Coming to Grips With the Insurrection

As we begin 2022, we’re not lacking for challenges. There’s the pandemic, climate change, economic turbulence, and political instability. A year after January 6, 2021, I had hoped that some of these challenges would disappear. That the United States would acquire “herd immunity” and the threat of coronavirus would recede. That Republicans would accept that Joe Biden was lawfully elected President and those responsible for the January 6th insurrection were traitorous criminals. Sadly all of these challenges continue.

On January 6th, 2022, Joe Biden spoke (https://www.npr.org/2022/01/06/1070931178/jan-6-anniversary-biden-speech-transcript ) in the Capitol rotunda and condemned those responsible for the insurrection, particularly former President Trump.  “One year ago today, in this secured place, Democracy was attacked… For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol… this [was] an armed insurrection.”

Biden’s speech signified a change in Democratic strategy.  Heretofore, Biden had attempted to ignore Trump; the former President had been “he who shall not be named.”  Since January 20th, the White House seemed to take the position: if we don’t talk about Trump, he will go away.  That hasn’t happened; Trump hasn’t gone away. He’s maintained his iron grip around the neck of the Republican Party.  However, over the past year, Trump’s popularity has waned; according to the latest 538 poll summary (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/ ) Trump’s approval rating has declined to 38.6 percent — outside the Republican Party, Trump’s brand has turned toxic.

Biden, and the Democratic Party, have decided to make the 2022 election about Trump and the insurrection.  They are going to label Republicans as Trump’s toadies, willing accomplices in the insurrection.  “Republicans don’t want to move forward; they are stuck on overthrowing the lawful of election of November 3, 2020.  Republicans favor autocracy over democracy…”

In his forceful speech, President Biden made four points.  The first: “the former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election… he can’t accept he lost… Defeated by a margin of over seven million of your votes.”

The second point: “The Big Lie being told by the former president, and many Republicans who fear his wrath, is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day, November 3, 2020.” “There is simply zero proof the election results are inaccurate. In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced and oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case.  Just think about this, the former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd. The elections for governor. United States Senate. House of Representatives.”

Biden’s third point: “The [next] Big Lie being told by the former president’s supporters is that the results of the election 2020 can’t be trusted.” “Right now in state after state, new laws are being written [by Republicans]. Not to protect the vote, but to deny it. Not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it, not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost. Instead of looking at election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections.”

The fourth point: ” The [final] Big Lie being told by a former president and supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots. Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways?… You can’t love your country only when you win. You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.”

Joe Biden ended on a strong note: “Now it’s up to all of us — to We the People — to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive… Make no mistake about it, we’re living at an inflection point in history, both at home and abroad. We’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy,”  The President concluded: ” I will defend this nation, and I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.”

President Biden has taken off his gloves and taken the attack to Donald Trump and the Republican Party.  Biden has decided to make the 2022 election about Trump and the insurrection.  In every Senate and House race, Democrats will tie the Republican candidate to Trump and the insurrection.

In the next couple of weeks, Senate Democrats will try to pass voting-rights legislation.  They will force Republicans to take a visible stance on this and use their — expected — resistance as a 2022 election issue.

The good news is that President Biden, and congressional Democrats, are addressing the challenge of political instability.

Good Riddance

2021, a dreadful year
Not to be lamented
365 days of Covid fear
Politics demented
Reality tormented.

Lucky to escape alive
Fortunate to stay sane
In some regards, to thrive
Blessed to keep my brain
Charmed to miss the pain.

Our hopes for 2022
Something old
Something new
Become more bold
Go for the gold.

Treasure family and friends
Open to more love
The chance to make amends
The comfort thereof
Instead of hawk, the dove.

So, what did we learn?
Always the key question
Bridges not to burn
Lighten our possession(s)
Eschew micro aggressions(s).

And now for resolutions:
Number one is travel
Trust there will be solutions
Arrangements won’t unravel
Omicron just a cavil.

Number two is art
More music and more plays
Lyrics conveying heart
Bringing an upward gaze
On occasion, a clever phrase.

