The country needs jobs, not a bipartisan austerity diet

As a follow-on to yesterday’s write up of the September jobs report (hint: it wasn’t good), I want to direct you to this, on the House-Senate conference committee that will meet soon to hash out a budget.

If you hadn’t heard, one of the outcomes of the deal to re-open the government was that the House and Senate would meet in a conference committee to actually propose a budget (if they can agree on one), instead of just funding the government with a series of hostage crises followed by “continuing resolutions” (CRs) that keep the current — and sequester-hobbled — budget in place for a few more weeks or months.

Here’s Richard Eskow writing in Huffington Post about that conference committee. His advice — please, give us some jobs, not more austerity. Eskow (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):

Dear House-Senate Budget Committee: The Country Needs Jobs

Details are emerging about the House-Senate Conference Committee charged with developing a new budget. That would presumably head off the continued threat of a renewed Republican government shutdown – a catastrophe which is currently scheduled for January 15 – and would presumably also defuse the GOP’s threat to throw the government into default.

A word for the members of the Committee: Today the S&P 500 stock market index hit record highs, while newly-released employment statistics were even weaker than expected. Your mission couldn’t be clearer. You must create a budget which creates jobs for the American people. …

Nevertheless, many politicians are misinterpreting their assignment. You’ll hear them say that the Committee’s been charged with finding a “deficit reduction plan” that’s acceptable to both parties.

Congress wasn’t elected to “reduce the deficit.” According to polling from 2012, it — and the president — were elected to create jobs. You certainly weren’t elected to create a more hospitable climate for offshoring mega-corporations. And if you think you were, feel free to declare “Mission accomplished.”

Eskow is a very good numbers guy, and the links to polling are good. Only in DC is “profits before jobs” considered a priority. More polling links from Eskow:

[Congress’s] assignment hasn’t changed since you were elected. Two thirds of voters polled earlier this year stated that the government’s top priority should be job creation. Voters still believe that we need jobs in order to fix the economy, according to Gallup polling, and they’re right.

There’s plenty in the article. As always Eskow is clear and easy to read. And if you aren’t getting how bad the jobs picture is, he includes this nice chart:

Job recovery by recession since WW II. Our non-recovery is the heavy red line.

Jobs recovery by recession since WW II. Our non-recovery is the heavy red line.

See the problem? Starting in 1981, when god became president and both parties changed forever, every recession has had a slower jobs recovery than the previous one. Track the last four colors listed at the top in order and see what I mean.

And our current jobs “recovery” — isn’t.

Yet, as Eskow point out, the S&P is doing just fine, thanks to our current bipartisan protectors (I mean, overlords) who “make it so” for their campaign contributors. Coincidence? You decide.

Saving the children

In DC, both Democrats and Republicans (sworn enemies, right?) are talking about cuts to food stamps (the SNAP program), to Social Security (Chained CPI is back on the table), and to Medicare/Medicaid as a way to “save the children”.

Here’s my idea: Wanna “save the children”? Save them from contributing even more from their blighted paychecks to their elders so Grannie doesn’t have to eat Obama-Ryan™ Friskie Bits five straight nights a week.

Class War Kitteh says, "No Obama-Ryan budget for my grandma."

Class War Kitteh says, “No Obama-Ryan™ budget for my grandma.”

Three straight nights a week is plenty, thank you very much.

Again, do read Eskow’s piece, and communicate with your Congressmen and women. If they don’t hear from you, they’ll assume you stand with their lobbyists. You don’t want to grease that slide. You want to lay grit and sand across it.

Making the call

It’s simple and fast. Make the call and tell your Congress person that lobbyists and billionaires don’t speak for you — and you vote, your parents vote, and their parents vote.

Senate phone numbers here. House phone numbers here.

It’s best to call your actual representatives for maximum effect, but if you want to put a polite word into the shell-like ears of the House-Senate conferees themselves, that list is here. Most are not your friend (looking at you, Democrat Chris Van Hollen), though a few, like Sanders, Merkley and others, are.

Saving your future — and your children’s — starts with you. Sad that, but there it is. Please, do make the call. And thanks!


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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23 Responses to “The country needs jobs, not a bipartisan austerity diet”

  1. LanceThruster says:

    We as a nation have things that need doing, and we have the human capital to get them done.

    Seems like a no-brainer.

    What’s the hold-up, people in power?

  2. Houndentenor says:

    Depression was originally a euphemism for the earlier term “Panic”. History books will list the Panic of whatever year. They were actually pretty common leading up to the banking and financial industry regulations that were in place from Roosevelt to Clinton. If we didn’t have so many of those Roosevelt Era programs still in place to keep people from losing everything in a downturn, this would be at least as bad as the 1930s.

  3. Houndentenor says:

    In 2012 there were signs all over the area where my family lives saying to vote for Romney to avoid Obama’s proposed spending cuts to NASA. (NASA and NASA contractors are major employers in that area.) The fact that Paul Ryan’s budget called for far deeper cuts was considered irrelevant. There’s no logic with the hard core Teavangelicals.

