Edmonds Military Wire: Abbott & Costello discuss the unemployment conundrum

By Michael Schindler

I love humor. And what I specifically love is that truth can be conveyed through humor and suddenly it “all makes sense.” This Abbott & Costello parody was sent to me with a political bent — of which I took liberty to edit — because at the end of the day it does no good to name call. (Yes, I still teach my children that name calling results in NO positive outcomes.) Congrats to President Obama — we all have a tough road ahead and it will require us all to work together. So, enjoy this for its humor.
COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America .
ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It’s 7.8%.
COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?
ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.
COSTELLO: You just said 7.8%.
ABBOTT: 7.8% unemployed.
COSTELLO: Right 7.8% out of work.
ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.
COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 14.7% unemployed.
ABBOTT: No, that’s 7.8%.
COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 7.8% or 14.7%?
ABBOTT: 7.8% are unemployed. 14.7% are out of work.
COSTELLO: IF you are out of work you are unemployed.
ABBOTT: No, the President said you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.
ABBOTT: No, you miss his point.
COSTELLO: What point?
ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.
COSTELLO: To whom?
ABBOTT: The unemployed.
COSTELLO: But they are ALL out of work.
ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work gave up looking and if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.
COSTELLO: So if you’re off the unemployment roles that would count as less unemployment?
ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!
COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?
ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how Obama gets it to 7.8%. Otherwise it would be 14.7%. He doesn’t want you to read about 14.7% unemployment.
COSTELLO: That would be tough on the President.
ABBOTT: Absolutely.
COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?
ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.
COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?
ABBOTT: Correct.
COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?
ABBOTT: Bingo.

Bottom line: Bingo. Forget the numbers. Enjoy the humor – America, it’s time to put our partisanship aside and find a way to get America back to work.

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

  1. As I was trying to figure out why this was funny, I was puzzled by your choice of two comedians who stopped performing together in the 1950s before you were born. Then I realized that unemployment numbers were tabulated and talked about in this crazy way even back in their time. Some political humor is truly timeless and transcends partisan boundaries.

    But there’s some even funnier language abuse that is more contemporary. A naive person might assume the term “Job Creator” could only properly be applied to someone who creates jobs. But as I listen to those who use the term, they are really only referring to your taxable income bracket. I wouldn’t think that the term “Government Dependents” would include those proudly serving overseas in the Armed Forces, but evidently it does. Unlike you Michael, I’m no good at writing about this in a funny way. Please feel free to write a future humor column about “Job Creators” and “Government Dependents”. I would enjoy reading it.

    The last line in your column makes clear that you are using humor to try to get us to do things that will allow more people (especially those transitioning out of military duty) to get back to work. You didn’t include any constructive suggestions, so please allow me to offer one. Maybe we could call those with high incomes “Potential Job Creators”, since their income is not creating jobs, but could. And let’s call those with lower incomes “Potential Consumers”, since they put nearly all of their after-tax income right back into the local economy.

    Then let’s change our tax policy to increase the tax rates on “Potential Job Creators” but exempt investments in job creation. Let’s also make sure our tax policy discourages moving capital overseas. Let’s decrease the tax rates on the “Potential Consumers” so that expanding businesses have enough customers to thrive. This strategy has proven to be successful better economic times. Our President is trying to do this, but has been blocked by partisan bickering.

    Since 2001, we’ve tried a different strategy. We’ve decreased the tax burden on “Potential Job Creators” when they choose to take profits instead of reinvesting in job-creating businesses. That strategy obviously hasn’t been successful in creating jobs.

    I would encourage those who want a stronger national economy with more jobs to support those who are trying to change a tax policy which has brought us 11 years of decline, to one that has been proven successful in better times.

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we can all improve the economy of Edmonds by shopping locally.

  2. @Joe – I love the classics so don’t be puzzled. There are distinct differences between “job creators” and “government dependents” – and I’ll be one of the first to admit that our military community is one that mirrors a socialist society – as a result, there are many inefficiencies and wastes.

    I’ve offered suggestions in the past on how one could get employed and I’ll continue to do so, as I know these times warrant all of us working together – neighbor helping neighbor. Regardless of income, one can be classifed as a “job creator” – if you are spending money, you are supporting a service, which requires someone to be employed in order for the service to be delivered. The higher the income, the more jobs created or sustained – the lower the income…well, you get the picture.

    There is a careful balance that is required in your suggestion to “increase the tax rates on higher incomes” – we want to create an incentive to perform and create new jobs; if the incentive is, “Make more so we can tax you more” you’ll lose before the train leaves the station. If one is not required to work for gain, then no work will happen – unfortunately, we see this in some of the programs established in the DoD for our military and veteran communities. We create a society of those who feel they are “entitled.”

    I’m all for keeping my money state-side Joe – make it worth my while to do so. At present, there is more incentive to ship capital overseas – I’m all for changing that.

    I’m also all for getting rid of the partisan bickering and being a Congress that is more concerned with making America great and not their party – both sides included in this statement.

    And lastly, I 100% agree with you that we all should shop locally to improve the Edmonds economy – just think how much more we’d be thriving if we only had a Walmart! (I’m kidding Joe).

    Bottom line: thanks for the feedback. I do enjoy reading the comments – it keeps my mind open.

  3. You are absolutely right that as the tax rate approaches 100%, the incentive to earn is reduced. So how do we determine how much is too much?

    First of all there is a lot of daylight above the 15% that some of the wealthy are paying. Second, we can look to the tax rates that were in place during the prosperous 1990s when the Federal Government ran a surplus. We’ve proven that those tax rates can coexist with a healthy economy. All the President is advocating is to return to a rate that was a proven success.

    Anyway, that was probably way too much economics and national politics for a site that is about Edmonds.

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