This Monday, one of many issues radio host Dom Giordano broached in regards to Occupy Philadelphia was unemployment among recent college graduates.
Giordano discussed the topic with Dr. Ania Loomba, the faculty member who drafted the Penn professor Occupy Wall Street solidarity statement.
On October 24th, Dr. Loomba defended Occupy protestors like those that recently demonstrated at the Wharton School of Business on conservative talk radio.
Though the two found some points of agreement of the cost of college education, Giordano and Dr. Loomba clashed on unemployment.
“I think some of the people professor that are there protesting might be on unemployment for quite a long period of time. I think they ought to take a job,” Giordano asserted.
“And do you think these jobs are out there for them to just go and get them?” Loomba challenged.
“Yes,” Giordano replied frankly.
“Then you and I must differ on that sir because we actually are seeing 10% unemployment. Are you actually seriously saying to me that that unemployment is because people don’t want to work?” Loomba shot back.
“I’m saying they will not take a job unless that job is akin [to what they studied],” Giordano asserted, maintaining, “if they’re willing to do…any job, of course there are multitudes of jobs out there that are looking for people.”
“I don’t think there are many jobs out there that people can go and just get if they are willing to get anything,” the professor objected.
She then added, “If you had mounted up $50,000 in [student] debt would you be willing to go and just get a $6 an hour job? Then we have wasted the entire education system.”
Loomba continued, “It is people being backed up not getting jobs for which they have trained and paid a lot in education or not getting any job at all. You are conflating the two things. There may be some people that fall into one category and lots of other people who fall into the other category.”
“It cannot be that all these millions of people who are protesting in all these cities across the country who refuse to take jobs that are being thrown at them.”
Size of the protests ‘for jobs’
The professor’s impression of the scope of the Occupy demonstrations inflates their size by two orders of magnitude – there are not millions of people who are protesting across the country.
Even in Philadelphia – one of the largest, most heavily-Democrat cities in the country – active participants at Occupy demonstrations number in the dozens, not in the hundreds.
The protests are widespread geographically, but each individual demonstration is smaller than Dr. Loomba infers. Even taken collectively, they do not number in the millions.
Occupy numbers in the thousands – spread across multiple cities composed of protestors with fragmented goals and issues: the death penalty, income inequality, police brutality, the Wall Street bailouts, jobs, student loan debt, etc.
What’s with unemployment
Giordano was also correct to note later in the debate that though wages might not meet the expectations of college graduates, they would not be $6 an hour jobs, as Dr. Loomba suggested. Moreover, jobs of some kind are more readily available than the professor intimated, though admittedly many are not ideal matches for applicants.
Yet where recent undergraduates are concerned, being on unemployment for prolonged periods of time is probably less of an issue than Giordano surmises.
Unemployment benefits deterring individuals from re-entering the workforce at lower wages is less of an issue among younger, recent college graduates, if only because they are not eligible for them.
The income of younger individuals is typically sporadic while they are in college full-time and many have not worked enough during the base period to even qualify for unemployment benefits in the first place.
Particularly when it is incurred developing specialized skills for which there is no job market, student debt burden is probably a larger factor deterring recent graduates from taking jobs in the hopes a better match (either financially or in terms of skill sets) remains unseen just beyond the horizon.
Moreover, the severity of labor market rigidity introduced by student loan debt receives as little attention as the problem’s culprits.
Big Business. Big Labor. Big College?
It was appropriate for the professor to emphasize the difficulties college debt burdens present to recent graduates. Yet this seems more directly the fault of colleges failing to control rising tuition costs – which made Giordano’s and Dr. Loomba’s discussion of the top all the more interesting.
In his radio program this Wednesday, October 26th, Rush Limbaugh contrasted the willingness of both the population and Occupiers to target “Big Business” rather than “Big Ed” and the debt burden colleges place on their graduates.
“Nobody ever, ever really criticizes Big Education for its out of control cost increases, prices increases, never ever.” Limbaugh objected.
If universities perpetually increasing costs are the problem, no amount of student loan forgiveness will ever truly get to the heart of the matter.
No matter how much debt is wiped away, tomorrow’s graduates will always need more wiping.
This is the third in a series on Occupy Philadelphia’s protest at the University of Pennsylvania & Dr. Loomba; the first is available here; the second is available here
Follow John Goodman on Twitter here
A free podcast of Dom Giordano’s complete interview with Dr. Ania Loomba is available here
A free transcript of Rush Limbaugh’s October 26th comments is available here