable people or should other cuts- or fundraising- be explored?

Hispanic unemployment and Education Cuts

North Carolina’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average for every racial category except Hispanics. In the fourth quarter of 2012, 9.8% of Hispanic people were unemployed  nationwide, compared with 7.4% in North Carolina (http://www.epi.org/publication/ongoing-joblessness-north-carolina-unemployment/). At the same time, Hispanics lag behind other racial categories in education; according to a 2011 study, only 25% of Hispanic people over the age of 25 have high school diplomas (http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/pages/Appendix%20E%20Supplemental%20Data%20on%20Latino%20Workers%20in%20North%20Carolina.pdf).  This creates a paradox: how is the North Carolina unemployment rate so much lower than the national average when most jobs require matriculation from high school at the very least? On both a state and national level, Hispanic unemployment rates have increased markedly, but North Carolina’s rate has remained closer to the average for the state than have rates for other minority groups (http://www.epi.org/publication/ongoing-joblessness-north-carolina-unemployment/). 

Unemployment benefit cuts will obviously still affect unemployed Latino people in North Carolina. At the same time, however, Latino people will be less affected by the higher tax rates imposed on small businesses as most are not employed in the service sector (http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/pages/North%20Carolina%20State%20Profile.pdf). Although these jobs are less affected by the unemployment cuts, they still provide less opportunity for upward economic mobility than do jobs in the service sector.

Budget cuts to education during the last legislative session affecting everything from early childhood education to scholarship opportunities for potential college students with educational need, do not bode well for the state of the Latino workforce. Across the board, budget cuts that don’t directly affect unemployment insurance or welfare will still have a pronounced affect on employment in the future. The only way to ensure growth and progress is through a strong base in education and support for those people who are temporarily.