The official jobless rate topped 6.1 percent in August bringing the plight of U.S. workers into the center of the political arena as the presidential campaign enters its final eight weeks.
84,000 workers lost their jobs last month according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 605,000 jobs have been lost since January.
Those who really swelled the unemployment rolls last month were adults, mostly over the age of 45. The 600,000 new jobless include almost as many college graduates as those with only high school diplomas.
Campaigning this weekend in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Barack Obama slammed McCain and the Republican Party for staging a convention last week that did nothing to address the needs of a nation struggling with high unemployment, a mortgage crisis and a host of other economic problems.
“If you watched the Republican national convention you wouldn’t know that we have the highest unemployment in five years because they didn’t say a thing about what is going on with the middle class,” Obama told workers at a specialty glass factory near Scranton, Penn.
McCain, campaigning in Wisconsin, another battleground state, said that the failing economy has squeezed everyone in the country.
“My friends, a little straight talk, a little straight talk,” McCain said. “These are tough times. The jobs report is another reminder these are tough times. These are tough times in Wisconsin, tough times in Ohio, tough times all over America.”
He did not, however, say anything about a plan to make the times any less tough.
McCain, who has been in the Senate for 22 years, has supported the Bush administration economic program for the last eight years. He backs the Bush tax cut of hundreds of billion of dollars for the rich and the costly war in Iraq.
Unlike during his campaign stump speeches which include no discussion of any specific policy issues McCain, during his speech at the Republican convention, did put forward a few issues. On all of them, however, he was either misleading or, in some cases, putting forward outright lies.
During that speech he claimed he is for lower taxes and that Obama wants higher taxes. The vast majority of families would get a bigger tax break from the Obama plan than from the McCain plan.
McCain said in his convention speech that he will provide relief and training for workers affected by economic change. In the Senate, however, he voted against extending unemployment benefits and offering aid to workers in training programs.
He said he “feels for families” reeling from the foreclosure crisis. The sample “suffering family” he singled out in his speech was a family that lost money on real estate investments, not their home.
He said in his speech that he would give families more choice in the health care system. His plan, however, leaves families at the mercy of private insurance companies whose profit margins depend upon putting up walls between doctors and their patients.
His health care plan would actually create an additional tax on middle class families.