One Nation with No Jobs

Tens of thousands of Americans rallied for jobs and justice at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. Organizers say that 175,000 people turned out for the One Nation Working Together rally, which was organized by labor unions, the NAACP, and other progressive groups. In an interview with GritTV’s Laura Flanders, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, a leader of the One Nation coalition, summed up the agenda: “Jobs, jobs, and more jobs.”

America isn’t working

In total, 8 million jobs have been lost in this recession and 2.5 million homes have been repossessed. According to the official figures, about 10% of Americans are unemployed. The true number may be much higher because the official stats don’t count those who have given up looking for work. In AlterNet, NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, another featured speaker at One Nation, points out that the black unemployment rate is nearly twice that of whites. Another 11 million Americans are underemployed, according Trumka.

No end in sight

An already bleak job market is about to get even bleaker. Last week, Senate Republicans scuttled a popular emergency fund to create jobs and an extension of long-term unemployment insurance benefits, as Andy Kroll reports in Mother Jones.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly offers more details on the now-defunct job creation program known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency fund. The fund provided cash to create jobs in the public and private sectors. Over 240,000 people in 32 states and the District of Columbia worked at jobs created with TANF subsidies. Last week, Senate Democrats lost their fight to extend the program for another 3 months. With the TANF money gone, layoffs will soon follow.

The Department of Labor will release the its monthly unemployment statistics on Friday. One group of independent analysts predicts that September’s unemployment rate will be higher than the previous month, according to Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo. Unemployment rose from 9.6% in July to 9.7% in August and experts surveyed by Bloomberg News expect the trend to continue. It’s doubtful that the economy produced enough new jobs to make up for all the census workers whose temporary jobs ended.

Job skills for America

On the bright side, President Barack Obama is scheduled to unveil a new job training program this week, Annie Lowrey reports in The Michigan Messenger. The program is called Skills for America’s Future. The goal of the project is to encourage partnerships between community colleges and corporations. Colleges and companies will work together to identify areas of rapid job growth and train students to fill those jobs. So far, five companies have agreed to participate in the program, including the Gap., Accenture, United Technologies, PG&E and McDonald’s.

Lowrey argues that this kind of training program will do little to help unemployment in the short term. Right now, companies aren’t hiring because there’s an economy-wide lack of demand, not because they can’t fill positions for lack of trained workers. Demand is low because unemployment is high. Quite simply, people buy less when they don’t have jobs, or fear that they will lose their jobs. It’s a Catch-22. The jobs won’t come back because not enough people have jobs.

Food stamps are stimulus

At the most basic level, an economic stimulus package is designed to break the no jobs/no demand/no jobs impasse by injecting large amounts of cash into the economy. Extending unemployment benefits makes for very effective stimulus because the unemployed typically spend their money quickly. Food stamps are another very efficient stimulus because recipients redeem them right away. To give you some indication of how quickly, consider the Wal-Mart at Midnight effect, which Lowrey discusses in the Washington Independent.

Wal-Mart managers are noticing that increasing numbers of customers are buying staples like bread, milk, and baby formula at midnight on the first of the month. That’s because state governments directly deposit welfare and food stamp benefits into debit accounts at midnight. Wal-Mart says it brings in extra staff to keep up with the influx of customers during this period.

By contrast, tax cuts are an inefficient stimulus, especially if the cuts go to people who are already wealthy. In tough times, people who already have everything they need may prefer to save their extra money instead of blowing it on luxuries. Rich people will not throng Best Buy at midnight on tax refund day, no matter how big their checks are.

The high cost of economic inequality

It would be nice to think that unemployment is part of a cyclical downturn, but there is mounting evidence that short-term unemployment is a symptom of a deeper problem: pervasive and growing inequality. Sam Petulla of the American Prospect interviews economist Jacob Hacker and political scientist Paul Pierson about their new book, Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned its Back on the Middle Class.

The authors note that the U.S. has greater inequality than other industrialized countries. Since the 1970s, the richest Americans have gotten much richer while the rest of us lagged further behind. The authors found that almost 40% of household income gains from 1979-2007 went to the richest 1% of households. The trend is accelerating: the top 1% of households pocketed over half of the economic gains of the 2000s. Hacker and Pierson blame tax cuts for the wealth, lax financial regulations that allow the wealthy to rake in unprecedented profits, and stagnating middle class wages for the widening gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of society.

This brings us back to the old demand/jobs paradox. Contrary to the platitudes of trickledown economics, shoveling an ever greater share of society’s resources to the ultra-rich doesn’t make everyone else better off. Shocking, right?

