The most recent data on the economy and jobs indicate two things.
The first is that the economy produced fewer jobs than it had in the previous two months, only about half of what some economists predicted. The second is that the national unemployment rate dropped slightly because more people have simply given up looking for work.
The bottom line is that 12 million people are still unemployed.
Economic recovery, you say? Who knows? The data is too confusing and convoluted to be a reliable indicator of how the economy is really doing. Like the Bible, you can find whatever data you need to support whatever position you have on the recession and the recovery.
I've been writing about the workforce for some time now and working in the field for much longer. I'm surprised by very little, certainly not the lack of innovative solutions.
I'll tell you what does surprise me, though.
What does surprise me is that 12 million people are unemployed, yet nowhere do I sense outrage or anger. Not from politicians, not from students and certainly not from the unemployed.
How can 12 million Americans be unemployed, many for a record number of months, and there be no physical manifestation of that outrage?
Maybe it's because I'm a product of the Vietnam era where people took to the streets to protest any manner of injustice — perceived or real.
Back in the day, people acted when they were outraged, often violently.
During the Great Depression, there were as many picket lines as there were bread lines and there was often violence in both.
In the 1960s and '70s, thousands of people would converge on Washington or on college campuses to protest the war, to fight for civil rights or to protest the fundamental values of American society. Amazingly, they somehow managed to organize these protests in spite of not having Twitter, Facebook or cellphones.
Today, when we become outraged we "Occupy Wall Street." It's just not the same.
So, what's changed?
Why aren't thousands of people marching in the streets demanding that Congress seriously focus on the depressed state of the country's labor market and not simply cut deficits as the one and only solution to every problem?
Have we become more "civilized," more apathetic or more disillusioned?
Maybe a little of each.
Perhaps elected officials don't see the unemployed as a constituency to worry about on Election Day — unlike soccer moms, senior citizens and working men and women worried about the deficit.
In 2008 and 2010, people with jobs voted at rates 15 percent higher than those without jobs.
If the unemployed and disenfranchised neither vote in sufficient numbers to matter, nor otherwise express their outrage, maybe the "government" simply doesn't feel any pressure to act innovatively and cooperatively to solve America's economic problems.
All the elements of radical protest seem to be there. High unemployment, an unpopular war and thousands of college graduates burdened with debt and unemployed or underemployed.
So, what was present during the Great Depression and the 1960s and '70s that is missing today?
Maybe the one element necessary to spark radical protest that's missing is a voice — and maybe some poetry and music. These three elements defined both the Great Depression and the political and cultural revolution of the 1960s and '70s.
The Great Depression had poetry such as Langston Hughes' "Ballad of Roosevelt" and songs such as "Brother Can You Spare A Dime," "We Sure Got Hard Times Now" and "National Recovery Administration Blues."
During the '60s and '70s, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Phil Ochs described the changing times in their folk songs. Later, rock music dominated with bands such as Creedence, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield and the Grateful Dead.
Somehow, Justin Beiber's Boyfriend just doesn't stack up.
What the unemployed and the disenfranchised need is a Sol Alinsky-style community organizer. Alinsky was a community organizer whose strategy was to promote social and political reform through community organizing. He believed that conflict and controversy are foundational elements of a democratic, free way of life.
In Rules for Radicals, published shortly before his death in 1971, Alinsky wrote, "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be."
Unfortunately, there isn't an app for that.
Paul Grasso is the executive director of the North Country Workforce Investment Board and the North Country Workforce Partnership Inc.