Number three is politics
Return to the barricades
Fight their dirty tricks
Support progressive crusades
Be a jack-of-all-trades.

Goodbye and good riddance
Ghastly 2021
Email the remittance
Happy you are done
Now let’s have fun.

Mean Old World (2021)


As I write this end-of-the-year column, I’m reminded of the classic blues lyric: “This is a mean old world to have to live in by yourself.” My hope is that this holiday season you will be surrounded by loved ones; that you weren’t forced to live through 2021 by yourself.

2021 was a mean old year. I’m going to recap some of the low-lights and then end on a positive note.

1.The Pandemic: The 2021 good news was that there was widespread distribution of vaccines to inoculate against the worst effects of Covid-19.  The bad news was that some folks refused to get vaccinated.  And, at the end of the year, there was a new Coronavirus variant, Omicron, that forced us to go back on alert.

Here in West Sonoma County — where 100 percent of my age cohort have been fully vaccinated — we are less concerned about the medical threat of Coronavirus and more concerned with the social threat: families ripped apart because some members refuse to be vaccinated.  I have a good memory but I cannot recall anything comparable.  The United States has been inflicted by a simultaneous public health crisis (Coronavirus) and a mental health crisis (fear of vaccination).

We’ve taken to wearing masks everywhere.  My beloved choir did give a live winter concert.  We limited attendance to facilitate social distancing and everyone wore masks (and was required to be fully vaccinated.)  Amazingly, we sounded great!

2. Climate Change: The 2021 good news was the widespread acknowledgment of the seriousness of climate change.  A recent AP/NORC/EPIC poll  (https://apnews.com/article/climate-joe-biden-science-environment-and-nature-only-on-ap-1e48e3315d2e0b618ccaa4a8d466e057) found that “59% of Americans said the Earth’s warming is very or extremely important to them… 55% of Americans want Congress to pass a bill to ensure that more of the nation’s electricity comes from clean energy and less from climate-damaging coal and natural gas.”  The bad news is that 2021 saw a series of devastating climate-related events.  Here in California we had drought and devastating firestorms.

In Sonoma County, the 2021 good news was that we didn’t have any firestorms, although we did have anticipatory power outages.  And we had drought — the Russian River almost dried up.   Then the rains came with a vengeance; we learned about “atmospheric rivers.”  In one October weekend we had 13 inches of rain!

3. The Uncivil War: By nature an optimist, when the year started I expected Republicans to get over Trump and start the arduous task of rebuilding our democracy.  This hasn’t happened.  A recent poll (https://news.yahoo.com/poll-two-thirds-of-republicans-still-think-the-2020-election-was-rigged-165934695.html ) found that “66 percent of Republicans continue to insist that the election was rigged and stolen from Trump.”

This sad reality has many consequences.  On January 6th, Trump devotees attacked the US capitol.  Congressional Republicans have done nothing to help Biden deal with these tumultuous times.  Many GOP politicians fight common-sense public health actions to deal with the pandemic.  They are aggressively hostile to non-Trump believers.

Trump followers are possessed by a disturbing delusion: that our democracy should be eviscerated and replaced with Trump-based theocracy.  The only slightly good news is that they don’t want to get vaccinated and, as a consequence, many will be stricken.

Because I live in an overwhelmingly Democratic County, I seldom come into contact with Trump cultists.  However, this summer I manned a “Vote No On the Recall” table at our local Farmers’ Market and occasionally would converse with Trump addicts.  As far as I could determine, they wanted to recall Governor Newsom because they didn’t like the Covid-19 public health measures (masks, social distancing, and vaccination).  By the way, the final recount vote was 38 percent yes, 62 percent no.

4. The Economy:  One of the realities of living in a “mean old world” is that money cushions you from pain.  If you are fortunate enough to have a steady job, own a house, and have savings, then 2021 probably was an okay year.  If you had marginal employment, rented, and have little or no savings, then 2021 was a bad year.

