Unprecedented unemployment and political posturing by Governor Rick Perry have forced the Texas Workforce Commmission into a complete breakdown. There were warnings from the Texas AFL-CIO more than a month ago, but the corporate media reported on July 15 that tens of thousands of jobless Texans will not get their check and tens of thousands of telephone calls for help are going unanswered. Reporter Robert T. Garrett of the Dallas Morning News estimated that 82,000 unlucky Texans won’t get the federal 13-week extension of benefits when their state benefits expire, and 150,000 telephone calls couldn’t get through in one day, July 13.
The system may simply run out of money. The Texas Workforce Commission is required to keep a minimum of $858 million in the fund for unemployment benefits, yet reporter Garrett said that it only had $119 as of July 10. They are negotiating for $643 million in federal loans, which is, ironically, almost as much as the federal stimulus grant money that showboat Governor Rick Perry forced the legislature to turn down in the recent session. He called a special session afterward, but did not allow the unemployment crisis on the agenda. In a press conference, the Governor bragged about having given yet another tax cut to businesses and a special tax tax dispensation for Chambers of Commerce.
The Communications Director for the Texas AFL-CIO has issued a number of warnings about the crisis and the state’s inability to handle it. He said, ‘It’s bad enough that the number of claims has more than doubled since 2008. It’s bad enough that the leadership of the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry made mandatory property tax exemptions for wealthy Chambers of Commerce a higher priority than additional help for Texans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. But now it appears that even for Texans who no doubt qualify for Unemployment Insurance benefits, service is not what it should be.’
The problem is not just in Texas. In ‘The Unemployed Will Roar,’ Washington Post writer Marie Cocco estimates that 650,000 long term unemployed Americans will run out of benefits in September. America has lost 6.5 million jobs since the beginning of Bush’s last year in office. The number of people unemployed for more than 27 weeks reached 4.4 million in June. Job gains were weak althrough Bush’s 8 years, and the Economic Policy Institute reports that the current jobless numbers have wiped out nine years of job gains!
Progressive Americans are calling for a second stimulus effort benefitting not bankers but unemployed workers. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said, ‘The American economy shed another 467,000 jobs last month, bringing the total job loss since the recession began to 6.5 million.
‘Congress and the Obama administration need to continue to remain focused on stimulus efforts to end the recession. Additionally, this is not just a problem in the United States, but at this stage, job loss is the vortex of the global economic crisis. To address this problem we believe that all governments should focus an extra one percent of GDP stimulus focused on job creation.’
Because wages and benefits are so low, Texas normally has less unemployment than most of the nation. The rate hit 7.1 percent in May while the national rate went to 9.5% in June. The numbers are far lower than they should be. A New York Times article by David Leonhardt analyzes what the numbers would be if they included all the victims, including those who have simply given up looking for work and those working for meager part-time wages when they want full-time jobs. The Texas rate would rise from 7.1% to 12% if all the victims were included. California’s rate would be 20.3%! The reporter adds, ‘Almost nobody believes that unemployment has finished rising, either.’