A century after violent efforts to suppress resistance to class exploitation, the nation has learned to think about people and the economy with a language that favors the wealthy and elides issues of power.
The September 6 Employment Situation Summary report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics continued the trend of bad news on the jobs front. Total employment was down by 115,000 in August. That means 115,000 more Americans need jobs, on top of the millions already unemployed.
These figures are seasonally adjusted, meaning that this fall in employment wasn’t simply due to the expiry of temporary summer jobs.
Technically, the official unemployment rate fell in August from 7.4% to 7.3%, but only because so many people gave up looking for work that the 115,000 drop in employment was more than compensated for by a 516,000 person fall in the number of people considered to be “in the labor force.”
Not that the working-age population is declining. It isn’t. It’s just that more and more people are accepting that there’s no point in looking for work.
The federal government must accept that for ordinary Americans there has been no such thing as a recovery. The plutonomy of the wealthy may be booming, but in the realonomy where ordinary Americans live and work times are still tough.
The current crisis — downturn, recession, depression, call it what you will — began nearly six years ago. The banks were bailed out within 12 months. Ordinary Americans are still waiting. How long must they wait?
You can’t just tell people to “look harder” when 20 million people are either out of work or stuck in part-time jobs that don’t pay their bills. The jobs aren’t there. What do you want people to do? Sell tacos on the street? In most US cities and suburbs even that is illegal.
In a modern economy based on large-scale production by big firms, the government must take responsibility for making sure that jobs are available for those who want them. It can do this indirectly through government spending on services and infrastructure, or directly through jobs programs, but it must do it.
For example, the federal government could put a paid community aide in every classroom in America next semester. That’s 3 million jobs for January 2014. Of course, all those aides will have to be trained. Chalk up 100,000 trainer jobs, starting immediately.
There are enough out of work teachers in America today to fill all those trainer positions with fully-qualified, already-vetted staff. The project is “shovel-ready” … with no shovels required.
Go ahead and start all those long-stalled infrastructure projects by the middle of 2014 and you have a recovery in the making.
Throw in federal debt forgiveness for states and municipalities, and thousands more jobs that are currently on the chopping block will be saved.
How do we pay for it? Borrow or tax. The federal government is paying just 3% interest on government debt. If you don’t want to increase the deficit, tax the rich. They’re making more than ever before in US history. They can afford it.
If the United States government created 3 million jobs in 2014 with the promise of a few hundred thousand more down the road, the jobs recession would be over. Millions of employed people spend billions of dollars. Those billions of dollars would employ yet more people, in a virtuous cycle.
The fact is that we’re in a recession because a small number of very rich people cling desperately, mercilessly, to their accumulated privileges. Earned or unearned it doesn’t matter. At some point the good of the many outweighs the greed of the few.
People need jobs. Put them to work. It’s that simple.