Obama’s Response to the Jobs Crisis is Still Too Lame

Left Margin

Obama’s Response to the Jobs Crisis is Still Too Lame

By Carl Bloice – BC Editorial Board
Black Commentator
June 14, 2012

http://www.blackcommentator.com/476/476_lm_job_crisis_share.html

Quite often, media reports and commentaries about the
rising tide of unemployment – especially amongst young
people – in other parts of the world are accompanied by
warning of dire consequences if the trend continues.
Images of major social protests and even acts of
violence are evoked. Take, for instance, Europe. The
highest youth jobless rates on the continent are
reported to be 50.5 percent in Spain, 51 percent in
Greece and over 30 percent in Ireland, Italy, Bulgaria,
Slovakia and Portugal.

Sometimes this situation is described as a ticking time
bomb, sometimes not. In Greece where “young bear the
harshest burden of the economic crisis,” wrote Randall
Fuller in the New York Times last week, “they do so
with a mix of denial, frantic exuberance and a
debilitating sense of the absurd.”

We repeat figures as if this were the natural order of
things

As I read those words, I sat back and wondered what
could be said of the response in the African American
communities where jobless rates for young people have
been just as high for decades.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate for African
Americans between 16 and 19 years old now stands at
35.5 percent, up from about 27 percent when the crisis
began five years ago. What’s more, the youth jobless
rate in some inner city communities is about 50 percent
and has been for some time.

Economist Dean Baker points out that “By demographic
group, the worst story is among black men and black
teens. The former has an EPOP [employment-to-population
ratio] that is 6.5 percentage points below its pre-
recession level. Black teens have an EPOP of 15.5
percent, down 9.0 percentage points from the 2006
level. The EPOP for black women is down 3.7 percentage
points from its pre-recession level, but has risen 3.2
percentage points from lows hit last summer.”

We repeat figures such as these regularly, and often
perfunctorily, as if this were the natural order of
things. The alarm bells being set off over the number
of young people out of work in Europe should remind us
it is not.

Living at home with one’s parents because they cannot
afford live elsewhere – or living in the streets – is
nothing new for millions of African American and Latino
youth.

Lay off austerity, which is only exacerbating the
problem, and act now to stimulate their economies

“The recent developments are indeed a disaster and you
might also call the situation a political scandal,”
writes Henning Meyer in Social Europe Journal May 22.
“How is it possible that more than one in five young
people in Europe have no job and so many more are
working in precarious circumstances?” How often is such
a question raised around here?

“We cannot afford a lost generation in Europe,”
concluded Meyer. “We must tackle and solve the problem
now!”

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the richest and most
powerful nation on the planet, the prospects for a
solution remain remote.

“Everyone is talking jobs but saying nothing,” wrote
Robert Borosage, president of the Institute for
America’s Future, recently. “The inadequate recovery is
sputtering and no one is doing anything.” “In the phony
war on unemployment, no one has picked up a gun. We’re
going through the motions, waiting for the misery to
ratchet up, the cities to blow and corporate profits to
tank before getting serious.”

“But if Republicans have nothing to say about jobs,
neither do Democrats,” continued Borosage. “They are
terrified by polls that say voters are concerned about
deficits. So every jobs program has to be `paid for’ –
and, almost by definition, small. Obama issues a `to do
list’ for Congress that even his aides have a hard time
pretending to be excited about.”

However, the President does have a job plan. It’s
hardly up to the challenge facing us but it’s a start.
The problem is, after presenting it a few months ago,
it dropped pretty much out of sight. Last week he
brought it up again at a press briefing and in the
process, created a muddle. It’s one thing to blame the
Republicans for refusing to act on the jobs crisis
(what else is new?) and another to inform the nation of
the seriousness of the situation and rally the people
for action, something he and the Administration appear
loathe to do.

The question is not simply whether or not new jobs are
being produced. In a capitalist economy jobs are
constantly being created, sometimes in large numbers.
The question is whether enough are coming on line to
meet the population increase and make up for the
positions lost due to things like technological
innovation or the effects of globalization. If not,
there will be more people without jobs. When the
President says that the policies being pursued by his
Republican opponents would only increase the
discrepancy, he has a point. And yes, the situation in
Europe exerts a somewhat negative effect on the
economic prospects here. But to say, as he did last
week, that “the private sector is doing fine” at
creating jobs is just plain wrong.

The President later appeared to backtrack somewhat,
saying, “I think if you look at what I said this
morning, what I’ve been saying consistently over the
last year, we’ve actually seen some good momentum in
the private sector.” “There’s been 4.3 million jobs
created, 800,000 this year alone, record corporate
profits.” He added: “And so that has not been the
biggest drag on the economy.” It causes one to wonder
just who is advising the President these days and why
he continues to avoid the advice of the “Keynesians”
who have left the White House inner circle or those who
were never invited in.

There will never be a better time for the `internal
improvements’ that we need to make

But it’s going to take more than the President’s
current plan to really meet the jobs crisis. Proposals
for meaningful action do exist. For one thing, as
Borosage notes, current low interest rates “offer the
U.S. a remarkable opportunity to rebuild the country.
There will never be a better time for the `internal
improvements’ that we need to make – rebuilding roads,
bridges, mass transit, sewers, fast trains, airports,
retrofitting public buildings, building up renewable
energy and more.”

Liberal economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul
Krugman have been calling for such a step for years
now, but to no avail.

The International Labor Organization says almost 75
million, or 12.6% of the young people across the globe
were jobless lasts year, an increase of over than 4
million since the current economic crisis began. Dr.
Ekkehard Ernst, head of the ILO’s Employment Trends
Unit, has called upon governments to lay off austerity,
which is only exacerbating the problem, and act now to
stimulate their economies. “What is quite obvious with
youth unemployment rates of over 50 per cent in these
countries is the first thing that needs to be done is
get jobs back . and that can only be done if you
stimulate the economy, for instance through
infrastructure programs, which are very job rich,” he
said.

The group Our Time – Standing Up for Young Americans is
circulating an online petition addressed to President
Obama and Governor Romney that reads:

“Our country needs nurses, teachers, disaster relief,
park restoration, infrastructure repair, and more. Yet
1 in 2 young Americans are currently jobless or
underemployed.

“A generation is a terrible thing to waste. Pledge to
create one million new public service positions by
expanding programs such as AmeriCorps, CitiYear,
Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, and others so
we can rebuild our country now.”

“The only question is how deep the crisis must go and
how crippling the pain must be before action is taken,”
says Borosage.
_____________

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice
is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly
worked for a healthcare union

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