fresh voices from the front lines of change







It seems that I begin a post every month by writing, “Another terrible jobs report.” And it seems I end that post each month asking why our leaders are ignoring the problem. Our country is in a jobs emergency, and our government is not doing its part to fill the gap and create jobs. In fact, now they are talking about cuts that will just make it worse. The instructions for treating a wound are: apply pressure to stop the bleeding. That’s the lesson We, the People need to learn from this crisis.

“One of the most negative employment reports since the recovery began.”

Dean Baker on Friday's jobs report:

On the whole, this is one of the most negative employment reports since the recovery began. It indicates that the economy has made no progress whatsoever in re-employing the people who lost their jobs in the downturn. Even more discouraging is the fact that there is no reason to expect anything to change for the better any time soon. The pace of job loss in the public sector is likely to accelerate, with no evidence of an offsetting pickup in the private sector.

And,of course, The Chart:


Jobs, Not Austerity

The proper response is jobs, not austerity. People with jobs pay taxes and don't collect unemployment, food stamps, etc. Austerity only makes things worse. Cutting back and taking that money and those jobs out of and thereby slowing the economy will then cut back tax receipts, undoing the deficit-reducing goal of the austerity in the first place. England’s austerity experiment is proving this. They are trying austerity, and it is slowing their economy.

The economics lesson is well-understood: when consumer and business demand drop government must step in and take up the slack. History has shown this to be the correct prescription. It’s not like make-work projects have to be invented right now; needed infrastructure maintenance has been deferred for 30 years, hurting our competitiveness, and with interest rates and labor demand near zero the cost of this investment is very low. (Wouldn’t it be inflationary to look for people to do this work when unemployment is low?)

Employ people to maintain and modernize infrastructure now - work that has to be done eventually, anyway! Doing so will improve the conomy now through added jobs and later through increased competitiveness and energy efficiency. It makes so much sense that only our DC geniuses could miss it.

But the DC geniuses instead believe that the economy is in trouble because of "confidence" and that cutbacks in government will increase confidence by reducing deficits. It is obvious to everyone else that the way to increase confidence in the economy is to make the economy better through job-creation and infrastructure modernization.

Imaginary Problems VS Real Problems

Every discussion of our deficits should begin by reminding everyone that just ten years ago the country was running a big budget surplus and was paying off the debt at a very fast rate. Then Bush was "elected." Economist Joe Stiglitz explains,

Unaffordable tax cuts and wars, a major recession, and soaring health care costs—fueled in part by the commitment of George W. Bush's administration to giving drug companies free rein in setting prices, even with government money at stake—quickly transformed a huge surplus into record peacetime deficits.

Instead of dealing with the real problem of unemployment our politicians are engaged in a fight against the imaginary problemof deficits. Imaginary because our budget deficits and resulting debt are the result of tax cuts and military spending increases combined with a dollop of interest on that debt. Much of the problem just goes away if Congress does nothing and taxes are allowed to revert to pre-Bush rates. More of the problem just goes away if the enormous, vast, colossal, astonishing, swollen, titanic, biggest-in-history, bloated, turgid, jaw-dropping, humongous, gargantuan, immense, astronomical, brobdingnagian, elaphantine, hulking, mammoth, whopping, monstrous military spending is cut back to maybe only three times our nearest competitor -- apparently still the Soviet Union. Even more goes away if people have jobs again. So worrying about the debt is imaginary, while the real problem is jobs.

(Brobdingnagian? Look it up.)

Stiglitz' deficit remedies:

Put America back to work by stimulating the economy; end the mindless wars; rein in military and drug costs; and raise taxes, at least on the very rich.

Steve Benen writes in A real problem vs. an imaginary one,

The only topic of conversation in Washington right now is a debt-reduction deal, ... But there’s no need to address the problem that doesn’t exist. There’s a critical need to address the problem that does — [jobs] — but thanks to GOP gains and the Republican majority in the House — there’s no political will to do so. On the contrary, Republicans have said if Democrats don’t agree to massive debt reduction — i.e., taking more money out of the economy when it needs the opposite — the GOP will crash the economy on purpose.

We have on one side politicians who are pushing to force the country to go the wrong way and destroy jobs on purpose. On the other side we have politicians who think cuts that will destroy the economy will bring confidence that will restore the economy, instead of realizing that restoring the economy is what will bring back confidence.

Apply Pressure

So government is broken. "The system" is corrupt and broken and many of the the politicians are no longer responsive to We, the People. The result is that little is getting done to create jobs for We, the people. The answer is for We, the People to apply the needed pressure to make them do it. It is our country, not theirs, and it is time for our government to work for us again.

Currently there are two, related efforts to rouse the public into as cohesive movement for jobs. The first is The Progressive Caucus’ Speak Out For Good Jobs Now which is a series of events taking place in cities around the country this summer. As I wrote in June, "this is a major opportunity to build public awareness that leads to public pressure on DC to start doing the right thing for We, the People instead of They, the Wealthy Few."

Also there is the The American Dream Movement, hosting Rebuild the Dream house parties next week on July 16 and 17. Find an American Dream house meeting near you.

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