The most significant aspect of January’s jobs report is political. The fact that America’s labor market continues to improve is good news for the White House. But as a practical matter the improvement is less significant for the American work force.
President Obama’s only chance for rebutting Republican claims that he’s responsible for a bad economy is to point to a positive trend. Voters respond to economic trends as much as they respond to absolute levels of economic activity. Under ordinary circumstances January’s unemployment rate of 8.3 percent would be terrible. But compared to September’s 9.1 percent, it looks quite good. And the trend line – 9 percent in October, 8.6 percent in November, 8.5 percent in December, and now 8.3 percent – is enough to make Democrats gleeful.
But the U.S. labor market is far from healthy. America’s job deficit is still mammoth. Our working-age population has grown by nearly 10 million since the recession officially began in December 2007 but many of these people never entered the workforce. Millions of others are still too discouraged to look for work.
The most direct way of measuring the jobs deficit is to look at the share of the working-age population in jobs. Before the recession, 63.3 percent of working-age Americans had jobs. That employment-to-population ratio reached a low last summer of 58.2 percent. Now it’s 58.5 percent. That’s better than it was, but not by much. The trend line here isn’t quite as encouraging.
Given how many people have lost their jobs and how much larger the total working-age population is now, we’ve got a long road ahead. At January’s rate of job gains – 243,000 – the nation wouldn’t return to full employment for another seven years.
When they’re not blaming Obama for a bad economy, Republicans are decrying the federal budget deficit and demanding more cuts. But America’s jobs deficit continues to be a much larger problem than the budget deficit.
In fact, we can’t possibly achieve the growth needed to reduce the budget deficit as a proportion of the total economy unless far more people are employed. Workers are consumers, and consumer spending is 70 percent of economic activity. And cutting the budget means fewer workers, directly (as government continues to shed workers) and indirectly (as government contractors have to lay off workers) and therefore fewer consumers.
Yet deficit hawks continue to circle. State and local budgets are still being slashed. The federal government is scheduled to begin major spending cuts less than a year from now. Republicans are calling for more cuts in the short term. Austerity economics continues to gain traction.
Meanwhile Congress is debating whether to renew extended unemployment benefits. This should be a no-brainer. The long-term unemployed, who have been jobless for more than six months, comprise a growing share of the unemployed. (In January they rose from 42.5 percent to 42.9 percent).
Republicans say unemployment benefits are prolonging unemployment, that people won’t get jobs if they get unemployment checks from the government. That’s claptrap, especially when there’s only 1 job opening for every 4 people who need a job. Republicans also say we can’t afford to extend jobless benefits. Also untrue. Jobless workers spend whatever money they get, and their spending keeps other people in jobs.
Government should extend unemployment benefits, and not cut spending until the nation’s rate of unemployment is down to 5 percent. Then, and only then, should we move toward budget austerity.
The job situation is better than it was but it’s still awful. The jobs deficit is still our number one economic problem. Forget the budget deficit until we tame it.
Link to original article from Robert Reich's Blog
Economic and Social Justice -
Tennessee congressman Stephen Fincher is very angry that the federal government is committed to preventing poor people from starving to death:
Stephen Fincher, a deranged Republican congressman from Tennessee, is very angry that the federal government is committed to preventing poor people from starving to death: Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who supports cuts to the program, had his own Bible verse from the Book of Thessalonians to quote back to Vargas: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
The program in question is SNAP, better...
Justin Doolittle |Alternet 22 May 2013 Hits:122 ESJ Articles
The latest in "healthy" foods that are not actually good for us is Greek yogurt. Over at Modern Farmer, Justin Elliott explains that every three to four ounces of milk produces only one ounce of the creamy snack, and what's left becomes acid whey, " a thin, runny waste product" too toxic to dump because whey decomposition could potentially turn waterways into aquatic-life-destroying "dead seas."
Now, with a rapidly expanding $2 billion Greek yogurt market, the question has become, what to do with the whey? According to Elliott, the Northeast region alone produced...
