MOTN, jobs, a country that can’t be bothered, Katia, and depression

Reading this? Chances are good you’re asking, “What’s MOTN?” I didn’t know the acronym myself until a few minutes ago.

But I’m afflicted by it – have been for years. It stands for middle-of-the-night insomnia. Getting to sleep most nights after a long day? No problem! Waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to get back to sleep? A big challenge. Not always, but much of the time, my brain starts racing, at a hundred miles an hour.

[I could sure use that during the workday! Why doesn’t my brain kick into overdrive more often then?]

Now when it comes to MOTN, it turns out I’m not alone. Statistics say that about a third of Americans over 18 wake up three or more times a week, and 40% of those experience difficulty getting back to sleep again. There are different reasons for the difficulty. The link above lists a few. If you’ll pardon the pun, they are an odd collection of bedfellows: pain, pregnancy, anxiety, sleep apnea, hunger… there’s more, but you get the idea. And obviously, from the statistics, many of you (second pun alert!) are living the dream with me. [No cards or letters, please…I’m not pregnant. You can direct those to Beyoncé.]

I’ve written about MOTN before, though not by name (here, and here), back in February when the president was releasing his FY2012 budget. Something similar is keeping me up at 2:00 a.m. this time around. So after about an hour of tossing and turning, I find myself at the keyboard.

What’s this night’s root concern? Well, it’s a mix, but let’s start with jobs. That’s arguably the real-world’s most urgent global problem right now. We all know the drill. When the financial sector tanked in 2008, unemployment shot up – in the United States, but also over much of the rest of the world. Since then, the world’s economies have been slow to recover. Stimulus measures – though they seemed large to many at the time – have proved in retrospect to be inadequate. Business has been profitable recently, but for a variety of reasons, corporate leaders are reluctant to hire, preferring instead to hoard cash.

The most-recent spasm of global stock markets? Triggered in part by problems with the Euro. More importantly, however, financiers here and abroad are aware of the significance of the American consumer to the world economy. They were therefore horrified by this year’s struggles between the White House and the Congress – the winter series of budget continuing resolutions, the spring threatened and barely-averted government shutdown, and the July-August brinksmanship over the largely-arbitrary debt ceiling. They took these as a sign that US leadership preferred political posturing to taking the well-known steps necessary for job creation – more fiscal stimulus, extension of unemployment benefits, quantitative easing, and job retraining for the unemployed.

By the way, does anyone see similarities between this series of political crises and the annual warm-season development of a succession of tropical storms each year? Those storms form slowly in the eastern Atlantic, off the coast of Africa, and then develop and build in intensity as they mosey across the Atlantic. We start paying attention only as they approach landfall. In the same way the Congressional debates on budgets, shutdowns and debt ceilings build over extended periods but escape notice until the deadlines (arbitrary in the political instance) near.

So what’s the picture today? We have a special Congressional committee grinding away in the background. That’s only a far-distant depression now, but come the holiday season it looks to be a category-5 hurricane coming ashore. [Won’t we all be jolly then? Forgive me…remember, I’m writing this in the middle of the night.]

Near-term, however, we have a president who’s been busily developing a new approach to generating jobs. Significantly, he and White House staff seem to have been working pretty much on their own. We don’t see a lot of consultation between President and Congress as we go along, because the debt-ceiling acrimony seems to have made that impossible. There are few visible signs they’re working as a team.

We can only hope the situation is more collegial behind the scenes. But in fact, Republicans give the impression that the current high unemployment is entirely the president’s fault, and fixing it is wholly his responsibility. Some pundits seem to agree. Analysts are filling the screen and the blogosphere with rhetoric about how the president has to show us a compelling path forward, demonstrate vision, and at the same time be realistic, etc.

Why is it all on him? Somehow, in the post-midnight darkness of my MOTN, it seems that all 300 million of us need to should more responsibility here.  

And the last straw? What filled the airwaves this past evening? When the president suggested a rollout next Wednesday night, we were told that can’t happen, because that evening a dozen Republican critics will be otherwise engaged. They’ll be too busy slamming him and his policies, his action and his inaction, to hear what he might have to say, or try to help. [Help? We’re told that’ll have to await the day when they’re once again in charge.] And when the president acceded and rescheduled the talk for Thursday, we were dismayed to learn that it’ll interfere with the first NFL football game of the season.

Do you think that’s right? Wrong? Doesn’t matter. That’s the reality. That’s not just the world we live in, it’s the world we’re all actively making. We’re in this together.

Here are some other realities. Between now and the time of all three events – the campaign debate, the presidential speech, and the NFL kickoff – New Orleans and environs may be inundated by a foot of rain. About the time of all three events, we’ll know whether Katia will veer away or make an east-coast landfall.

We may not get that much rain on the Gulf, or it might magically turn out not be that much of a problem. The hurricane may indeed turn north and then back out to sea, sparing us a visit.

Or not.

But neither the Republicans, or the president, or the NFL will be consulted.

We’re living on the real world.

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