06-21-2018  5:19 am      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

AG Rosenblum Seeks Info from Oregonians

Oregon Attorney General seeks information on children separated from families at border ...

Community Forum: How Does Law Enforcement Interact With Vulnerable Populations?

Forum will focus on public safety and examine mental health and addiction issues ...

King County Council Recognizes Juneteenth

The Metropolitan King County Council recognizes a true 'freedom day' in the United States ...

Unite Oregon Hosts ‘Mourn Pray Love, and Take Action’ June 20

Community is invited to gather at Terry Schrunk Plaza at 6 p.m. on World Refugee Day ...

MRG Foundation Announces Spring 2018 Grantees

Recipients include Oregon DACA Coalition, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Komemma Cultural Protection Association ...

Ex-basketball coach sentenced to 60 days for sex abuse

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A former Beaverton basketball coach has been sentenced to 60 days in jail and five years of probation for sexually abusing a teenage girl he met through work.KOIN-TV reported Wednesday 34-year-old Laurence Metz was convicted of two counts of sex abuse.Metz was a coach...

Legal pot will roll out differently in Canada than in US

Mail-order weed? You betcha!With marijuana legalization across Canada on the horizon, the industry is shaping up to look different from the way it does in nine U.S. states that have legalized adult recreational use of the drug. Age limits, government involvement in distribution and sales, and...

APNewsBreak: Schools mum on ties to doc in sex abuse inquiry

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A now-dead doctor accused of sexual misconduct by former student athletes at Ohio State University said he acted as a team physician at other universities, most of which won't say if they are reviewing those connections or whether any concerns were raised about him.Ohio...

Trudeau: Canada to legalize marijuana on Oct. 17

TORONTO (AP) — Marijuana will be legal nationwide in Canada starting Oct. 17 in a move that should take market share away from organized crime and protect the country's youth, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.The Senate gave final passage to the bill to legalize cannabis on...

OPINION

How Washington’s 'School Achievement Index' Became School Spending Index

New assessment categorizes schools not by quality of education, but level of funding officials believe they should receive ...

Black Mamas Are Dying. We Can Stop It.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly plans to improve access to culturally-competent care with the MOMMA Act ...

Hey, Elected Officials: No More Chicken Dinners...We Need Policy

Jeffrey Boney says many elected officials who visit the Black community only during the election season get a pass for doing nothing ...

Juneteenth: Freedom's Promise Still Denied

Juneteenth is a celebration of the de facto end of slavery, but the proliferation of incarceration keeps liberation unfulfilled ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Young immigrants detained in Virginia center allege abuse

WASHINGTON (AP) — Immigrant children as young as 14 housed at a juvenile detention center in Virginia say they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.The abuse claims against the Shenandoah Valley...

AP Explains: US has split up families throughout its history

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Some critics of the forced separation of Latino children from their migrant parents say the practice is unprecedented. But it's not the first time the U.S. government has split up families, detained children or allowed others to do so .Throughout American history,...

The Latest: Messi gets a chance to save face against Croatia

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Wednesday at the World Cup (all times local):12:16 a.m.Lionel Messi is going to have a hard time keeping up with Cristiano Ronaldo at this year's World Cup.Ronaldo has all of Portugal's goals, a tournament-leading four so far, and has been getting in digs at Messi...

ENTERTAINMENT

Dig it: Archaeologists scour Woodstock '69 concert field

BETHEL, N.Y. (AP) — Archaeologists scouring the grassy hillside famously trampled during the 1969 Woodstock music festival carefully sifted through the dirt from a time of peace, love, protest and good vibes.Perhaps they would find an old peace symbol? Or a strand of hippie beads? Or Jimi...

Behind the making of Jack-Jack, the summer's breakout star

NEW YORK (AP) — The breakout star of the summer moviegoing season isn't a dinosaur, an Avenger or anyone aboard the Millennium Falcon. It's a giggling pipsqueak in diapers."The Incredibles 2," which last weekend set a new box-office record for animated films with 2.7 million in ticket...

Ariana Grande, Pete Davidson are engaged

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's true, Pete Davidson says: He and Ariana Grande are engaged.The "Saturday Night Live" cast member confirmed their rumored engagement to Jimmy Fallon on NBC's "Tonight Show."Fallon put Davidson on the spot Wednesday, telling him he didn't have to get engaged to the pop...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

New Zealand leader welcomes newborn girl 'to our village'

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to a daughter Thursday...

APNewsBreak: Schools mum on ties to doc in sex abuse inquiry

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A now-dead doctor accused of sexual misconduct by former student athletes at Ohio...

Israeli PM's wife charged with fraud, breach of trust

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli prosecutors have charged Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister's wife, with a series...

Military vows to recover bodies from sunken Indonesia ferry

TIGARAS, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's military chief said Thursday that specialist navy equipment will be...

Voting machines raise worries in Congo ahead of elections

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Congo's government is moving forward with plans to use electronic voting machines in...

Japan to scrap evacuation drills for NKorean missile threat

TOKYO (AP) — Japan plans to suspend the civilian evacuation drills it started last year while North Korea...

