Labor's Voice for Change (42) June 9, 2009

14.5 Million People (9.4%) Need a Job;
Are We Headed for a ‘Jobless Recovery’?

By Harry Kelber

The misery of 345,000 people who lost their livelihood in May would normally be considered a national calamity that would attract public attention for days, if not weeks. Yet government officials and economists were very pleased by their plight, because the job loss was less than in April, which meant that the recession was slowing down. Or they put it in another way: “It could have been worse.”

No one in the Obama administration or Congress seems unduly concerned that the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 268,000 in May to 3.9 million and has tripled since the start of the recession in December 2007. Most of these people, in desperate circumstances, must be wondering how the stimulus package will help them, and when.

Responding to criticism that the jobs program is underfinanced and moving too slowly, President Obama announced that his administration would “save” or create 600,000 jobs this summer. Apparently, Vice President Joe Biden has been put in charge of the effort. Biden said that 125 teenagers had been hired for temporary summer jobs and he equated that with 62.5 full-time jobs.

Members of Obama’s cabinet have been told to give Biden a list of projects “that they were absolutely certain of that they could get up and running in the next 100 days.”

It is nearly four months since the $787 billion stimulus package became law, but it is still not clear how many, and what kind of, jobs will be created beyond Obama's assertion that he expects to add 3.5 million jobs in two years. Whatever progress is made is kept within the White House staff; while the media and the public are given abstract information,

The Chrysler and General Motors bankruptcies will mean an initial loss of 21,000 jobs, but the Center for Automotive Research estimates that there will be 63,000 permanent job losses in the industry this year and 179,000 next year. Not only will many jobs disappear, but so will many companies. And those companies that will remain will be restructuring their workforce. One thing is certain: workers will be in for a hard time —unless they have the protection of strong unions.

The Infrastructure Plan of the 1930’s Enriched America

What is unfortunate about the Obama administration is its helter-skelter approach to infrastructure projects. By contrast, the New Deal, under the direction of Harry Hopkins, WPA administrator, employed several million workers on public works projects that literally changed the face of America. In less than two years, they built or improved 225,000 miles of roads, 30,000 schools, nearly 4,000 playgrounds and athletic fields, about 1,000 airports, and hundreds of hospitals, post offices, bridges and dams courthouses and other installations, including the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

If President Obama is looking for a model of how to put people back to work in productive jobs, he should have his aides check on the New Deal.

Article 43 of “Labor’s Voice for Change” will be posted on Thursday, June 11.

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