Right wing economists say that letting the ultra-rich accumulate still more wealth is good for the economy as a whole because the rich have more money to invest in businesses, which are the main source of jobs. The ultra-rich aren’t stupid, however. They aren’t going to start businesses unless they foresee demand for goods and services; and everyone knows that demand is flat because there are no jobs. Trying to stimulate the economy by making the rich richer is like shoving money into a black hole. The tried and true way to end a recession is to create jobs and provide social services for people who need the money enough to spend it.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. 

photo credit: thanks to luckywhitegirl via flickr
by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger


Michael Cunningham

Milwaukee, nicknamed the Cream
City, is the commercial center of Wisconsin,
the Dairy State. But layers of red tape
are making it difficult for the cream of
Milwaukee’s entrepreneurs to rise to the
If you thought all it took to open a
business in Milwaukee was a good idea,
some seed capital and a location, think
again. The city government imposes a
complex maze of regulations that prevent
many businesses from ever getting started.
Even failed businesses cannot escape the
regulatory grip of city officials. At any
time—but especially in tough economic
times—the government must get out of the
way so that businesses can succeed.
This report chronicles the ways in
which the city of Milwaukee and the state
of Wisconsin make life difficult for small businesses and, as a result,
threaten both entrepreneurship and the American Dream. For
instance, the report describes how Milwaukee:
• Rigidly restricts the ability of entrepreneurs to operate
businesses from their homes. Milwaukee’s rules force everyone
from candle makers and photographers to massage therapists
and pet groomers to operate illegally from their home or move
out of town;
• Abuses the custom of aldermanic privilege to destroy
promising businesses by denying them the licenses and
permits they need when an alderman does not like the business
or would prefer a different one;
• Imposes restrictions on food-related businesses that make it
almost impossible

Michael Cunningham

"Jeffrey left a comment on the following article:

One Nation with No Jobs

But Obama and Sheriff Joe said the gigantic spending package saved or created 17 trillion jobs!"

Jeff, you do not do satire well!

Jeffrey W.
Jeffrey W7 years ago

But Obama and Sheriff Joe said the gigantic spending package saved or created 17 trillion jobs!

Michael Cunningham

Add to that only about 4% of the Chinese are below the poverty line!

Michael Cunningham

"Indonesia, India China have starving populations who work like mules for a few dollars a day"

A 'few" dollars in those place is the same as wages people expect here. Costs of living are the driving factor is the driving factor not the dollars and cents.

As for taxes being a driving factor, it is, and only one of many. The amount of non-productive paper required from a business to comply with Government interference in the business is very costly as well. Even a "simple" program like "Cash for Clunkers" required 12 forms be filled out for each car entered into the program! Why? And did it really require 12 separate forms? Or were this just to keep some Government flunky looking busy? I used to be one but at least I had a real job!!

Caroline L.
Caroline L7 years ago

@ Micheal C- Jobs didn't go overseas because of taxes. This a lie. The truth is they went overseas for cheap labor. Indonesia, India China have starving populations who work like mules for a few dollars a day. US corps went there & gave a few $$ an hour. Americans can't live on a few $ an hour so they don't want us anymore. If we went back to charging import duties this might level the playing field a bit. Richies want cheap goodies so they love Chinese toys.. but the average American is sliding so fast he can't afford free trade garbage. And @ Jacqueline- What would you have Americans do? Live on pennies a day like the Indians sleep 10 to a hut? If you don't lower the rent, the cost of goods, food & gas at the same time that you slash wages, you gain nothing. Our laws, our social order, our infrastructure is built for consumers spending lots of money to get through a day. And @ Grace- The idea that Americans are lazy won't work suck off the tit is another big fat lie. I've been on off of the government "tit" since my family lost our business to the tax man I can tell you there ain't much milk in that tit. I worked all of my life, hard as a dog, on my hands and knees, doing everything from answering phones to scrubbing toilets still dirt poor. Don't feed me the crap about how I should have gone to school. I did that, too. None of you are facing the truth. We got f***d. That's all there is to it. Wake up and stop blaming the innocent.

Michael Cunningham

Senate Sponsor and cosponsors:

Title: Fair Tax Act of 2009
Sponsor: Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] (introduced 1/22/2009) Cosponsors (5)
Related Bills: H.R.25
Latest Major Action: 1/22/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance. COSPONSORS(5), ALPHABETICAL [followed by Cosponsors withdrawn]: (Sort: by date)

Sen Burr, Richard [NC] - 5/5/2009
Sen Coburn, Tom [OK] - 1/22/2009
Sen Cornyn, John [TX] - 1/22/2009
Sen DeMint, Jim [SC] - 9/29/2010
Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] - 1/22/2009