Kristen Gwynne | AlterNet 22 May 2013 Hits:311 ESJ Articles
Tribal leaders trucked the battered old home to Washington to show the nation’s leaders what the housing crisis on reservations looks like in person.
Last month, a new building joined the Washington Monument and the Capitol building on the National Mall. The small, run-down shack had previously housed 13 people, and it was brought to Washington, D.C., from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to raise awareness about the critical need for housing on reservations around the country.
"It's very difficult to get anybody to leave Washington to see it...
Mark Andrew Boyer | Yes Magazine 20 May 2013 Hits:97 ESJ Articles
Frustration with the failed execution of various weakly-constructed legal settlements stemming from widespread foreclosure fraud bubbled over today into a protest at Justice Department headquarters that culminated in homeowners being arrested.
Using tactics and rhetoric familiar from 2011’s Occupy Wall Street demonstration, a group of activists and foreclosed homeowners marched on the Justice building in downtown Washington, D.C. According to tweets and photographs from activists on the scene, protesters moved past a police barricade and attempted to establish a sit-in, at which point police began arresting homeowners and activists.
Why the renewed...
Alan Pyke | ThinkProgress 20 May 2013 Hits:117 ESJ Articles
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is the latest plan of conglomerates to strengthen their grip over the planet.
A corporate world order is emerging, and like any parasite, it is slowly killing off its host. Unfortunately, the "host" happens to be the planet, and all life upon and within it. So, while the extinction of the species will be the end result of passively accepting a corporate-driven world, on the other hand, it’s very profitable for those corporations and their shareholders.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the latest...
Andrew Gavin Marshall | AlterNet 12 May 2013 Hits:149 ESJ Articles
The US-EU free trade pact and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests.
In polite circles in the United States, support for free trade is a bit like proper bathing habits: It is taken for granted. Only the hopelessly crude and unwashed would not support free trade.
There is some ground for this attitude. Certainly, the US has benefited enormously by being able to buy a wide range of items at lower cost from other countries. However, this does not mean that most people in the country...
Dean Baker 02 May 2013 Hits:159 ESJ Articles
Wage theft is fast becoming a top trend of the 21st-century labor market.
Imagine you’ve just landed a job with a big-time retailer. Your task is to load and unload boxes from trucks and containers. It’s back-breaking work. You toil 12 to 16 hours a day, often without a lunch break. Sweat drenches your clothes in the 90-degree heat, but you keep going: your kids need their dinner. One day, your supervisor tells you that instead of being paid an hourly wage, you will now get paid for the number of...
Lynn Stuart Parramore | AlterNet 28 Apr 2013 Hits:804 ESJ Articles
Hundreds of New York City's lowest-paid workers walked off the job Thursday at over 60 of the city's fast food restaurants to say, "We deserve better."
In what people are calling the largest ever protest of its kind, over 400 workers from the country's biggest corporate "food" chains—including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, and KFC among others—took part in the action.
“We deserve better," said Glenda Soto, a McDonald's worker. "I work very hard. I’m a single mom, I have 3 kids, and on $7.25 an hour I can’t support them, and I...
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams 04 Apr 2013 Hits:297 ESJ Articles
The proposed cuts now on the table could be seriously bad news for young people planning to enter the workforce in coming years.
For most teens and twentysomethings, the raging debate in Washington over Social Security reform probably seems as relevant and engaging as PBS’s Friday night lineup of Antiques Roadshow and Jerry Lewis: Live from Las Vegas.
But the proposals on the table could be seriously bad news for young people planning to enter the workforce in coming years.
President Obama has offered to break the sequester gridlock by recalculating inflation in a way...
Scott Klinger | AlterNet 24 Mar 2013 Hits:450 ESJ Articles
Millennials have accumulated less wealth since entering the workforce than their parents did at the same age, even as the economy has grown and the average wealth of Americans has doubled.
