Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Dagwood Doesn't Work Here Anymore? the Denominator, Unemployment, and War

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Dagwood Doesn't Work Here Anymore? the Denominator, Unemployment, and War

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In the years leading up to 2001, the United States economy saw an unprecedented level of growth. From all accounts, economists and the general public alike agreed that we had never been here before. During this period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached 11,000 and unemployment was at an all time low of 4.0%. So where are we today? In the last year, the DOW reached 10,000 before dropping again, and America's unemployment rate ended the year of 2003 at 5.9%. The United States economy is in its third year of recession. With employment at an unsettling level, could it be worse if it were not for the effects of war? Everyone, including our President, wants to be able to say that we have hit the bottom and that we have begun recovery. Has the time come that we can begin to relax and ride the American dream?

INTRODUCTION

It's Sunday morning. You've gotten out of bed, and with your steaming cup of Java in hand, you've settled in your favorite chair to read the Sunday comics. You notice that the comics just aren't the same as they used to be. Beetle Bailey isn't there; the author has noted that Beetle has been shipped out to Iraq and will not be back for 24 months. You turn to look for Dagwood because you know he will be there. There is a stamp saying, "RESERVE FORCES ACTIVATED FOR NEXT TWELVE MONTHS. DAGWOOD SHIPPED OUT!" Instead of Dagwood going to work, there is a replacement in the comic strip. Twelve months later, when Dagwood returns, his boss and all the readers have really learned to love the new character. What is Dagwood (and Dagwood's boss) to do?

Sure, we are just talking comics here, but this is what is going in today's workforce. In an unprecedented amount, our country has activated the guard and reserve in an effort to fight the war on terror because of the reduction in forces of our permanent military staff (Mazzetti, 2004). In President Bush's remarks on November 8, 2002, he said "Our National Guard and Reserve units comprise 38% of America's military forces" and he continued to say, "Our volunteer National Guardsmen and Reservists rely on their employers for essential support and encouragement that often come at the employer's expense" (National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week, 2002). What does that do to our economy?

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How do we measure the effect this has on the employers of all of those members of the National Guard and Reserve who have been full-time employees and now are full-time soldiers? Is it an unfair indicator of our economy to say that unemployment is going down because of new job creation or is it because we need replacement workers for the jobs that are being vacated due to the activation Reservists? In the year since President Bush's comments, the business world has responded. Returning "citizen soldiers" are coming home to find their job is no longer there, and 1,300 have filed complaints with the Department of Labor (Jobs and economic growth, 2003). Economists are asked to think in both costs and benefits and it appears that the government is thinking of the benefits that they receive from the "citizen soldier" and the employers of these "citizen soldiers" are incurring the costs (Arnold, 2004).

Milton Friedman wrote, "Economics is the science of how a particular society solves its economic problems," and continued his thought with "an economic problem exists whenever scarce means are used to satisfy alternative uses" (Arnold, 2004). How will the United States 2004-2005 be remembered? Did we use our resources to the fullest or did we squander them? How is our government using the "scarce means?" Are they satisfying the correct needs? Friedman also goes on to say "When an executive decides to take action for reasons of social responsibility, he is taking money from someone else" (Twomey, Jennings, & Fox, 2002). How much social responsibility should our employers have? And what will that do to the bottom line of our economy? …

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