99ers The New Tea Party?

Abe Sauer thinks it’s a real possibility.

. . . 99ers are organizing and beginning to look a lot like the Tea Party did so many moons ago.

In case the new Congress doesn’t fully understand this, being unemployed is not like some giant line at Shake Shack, where you get in the back and, eventually after a lot of waiting, you get your burger. The irony of not having a job for nearly two years is that it becomes increasingly difficult to find a job the longer one is unemployed. Department of Labor data shows that people who have been unemployed fewer than five weeks face a re-employment rate of 31 percent. Unemployed for more than a year? There’s just a 9 percent chance you’ll find work. Of course, part of the reason for this is that not all jobs and employees are equal, with, say, construction workers being out of work longer and thus faced with a more difficult work search. (All the more reason for promoting employment training along with a benefits extension.)

Another insulting reality of being a 99er is that your very existence was erased after the 99th week. Only beginning Jan. 1 did the Bureau of Labor Statistics begin counting the unemployed whose benefits have expired. The BLS site explains “Starting with data for January 2011, respondents will be able to report unemployment durations of up to 5 years,” adding, one assumes dryly, “This change will likely affect estimates of average (mean) duration of unemployment . . .

It might also behoove the politicians involved to remember that, despite common misconceptions, homeless people can vote. And if there is an answer to the political power, and camera-friendly anger, of the Tea Party, it may be the 99ers. Many in this population have already begun to loosely organize, mostly online, but also off line. The American 99ers Union already boasts a host of Tea-Party-like badges growing under its umbrella, including 99ersUnited, The Layoff List, Jobless Unite, Unemployed Workers Action Group, United, Angry, Voters and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, amongst others. In their grassroots amateurishness, stars and stripes iconography, anti-DC posturing and angry American rhetoric, the sites look exactly like their Tea Party counterparts.

The movement already has a snappy, media-friendly name.

Unfortunately, we think Sauer overestimates their chances. Under oligarchical social structures, the average subject er, citizen doesn’t have multi-million dollar astro-turf entities standing by to fund, support and create meme currency for attention-deficit-disorder America.
After two years of this Administration, it’s frighteningly clear to the Non-Gilded/Non-Security State Nomenklatura: we’re all on our own.


  1. sglover says

    I expect that the sceptical comments here are correct. But I’m delighted to hear of even the **possibility** of such a movement. It could lead Americans to reflect on the meaning of work and life and leisure, and their real value. This society takes it as holy writ that work and status and consumption are proxies for virtue. As a corollary, **what** we do isn’t nearly so important as that we do it ferociously, devote enormous amounts of time to it. And the reward is — stuff.

    There’s something seriously askew in a society — a **wealthy** society, still!! — where a fifth of the workforce can’t find work, and another huge swath is working 50 or 60 hour weeks. Work itself needs to be redistributed. The 40 hour week dates to the New Deal. For more than a century before that, increased leisure time was **always** a central concern of the labor movement. Now, it’s not even on the radar — **75 years** after the Fair Labor Standards Act!

    It’s surely not a necessary consequence of “99-er” organization, but I can’t think of any other institution even discussing these things. Not even the sorry remnants of the labor unions talk about the work week any longer. And while it’s a long shot, maybe if enough people start imagining how trade-offs between leisure and consumption might be possible, it’ll help spur the kind of civic engagement that’s one of the ongoing interests of this blog.

  2. Tbilisi says

    Comment, good point re Bonus Marchers. IMO, the only group of unemployed people that would be find a meme footing in ADD America would be young IQ/AF veterans. A lot of them are intelligent and educated and they see that the military actually is one of the last bastions of a society in which everyone gets health care and job security and that is based on performance-based upward mobility and civic/communal duty over money (i.e. what was once called liberal democracy).

    But a lot of the best young vets are employed by national security contractors, which like the Doctor said, keeps them well insulated from what is happening nationwide.

  3. says

    Don’t underestimate the agenda-setting power of a good rejectionist mob, though. That’s arguably what the Democrats did with the ‘baggers last year. On that score, Sauer has a point. Our students are an example.

  4. Comment says

    Unless we may be overstating things – but we watched the press conference and it seemed Daley was just looking for some polite remarks and prob never occurred to him that he was playing a part in Barone’s comic book series.

  5. Comment says

    Just read Bibi’s official request for Obama to release the spy Pollard. It’s a carefully crafted – designed to work as a request for something that will likely not happen while also working like a middle finger pointed at Obama –

  6. Dr Leo Strauss says

    @Comment Weathervanes can be counted on to do at least one thing, tack with the wind.

    re JA, we can understand why others in his circle would want to be free of that personality. If he was hell to deal with a source one can only imagine what he was like as a ‘colleague’.

  7. Comment says

    btw Boehner’s cliche-ridden acceptance speech – Painful on the ears – crying aside. His over reliance on cliche for prepared remarks shows an inability or unwillingness to think and use his mind (might sound French). Just goes to show Obama’s biggest asset is the fact that his ordinary and sometimes dull remarks can seem eloquent just by comparison. Of course, in Ohio and elsewhere confuse inarticulateness with plain speaking.

  8. Comment says

    Also, the 99 message is too negative. No one in public life wants to be associated with images of loss. The political class really does not care about the 99ers. It’s sad, but they really do care more about carry-interest for billionaires. The Tea Party, otoh, offers the opportunity for pols to associate themselves (improperly) with heroes of the past.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Agree the Democratic Interest Group Consortium wouldn’t know how to relate or work with the 99ers. On their own, building a presence will be difficult. Sadly, the Rightist narrative sanctifying economic winners/shunning losers is pervasive. Worse than being around the Bird Flu.

      But let’s also be honest. The recent fierce assertion of privilege just amplified existing class striving and aspirations to escape steerage for First Class, Tweety’s desire to get tapped to join the ‘Swells’ comes from there.

      Assuming modest economic growth the 99ers’ existence won’t go away soon, if really ever. What a sight for the oligarchs in one future day having to call upon the PLA and their Chinese fund counterparts for troops to restore order on 6th Ave.

  9. Comment says

    The best the 99rs can hop fore is to be thought of in a safe future distance to be somewhat like the Bonus Marchers of the depression. The Bonus Marchers were denounced by many rightist forces at the time, but their polls went up over time.

    OTOH the Tea Party taps into a powerful mythology even if the comparison is ridiculous. Plus, add the fact that the TP has lots of well off folks and corporate backers.

    Hate to say it, but when Ed Schultz talks about the 99ers it sounds gimmicky –

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