Jobless number bigger than the Big Apple

February 6, 2009 1:55:53 PM PST
One of our intrepid producers, Peter Kunz, looked it up.

11.6 million people are now officially out of work -- officially because that doesn't include part-timers and people who have simply stopped looking for jobs. But to put it perspective, says Peter, 11.6 million is just about the equivalent of the population of all five boroughs of New York City, plus Long Island and Westchester County. (A total of 11.9 million or so).

So just imagine - everyone in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County - out of work, save for 300,000 lucky souls.

That it's bad, is an understatement.

How to solve it -- is the $64 trillion question. (I had to adjust the older-reference figure for inflation.) Today's figures of nearly 600,000 jobs lost last month - the highest number since 1974, and it brings unemployment to 7.6%, the highest since 1992.

Politics aside, it seems a bit laughable that the people who ran the country for the past eight years, and pushed tax cuts (for the rich as it turns out) as the way to save the economy, are still pushing cutting taxes.

You don't have to be a Harvard MBA to know that the economy hardly thrived by cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. By comparison, you could make the argument that, when Bill Clinton raised taxes during his first term, the economy took off. By the time his two terms were over, there was a surplus. Now we have the largest deficits ever, and a national debt that might still not be paid off by the time global warming melts the polar ice caps. (Sorry.)

Something clearly has to be done. Is spending more money the answer? Many economists say it is, despite adding to the deficit. One thing's for sure -- as people lose their jobs, as people struggle to pay their bills, as people worry about their future, the behavior of politicians haggling in Washington is NOT what will solve the problem.

They're debating the President's economic stimulus plan at this writing, and the Senate may vote on some form of it tonight. Or it may not. There have been several delays already today.

Support for the plan, in the public as in the Senate, is largely along partisan lines. The latest polls show 70 percent of Democrats favor the plan, but 72 percent of Republicans are against it. Independents support it with a 55 percent majority.

We'll have the latest on the economy and the vote on the plan, tonight at 11.

And is it just me, or have other people noticed that there's more anger in general in the air out there? I see taxi drivers arguing, hear people snapping at each other on the street, and know that in general folks are worried sick over their jobs (if they have one) and their futures.

Also at 11, Tappy Phillips takes a closer look at the scandal - there's really no other word for it - involving a battle between Ticketmaster and fans of Bruce Springsteen. When Springsteen concert tickets went on sale this week for shows this summer, folks who went to Ticketmaster's website were redirected to another site - a scalper/broker site owned by Ticketmaster called TicketsNow. There, tickets were priced way above face value, and those who wanted to be at the concert seemed to have no choice but to but the higher-priced tickets.

Tonight, Tappy investigates this outrageous practice and finds it's happening more often than you'd think.

We're also following the continued fallout and controversy involving Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps. Was his "punishment" for smoking marijuana equal to the crime? Was losing corporate sponsorships worth millions, and getting suspended from competition for three months, a worthy punishment?

We had a spirited debate in the car on the way to school this morning. My daughter said it was not -- that he's paying a high price for a youthful indiscretion. My son made the point that, "it's illegal" and that was justification enough. (I did make the point that doing something like this can affect a person for the rest of her or his own life - so please please please, think eight times before you do anything that could get you in trouble!)

Most of the people we informally asked to cast their opinion on our website agreed with my daughter. In fact, the overwhelming majority did.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's weekend AccuWeather forecast, and Marvell Scott (in for Scott Clark) with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.