Because of the pandemic, the US inflation rate has increased to greater than 6 percent.  At the same time, the stock market (DJIA) has increased by 16 percent.  Therefore, if you were struggling at the beginning of the year, you’re likely to be hurting right now.  (When I manned the “Vote No on the Recall” table, some of the pro-recall voters indicated they were suffering financially — they wanted to recall the Governor because they blamed him for their economic malaise.)

California is an expensive (but gorgeous) place to live.  These days we are losing a few residents, primarily because of the high cost of housing.  Because of the consequences of climate change, more folks are moving close to the coast making those houses particularly expensive.  Here in Sonoma County, we are trying to build more affordable housing and, at the same time, struggling with water issues.  There’s no simple solution but to continue to promote the progressive value of economic justice.

5. 2022 Midterms: Given that Republicans haven’t gotten over Trump and, in fact, believe the 2020 election was stolen from him, Democrats are concerned that the 2022 midterm elections will see them lose control of one or both wings of Congress – the Senate has a 50-50 split and the House favors Democrats by a 9-vote margin.  It’s difficult to predict what will happen on November 8, 2022.  Here are some considerations:

Trump, and the January-6 insurrection leaders, will most likely be indicted early in 2022.  This won’t phase Trump devotees but it will harden the resolve of other voters to not support a mob boss.  Devotion to Trump will play well in deep-red districts, but not so well in others.

The economy will improve in 2022.  President Biden and Congressional Democrats can take credit for the “American Rescue  Plan” and the Infrastructure Bill.  I believe that early in 2022, Joe Biden and Joe Manchin will strike a deal and Senate Democrats will pass “Build Back Better.”  (Many economists believe that BBB is an essential element of the economic recovery.

Democrats will not capitulate to the forces of evil.  They will fight for every winnable House and Senate seat.  There are 30 House seats “in play.”  (At this writing, the COOK REPORT declared that as the result of California redistricting, six Republican house seats are in “toss up” status.)  There are 9 Senate seats in play; four Democrat and five Republican.  (Adios, Marco Rubio.)

Republicans have resorted to extreme gerrymandering and voter-restriction measures.  Many of these will be blocked in the courts.

Summary:  This has been a very hard year.  It’s disturbing to see US Democracy threatened by the forces of evil; it’s unsettling to see so many Republicans go over to the dark side.

This holiday season, I am comforted by the presence of family and friends.  I am comforted by the knowledge that so many good people continue to fight for peace and justice.

Here’s my challenge to all of you: commit now to fight evil in 2022.  In the words of Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  We are at an existential moment; we cannot permit the Trump madness to continue; we cannot permit the light of democracy to be extinguished.

May God bless you and your loved ones.

Love Came Calling

In the dark of night
Love rapped on my door
Gave my heart a fright
Knocked me to the floor
With  memories of yore.

I pleaded, “Love, go away
Come back when I’m ready
Wait for another day
When my nerves are steady
Besides, you came already.”

Love laughed and shook its head,
“I delight to make you suffer
Fill your soul with dread
Rend you to a duffer
Make your days seem rougher.”

I staggered to my feet
Braced to meet my fate
Formed a plan for quick retreat
Realized it was too late
All I could do was wait.

“I’m too old” I muttered
Playing the desperation card
Love laughed and my heart fluttered
“You believe your soul is scarred
But life’s a game played hard.”

Love seized my withered heart
In an instant, filled it with joy
Music, literature, and art,
The past a faint decoy
As geriatric turned to boy.

Friendship

“Between friends there is no need for justice,
but people who are just still need the quality of friendship;
and indeed friendliness is considered to be justice in the fullest sense.”

Aristotle

FRIEND

“I’ve got your back.”

I’ll be your friend
No matter what
until the end
No “if” or “but.”

SONG: “Lean on me”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YapAxPfRyI

FRIENDLINESS

“Remain open.”

I was inclined to be friendly
Until you wore your henley.
Now I’ll reconsider
with my senses a twitter.

SONG: “Stand by me”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XL6C3vY0jM

JUSTICE

“Treating others as I would expect to be treated.”