By Tom Foreman CNN












Graph shows hiring over the last year (Department of Labor)


The Mississippi River rolls muddy and wide beneath a gray, spitting sky. The St. Louis Arch, symbol of the once unimaginable promise of the nation's westward expansion, looms above the barges pushing past and the summer traffic below. Across the water, at 35 years old, Lolanda Ohene is staring at the skyline and wondering what has happened to her future.

"I thought I'd be more successful right now," she says, "have better health insurance, better (working) conditions, just better everything, because I'm in America." She laughs softly. "We're supposed to have better quality everything here, but we don't."

Ohene is a forklift operator at a warehouse and one of the countless working Americans struggling with the long, slow economic recovery, characterized by the latest jobs report, which once again shows unemployment above 7 percent. The rate has not dipped below that number since November 2008, two months before Barack Obama became president. His defenders point out that the nose dive in jobs began under President Bush; his detractors counter that Obama has not exactly proven a wizard at reversing the trend.

Forget the politics: The bottom line is that sustained unemployment of more than 7 percent is wreaking havoc in ways that many economists fear are being overlooked as the nation grows numb to the dreadful monthly numbers.

"It's a total employers' market," says John Schmitt, a senior economist at the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research. He argues that the first and foremost effect is an erosion of the bargaining positions for workers everywhere. "If you are looking for a job, you take whatever is offered. If you have a job, you don't complain. If wages are going to be frozen, if benefits are going to be cut, you suck it up. There's not much you can do."

Other profound changes emerging from the 7 percent landscape: The Labor Department reports four times as many workers are now being offered temporary or part-time positions than full-time jobs; reports have abounded for many months about how even the full-time positions now don't pay as well as those lost in the Great Recession.

Certainly, President Obama is sensitive to all that. He has been barnstorming the country in recent weeks leading sing-along choruses of "The Let's Save the Middle Class Rag," the song that got him re-elected. But aside from the politics, there are practical reasons he, his Democrats, and Republicans, too, need to see the 7 percent floor broken, and soon. As Schmitt puts it, "Seven out of a hundred workers that would like to have a job don't have one. That's an enormous amount of lost resources in the economy. That means people aren't producing goods and services, aren't consuming goods and services. ..."

And they aren't paying taxes. At least not at the rate that governments require to keep up with benefits for a population trying to claw out of an economic hole. That's why, back in St. Louis, Mayor Francis Slay gets agitated over people growing accustomed to such a high unemployment rate.

"For people to accept that as the norm would be very, very dangerous," he tells me as we sit in the office of St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, who chimes in. "I think it is not the American way of life. We can do better than that. We've got to continue to invest in our infrastructure. You've got to have amenities." And both men know, you can't do any of that with a crippling unemployment rate hanging around year after year. Missouri, by the way, has a current unemployment rate just under 7 percent, but across the river in Illinois, it's over 9 percent.

To be sure, some progress is being made. Look at the charts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and you'll see creeping improvements in the jobs numbers over the past few years. But the National Conference of State Legislatures in its spring report said while most states are no longer teetering on the edge of economic calamity, there is still "a dose of uncertainty, as states continue to plod their way through an extended economic recovery."

What everyone wants, of course, is "full employment." That's a term economists don't like much because while it describes a simple idea (everyone who wants a job has one), the details are squishy. For starters, "full employment" does not and will never mean 0 percent unemployment. People are always changing jobs, looking for new positions, or taking breaks, so some percentage of the population is expected to be out of work at any given time.

Furthermore, some economists -- not many, but some -- believe that whenever an unemployment rate stabilizes for a period of years at any number, like say 7 percent or above, that is by definition "full employment" because the economy is essentially "full" of workers or it would hire more.

William Dickens, however, is not one of them. "I have a lot of problems with that."

Dickens is a distinguished professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston, who has written and researched extensively into the causes and effects of unemployment. "Before the recession, (full employment) was typically estimated to be in the range of 4 to 6 percent. Since the recession, there are indications that number may have gone up. My own estimates suggest it is somewhere between 5 and perhaps a little bit over 6 percent now, although nowhere near 7 or 7½ percent."

The ways in which those numbers can change are complicated. Imagine a chalkboard filled with elaborate, baffling equations and you'll get the gist even if you don't get the picture.

But it all comes down to the idea that 7 percent is not even close to "full employment" in the eyes of most economists, and some parts of the population are disastrously far from even that mark. Last year, for example, African-American males faced an unemployment rate of 15 percent.

And here is the thing: Young workers -- all those bright-eyed, optimistic kids with their iPhones -- who are being pounded by the employment situation now, will likely never recover from the beating. Read that again: They will never recover. "There is evidence that entering a troubled labor market has a permanent scarring effect," Dickens says. "Somebody who enters a labor market during a downturn, they're going to see lower wages throughout their career."

All that is the damning legacy of that stubborn 7 percent-plus that keeps coming out each month. Blame whomever you wish politically, but even if the number has started looking benign after all these months, there is no denying the economic tidal wave rumbling beneath it.

Even now, it is washing around Lolanda Ohene, as she stands on the riverbank while her friend Vernon Glenn roams up. He is 27, works in a factory and has a strategy for economic survival: "Just got to try to keep your head up high and save all you can, if you can."

She smiles and turns back to the river. Until that number changes, it is as good a plan as any.

 

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