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The New Normal: A Lot Like Now Only Worse

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Chaz Valenza     Permalink
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At that point you are finished. You have accepted the New Normal. Less hope for your future. Less opportunity for your children.

It started in the 1980's but it's picking up steam now. From 1947 to 1979, top earners' share of income was stable. But from 1979 to 2006 it doubled, from 7.3% to 13.6%. It doesn't sound like much but by 2004 the top 1% wealthiest households controlled more wealth that all the wealth in the hands of the bottom 90%.

Between 1962 and 2004, wealth held by the bottom 80% of Americans slipped from 19% to nearly 15%. In 2008, 30% of American households had a net worth of under $10,000, and 17% had a zero or negative net worth. During the same period studies showed upward class/financial mobility in America was nothing but a myth. You were more likely to get ahead in any of a number of more rigid societies including Germany and Denmark. (The State of Working America 2008/09 -Economic Policy Institute).

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Clearly, the days of the magic wand, the days of what would you do if you had your druthers; follow your dreams and the money will come; get a good education, work hard and you'll be alright have ended for nine out of ten Americans.

Many of us are all ready there

Sixteen percent of Americans now say they are living in poverty. That realization is backed up by private studies that question the official definition of poverty. Just a decade earlier only 8% would admit to a pollster that they were poor.Nearly 40 million Americans still do not have health insurance.

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Real unemployment is at 16 to 25%, depending on what source you believe and how you count the discouraged and under-employed.

Just to keep up with population growth, high school and college graduates entering the work force, we need to create 150,000 new jobs per month. So, even though we are now creating jobs instead of losing them, unemployment will continue to raise.

How bad, how disenfranchised, how weird will the New Normal America be?

In Greece, large numbers of those twenty to thirty years old remain unemployed and living at home. They are not lazy know nothings. Many have not one, but two or three advanced degrees, including multiple PhDs. With sharp minds, and no jobs, they live in a purgatory of higher education. No jobs to be had they repeatedly return to college for yet another degree.

Don't say it couldn't happen here

Ask anyone who works in Information Technology (IT) how many times they have retrained, learned a new computer language, raced to get up to speed for a different industry, and where all that effort has gotten them.

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Many IT workers remain unemployed as jobs have been shipped offshore. Others grab at 1099 contractor work with no benefits. They become second class freelancers fixing the problems found in the re-imported products they formerly developed here.

The future New Normal is not so difficult to divine. I believe it will be the same as now, and both worse and different. Here how:

Politicians will need to show progress putting people back to work. So, unemployment will decease slowly over the next five years down to about 6%. I base this on the fact that it took an unprecedented four years to recovery the job loses of the 2001 recession.

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Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration (more...)

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