The August jobs report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics paints another grim picture for the unemployed. The August numbers show little change in the number of unemployed, with the economy creating barely enough jobs to compensate for the 150,000 new workers who enter the workforce every month.
According to the BLS, “the number of unemployed persons, at 14 million, remained essentially unchanged in August,” with the unemployment rate remaining at 9.1 percent.
Of course, the unemployment rate is higher amongst oppressed nationalities; at 16.7 percent for African Americans and 11.3 for Latinos. Add to this 14 million the 8.8 million working part-time jobs because they cannot get a full-time job and an additional 2.6 million workers that the BLS refers to as “marginally attached to the workforce,” and you get a clearer picture of the jobs crisis. More than 25 million workers in the U.S. are either unemployed or underemployed.
This crisis is compounded in cities like Philadelphia, a city with a 40 percent African American population, which has lost much of its former industrial and manufacturing base. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the current crisis has created a “lost generation” of workers, men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who “will not be able find any kind of work.”
This bad news comes in conjunction with the decision by SUNOCO to either sell off their local refineries or shut them down if no buyers are found. ConocoPhillips has also announced its intent to shut down its local facilities. Aside from the 2000 well-paying refinery jobs that could be lost, the ripple effect in the Port of Philadelphia would be tremendous. Almost 20 percent of the shipping traffic coming into Philadelphia is destined for these refining operations.
Liberals jump back onto Obama bandwagon
With the 2012 elections looming ahead, Obama unveiled his jobs plan at the beginning of September. The Obama’s jobs bill is in fact a massive giveaway of tax money to corporations. It would spread unpaid internship to the unemployed, as it includes a plan to force jobless workers to labor for companies while receiving only their unemployment checks. What’s more, the bill would be paid for largely through cuts in social programs, especially health care.
The right responded by accusing Obama of engaging in “class warfare” for his rather modest program of tax increases on the rich. The fact remains that the rich have accumulated an unprecedented 90 percent share of the wealth in the United States and are not interested in doing anything to relieve the crisis that has fallen on the backs of U.S. workers.
Of course, liberals who have been critical of Obama for not “standing up” to Republicans and for making too many concessions are happy to see the “old” Obama back. You know, the “good” Obama who is for “Hope and Change!”
AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, speaking at a press conference, praised the Obama plan with these words: “The president took an important step tonight—he started a serious national conversation about how to solve our jobs crisis. He showed working people that he is willing to go to the mat to create new jobs on a substantial scale.” Other liberal activists, like anchor Rachel Maddow and filmmaker Michael Moore, jumped back on the Obama bandwagon—conveniently forgetting the president’s vicious attacks on the living standards of seniors and his promises to cut budgets at the expense of the very workers he now champions.
The truth is that the Obama jobs plan is an inadequate bandage on a major wound to the arteries. Faced with what economists predict will be a decade of slow growth, the need for a massive project to create jobs is clear. In order to create the 25 million jobs we need, the economy would have to create almost 570,000 jobs per month over a five-year period. It’s obvious that the capitalist class and their political servants in both parties lack the will to tackle unemployment on any such scale.
Working people do not have a decade to wait around for the system to solve its problems. We need an immediate public works program to create jobs at top union wages and benefits. We need a national health system that makes medical care available and free to all. We need an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, an end to all foreclosures, and the full funding of Medicare and Social Security.
The bosses will say there’s not enough money to pay for all of these things, but that is not true. The capitalists created this crisis and they should pay for it. We call for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and mercenaries overseas and the spending of the wars dollars here at home. The banking and financial system should be nationalized under workers’ control, and their resources used to create jobs for the unemployed.
The capitalist class and its political mouthpieces have proven that they are not fit to rule. Their policies have destroyed whole eco-systems, started wars in every corner of the globe, and driven millions into poverty worldwide. Their crisis-ridden system needs to be replaced by a new society run by and for working people.
> The article above was written by John Leslie, and first appeared in the October 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.