Are we passively watching an unrepresented underclass of the long-term unemployed created before our eyes?

Let Them Eat KFC Double Downs

by digby

Brad DeLong discusses the odd fact that Washington doesn't seem to care that we have 10% unemployment when in the past, notably during the Reagan administration, it was cause for alarm and stirred strenuous government action. Today, the government seems to be lackadaisical at best, going on about how the long term unemployed need tough love and whining that deficit reduction must be a priority. It's quite horrifying actually.

He writes:

Why the enormous disconnect?

Some wise senior Democrats have told me to calm down. The differences between today and 1983 aren’t all that great, they say. Because the Democrats are in power they don’t want to paint a grim picture. Republicans traditionally worry much more about inflation than unemployment; they’re unable even to figure out what policies they want. Moreover, in 1983 it was clear that the monetary and fiscal expansion trains were leaving the station. It was easy for politicians to call for bold and decisive action to fight unemployment, secure in the knowledge that such actions were already in motion and one could soon take credit for them.

But whenever I wander the halls of Washington these days, I can’t help but think that something else is going on—that a deep and wide gulf has grown between the economic hardships of Americans and the seeming incomprehension, or indifference, of courtiers in the imperial city.

Have decades of widening wealth inequality created a chattering class of reporters, pundits and lobbyists who’ve lost their connection to mainstream America? Has the collapse of the union movement removed not only labor’s political muscle but its beating heart from the consciousness of the powerful? Has this recession, which has reduced hiring more than it has increased layoffs, left the kind of people who converse with the powerful in Washington secure in their jobs and thus communicating calm while the unemployed are engulfed in panic? Are we passively watching an unrepresented underclass of the long-term unemployed created before our eyes?

To coin a patented DeLong phrase --- Simple Answers To Simple Questions: Yes.