This article is one in a group of six that will appear in a volume entitled Alternatives: Proposals From the Democratic Left, edited by Irving Howe, © 1984 by the Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas, Inc., and to be published this spring by Pantheon Books, Inc., with whose kind permission it appears here. Alternatives is an effort to provide realistic short-range and intermediate analyses of and solutions to the socioeconomic problems facing this country. The contributors to the book are Michael Harrington, Barbara Ehrenreich and Frances Fox Piven, Robert Lekachman, Gordon Adams, and Irving Howe.
America’s current job problem is, unfortunately, not the result of a cyclical downturn in the economy that will be remedied by the upswing of the business cycle. Unless radically new policies are developed, unemployment is likely to remain close to 9 percent for the next decade. Since the late 1960s, each recovery of the economy from recession has produced a higher unemployment rate than the previous one. There is substantial evidence of long-term structural changes in the American economy, which suggest that we can sustain a “recovery” of sorts with unemployment rates scarcely touched. At this writing, the Dow Jones is roaring along at close to 1,300 while unemployment persists at 9 percent....
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