Where is the movement to turn around this economy?

For the month of February the U.S. economy added , according to government figures, 175,000 jobs. Of those jobs 99,000 were gained by women, but they can be described as  jobs marked by very low pay and bad working conditions. To really keep up with just population growth some 200,000 good jobs, ones that pay a living wage, need to be created each month.

For January the job creation stood at 129,000 and for December only 74,000 jobs were added to the economy. Where then is the recovery?

To be quite frank, the Obama administration is doing next to nothing to create jobs for the unemployed. The administration keeps proposing “toddler steps” to address the problem.  Just these past weeks we hear rumblings of proposals to change overtime rules and then the ever-present battle to raise the minimum wage. While these are steps in the right direction they are “toddler steps” nonetheless , considering the gravity and extent of the economic situation.        

In November, 2013 some 203,000 jobs were created and in October 204,000 were added. Typically, the quality of these jobs has been deplorable. All through 2013 and during the last four years of the current Administration the same has been true. Essentially low-paying jobs have been created rather than the types of jobs on whose income one can sustain a family.

Low paying restaurant, retail , bar or warehouse jobs have comprised most of the so-called job gains. As a result, many are toiling at two or more such jobs to make ends meet. The result, as one worker lamented , is “We don’t even have a life.” Low paying jobs have provided 61 percent of U.S. employment growth. Part-time work has been 77 percent of job growth for 2013. This is no recovery!

The lower-paying jobs such as those performed by waiters , hotel workers, bartenders, and health care aides, have not declined because they can’t be automated as with other sectors. For for the media and the administration to tout such so-called job growth represents a shoddy attempt to perpetuate fraud on the American people. Indeed, with such huge swaths of suffering rampant throughout the land, the people – metaphorically speaking – should be ready to march on Washington with pitchforks and torches, doing it with the alacrity of enraged townsfolk in an old Frankenstein movie. Poverty is at its highest level in U.S. history.  But, the people need to be organized ! Where is the peoples movement ?  

In mid-2013 , Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called this a “terrible, terrible economy.”  He said the economy was at best “creeping along,  just treading water.” Even with a huge injection of capital at that time- $ 85 billion a month in bond buying- the economy was still only growing at less than 2 percent per quarter.   

In May only 175,000 jobs were created , but  this was considered a positive report, only because there was such depression about the economy that even low figures were celebrated or – as the media always croons –  ” a better than expected report. ” But, honest economists considered the May report  lackluster job numbers – not positive economic growth.

Not doing enough

At present the Obama administration is not doing enough to help the poor and the working class. There are tremendous swaths of poverty  and suffering throughout the cities , and the country in general.  For this journalist, who is an Obama supporter,  this inaction has become hugely frustrating. The president has had more than four years to take decisive action on the economy.

For over 90 percent of the American people in the last 15 plus years there has been no positive movement in economic status – the only movement has been in a downward direction; 95 percent of the country is not benefiting from the stock market boom.

Jobs that are created are not paying enough for a worker to provide food and housing for his or her family on a weekly basis. For the government and the mainstream media to hail these monthly jobs reports is simply to perpetuate a farce on the people. An economic recovery can’t be based on such flimsy employment,  But , quite frankly , the people are not fooled by these fraudulent reports. What the people need is to be organized !

It has been contended by some economic analysts  that manufacturing is making a comeback. Let’s take a look. Since 2007 the U.S. has lost 2 million manufacturing jobs (keep in mind that the economic news  often tends to be very bipolar and contradictory) and 7 million have been lost  overall in this sector since 1979. These jobs went overseas. Some economists classify the loss of manufacturing jobs as “stunning.”  

Treasury Secretary  Jack Lew said in late July of last year that  manufacturing was “growing.” But not according to  job figures from other sources, which disclosed that this sector lost 6,000 jobs in the same time period. This administration is playing loose and reckless with the figures  to tamp down public discontent.

But some factory jobs have returned to the U.S. – jobs that had gone to Japan , Mexico   and China. Why the return? Surely, not because of the goodness of corporate hearts. Some jobs are returning because  wages  are rising overseas, a good example is China, and because factory wages are continuing to fall in the U.S. This is not a recovery!

The rapacious corporations are pursuing profits like slobbering, predatory beasts pursuing hapless prey. This time, again, the prey is the U.S. working class.  

Economists now estimate that 345,000 to 400,000 jobs a month for several years  are needed to significantly reduce unemployment. Moreover, these need to be good jobs , not just in the retail and service sectors. Again, jobs at a  living wage.       

In June, 2013, 195,000 jobs were created . The news  media , lowballing again, said job creation exceeded expectations. This is nonsense and the most ignominious of frauds !

Some commentators have opined that Mr. Obama wants to be seen as the jobs president. But, so far his administration has followed a hands-off policy on the economy, hoping that the system will rebound on its own. But, at this stage of the ongoing general crisis of capitalism, this will not happen. Further, Congress has likewise refused a hands- on policy for the economy.     

The economic growth rate of only 2 percent per year is considered by many economists to mean that the economy is actually falling further behind. It is seen as no recovery at all.. There is no plan by the Obama administration to deal with the ongoing jobs crisis. This , at a time when the economy has the lowest labor force participation since 1979. 

There is gross , grotesque, obscene inequality with  agonizing suffering increasing exponentially daily. Left and progressive leadership is needed. When will  there be the needed organizing  for decent jobs and economic equality?

Photo: Workers struggling to turn low-wage jobs into family-supporting ones. AP


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.