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller

Should We Worry About Inflation?

On November 10th it was announced that the consumer price index has increased 6.2 percent in twelve months, the largest yearly increase in thirty years.  This announcement coincided with a Washington Post/ABC poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/14/post-abc-poll-biden/)l showing that President Biden’s approval ratings have fallen again: “Despite a mix of economic signals — falling unemployment and rising prices — 70 percent rate the economy negatively, including 38 percent who say it is in ‘poor’ condition.”  What should we make of this?

First of all, prices have risen.  Inflation is real.

It’s important to understand why this is happening.  Despite what Republicans may claim, inflation is not the fault of the Biden Administration.   As explained by CNN reporter Allison Morrow (https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/13/economy/what-is-inflation-explainer/index.html): “Blame the pandemic. In the spring of 2020, as Covid-19 spread, it was like pulling the plug on the global economy. Factories around the world shut down; people stopped going out to restaurants; airlines grounded flights… It was the sharpest economic contraction on record. By early summer, however, demand for consumer goods started to pick back up. Rapidly. Congress and President Joe Biden passed a historic $1.9 trillion stimulus bill in March that made Americans suddenly flush with cash and unemployment assistance. People started shopping again. Demand went from zero to 100, but supply couldn’t bounce back so easily.” [Emphasis added] “Blame the pandemic.”  Blame the Trump Administration that mishandled the pandemic.

In today’s polarized environment, Democrats and Republicans view inflation differently.  Nonetheless, the Washington Post/ABC poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/14/post-abc-poll-biden/) found that most respondents (50 percent) do not hold Biden responsible for inflation.  ([Notably] the poll finds majority support for [Biden’s] biggest plans. The Post-ABC poll finds that 63 percent of Americans support Washington spending $1 trillion ‘on roads, bridges and other infrastructure,’ while 58 percent support spending roughly $2 trillion to ‘address climate change and to create or expand preschool, health care and other social programs.'”

Most Republican voters don’t understand economics, so it’s easy for them to believe that President Biden caused the inflation to happen.  Recently Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio  said: “This will be a winter of high gas prices, shortages and inflation because far left lunatics control our government.”

The economy is complicated and multiple factors have contributed to the rise in the consumer price index.  As mentioned, demand bounced back and supply did not respond rapidly.  In addition, there have been problems in the global supply chain.  Some are remote — problems in Chinese chip factories — and some are local — a lot of truck drivers quit their jobs, during the pandemic, and have not returned.

Economist Robert Reich (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/11/us-inflation-market-power-america-antitrust-robert-reich ) believes that corporate greed has played an important role in the inflation kerfuffle: “There’s a deeper structural reason for inflation, one that appears to be growing worse: the economic concentration of the American economy in the hands of a relative few corporate giants with the power to raise prices. If markets were competitive, companies would keep their prices down in order to prevent competitors from grabbing away customers.  But they’re raising prices even as they rake in record profits.”

Regardless of one’s political persuasion, inflation is likely to diminish in 2022.  Writing in CNN Business, Moody’s economist Mark Zandi observed (https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/17/perspectives/inflation-high-prices-economy/index.html?): “As [the pandemic] fades and workers get healthy and return to work, the acute labor shortages and outsize pay increases will end, which means higher prices will too. What’s more, workers who permanently lost jobs during the pandemic will find a new employer; parents who’ve been home tending to children in school online will return to work as schools continue to return to in-person learning; and parents with younger children will take jobs as children eventually get vaccinated and daycare becomes more widely available.”  Zandi continued: “All of this refutes the notion that the government spending and tax breaks to support the economy through the pandemic, including the American Rescue Plan this past March, are somehow behind the higher inflation.”

Yes.  Inflation is real.  It’s been stoked by the pandemic.  As we overcome the pandemic, we will overcome inflation.

That, of course, is the challenge.  If the pandemic endures, then inflation will endure.  President Biden is determined to end the pandemic by mandating vaccination wherever possible, but many Republicans are fighting this.  That’s a problem.  That’s what we should worry about: Republicans have abandoned common sense.

