BY JIM HIGHTOWER
The good news is that America’s economy continues to grow. The bad news is that most people’s personal economies continue to shrivel.
The June report on jobs glows with the happy news that America’s unemployment rate has fallen to 9.5% — the best we’ve had in a year! “We are headed in the right direction,” trumpeted President Obama.
Great … if true. However, the ballyhooed jobs statistic is a mirage. It looks good only because 650,000 more Americans became so frustrated with their fruitless search for work last month that they quit looking. In StatWorld, such “discouraged” seekers are – abracadabra! – no longer considered unemployed, even though they are. There are now 1.2 million Americans in this statistical purgatory.
That’s not the only shadow on June’s economic glow. Those lucky enough to have jobs, for example, saw America’s average workweek shrink. It’s now down to only 34 hours – which means less income for “full time” working families.
There also was another drop in the average hourly wage. Fewer hours, lower wages. That’s not what most people would call an economy “headed in the right direction.” Indeed, the strongest job growth in June came from the low-paying service sector, and nearly half of the 46,000 jobs added there are temporary positions.
Meanwhile, another implosion bomb is set to hit American workers. The public sector, which has been one bright spot for decent wages and benefits, is about to shed tens of thousands of teachers, firefighters, park employees, utility workers and others from state and local governments, sending our country in exactly the wrong direction.
Yet, economists are cheerfully bandying around the most moronic oxymoron I’ve ever heard. They are exulting that we’re presently experiencing a “jobless recovery.”
I don’t see how their minds can put those two words together without having their heads explode! Excuse me, Einsteins, but there’s no such thing. You can spin your data till the cows come home, but an economy that has nearly 20% of the workforce either unemployed or underemployed, that has no plan for replacing the 8 million jobs we lost in the last two years, that is now proceeding with mass layoffs of such essential workers as teachers and firefighters and that is willing to accept poverty pay as the new American norm is not by any stretch of the imagination a recovery.
The reality we face is what economist Paul Krugman is frankly calling a “Long Depression.” As happened in a similar decline in the 1870s, those at the top will prosper and take an even larger share of the wealth we all produce, while the majority sees declining income and rising poverty. To hasten this unhappiness, Republican senators have repeatedly blocked an extension of jobless benefits for America’s hardest-hit families, thus intentionally increasing economic pain across our land.
While these Americans are suffering, Republican governors are reaching out – not to help those suffering, but to comfort the comfortable. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, for example, recently dealt with his state’s deficit by slashing spending for public health, higher education, the elderly and the disabled. He then vetoed an income tax on Minnesota’s richest people, declaring that this effort to balance the budget was “nonsensical.” Likewise, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is terminating state workers while vetoing a tax hike on millionaires, calling the wealth tax “irresponsible.”
There is, of course, a way to avert this economic disaster. It’s called leadership. The way out is to enlist our grassroots people in an all-out “Rebuild America” campaign. Stop talking about a green economy, and put Americans to work building it. Also, let’s lead the world in putting high-speed Internet in every home and school. And our crucial national infrastructure, from bridges to parks, is in a sorry state – let’s go to work to repair and improve these public resources.
Destiny calls, but our “leaders” are either self-absorbed, clueless or cowardly. So, we must lead. One place to start this rebuilding is through the Blue-Green Alliance: www.bluegreenalliance.org.
– Jim Hightower’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer