Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — Two Jobs Gaffe

 

In an interview segment discussing the economy, primarily the unemployment rate, Ocasio-Cortez dismissed claims that the economy is strong because of a historically low unemployment rate because “unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their family.”

The issue with this claim is, namely, that the unemployment rate does not distinguish between the number of hours that people are working, nor the number of jobs they hold. While there are a narrow set of rules to be considered unemployed, only about 5% of Americans currently hold multiple jobs:

While politicians routinely make mistakes regarding the economy (1, 2), this gaffe is particularly note-worthy because Ocasio-Cortez holds a bachelors degree in economics from Boston University.

Billy Paul — Let the Dollar Circulate

I reached out to #EconTwitter and asked what songs they like to use to teach different topics in their classes and the results did not disappoint:

Since I’m not a macroeconomist, I have very little content on the macro side from tv and movies, but apparently music covers a lot of macro topics. The first suggestion was this 1975 Billy Paul song, Let the Dollar Circulate which begs for money to start flowing through the economy and wonders why things have slowed down (Is it all because of Watergate?). Paul notes that “Things are gettin’ higher, makes it hard on the buyers”  (inflation is happening) and “Unemployment on the rise.” The song was released at the end of the 1973-1975 recession. I was curious what unemployment and inflation looked like in the 1970s leading up to the recession, so I went and put together a FRED chart for you:

Thanks to Leo for the song suggestion!

Brooklyn 99 — The Danger of Email

 

Jake and Charles are sent to the US Postal Inspection Services to get help with a case they are working on that involves a mail key. There they meet Agent Jack Danger who identifies the key as being part of a set of old post boxes that are no longer in service. Jake and Charles want the list of people who were responsible for collecting they key and recommend that Agent Danger emails them the list. This clearly upsets Agent Danger since many of his friends were laid off because of the introduction of email.

KRON 4 — Online News in 1981

A look back at a 1981 news segment that covers the Internet and the eventual push to online media. At the time, 8 newspapers were currently part of the network delivering their daily news via this system. The “paper” included all text, but not images or classifieds. Near the end of the segment, they predict that nearly all news will be delivered electronically, but that the time would be a few years away. The segment closes with a look at a newspaper salesman who would potentially become structurally unemployed when the need for physical papers vanishes.

30 Rock — Structural Unemployment

In this scene from 30 Rock, Liz Lemon is faced with the possibility that her job may become obsolete. She meets others (a travel agent, an American auto worker, a saxophone soloist) who are no longer employed because consumers are no longer willing to pay for their services/goods.

Thanks to James Tierney for the clip!

Adam Ruins Everything — Unemployment Rate

 

Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.

Adam reviews the requirements for individuals to be considered unemployment under the most traditional classification of unemployment (U3). While he mentions that this isn’t a perfect measure, he doesn’t mention the other types of unemployment. This could be a good introduction to the different types of unemployment counted by the BLS.

Billy Joel — Allentown

I heard this one on the radio and forgot that I used it one semester online to talk about structural unemployment. This could also be a good song to play before class if you play music before you begin your lecture. I may be a bit more fortunate since I teach in Pennsylvania.

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