Karl Douglass: Mad at work

March 23, 2013 

March Madness has begun! Like millions of other college basketball fans, I filled out a bracket full of predictions intended to demonstrate my superior knowledge of the game. With the exception of picking Harvard to upset New Mexico, my prognostication skills look to be average at best - and that's a generous description.

Consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates that American workers will spend 8.4 million hours following the tournament while they are on the clock with their employers. As a result, American employers are projected to lose $192 million in productivity.

Now before you start planning to cut all access to the tournament for the people who work for you or those you supervise, let's put the numbers in perspective.

The tournament lasts three weeks. Over those three weeks, Challenger, Gray & Christmas projects that American workers will complete 11 billion hours of work. Losing 8.4 million hours productivity out of 11 billion hours of work equals .0008 percent of total productivity lost.

The bottom line is that American workers work hard. Even when they take a collective cut day from their jobs to watch some basketball, the action doesn't take one one-thousandth of a percent of productivity out of the American economy.

So if we are all working so hard, why are more and more of us falling behind? Why is it that many American workers put in an honest day's work for an honest day's wage and still have trouble affording basic necessities and cannot even consider add-ons like taking a family vacation or paying college tuition?

The question seems simple, but it is not. Increasing costs for housing, food and fuel as well as wage stagnation, decreasing labor demand and tightening access to credit all contribute to the breathless state in which many of us find ourselves. Add to that the questionable personal choices many of us make regarding saving versus spending, and the problems are exacerbated. Even though American businesses are benefitting from the most productive American workers in decades, the workers find their personal economies less stable than they have been in decades.

And that gives a new meaning to March Madness.

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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