Ron Kaye: Time to hold them responsible

The trial of six Italian seismologists and a government official for manslaughter due to their failure to provide warnings of a devastating earthquake after a series of smaller ones has sent a tremor throughout the world’s scientific and political communities.

For all the condemnation being heaped on the Italian prosecutors, they might be on to something in holding the scientists and government officials accountable for “negligence and imprudence” for telling the public they had nothing to fear.

Maybe the Italians got it right and it’s time hold some economists and government officials here accountable and put them on trial for their failure to provide warnings about the recession that started in October 2007, their ineffectiveness in dealing with economic collapse and their raising of false hopes that recovery was just around the corner.

It may not be manslaughter, but a lot of people sure have been hurt and a lot of people are still in pain.

L.A.’s Economic Roundtable, headed by economist Daniel Flaming, issued a report last week that shows just how much worse the recession’s toll is in Los Angeles County and California than the rest of the nation, and who has felt the greatest impact.

Here are some of the key findings:

Workers with B.A. degrees are much harder hit by the recession in Los Angeles County than in the rest of the U.S.

The unemployment rate in L.A. is 80% higher than in the rest of the U.S.

Workers younger than 25 have the highest under-employment rate of any labor force group, with rates above 30% across the U.S.

Workers 55 older are much more severely affected by the recession in L.A. and California than in the rest of the U.S.

The report raises a lot of disturbing issues: Educated people can’t find work, young people can’t find full-time work, and older people can’t get jobs.

For all the talk by politicians about jobs, jobs, jobs, there doesn’t seem to be any recognition of the depths of the economic restructuring that is taking place and how to deal with it.

What we are getting is a pathetic, no-holds-barred war over whether to soak the rich, squeeze the middle class or abolish all taxes and let people fend for themselves.

Those who have failed, lied and misled us throughout the recession are still playing games instead of doing the hard work of finding real solutions.

You can be sure they will not be staging any formal observances for the fourth anniversary of the recession next month. But we can mourn privately how the economic boom that started after World War II has ended and is showing no sign of ever returning.

Even without a show trial, we can hold our leaders accountable with elections coming next year, with districts that have been drawn more fairly and with open primaries that let us cross party lines.

Taken together, those two changes provide the opportunity to elect more moderate and centrist Democrats and Republicans and create a better political balance than we have seen during the decades in which California has gone from being the Golden State, with opportunity for all, to a state with among the highest poverty and jobless rates in the country.

It has been a long downhill slide and it won’t end without some dramatic changes in how government, business and labor operate — changes that won’t happen unless voters stand up and do something about it.

Maybe accountability is an idea whose time has come.

RON KAYE can be reached at Share your thoughts and stories with him.

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