A lot of people have talked this week about violent political rhetoric bringing the U.S. to a fever pitch, but there's something else keeping people on edge: that's economic catastrophe and despair.
As reporters spread out to talk to accused shooter Jared Loughner's friends and neighbors, a picture has begun to emerge of a reality that rarely makes the front page. The Washington Post notes that fallout from the recession is visible on Loughner's own block, where jobs have gone and the construction bubble's burst. The New York Times describes the withdrawal of Loughner's dad, who, they write, was "once more of a presence... as he went off to work as a carpet-layer and pool-deck installer."
The latest jobs report reminds us that one person's recovery is another's hollowed American Dream. Unemployment's only going up for those who lost work recently. The ranks of the long-term unemployed are still rising. Especially for people in their fifties or early sixties, hope of ever finding a job again, let alone one that pays close to what they were making, has disappeared.
This isn't bad for everyone, notes the Wall Street Journal. They quote Rick Hayduk, managing director of a resort, who calls it an "employer's market," noting the toll the recession has taken on people's hopes. "We have been able to reevaluate some of our starting wages," he said.
When the option is working at a reduced wage, working at Starbucks, or giving up, many will accept the cut, it's true. Workers are being squeezed from all angles, with union-busting governors, wage-slashing employers, and a tax-hiking Congress combining to put the pressure on.
And the tax deal squeezed through Congress recently holds another bombshell for lower-wage workers: the Center for Economic & Policy Research notes that 51 million of them will see their taxes rise. Is it any wonder that our political climate is so combustible?
In part thanks to all those interviews with neighbors, Jared Loughner's being described as a nihilist. We're no doubt in for loads of discussion of the destructive effects of believing in nothing. What we really need to start talking about in this country are the destructive effects of having nothing.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on