Michael Cunningham

Part two - House

Rep Gingrey, Phil [GA-11] - 1/6/2009
Rep Granger, Kay [TX-12] - 10/6/2009
Rep Graves, Sam [MO-6] - 2/25/2009
Rep Graves, Tom [GA-9] - 6/16/2010
Rep Griffith, Parker [AL-5] - 2/24/2010
Rep Hall, Ralph M. [TX-4] - 10/6/2009
Rep Hensarling, Jeb [TX-5] - 1/6/2009
Rep Hoekstra, Peter [MI-2] - 9/22/2010
Rep Issa, Darrell E. [CA-49] - 1/9/2009
Rep Jenkins, Lynn [KS-2] - 2/24/2009
Rep King, Steve [IA-5] - 1/6/2009
Rep Kingston, Jack [GA-1] - 1/6/2009
Rep Kline, John [MN-2] - 3/12/2009
Rep Lamborn, Doug [CO-5] - 1/6/2009
Rep Lucas, Frank D. [OK-3] - 1/6/2009
Rep McCaul, Michael T. [TX-10] - 1/6/2009
Rep Mica, John L. [FL-7] - 1/9/2009
Rep Miller, Gary G. [CA-42] - 1/14/2009
Rep Miller, Jeff [FL-1] - 1/27/2009
Rep Moran, Jerry [KS-1] - 1/13/2009
Rep Myrick, Sue Wilkins [NC-9] - 1/8/2009
Rep Neugebauer, Randy [TX-19] - 1/6/2009
Rep Olson, Pete [TX-22] - 1/26/2009
Rep Pence, Mike [IN-6] - 1/6/2009
Rep Poe, Ted [TX-2] - 1/6/2009
Rep Posey, Bill [FL-15] - 1/27/2009
Rep Price, Tom [GA-6] - 1/6/2009
Rep Roe, David P. [TN-1] - 4/21/2009
Rep Souder, Mark E. [IN-3] - 12/9/2009
Rep Stearns, Cliff [FL-6] - 1/6/2009
Rep Sullivan, John [OK-1] - 1/6/2009
Rep Thornberry, Mac [TX-13] - 1/6/2009
Rep Tiahrt, Todd [KS-4] - 1/6/2009
Rep Wamp, Zach [TN-3] - 3/12/2009
Rep Westmoreland, Lynn A. [GA-3] - 1/6/2009
Rep Whitfield, Ed [KY-1] - 2/3/2009
Rep Wittman, Robert J. [VA-1] - 1/6/2009
Rep Young, Don [AK] - 1/6/2009

Michael Cunningham

"Fair tax is the only way to go, why is it nobody in the halls of congress will even mention it but a hand-full."

Title: Fair Tax Act of 2009
Sponsor: Rep Linder, John [GA-7] (introduced 1/6/2009) Cosponsors (65)
Related Bills: S.296
Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Rep Akin, W. Todd [MO-2] - 1/6/2009
Rep Alexander, Rodney [LA-5] - 1/6/2009
Rep Bachus, Spencer [AL-6] - 1/6/2009
Rep Barrett, J. Gresham [SC-3] - 6/8/2009
Rep Bartlett, Roscoe G. [MD-6] - 1/6/2009
Rep Bilbray, Brian P. [CA-50] - 1/6/2009
Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] - 5/21/2009
Rep Bishop, Rob [UT-1] - 3/12/2009
Rep Bonner, Jo [AL-1] - 9/9/2009
Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] - 1/19/2010
Rep Boren, Dan [OK-2] - 5/14/2009
Rep Brady, Kevin [TX-8] - 1/6/2009
Rep Broun, Paul C. [GA-10] - 2/24/2009
Rep Brown, Henry E., Jr. [SC-1] - 1/6/2009
Rep Brown-Waite, Ginny [FL-5] - 1/6/2009
Rep Burton, Dan [IN-5] - 1/6/2009
Rep Carter, John R. [TX-31] - 1/6/2009
Rep Conaway, K. Michael [TX-11] - 1/6/2009
Rep Crenshaw, Ander [FL-4] - 1/23/2009
Rep Culberson, John Abney [TX-7] - 1/6/2009
Rep Deal, Nathan [GA-9] - 1/6/2009
Rep Duncan, John J., Jr. [TN-2] - 1/6/2009
Rep Fallin, Mary [OK-5] - 1/6/2009
Rep Flake, Jeff [AZ-6] - 7/27/2010
Rep Fleming, John [LA-4] - 3/12/2009
Rep Foxx, Virginia [NC-5] - 9/14/2010
Rep Franks, Trent [AZ-2] - 1/6/2009
Continued - House

Craig C.
Craig C7 years ago

Fair tax is the only way to go, why is it nobody in the halls of congress will even mention it but a hand-full.