The U.S. working class is facing a new, powerful, ominous and ongoing crisis. Despite a profit recovery, it is suffering growing chronic unemployment.
Alan Greenspan, explaining why interest rates should not be raised at this time, put it like this: “The rate of layoffs is slowing … but job growth is lagging.”
The first half of Greenspan’s statement, “the rate of layoffs is slowing,” deals with the boom-bust capitalist cycle. The second half of Greenspan’s statement, “job growth is lagging,” deals with the maturation of a key part of the commodity production process – the sophistication and ever-spreading use of technology, increasingly replacing workers.
There are those who blame this job-loss “recovery” only on the export of jobs by greedy U.S. corporations. Their anger at the flagrant nose-thumbing abuse of trade agreements is wholly understandable. A struggle to set a sane, equitable trade policy with other countries is needed.
Both runaway jobs and jobs lost through productivity growth are vitally important. Both have a jackhammer impact on the well-being of the U.S. working class. But there is a downside to focusing solely on runaway jobs. It often leads to pitting workers against each other and fosters isolationist thinking that promotes dead-end and backward steps, as in the case of making Chinese workers the “enemy.” This takes the focus off both the job export crisis and the job-killing use of more and more technology. That’s where the main battles of the working class have to be aimed, ideologically and practically.
Why pay low wages here or abroad if you can get away with paying no wages? The number of jobs that have been sent abroad is relatively small compared to the number of jobs lost permanently through the application of new technology. Technology impacts on every phase of the economy, from heavy industry to the service sector. All are computerized, automated and in many cases dehumanized.
Technology continually improves. Billions are spent on research, both government and private. Today’s technology makes new, qualitative breakthroughs. Each application of advanced technology at the point of production brings with it new layoffs.
Should this job elimination be accepted passively? Shouldn’t it arouse the same passion and anger as exporting jobs? Shouldn’t technology benefit the people, not profit-hungry corporations?
Technology – that’s the real crisis facing the U.S. working class. That’s why more and more millions join the ranks of the long-term and permanently unemployed. Every week, on average, there are 350,000 first-time applicants for unemployment insurance benefits. That’s the crux of the crisis. Look behind the headline statistics.
The unemployment rate isn’t 5.7 percent. There are millions more not included in the official tally, part of the surplus labor force no longer needed or wanted by capitalism. We know 308,000 “new” jobs are just election Bushmath. When is that going to stop, Mr. President!
Government reports for over 20 years show that U.S. workers are the most productive in the world. Among the happiest thoughts running through the minds of Wall Streeters in this decade is the continuing rise in U.S. workers’ productivity, with no new hiring involved.
Greenspan’s pronouncements are reports on the fundamental nature of capitalism and the current status of its health. He proposes remedies to keep it functioning so that it can produce maximum profits for the capitalists. He has no other function. Pure and simple, Greenspan is dealing with the capitalist system, how to preserve it, extend its life, expand its domestic and world control and keep the profits rolling in. It’s “profits before people.”
He is trying to apply as many economic tools as he can to keep capitalism afloat. Juggling interest rates is one of those tools. Key to his agenda for helping his capitalist master is maintaining a murderously high level of unemployment.
Every working class leader, trade union economist, Marxist, Communist, socialist, and others who understand the gravity of this job-killing process, has a big task: to explain to millions of workers how and why they are being ripped off and laid off, and to help them organize. When workers see how they are being ripped off, who is doing it and that they can do something about it, they will get rightfully angry and demand jobs and control over the wealth they create.
Pat Barile is a member of the National Board of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.