Two Coyotes

Two coyotes near the house
One taking a nap in the lower meadow
The other hunting for food.

Healthy coyotes
Larger than a fox
Smaller than a wolf.

Coyote symbolizes mental growth
Strength for dealing with stress.

For the indigenous
Coyote is the holy trickster.

For our Aussie, Belle,
Coyote is intruder
A stimulant for hyper vigilance
an excuse to go apeshit.

Lessons from Virginia

The results of the November 2nd elections were not good for Democrats but the sky is not falling.  Democrats still have time to salvage the midterms if we pay attention to what went wrong; particularly in Virginia.

1.Candidates matter: While it’s impolite to speak ill of the dead, Terry McAuliffe was a terrible candidate.  Not just because he was personally obnoxious, but also because he ran with a dreadful strategy: “That other guy is the second coming of Trump.”

In the aftermath of the November 2nd election, we saw multiple instances where good progressive candidates won — for example, new Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and new Boston Mayor Michelle Wu — based upon their accomplishments and programs.

2. Voters are pissed off.  It’s not unusual for midterm voters to be irritated, but the US electorate is unusually roiled at the moment.  That’s the enduring Trump legacy: voters of all persuasions are angry.  Reds because they believe Trump was cheated; Blues because they want Trump to go away.  Reds because they don’t want to be vaccinated; Blues because they want the pandemic to be over.  Reds because they believe the economy has been artificially suppressed; Blues because it’s hard to make a living.  Etcetera.

The November 2nd electorate was angry and Republicans did a better job harnessing this anger.

3. Midterm elections are tough because most voters have a limited memory.  Whatever problems voters are currently experiencing they attribute to the current Administration.  It’s Biden’s pandemic and Biden’s economy and Biden’s border…

Voters want the pandemic to be over.  They’ve forgotten — or don’t care-  that Trump and the Republicans turned it into a disaster.  Everyone wants Coronavirus to go away.  (The best way to accomplish this is “tough love:” vaccine mandates.  Force everyone to get vaccinated.  Get vaccinated or stop being a cop or bus driver or nurse.)

Voters have forgotten that Trump and the Republicans screwed up the economy by a series of bonehead moves: cutting taxes of the wealthiest individuals and corporations, mishandling the pandemic, mishandling Covid relief… Voters want the economy to be better; they want life to be easier.  The best way to accomplish this is for Congress to pass Biden’s “Build Back Better” program.  Now is the time for Congressional Democrats to stiffen their spines and pass this legislation.  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  Now is the time for Democrats to “get going.” (During this writing, Democrats passed a historic $1.25 trillion infrastructure bill.  And the economy added 531,000 jobs.)

4. In Virginia, Republican voters were incensed about parental control of schools. There’s a grain of truth to this because, during the pandemic, many parents had to drop out of work to take care of their children because of school closures and vaccination requirements. Fox News, and other conservative outlets, have jumped on the “parental rights” issue to pump out a ton of disinformation; such as parents should determine school health standards.

It’s sad that Red voters are so gullible.  But in every election we have seen this.  We should be used to it.  And better able to fight back. We must do a better job fighting disinformation.

Writing in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/04/memo-democrats-be-loud-be-proud/?), Pulitzer-Prize-winning  columnist Eugene Robinson said: “Democrats should not retreat on cultural issues but instead should fight lies with truth. Explain that when Republicans say “critical race theory” they really mean “aspects of American history that they hope will make White voters uncomfortable.” Explain that the Biden plan gives more funding to police, not less. Be loud and be proud.” [Emphasis added]

5. There was high voter turnout in Virginia.  Democrats turned out more than usual, but even more Republicans turned out.  Republicans have learned to turn out their base with manufactured cultural issues.  We should get used to this.

