As soon as President Bush heard the latest employment report, he headed out to Andrews Air Force Base, stopping only to pick up his flight suit at the dry cleaner’s. He hopped into a Stealth fighter, and just one hour later made a perfect three-point landing in the parking lot of a state employment office outside Detroit. Under a banner proclaiming, “Mission Accomplished,” the President declared victory in the fight for jobs.

“My tax cuts for the rich have ended unemployment,” he declared. “We can now move ahead to strengthen democracy with more tax cuts for the rich.” As thousands of grateful workers cheered, Mr. Bush padlocked the employment office. “Now that there are plenty of jobs,” he said, “we will get big government off the backs of business by discontinuing the unemployment compensation system. Surplus funds will be used to fight the war on terrorism.”

The effectiveness of the administration’s jobs creation program was demonstrated after the crowd left, when a dozen men and women moved in to pick up the soft drink and beer cans discarded by crowd. These are former auto workers, who are now independent contractors in the refuse recycling business.

No, it didn’t really happen like that. But the administration is making political hay from the latest employment report. Payrolls increased by 288,000 in April, on top of 337,000 in March. Discouraged workers are beginning to look for jobs again, and after losing 3 million jobs over 40 consecutive months, manufacturing employment is slowly growing. Commerce Secretary Evans boasts, “Our surging economic recovery is creating more and more jobs. The lessons are clear: President Bush’s tax relief launched our economy into recovery.”

Bush is playing a dangerous game by claiming that the employment situation is due to his tax cuts. If he wants credit for two months of barely acceptable performance, he should accept responsibility for the whole picture:

• The worst jobs record since the 1930s. Even with April’s gain, there are still 1.2 percent fewer jobs than 37 months ago when the recession began. All previous recessions showed a gain, usually more than 3 percent, after 37 months. Even the “jobless recovery” of the early 1990s did better by 2.4 percentage points.

• In January 2002, the administration predicted there would be an average of 138.3 million jobs in 2004. In 2003, the estimate dropped to 135.2 million, and this January, to 132.7 million jobs. But even with April’s gain, we are still only at 130.9 million jobs – 7.4 million short of the administration’s 2002 projection, and 1.8 million short of this year’s.

• Bush predicted that his “jobs and growth” tax cut which took effect in July 2003 would create 306,000 jobs a month through the end of 2004. So far, he has met his target in only one out of 10 months, and is more than 2 million jobs short.

• Bush cannot evade responsibility for the truly vindictive treatment of the long-term unemployed. He refused to intervene last December as the Republican Congress failed to renew extended unemployment benefits for those out of work more than six months. Since then, almost 1.5 million workers used up their benefits.

• The jobs situation for youth remains critical, especially for African American teens whose real unemployment rate is over 50 percent. With city and state budgets squeezed, young people will have a tough time finding summer jobs and earning money for school or living expenses.

The benefits of the Bush “recovery” have gone entirely to big corporations and wealthy individuals. Profits have soared even higher than during the boom in the late 1990s, while wages are not even keeping up with inflation. If wage growth continues to be weak, according to economist Dean Baker, “it will pose a serious problem for the recovery as consumer debt reaches its limits.”

Details of the Bush record on jobs can be found at www.jobwatch.org.

The author can be reached at economics@cpusa.org.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Art Perlo
Art Perlo

Art Perlo lives in New Haven, Conn., where he is active in labor and community struggles. He does research and writing on economic issues in Connecticut, including work with the Coaltion to End Child Poverty in Connecticut which helped pave the way for the movement for progressive tax reform in the state. He writes on national economic issues for the People's World, and is a member of the CPUSA Economic Commission.

 

 

 

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