When Vernardo and Claire Simmons-Valenzuela married, they imagined all the trappings of a middle-class life. Soon enough, they had kids. Claire finished a master's degree. They held jobs as an Army medic and a physician's assistant. They dreamed of next steps: owning a home, taking their first vacation in years. Vernardo would return to school for a bachelor’s in nursing....
Zach Duffy | Campus Progress 23 Mar 2013 Hits:494 ESJ Articles
Ramon Suero fell behind on his mortgage payments after he got fired for organizing a union.
Suero, a hotel worker and UNITE HERE Local 26 member in Boston, got his job back after a year. But then his wife had to quit hers and travel to the Dominican Republic to care for her sick mother—and they fell further behind.
They applied to modify their home loan, but federally sponsored mortgage company Freddie Mac said no, foreclosed, and demanded the family get out by February 1.
The Sueros aren’t...
Alexandra Bradbury | Labor Notes 18 Mar 2013 Hits:308 ESJ Articles
Leaving her husband became the only option for "Stacy" after he became violent with the children. She returned to her hometown, Las Cruces, NM, with her 5 little boys in tow. Other than lacking an emergency family shelter, this is a pleasant mid-sized city. The family stayed for a while at the domestic violence shelter. Her time there ended without her finding housing, and she scrambled for a desperate, stopgap solution: her mother’s old, tiny camper.
For $300 a month, including utilities, the family could park their leaky camper in a park in her town. She...
Diane Nilan | AlterNet 18 Mar 2013 Hits:529 ESJ Articles
Debates over the fairness of the tax code are as old as the federal income tax itself. A cornerstone of the tax — established a century ago, by the 16th Amendment — has been the principle that those who make more should pay more, while lower tax rates help the poor to support their families and depend less on government benefits.
That social compact shifted into high gear during the Nixon administration, which tried to incentivize work by rewarding low-income households with a tax break that became the nation’s most successful...
KATHERINE S. NEWMAN | The New York Times 13 Mar 2013 Hits:401 ESJ Articles
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a large increase in jobs in February as compared to January. At the same time the January jobs data was revised lower, which gave a boost to the February number. Let’s look at what happened to the people behind the numbers.
This graph shows two sets of data: the Employment to Population ratio and the Labor Force Participation rate. These are updated with February data.
They show that the percent of the population employed has not changed in February....
Randy Shannon | PDA Pennsylvania 10 Mar 2013 Hits:205 ESJ Articles
AFT President: "This is not about how to fix public schools, but to close them."
Philadelphia is going to shutter 23 public schools following a vote Thursday night by the School Reform Commission, despite an emotional protest and numerous arrests, exemplifying the city's continued embrace of privatized school reform at the mercy of the public school system.
Critics of the closures point to the disproportionate number of minority children impacted, arguing that the move would further discourage students from enrolling in public schools, fueling a growing push towards...
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams 08 Mar 2013 Hits:567 ESJ Articles
In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its...
Bill Clinton | The Washington Post 08 Mar 2013 Hits:394 ESJ Articles
Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose above 14,270 – completely erasing its 54 percent loss between 2007 and 2009.
The stock market is basically back to where it was in 2000, while corporate earnings have doubled since then.
Yet the real median wage is now 8 percent below what it was in 2000, and unemployment remains sky-high.
Why is the stock market doing so well, while most Americans are doing so poorly? Four reasons:
First, productivity gains. Corporations have been investing in technology rather than their workers. They get tax credits and deductions...
ROBERT B. REICH | ROBERT REICH 06 Mar 2013 Hits:394 ESJ Articles
When the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law almost 23 years ago, the idea of inclusion for people with disabilities was legally born. Ramps were built, infrastructure was redesigned and, for the first time, the law backed people with disabilities who demanded their right not to be blocked from physical access to facilities.
But more than two decades the ADA became law, the ideal of inclusion has yet to be fully realized. Because enforcement of the statute is largely complaint-based, many public businesses are still inaccessible for people in...
