One of the biggest stumbling blocks I find when talking politics with folks and- oddly- trying to convince them that there is something better than this American version of “democracy” and an “economy” out there is, of all things, unemployment.  One of the easier examples, for instance, is simply to point to Europe, where things like a standard 35 hour work week compare well to our 45+, where health care is provided as a right of being alive rather than treated as another industry where CEO’s can become wealthier, where higher education is offered to those who want it rather than being an extension of high school for the wealthy only, where pretty much the whole continent takes the month of August off for vacation, and where retirement is understood as one’s duly deserved reward for a lifetime of work instead of something that is increasingly a myth told to us by our parents and grandparents (“I did retire when I was 64, though now I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep the house”- “Daddy, what does grandpa mean, re-tie-are?”).  The single most common and almost predictable response to pointing out Europe’s vastly superior- though of course by no means perfect- social safety net and labor and health and education and elder care and drug policy and environmental and (etc) culture- sounds something like “Sure, but look! their unemployment rate is twice ours! their economy is failing, it can’t be sustained.  There aren’t enough jobs for all of them and the whole thing is bound to fall apart.”  Usually the argument isn’t even that nuanced but instead entails “Sure, but they’ve got 12% unemployment.”.

And though I (often) try to counter that this is simply because they calculate their unemployment rate differently then the U.S.- more accurately, mind you- there’s nothing like trying to argue against “statistics” that are well-known and common knowledge.

Which is why I was super-glad to see that someone actually does bother to figure U.S. unemployment by counting it the same way the rest of the friggin world counts it- and, well, the numbers aren’t too shocking (at least if you’re me).  16.7%.  That’s America’s real unemployment rate, if you don’t do really odd things (which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does) such as not count people who don’t have enough work, or people who’ve been unemployed for so long they’ve stopped looking (though they still want work).

Of course, detractors may smugly point out to me that that “someone” who figured that number is an admittedly liberal organization- Americans for Democratic Action.  Let me counter that critique by saying: whoopty-fucking-do.  Look, I’m not a fan at all of liberalism, liberal organizations, or liberal politics… but counting numbers is counting numbers and if the Kato Institute or the John Birch Society were interested in knowing the U.S.’ unemployment rate as figured by the same method that most of the world figures their unemployment rate, they would look at the same exact statistics and data and (presumably) come to the same exact number.  I may suggest they would even be doing such a thing, since it would give such conservative organizations a bully pulpit from which to preach the evils of Obama from; except to do so would open up the discussion to the illegitimacy of how the BLS currently does calculate the U.S.’ “official” unemployment rate, and thus we could easily go back and look at our artificially low numbers during those boom years, adjust them using an internationally acceptable method, and see that we had nearly identical (I’d assume) unemployment to all those crazy quasi-socialist European countries that do crazy things like allow workers to retire at a reasonable age, with dignity, offer strong social safety nets to the most vulnerable members of society, and ensure that most people live comfortably and still have the spare time to- gasp!- enjoy their goddamn lives.  And that, my friends, could start making people here in America want something similar.  And that, of course, would mean far less money into the pockets of the wealthiest among us.  And that, of course, would be un-American.