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Everywhere one looks in US main stream media, predictions of unemployment eventually rising to 20% are often mentioned. I can say that I've never seen 20% unemployment on American soil. Such a calamity would be a first for me, my generation, and my children. The stories of 25% unemployment that befell my grandparents' generation during the Great Depression are mere historical footnotes from my scholastic days of yore.
But I have also lived in foreign countries. I lived in Switzerland where I witnessed what 0.5% unemployment looks like. It was utopian. For the first time, I met professionally unemployed people. These are people who work for a minimal amount of time and then take full advantage of the unemployment laws. They would work for six months, get fired, and then receive government unemployment benefits which were 95% of last salary for up to 18 months. I'm sure the rigors of the law were more severe, but that was the general consensus of the crowd I moved in.
I also lived in Mexico. When I lived there, they had 35% unemployment and 90% annual inflation. They had a currency that devalued daily. I remember full well the chore of going to buy groceries once a week and having to stand outside while my Mexican wife went to purchase the supplies. I knew full well that my presence inside would double or triple the final cost. And already, each week saw a doubling of prices on almost all goods. I also remember very well when my boss told me that my promotion, the one I had been filling for two years unofficially because the company needed it but didn't have the wherewithal to place me there, was to go to a Mexican because it wouldn't look right to put a foreigner in that spot due to the high unemployment rate. He did, however, ask me to train the person because I was the only one who knew how to perform the job, even though I was essentially training my boss-to-be.
So I can talk about full employment and chronic unemployment from personal experience. I don't need to reference Harvard acting professors, or Oxnard intelligentsia emeriti. I have lived it and can speak to it. What we are living in the US is the first act of an unemployment crisis that will continue for at least 12 more months if not longer. Though it is almost impossible to predict what will take place when the US reaches the 20% plateau, it is possible to review known cases of huge unemployment and their effect on society. So let me start with full employment and work my way through the rates.