Reid Davenport | Open Secrets Blog 06 Mar 2013 Hits:345 ESJ Articles
California Teamsters are paying to lose their jobs because of a scheme called the California Twilight Enterprise Zone Program.The program allows businesses to receive tax breaks of $37,500 for each new employee they hire in one of California's 40 Enterprise Zones. The program encouraged two Teamster employers to dump their union workers, move to an Enterprise Zone, hire cheaper workers and get tax breaks in the bargain.One employer, Atlanta-based Blue Linx, is a building products distributor. And get this: it lists "safety, respect and learning" as its values for "People." VWR is...
Teamster Nation Blog 06 Mar 2013 Hits:401 ESJ Articles
Thank you for being among the over 400 organizations, representing more than 15 million Americans, that co-signed the letter to Congress expressing deep concerns about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and opposition to the outdated "Fast Track" trade negotiating and approval process.
Your joint letter was submitted to Congress today, and it couldn't have been more timely. The letter comes just one business day after the President included Fast Track in his 2013 Trade Policy Agenda, and the same day as negotiators from 11...
Arthur Stamoulis | Citizens Trade 04 Mar 2013 Hits:414 ESJ Articles
During the Great Recession, the wealth gap between whites and African-Americans nearly doubled, leaving white with nearly 22 times as much in household wealth. According to a new study from Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy, this merely exacerbated a much longer trend during which the wealth of whites exploded while that of African-Americans stagnated:
In 2009, a representative survey of American households revealed that the median wealth of white families was $113,149 compared with $6,325 for Latino families and $5,677 for black families.
Looking at the same set of families over a...
Pat Garofalo | Think Progress 03 Mar 2013 Hits:443 ESJ Articles
One spring afternoon, O. Perry Walker High School Principal Mary Laurie made her way to the school's courtyard, where a lone student sat at a picnic table with a large…
On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court will hear a case that has the potential to give big corporations free rein to write contracts that prevent consumers from ever holding them…
For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.
While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in…
Rebecca Williams has waited tables, on and off, for 30 years. A lot has changed since her first stint in the business ended in the early 1990s. Restaurants now tout…
Kathleen VonEitzen heads into work at 10 p.m. with a long night ahead of her. A trained baker, VonEitzen spends the evening and early morning hours cutting and shaping trays…
You may have seen charts like the one to the right from theEconomic Policy Institute, showing how working people’s wages stopped going up along with productivity gains.
This means the gains…
Changes in tax law that reduced the federal tax rate on capital gains income is “by far the largest contributor” to rising income inequality in the United States, according to…
CHICAGO - "Their story of enslavement and their escape started in the slums of Manila. Sleazy 'recruiters' scoured the streets and lured the workers here with assurances of plenty of…
Last October, Anthony M. Van Buren drove 135 miles south from his home in Charlottesville, Va., to the small town of Moneta in search of his former boss, Robert Brown,…
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PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.
Our special guest this month is Marc Armstrong, the Executive Director of the Public Banking Institute in California. Marc will be discussing the problems with our banking system and the possibility of public state-owned banks as a potential...
Monthly call with special guest, Cathy L. Hurwit, Chief of Staff for US Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). Cathy will be discussing Rep. Schakowsky's Emergency Jobs Act, the CPC 'Back to Work Budget,' and other jobs legislation.
Special guest Arthur Stamoulis, the Executive Director of the Citizens Trade Campaign will discuss the urgent proximate issue in Congress of Fast Track legislation. He will review highlights of the Trans Pacific Partnership and how Fast Track...
CALL AGENDA: Lori Wallach provided background on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)--who's involved with it, who's opposing it--with special focus on Trade Unions. She'll also identify the key issues and timeline, and finally discuss next steps...
Logan Martinez, member of the National Jobs for All Coalition Executive Committee
Mike Hersh, PDA Staff Member
We will discuss:
how the fight for jobs is connected to the fight for equality,
the connection between...
Featured Guest - Mel Rothenberg from the Chicago Political Economy Group
Since the 2010 election PDA has worked to build a movement for economic and social justice around key legislation introduced by members of the Congressional Progressive...