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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Across the political spectrum, politicians are promising that their plans and policies will create jobs.

Creating jobs is “job one,” they say. While it’s true that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen slightly lower than 9 percent, (this is categorically UNTRUE as the Shadow Statistics web site amply demonstrate, the unemployment rate, consisten with the definitions of unemployeds consistent with that used back in the 1960's is around 22%. THINK ABOUT THIS - about the poeple you know who are out of work, given up looking for work, out of work for more than 99 weeks - there are LOTS of us out there.) there are millions of workers collecting jobless benefits, looking for a job in their field of expertise, or telling prospective employers that they will take anything they have.

American workers are desperate. Nearly 15 million of them are looking for work and millions more (too difficult to count) are working far below their experience, education, and knowledge.

Republicans have no proposals to create jobs. Their decaying idea for economic recovery is to cut taxes for Corporate America and the rich, even though we have tried that and it has not worked. Trickle down economics does not work.

The Democrats keep telling us that there is “economic recovery.” Both parties point to a resurgent stock market. The newspapers and TV business news shows inform us that CEOs are taking tens of millions of dollars in pay and perks and pensions and golden parachutes. Once in a while, they tell us what the unemployment rate is, but they don’t dwell on it and they don’t come up with any solutions.

Millions of homes are foreclosed and no one seems to know where the occupants of those empty homes went. It’s like the end of “welfare as we know it,” during the Clinton presidency. When welfare was ended, no one seemed to know where all those people (mostly women and children) went. But they did disapp ear. Likewise, the jobs of millions of Americans.

When the factories of 1980 began to disappear, there were some warnings that, if factory flight continued at the pace at which it was happening during that decade, we’d be in deep trouble in the not too distant future. It was a time when the words “global economy” were uttered and the people did not seem to know what to make of it.

Yes, we were told, corporations had the right to do whatever they wanted with their factories and their businesses. Corporations were in business to make money. That’s what they said and, in fact, we were told that, if corporations did not declare that they were in business to make profits to give to their shareholders and did not in fact do everything in their power to make those profits, they could be held responsible. It was tantamount to a criminal act for them to act in any other way. There was to be no “social responsibility” injected into their attitudes about running the corporations.

That meant corporate CEOs were free to pursue profits wherever they were to be had and it was alright. The American people heard it repeated so often that it was acceptable to them, and when Corporate America and its politicians said that the biggest profits were to be made by producing things in other countries, places that had workers who would produce the goods Americans would buy for a fraction of the wages that were paid in the U.S. of A. It was just good business.

It was so good for business that the U.S. government even gave them tax breaks for taking their factories to other countries. The profits were enormous, so more and more companies did the same thing. This new way of doing business began to empty the American countryside of all of the factories and shops that made things that the people bought in American cities. The problem? The workers in all of those factories that were closed and moved to other countries were now without jobs and without incomes.

The slide started in the early 1980s, when workers who earned $40,000-$60,000 a year were now unemployed and there did not seem to be any great concern on the part of those in charge of the economy. After their unemployment ran out, they continued looking for work that would pay near what they had been earning when there were factories in America. In the end, though, they took any job they could get and the problem was that we were now in what was called a “service economy.” And that meant jobs in department stores, bars, restaurants, hotels, nursing homes and other places where the pay was slightly above the minimum wage.

Although some at the time raised the alarm, their voices were drowned out by the praises sung by politicians and the media, in chorus, about the amazing benefits of the global economy. How cheap were the consumer goods that Americans found in their discount department stores! How cheap were their electronic goods that allowed them to play games and to keep in touch, minute by minute, with their friends as they looked for work. They were all looking for work.

Don’t worry, young people with college degrees were told, you’ll find work in your field. But, how many young men and women with master’s degrees, even doctorates, ended up serving five-dollar coffees and waiting on tables in trendy restaurants. They could hardly make enough to pay back their student loans, let alone start families of their own. So, they kept working at jobs out of their field of education and expertise. Youngsters just out of high school still were encouraged to “get a college degree, so you can get a good job.” Funny thing about that…it’s getting harder and harder to get a college degree.

For the working class, the state university systems were the answer. They didn’t cost as much for tuition and they provided a pretty good education. However, all of the workers who were being paid less than half what they were earning when there were factories in America were not paying as much in taxes over a couple of decades, so budgets at the federal, state, and local level were being choked off. Since the rich don’t pay taxes, they were not going to make up the shortfall.

Today, after years of reductions in faculty and programs, along with continuing tuition increases, it is becoming harder for youngsters from working class families to get college degrees. Trading on those degrees to get a higher-paying job (in information technology or computer science) is out for millions, and it’s getting worse. In the meantime, we can see that the rich and corporations are not paying taxes and the income gap is getting bigger every year.

For minority children and those who live in most cities (also in decline because of our empty-the-country economic “policy”), it has been near Third World conditions for many years. The whole country now seems to be moving in that direction. All the while we are told that things are improving, but people who say that are looking at the stock market and CEO compensation, not the condition of the American family. Economic experts have been saying for several years that, for the first time in America, the current younger generation may not be “better off” than their parents.

Unbelievably, we are told constantly that we are better off, now that we have a global economy, even though we don’t produce much of anything. Politicians and pundits are telling us to this day that “competition” in the world market is good for us. They never explain how competing with people who are making anywhere between $5 and $30 a day is good for us, especially when much of what we buy ends up in landfills.

There is little or no debate about what kind of country we are becoming, what kind of people we are. We do not care about what other people think of us, as we conduct our continual wars and as we go about degrading our environment. That’s hubris.

A few months ago, President Barack Obama was quoted as saying, “Our top priority right now has to be creating new jobs and opportunities in a fiercely competitive world.”

Our first response should be that the U.S. was a prime mover in the creation of that “fiercely competitive world” and we did it without a thought to what it would do to the American people over a few decades. Now we know. We know it first-hand in the economic turmoil in which most American workers find themselves.

But there is no policy to deal with it. There is no debate or even discussion to begin to try to understand it on a societal level or a national level. We created the economic conditions in which we find ourselves, but we’ll never be told that by the politicians and the business leaders. These are the people who go through the revolving door between business and government. They are the insiders and they are the ones who direct the economy. Corporate America will admit this about as soon as they will admit they are guilty (without fear of prosecution) of economic crimes against the people and that the same people are in charge in both government and corporate boardrooms.

Those in charge are not telling us the truth about our condition and without the truth we can’t possibly know how to extricate ourselves from the mess we’re in. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union organizer. His union work started when he became a local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.

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