  4. Bill_Perdue says:

    ‘ObomneyCare’. Excellent.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    The central distinction between a depression and a recession is that, over time, recessions can be self correcting. Depressions are not self correcting.

    What ended the last depression occurred on the morning of December 7th, 1941 in the skies over Pearl Harbor Hawaii. The US is already spending scores of trillions on war and making the military industrial complex a fountain of profits so that won’t work in this case.

    The solution to this depression is the establishment of a workers state.

  6. Bill_Perdue says:

    There’s an easy and needed solution to mass unemployment – that is to launch a union led and organized multi-trillion Manhattan Project to green industry, transportation and agriculture and to allocate more trillions to massively invest in green housing and infrastructure projects.

    Obama and the Democrats and Romney and the Republicans won’t do that although they are perfectly content passing out trillions to the rich in the form of grants – QE – and tax breaks.

  7. Indigo says:

    I admire your research, most thorough.

    Concerning “deflation,” the alternative is not to pull currency out of the market and collapse prices, but to artificially pump faux-money into the economy and plump the prices. The authorities claim there is little to no inflation happening but those are the same authorities who juggle figures to “prove” this is merely a recession, not a depression.

    I venture to say not one of them has ever shopped for groceries to put on the table at home. If they had, they’d know how much the currency is inflated without the quality or quantity of the groceries growing proportionately. My point being that what has deflated is not the digit on the currency but the value that digit purchases. My $10.00 bag of groceries circa 2005 now runs me $20.00. But it’s the same groceries!

  8. BeccaM says:

    Yep. Here’s the Wikipedia definition of economic depression:

    Considered by some economists to be a rare and extreme form of recession, a depression is characterized by its length; by abnormally large increases in unemployment; falls in the availability of credit, often due to some kind of banking or financial crisis; shrinking output as buyers dry up and suppliers cut back on production and investment; large number of bankruptcies including sovereign debt defaults; significantly reduced amounts of trade and commerce, especially international; as well as highly volatile relative currency value fluctuations, most often due to devaluations. Price deflation, financial crises and bank failures are also common elements of a depression that are not normally a part of a recession.

    The only one of those things we don’t have is price deflation — and I think I can guess why: The massive shift of wealth to the plutocratic elite and the creation of ‘new’ manufactured wealth that also goes directly to them offsets the otherwise deflationary pressures.

    We’re six years into the downturn after the December 2007 decline and subsequent crash. And as we’ve all learned, if there’s any anemic increase to GDP that would, in other eras, indicate the nearing end of a recession, 95-99% of the gains are going to the 1%.

    It’s a Depression. True, it’s not the same — not as severe or deep as the Great Depression. But all it would take is something like the Republicans forcing a debt default and we’d be right there, like it was in 1931 when the banks finally began collapsing one after the other.

  9. GarySFBCN says:

    STOP: Measuring employment, GDP, and everything else as if they matter and are not ‘connected’ to everything else.

    START: Measuring the Gross National Happiness, and use those indicators as objectives:

  10. The_Fixer says:

    Agreed. I used to do VCR work, but very seldom any more. Anyone who would expect to make a living from dying technology is gonna lose every time.

    If I hadn’t taught myself about computers, I’d be screwed. See below.

  11. Ford Prefect says:

    This, of course, is why ObomneyCare is doomed to fail. It doesn’t address any of the underlying economic issues, which is precisely what Single Payer does by default. Over time, the subsidies will be clawed back. The current Medicaid “expansion” will also be clawed back in the name of Austerity. The system itself seems to excel at the one thing it’s supposed to avoid: Adverse Selection.

    Having worked at smaller firms for a couple decades, the amount of time and energy they have to expend on figuring out a labyrinthine insurance system only to force employees into worse and worse plans should make Single Payer an easy “sell.” I nearly had my very Republican bosses sold on Single Payer just on that aspect: No more having to worry (and expend company resources) about that stuff at all.

    Back to jobs, Single Payer would mean creating a lot of good healthcare jobs, instead of the army of poorly paid “navigators” pushing people into shitty “insurance” that is neither “quality” or “affordable.”

  12. Indigo says:

    There’s that veiling word . . . “Recession.” Nooo, it’s an out and out Depression, damn it! Veil the facts with comforting words and we’ll never get out of this mess.

  13. Naja pallida says:

    Your other two examples make sense, but the VCR repair guy standing in the unemployment line is a terrible example. I’ve been self-employed now for about 20 years, and if you’re in a field where technology changes, you had better be keeping up with the times, or you’re going to be left in the dust. I’ve had to rethink what I do multiple times, and diversify my skills, just to keep a steady income. It’s never been easy, and I always have to be thinking one step ahead. Outsourcing has been more detrimental than anything else. So far with the ACA, I haven’t seen the increase in my personal premiums I was expecting (and seen multiple times prior), but it’s hanging right on the verge of not being affordable. And I’m in a red state that is doing everything it can to make sure small business owners are punished. So it still remains to be seen where things will end up going from here.

  14. The_Fixer says:

    Yeah, this depression is particularly hard on self-employed people, as well as those of us who depend on them.

