LaborTalk for September 25, 2011

The Trillion-Dollar Budget Cuts Will Mean
A Major Setback to the Campaign for Jobs

By Harry Kelber

It's been nearly four years since we were being told that the economic recession was officially over; yet today, there are 14 million people who are still listed as unemployed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (And we're not counting the additional 12 million who are part-timers and temporary workers, and those who finally gave up looking for work in a bleak job market.)

Labor Leaders were virtually unanimous in praising President Obama's $447 billion jobs bill, with some economists estimating that it would create as many as 2 to 3 million jobs by the end of 2013. But with Republicans strongly opposed, the Jobs Act has little chance of being approved by Congress, especially since there is no agreement as to who would pay for the $447 billion bill.

President Obama has been converted to the Republican view that cutting the federal deficit must be the top priority for the political parties. Without prior consultation with congressional leaders or organized labor, Obama struck a deal with House Speaker John Boehner for about one trillion dollars in spending cuts, with the prospect that the SuperCongress will recommend another $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by Nov. 23.

What this means is that hundreds, (maybe thousands) of projects, programs, even entire agencies, will be eliminated or sharply curtailed. We don't know which organizations are scheduled for the chopping block, but we're fairly certain that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on the list of intended victims. And it's questionable whether social agencies that serve the poor sick and elderly will remain unscathed. Obama has taken away the traditional cost-of-living benefits for retirees.

If you are working for one of the enterprises that are targeted for spending cuts, you may end up within the ranks of those millions who are desperately looking for work.

Private Industry Is in No Rush to Hire New Employees

What about private industry? Can we rely on Corporate America to supply us with urgently needed jobs? Very few companies are in a rush to hire new employees or rehire former ones. They've trained their employees to work harder and longer, often for less pay. If they need more help, they hire temporary workers.

In August 2011, the government reported no job growth, but many companies were still increasing their profit margins. It seems strange that in an era of economic recovery, there would be many companies who are laying off workers. For example, in August 2011, a little more than a month ago, 1,587 employers laid off a total of 165,547 workers. They say they'll hire when conditions get better, but they are making conditions worse.

The American people are in a deep economic hole that is getting deeper as new obstacles arise to complicate their jobs campaign. The U.S. is currently 6.9 million jobs below where it was when the recession started, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). And where are we going to find jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people who enter the nation's labor force each year? What do we do with the 6 million people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more?

* * * * *

Our labor leaders didn't criticize Obama the past year when he was busy with promoting massive spending cuts that could become job-killers. They did not rally their members to fight against spending trillions of dollars on reducing the federal budget deficit instead of using the money where it was urgently needed — to create jobs for workers and their families who are realizing that some of them may never have a job and a paycheck again,

While it will take an extraordinarily difficult campaign to get a split Congress to pass the Obama jobs bill, AFL-CIO leaders are not mobilizing their members for a full-scale national campaign. Instead, they are busy revealing the long-held secret to the public that "America Wants Work!"

Given the current chaotic state of our economy, it is anybody's guess how many jobs will be created, who will get them and when.

LaborTalk will be posted here on September 27, 2011 and on our two web sites www.laboreducator.org and on www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.

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