Today’s jobs numbers reinforce what we already know about this economy: The growth is too slow; the jobs created too few.
Last month’s 80,000 additional jobs does not keep pace with the number of new workers coming into the economy. We are essentially limping in place. Millions have been added to the workforce, but we have fewer people employed than before the financial collapse. Mass unemployment continues, which means that wages will continue to fall and insecurity will continue to rise. The young continue to struggle in the worst jobs market since the Great Depression.
Worse, the U.S. economy is hitting increasing headwinds. Europe, in the grip of austerity, is moving back into recession. China is slowing. In this country, already scheduled cuts in public expenditures will continue to cost jobs in both the public and the private sectors.
It is time for action on jobs. We know what to do. We will never have a better opportunity or a greater imperative to rebuild America’s decrepit infrastructure. Aging roads, bridges, sewers, schools cost us in lost time, lost competitiveness and lost lives. Our construction industry is idle. The U.S. government can borrow money for less than free (with interest rates below the rate of inflation). Anyone with an iota of business sense would grasp this opportunity to make investments we must make in any case.
The call for action comes from the most conservative bastions of the economy. Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke pleads for more action from the Congress.
Managing Director Christine LaGarde says “action is needed to boost the recovery,” urging the U.S. to spend more now.
Yet in Washington, austerity still reigns. When the Congress finally managed to extend lower rates on student loans last month, legislators not only insisted that the subsidy be paid for, but added billions in additional spending cuts to demonstrate their commitment to austerity.
But as Great Britain and other European countries have shown, austerity is a recipe for recession, not for deficit reduction. At a time of mass unemployment, the first and necessary measure to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work. We need a large and sustained commitment to rebuild America. We need an urban corps and green corps that can put veterans and young people to work in jobs that need to be done. We need aid to states and localities to rehire teachers and police and firefighters, so that the bill for Wall Street’s excesses does not get paid by savage reductions in vital services.
Those who argue for austerity now—for cutting spending and raising taxes—ignore the lessons of our history, and the miseries now being inflicted on Great Britain, Spain and much of Europe. Partisan paralysis and ideological inanity are blocking the common sense steps we must take to get this economy going and put people back to work.