    I know this first-hand. I used to repair consumer and professional electronics for two smaller shops. Now? Not so much. It’s cheaper to replace it and throw the old one away. Offshore manufacturing, the intentional withholding of repair parts, and the design making them nearly impossible to economically repair has pretty much destroyed the electronics repair industry. People just throw the stuff away and buy new.

    Which is an environmental disaster developing right now. So-called recycling is sometimes fraudulent, even if it is used. A great deal of the electronics that are thrown away are shipped to third-world countries where they are often “recycled” by workers who are unprotected from the more hazardous substances present in this stuff. And then there is the disposal of the substances that can’t be recycled. All of the wonderful increasing sales numbers that are seen come with a huge environmental price.

    I was lucky enough to slide horizontally-but-somewhat-downward when the shit hit the fan in my industry. One of my employers changed the business, phased out repair and got more into retailing. Thankfully, I was able to stay on. But I am still, even after all of this time, not up to where I used to be (which was not rolling in dough, by the way). Other people in other fields haven’t been as lucky as I have been. I know a guy who graduated from college with a teaching degree 4 years ago who is still looking for work. He survives by working as a temp in a sausage factory. With the way things are going these days, pretty soon they’ll outsource that to China, too.

    And this is why the ridiculous attention paid to the deficit and debt creates problems. Like the old saying goes, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. The government needs to invest in things that will bring us jobs. Start creating economic policies that discourage offshoring. A tax on cheap electronics that covers the cost of recycling may help avert an environmental problem that will surely screw us.

    The ACA? My employer is exempt (too small). But as an individual, I am responsible. And I simply don’t have the money to buy health insurance. The ACA does nothing for me but cost me money in the form of a penalty. And I get nothing for that expenditure.

    Medicare for all is the only thing that makes any sense to me.

  15. Ford Prefect says:

    Well said!

  16. nicho says:

    Concern noted.

  17. nicho says:

    That might work, except that a lot of high-paid people spend a lot more of their pay on housing that they need to. I don’t think that ratio would work. Once you start your futile climb to the One Percent, appearances are everything. A lot of 10 percenters are living way above their means in an effort to look successful. Many of them, if their income stream suddenly dried up, would be in deep shit.

  18. just_AC says:

    The other thing I noticed from the enclosed graph – look how much progressively longer it has been getting to get to recovery FROM WHERE WE ARE NOW at -1.2 % 1981 six months, 1990 ten months, 2001 12 months, 2007 ??? it looks like three years

  19. just_AC says:

    My problem with “job” and underemployment is that it does not count the millions of self employed Americans, such as myself. What government entity looks at the the plumber only getting one call a day instead of 3, the house painter who has waited for the phone to ring all day long, Hell, how about the VCR repair guy standing at the unemployment line? My concern with the Afordable Care Act is how much am I going to have to raise my prices, how elastic are they before people stop coming in and how much is everybody else going to raise THEIR prices. whether they need to or just to blame Obama? Scary times indeed

  20. guest1 says:

    If only we did a census all the time, with more people. That will solve it! /sarcasm

  21. Monoceros Forth says:

    Maybe we just need a new measure. We speak of “underemployment” in a loose way but perhaps it can be quantified: there ought to be some quantity that can be defined that means more or less how far your salary can actually stretch. Maybe the ratio of your salary to what you pay for housing?

  22. nicho says:

    Before we can have any meaningful discussion on jobs, we need to define “job.” If we simply mean it to be that you go into some employer from time to time, do some work, and get paid, then any discussion is a waste of time. There is a big difference between working full time at $75K a year with full benefits and corralling carts at the WalMart 28 hours a week for minimum wage and no benefits.

    The problem is that the statisticians who publish the job figures consider them to be equal. So if someone loses the former type of “job” and two people get the latter type of job — at the WalMart — the statisticians will say say that we had a 100 percent increase in jobs.

    What we need is a standard “job,” a benchmark. Let’s say it’s 40 hours a week, at $35K, with vacation, and healthcare. Then when the $75K a year person is put out of work, we can say it was a loss of “two jobs.” And when someone signs on at the WalMart for 20 hours a week at $8 an hour, we can say it’s 0.4 jobs — or whatever the math is.

    Otherwise, from a logic point of view, “job” is an ambiguous term and results in all kind of fallacy.

  23. ronbo says:

    It’s apparent to EVERYONE (but those who have the power to take action) that we are in the longest, deepest most harmful labor DEPRESSION ever experienced in the USA. And that is using the official “cooked” unemployment numbers of 7.2%. Which is about 7.2% accurate.

    Imagine how this would look if we used the more accurate “Employment-population ratio” which plummeted from 64% in 1998 to current 58%.

    10.800,000 Americans have been thrown out of work permanently. 28,000,000 Americans have been forced into part-time work with no benefits. 6,000,000 Americans have sought to move into the workforce NEVER finding a job.

    This government has failed through 4 presidential elections cycles! Maybe it’s time we exchange both the Democrats and Republicans for candidates the 1% don’t select.

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