Writing in The Guardian, (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/04/democratic-strategists-are-embracing-popularism-but-theyve-got-it-wrong) political observer Steve Phillips said: “In the 16 seats flipped by Republicans last year, an average of 34,000 more people came out to cast ballots for the Democratic candidate than in 2018. The challenge for Democrats was that Republican votes jumped by 54,000 votes per district…. Rather than distancing themselves from issues that are unpopular with Trump supporters, Democrats need to double down on the issues that resonate with and inspire infrequent voters who are progressive.” [Emphasis added]

6. Republicans have embraced racism.  Many of the November 2nd voters were motivated but the racist tropes of Fox News and other conservative outlets; for example, the supposed teaching of “critical race theory” in Virginia schools — a blatant lie.  It’s important to recognize how central racism is to the core of the contemporary Republican Party.  For example, many Republicans believe in “replacement theory” — the notion that Democrats are encouraging the population growth of non-Christian non-whites so “those people” can take their jobs.

There are many facets of the legacy of Donald Trump: one was open racism.

A christian white Republican member of my family recently told me that the January 6th insurrection was understandable “because people were fed up with the Black Lives Matter riots.”

7. Democrats can prevail so long as we turn out our base and there’s a level playing field.  We can turn out our base with exciting candidates and dynamic programs.  We need help with the “level playing field” part.  We need to do everything we can to pass the Freedom to v/ote act (https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/freedom-vote-act ).  Yes, even if that means changing the filibuster rules.

It’s not time to panic, it’s time to get busy.  We know who the Republicans are.  Do we know who we are?

Time (Marches On)

The older I get
The more refined
My sense of time.

When I was young
I drifted down a broad road
Composed of sunshine and flowers.

Now I trudge
Along a rainswept path
Littered with detritus.

Have my senses eroded
or been sharpened?
Am I more realistic
or muted by pessimism?

I drove to Sebastopol listening to the radio
Tom Petty, Muddy Waters, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia..
“They’re all dead”
I realized

“What if I live long enough
that no one remembers
John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday…”
Sigh.

“Fie on them”
I said — like my grandfather
“If that happens
They don’t deserve my company.”

How to Write a Country & Western Hit

RULES
1. Start with tragedy.

If your life is going great, write a pop song.
Sample: “I Don’t Care”
I’m dancing with my girlfriend
to crappy music
and
I don’t care
.

2. Pick the tragedy style:
a. Relationship: My baby left me
b. Natural disaster: I lost my town in the great flood.
c. Your pet: My dog left me.

3. It’s okay to combine the styles
My baby got washed away in the flood.

4. Pick the perspective:
a. Historical: My baby left me standing at the altar.
b. Contemporary: My baby drove away in my brand-new Tesla.
c. Existential: My baby left or maybe she didn’t; was it all a fantasy?

5. Add seasoning:
a. Getting drunk: My baby left and I’m drinkin’.
b. Going to prison: My baby’s in prison; my dog, too.
c. Mama: I got drunk the day my mama went to prison

6. Mix and match:
My dog drank my last beer.
PG&E turned off my power and now I can’t find my baby.
My mama got drunk, took my dog for a walk, and fell into a volcano.

View from the Barricades: The Labor Market


If you’re confused by the state of the US economy, you’re not alone.  Market watchers know that stocks are sending confusing signals.  Some “experts” say we are in a recovery, other predict big problems.  In August, consumer sentiment (https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/consumer-confidence ) hit a decade low.  The unemployment rate is falling but tens of thousands of workers are leaving the labor market.  What’s happening?

Duh: we’re in the middle of a civil war.

Thankfully, so far it’s a non-shooting civil war.  Nonetheless, it’s a civil war marked by two vectors: one is the millions of folks who insist that the orange menace won the 2020 presidential election; they’re more interested in creating chaos than a better world.  The second is the millions of Americans who refuse to get vaccinated.; they leaving and aggravating the labor market.  (By the way, these populations overlap.)

The Unemployment Rate: The latest jobs report ()https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf ) indicated that the US economy added 194,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent.  That seems like good news, but it must be tempered by the understanding that 183,000 workers dropped out of the labor force (mostly women). The “job participation rate” increased to 61.6 percent and remains below the 63 percent norm — pre-pandemic.

