Reason Roundup

The New Great Depression? Unemployment Hits Levels Not Seen Since 1930s

Plus: tax revolts, Mrs. America, sex-worker comedy, reopening poll, and more...


Crap. In late March, U.S. jobless claims hit a number not seen since the recession of 2007–09. Now we've reached what The New York Times describes as "devastation not seen since the Great Depression."

April job losses overall reached 20.5 million, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That means nearly 15 percent of the country is now unemployed—compared to just 3.5 percent back in February. Yahoo Finance calls it "a jobs report that will live in infamy."

In April alone, U.S. job losses exceeded the 8.7 million lost during the Great Recession, "when unemployment peaked at 10 percent in October 2009," the Times notes. "The only comparable period came when the rate reached about 25 percent in 1933."

And "if anything, the report understates the damage. The government's definition of unemployment typically requires people to be actively looking for work. And the unemployment rate doesn't reflect the millions still working who have had their hours slashed or their pay cut."

Some senators are proposing another round of checks for all Americans. The latest plan, from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), Kamala Harris (D–Calif.), and Ed Markey (D–Mass), "would send a monthly $2,000 check to people who make less than $120,000," reports Politico. This "would expand to $4,000 to married couples who file taxes jointly and also provide $2,000 for each child up to three."


Kurt Loder reviews Mrs. America, a superb show about the 1970s battle for and against the Equal Rights Amendment, focused around the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly and a handful of famous feminists. The "unusually even-handed" program presents a "clear-eyed assessment" of Schlafly, thanks in large part "to the series' creator, Mad Men veteran Dhavi Waller, and to its incomparable star, Cate Blanchett, who carefully negotiates all of Schlafly's contradictions," writes Loder:

[Schlafly] was a tireless campaigner for female submission to husband and home (and had six children herself), but also an author (of 26 books), a congressional candidate and a national-defense expert with a law degree and a steely determination to project her uncompromising views….

But it's Schlafly's opponents who receive the series' most detailed examination. We see that Ms. magazine editor Gloria Steinem (glowingly portrayed by Rose Byrne) is a casual bohemian with a painful secret in her past and that she's resisting calls to become the pretty, press-friendly face of the feminist revolution. We meet the abrasive Betty Friedan (a fierce Tracey Ullman), author of that movement landmark, The Feminine Mystique, who's been cast aside by her husband for a younger woman; and the flamboyant congressional activist Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale, superb yet again), who's determined to convince fiery black Democrat Shirley Chisholm (a rousing Uzo Aduba) to give up her presidential bid against George McGovern—the preferred candidate of the movement's middle-class white feminists.

For a look at earlier feminist battles, check out my review of the book Suffrage: Women's Long Battle for the Vote, from Reason's June 2020 issue.


Sex workers are funny. "Like all forms of popular entertainment, comedic performance has a long history of using sex workers as rhetorical devices…but they're seldom permitted to tell their own stories," writes Sascha Cohen. But this is changing "as more sex workers become stand-up comedians themselves." She cites Kaytlin Bailey, Karmenife X, Chase Paradise, Sovereign Syre, and Jacq the Stripper, among others.

Sex-worker comics want to expand the kinds of voices that find audiences; they aren't out to censor offensive jokes or force political correctness. This is a community, after all, that constantly fights censorship of their own content. "I never tell people that they can't use certain words," says Vee Chattie, a comedian based in Seattle. "But I always tell people if you write a joke [about a job], somebody with that job should laugh at it. You want to make the most people laugh possible in an audience. And you don't know how many of the people in the audience are sex workers." In 2017, tired of "seeing the same shitty bit a thousand times," Chattie curated a monthly competition called Your Hooker Jokes Are Lazy, which encouraged comics not to rely on hacky, stale routines that punch down at sex workers. He says that type of humor is ultimately "a cheap way to make a mean joke about somebody who you don't think is in the room."

Read the rest here.


  • The NYPD's violent COVID-19 arrests show it hasn't learned much in the six years since Eric Garner's death, writes Reason's Zuri Davis. (See also: "Is de Blasio's Posture on Outdoor Protests at Odds With the First Amendment?")
  • In a new ABC News poll, "An overwhelming 92% of Democrats and only 35% of Republicans oppose an immediate re-opening, citing the effect of the deadly virus. Independents trace the outlook of the country, with 36% supporting opening up the country now, and 63% opposing such a move."
  • Making U.S. nonprofits pledge not to support prostitution decriminalization is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled in 2013. Yet the issue is now back before the Court, with the feds arguing that it's OK to compel speech from foreign affiliates of U.S. nonprofits fighting HIV and AIDS.
  • After reportedly struggling to find a lawyer, Tara Reade (the woman accusing Joe Biden of sexual assaulting her when she worked for him in the '90s) is now being represented for free by Douglas Wigdor, an attorney who has previously represented five women with claims against Harvey Weinstein. But it's Wigdor's $55,000 donation to Trump's 2016 campaign that is making headlines.
  • Surveillance reform is finally back on some senators' agendas.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy looks at the Supreme Court's decision in the Chris Christie "Bridgegate" case (and what that has to do with Trump's impeachment).
  • Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman paid a woman to lie that Anthony Fauci sexual assaulted her.
  • COVID-1984 alert: