Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Last month, according to the US Department of Labor, approximately 660,000 individuals stopped looking for employment. They did not find jobs, each one must have reached some other arrangement. The whole situation enabled the DOL to report an unemployment rate of 10.0%, whereas if those 660,000 people had still been counted, the rate would have climbed to 10.4%. Of course, this gradual process of exclusion has been going on for quite some time.

I liken the current economic situation of the country to a passenger train going down the tracks. In the cars, there are a lot of people seated with tickets. Some of them read the paper, some of them sip their drinks, a few are engaged in quiet conversation. Occasionally they may look out the windows and enjoy the scenery going by – the backs of warehouses, the chain link fences with barbed and razor wire, the junk yards and bus lots. Because the tickets they bought say that they are going to Pittsburgh, and because that’s where the same train went yesterday, and the day before, they all believe that they are going to Pittsburgh.
In the locomotive, the engineer and the fireman are the only ones who can look forward through the glass. They sit transfixed by the image of a washed-out bridge over the river ahead of them.
The conductor, back in one of the passenger cars, has been alerted to the situation. He, of course, and not the engineer, is the one empowered to make the decisions. He doesn’t see the bridge. He does understand that the train has too much momentum, that even if the emergency brake is thrown and all the wheels locked, that the train would not stop in time to avert disaster. He sees no reason to throw the paying passengers out of their seats and into a panic. No benefit would incur. And so he has made the decision to carry on as if nothing is happening. He has told the engineer to do nothing and he himself has not alerted the passengers over the loudspeaker system.
On top of the train, riding in the wind, there happen to be an odd collection of fellows. They have arrived to where they are via hitchhiking, hoeboeing, or otherwise ostracized from the crowd below. They are the only ones on the whole train who can see the whole situation, all around, and feel the wind in their hair, the rapid speed, and see the black swirling water ahead under the bluff. If the train could be slowed down they could get off but now it is moving too fast for them, they are prisoners. If they could talk to the passengers below them, the passengers would not listen to them anyway because they are outcasts, vagabonds, who did not pay their way. And so the train continues on.

That’s just how it is, and how it’s going to be. Might as well enjoy the ride….