What’s happening? For one thing, the latest jobs report indicates that there’s no truth to the Republican claim that workers were staying out of the job market in order to get unemployment insurance benefits; many are reentering but looking for better jobs.  The churn in the  labor market can be understood by studying the relationship between unemployment and vaccination rates.  For example, California the state with the highest vaccination rate is also one of the states least impacted by the labor shortage.  (Conversely, South Dakota one of the states with lowest vaccination rate is also one of the states most impacted by the labor shortage.) Where it’s safe, workers are returning to the labor market, but they are being picky.  Where it’s not safe, workers are quitting their jobs.

Unfilled Jobs: There remains a big gap between the number of job openings and those who are looking for work — a deficit of several million.  Many employers — particularly small businesses — are desperately looking for employees.  There are several explanations for the lower than expected “job participation rate.” The most obvious is that “caregivers,” mostly women, are staying at home taking care of vulnerable family members: children or the elderly.  Their justification is that they don’t feel safe letting others care for their family members or, in some cases, there’s no safe hospital or nursing home option. (More than 300,000 women over 20 dropped out of the labor force in September.)

The second explanation is that some unemployed workers came from sectors that are on the “front lines” dealing with the pandemic: leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, and public education.  Many of these workers left  jobs where there was a high probability of exposure to the coronavirus — such as bus drivers — or they were put in the unpleasant position of having to enforce a mask mandate — such as restaurant employees.  They don’t want to return to that hassle.  (Consider this Buzzfeed article where restaurant workers report the abuse they’ve recently had to endure  https://www.buzzfeed.com/rossyoder/why-people-left-restaurant-industry  or this similar Axios article https://www.axios.com/bars-restaurants-angry-violent-customers-pandemic-515777d8-8550-4cee-9193-c55eda96d2f1.html?  )

The third explanation is that many American workers now feel empowered to quit their jobs. The August labor report ( https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jolts.pdf) indicated that a record number, 4.3 million, quit in August. (“Quits increased in accommodation and food services (+157,000); wholesale trade (+26,000); and state and local government education (+25,000)..”)

Writing in The Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/09/30/during-great-resignation-workers-refuse-accept-unacceptable/ ) Karla Miller observed there are four main causes for “the great resignation:” “A backlog of workers who wanted to resign before the pandemic but held on a bit longer; burnout, particularly among frontline workers in health care, food service and retail; “pandemic epiphanies” in which people experienced major shifts in identity and purpose that led them to pursue new careers and start their own businesses; and an aversion to returning to offices after a year or more of working remotely.”

Worker Power:  UC Economist Robert Reich postulates that we’re experiencing a form of national strike (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/13/american-workers-general-strike-robert-reich ). “American workers now have bargaining leverage to do better. After a year and a half of the pandemic, consumers have pent-up demand for all sorts of goods and services…But employers are finding it hard to fill positions… Over the past year, job openings have increased 62%. Yet overall hiring has actually declined… My take: workers are reluctant to return to or remain in their old jobs mostly because they’re burned out… What’s really going on is more accurately described as a living-wage shortage, a hazard pay shortage, a childcare shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a healthcare shortage.” [Emphasis added]

Summary: We’re living in interesting times.  We’re in the middle of a (low key) civil war and similarly subdued national employment strike.  And then there’s climate change.  Stay tuned.

You Can’t Run Away from Death


Oh you can’t run away from death
No time to pause and catch your breath
The end is coming, don’t look back
‘Cause when you stop, death will attack.

You can’t run, oh you can’t hide
For death will take you for a ride
Past the story of your life
Through all the tumult and the strife.

Oh you can’t run away from death
Don’t try to swim the river Lethe
Just do your best and stand your ground
Ignore the breath of death’s great hound.

You can’t run, oh you can’t hide
Death flows onward with the tide
Carrying all your sins and woes
To leave you gasping in the throes.

Oh you can’t run away from death
No time to pause and to catch your breath
The end is coming, so don’t look back
‘Cause when you stop, death will attack.