What Americans Need Are Jobs

unemployment-line-350Details 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.

The Wrong Assignment

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.”

The stock market hit record highs today. The jobs report was unexpectedly weak, after nearly 5 years of devastating unemployment and underemployment. So get on with it, please, ladies and gentlemen of the Committee.

Your 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.

Getting the Picture

You have your work cut out for you. This chart illustrates the millions of people who have been left behind by our anemic recovery.

2013-10-22-jobchart.jpg
This chart, on the other hand, shows that the deficit is falling rapidly — too rapidly, in fact, given the urgent need for government investment in jobs, infrastructure, and economic growth.

Please: Fix what’s broken, not what isn’t.

The Voodoo Didn’t Work

Some politicians and pundits still insist that lower taxes and reduced government spending will lower unemployment. They continue to claim that an agenda of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy — packaged nowadays with the misleading label “tax reform” – is a job creation program.

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If you’re one of the people who feels that way, our question for you is a simple one: Where are the jobs? Your agenda has been in place for more than a decade, with low tax rates for the wealthy and corporations, and cuts in government spending.

Corporate taxes are at or near a sixty-year low, and your “reform” would fix those historical tax giveaways for mega-corporations as a permanent tax rate. Millionaires and billionaires, who paid 73 or 74 percent on most of their income at the start of the Reagan era, now have a top official tax rate of 39.6 percent — and, thanks to plentiful loopholes, usually pay much less than that.

The cuts which have already been forced on us have cost the economy nearly 1,000,000 jobs, according to the most conservative estimate, while robbing our economy of tens of billions in growth.

Do you really think we want more of the same?

Common Sense

As Dean Baker recently pointed out, many Democrats nevertheless seem to have bought into the deeply misguided deficit agenda. That’s a profound error, both economically and politically. The American people are looking to Democrats to be the voice of reason. Please don’t let them down.

You can’t cut government jobs in an economy wracked by unemployment — an economy whose current “multiplier effect” translates them into many more nongovernment jobs which will be lost — and still tell us your approach works. Everything, including economics, common sense, and historical experience, tells us how to fix our economy: by investing in our economy and creating jobs.

So create some. Create some construction jobs, before our crumbling infrastructure robs our economy of even more lost growth — and starts robbing Americans of their lives. Create some teaching jobs so that our young people can get a decent education. Create some jobs for college graduates, who are facing career-crippling early-stage unemployment, so that they can go to work improving this country.

Please stop putting people out of work with government cuts, and start putting them back to work with government investment.

The “Grand Bargain” is neither.

And for God’s sake, conferees, whatever you do, don’t keep drinking the deficit Kool-Aid. Don’t cling to misconceptions which would lead you to make financial conditions even worse for the vast majority of Americans.

There’s talk of a so-called “Grand Bargain” to cut Social Security and Medicare. That would cause suffering for the disabled, and for today’s seniors – as well as tomorrow’s, which includes even the youngest of today’s Americans.

A “Grand Bargain” would also result in even higher unemployment. Most people on Social Security depend on it as their primary source of income, so cuts to benefits means they’ll spend less – -and less spending means fewer jobs.

Stand in the Light

rj eskowAnd don’t think the American people won’t be watching. Right now there’s controversy over minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s proposal to televise the hearings. That shouldn’t be controversial. The people’s business should be conducted in plain sight, where the people can watch, listen, and learn — who’s working on their behalf and who isn’t.

So, by all means, be courageous enough to do your work in the light. And don’t be misled into thinking that secret hearings will protect you in the voting booth. If you fail to carry out the mission the American people have given you, there’ll be no place to hide come election time.

Richard “RJ” Eskow
Huffington Post

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Published by the LA Progressive on October 24, 2013
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About Richard Eskow

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a former executive with experience in health care, benefits, and risk management, finance, and information technology. He is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America's Future and hosts The Breakdown, which is broadcast on We Act Radio in Washington DC.

Richard worked for AIG and other insurance, risk management, and financial organizations. He was also a public policy and finance/economics consultant, in the US and over 20 countries. Past clients include USAID, the World Bank, the State Department, the Harvard School of International Public Health, the Government of Hungary, as well as corporations and investors. He has experience in financial and numerical analysis (of benefit plans, financial risk, corporate investments), systems design, and management.

Richard has worked on long-range health policy and forecasting. His predictions are included in the recently-released Rough Guide To the Future in it's review of "the hopes, fears, and best prediction of fifty of the world's leading futurologists."

Richard is also a freelance writer. He's a regular columnist for the science and culture blog 3 Quarks Daily and a Contributing Editor for Tricycle magazine. His reflections on blogging and spiritual principles were included in Best Buddhist Writing of 2008.

Richard's also an (occasionally) working musician and songwriter who appeared regularly at venues such as CBGB's, the Washington Folk Festival, and motorcycle shows throughout the American South from 1970 through the year 2000. His last appearance was as the "opening act" for Gen. Wesley Clark in 2007, but he may be available again for the right price - or the right cause.
He can be reached at "rjeskow@gmail.com." His Twitter ID is "@rjeskow."