Double Whammy – A Grim Jobs Picture & a Horrible “Grand Bargain” Move

By Carl Bloice – BC Editorial Board
Black Commentator
April 11, 2013

http://www.blackcommentator.com/512/512_lm_double_whammy.php

What unfolded in the corridors of power in the
nation’s capital last week portends a serious blow to
the interest of country’s working people and it came
hard from two directions.

“First, a terrible jobs report, then a Democratic
President offers a budget that proposes cuts to
Social Security and Medicare,” wrote Dave Johnson
of the Campaign for America’s Future. “The only
thing on the public’s mind is that we need jobs –
and the President comes out with a plan to cut
Social Security and Medicare. Is he telling the public
that cuts to Social Security and Medicare are
necessary to restore the economy and fix the jobs
crisis? Because whatever the administration thinks
it is doing, that is what the public will hear.”

What they actually heard was Austerity 2013 – U.S.
style. President Obama’s offering up a cut in Social
Security (make no mistake, that’s what it is)
contravenes promises he has previously made about
not undermining the program and a recent flat out
pledge by Vice-President Joe Biden that it would not
happen.

One unnamed “senior administration official” told a
briefing last week, “The president has made clear
that he is willing to compromise and do tough
things to reduce the deficit, but only in the context
of a package like this one that has balance and
includes revenues from the wealthiest Americans
and that is designed to promote economic growth.
That means that the things like CPI that Republican
leaders have pushed hard for will only be accepted if
congressional Republicans are willing to do more on
revenues. This isn’t about political horse-trading;
it’s about reducing the deficit in a balanced way that
economists say is best for the economy and job
creation. That’s why the president’s offer – which
will be reflected in his budget – isn’t a menu of
options for them to choose from; it’s a cohesive
package that reflects the kind of compromise we
should be able to reach.”

Not “political horse-trading”? You could have fooled
me. No one even maintains that the “chained CPI,”
is going to reduce the federal budget deficit. It’s a
chit the President has put on the negotiating table.

It’s irritating when political pundits come up, as
Josh Voorhees did the other day at Slatest.com, with
various versions of: “Most notably, that means
significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and
fewer tax hikes than he’d like – neither of which will
please the left.” Why? Because the “grand bargain”
being concocted in Washington is not between the
right and the left, or between the Republicans and
the Democrats. It’s between big business (capital)
and labor. The losers in this case will be the elderly,
orphans, veterans and people with disabilities.
Slightly higher taxes on the well-to-do will send not
one of them to their local food bank.

“Look, this is compromise,” White House senior
adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, said last Sunday. “And
compromise means there are going to be some folks
on both sides who are not happy.” “Yes, legislative
deals require compromise,” economist Robert Reich
wrote on his blog last month. “But why is it that
deals over economic policy almost always
compromise away what a majority of Americans
want?”

This is not “everybody doing his part,” as Gene
Sperling, assistant to the President for economic
policy told the nation the other day. It’s political
horse-trading with the welfare of the elderly,
orphans, veterans and people with disabilities on
the table.

“While cutting Social Security makes no sense at all
in terms of economics or public policy, it makes
excellent sense in terms of the selfish class interests
of the super-rich,” wrote Michael Lind in Salon.com
April 5. “They have extracted about half the gains
from economic growth in the U.S. in the last half-
century and recycle some of their profits to fund
politicians, and lobbyists, as well as mercenary
propagandists who pose as neutral think tank
experts.”

“This morning’s jobs report was a big negative
surprise and underscored the fact that a robust jobs
recovery, even now, has not yet solidified,” observed
Economic Policy Institute economist Heidi Shierholz
April 5. “The job growth of 88,000 in March was far
lower than the 2012 average increase of 183,000. It
is important to keep in mind that the month-to-
month numbers can be volatile, however; in this
case the first quarter average growth rate is likely a
better measure of the underlying trend. But at
168,000 per month, the average growth rate of the
first quarter is not even close to what we need – at
that rate we would not get back to the pre-recession
unemployment rate until late 2019.”

“The unemployment rate ticked down to 7.6 percent
in March, but not for good reasons,” continued
Shierholz. “The decline is due to people dropping
out of the labor force, not an increase in the share of
the working-age population with jobs. In fact, the
labor force participation dropped to its lowest point
of the downturn, 63.3 percent. What’s more, the
weak labor force participation is not due to
demographic factors like retiring baby boomers; the
labor force participation rate of the `prime-age’
population, people age 25-54, is also at its lowest
point of the downturn, 81.1 percent. It’s the lack of
job opportunities – the lack of demand for workers –
that is keeping these workers from working or
seeking work, not other factors.”

African-American unemployment slipped from 13.8
to 13.3 percent in March and black teen joblessness
fell from 43.1 to 33.8 percent. How much of that is
the result of black people finding sought after jobs
was not immediately clear. However, the labor
participation rate for African Americans as a whole
remained about the same over the month.

“What’s most concerning about these trends is the
prolonged double-digit rates of unemployment for
African American, Latino and less-educated
workers,” Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy
and Research at Demos and author of Strapped:
Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get
Ahead , recently observed. “While much attention
has been paid to the challenges facing indebted
college graduates who are now much more likely to
be working in jobs that don’t require a college
degree, the deep and persistent high levels of
joblessness and under-employment among young
people without four-year degrees (the majority of the
generation) is a silent crisis facing our nation. And it
demands a robust and national response.”

Regarding the March jobs numbers, Congressional
Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge said, “The African
American unemployment rate fell .5 percent to 13.3
percent, the most it has fallen in six months.
However, that number remains at nearly double the
national rate with 2.4 million African Americans still
out of work.”

“While the private sector has steadily added jobs for
37 months, the public sector, where many African
Americans are employed, continued to lose them.
Last month, 385,000 more requests for
unemployment benefits were made and by year’s
end, sequestration threatens to put an additional
750,000 people with full time jobs out of work,”
Fudge added.

Daniel Gross, global business editor at Newsweek’s
Daily Beast, wrote that he had found a “small
potentially optimistic note” in the latest government
employment report. A major problem, he wrote is
that while the private sector has been recently
adding jobs to the economy cutbacks in the public
sector have been “holding back the recovery in
overall employment,” having eliminated millions of
jobs “in part by firing police officers and teachers.”
Gross noted the situation with regards to public
sector jobs at the state and local levels, last month:
“The federal government cut about 14,000 positions,
with most of those coming from the postal service.”
“The non-Washington austerity hit to payrolls may
finally be coming to an end,” he continued. “That’s
the good news. The bad news? The Washington
austerity looks like it is just beginning.”

If and when the “grand bargain” being pushed by
the White House goes into effect it will make matters
even worse.

“The optimist in me sees that yet again we had
upward revisions and simply wants to believe that
these March numbers are wrong and will be revised
upward,” wrote columnist Matthew Yglesias at Slate
Moneybox. “But hope is not a plan.”

Nor does anyone seem to have one.

No, that’s not true. There’s the Congressional
Progressive Caucus budget that is far more sensible
and humane than anything the White House is
proposing. But since the “serious” people in
Washington don’t cotton to it, the serious
mainstream media won’t give it the time of day. Oh,
yes, and there’s the President’s Jobs plan, which
seems have to have evaporated into thin air.

As Jim Dean, the chair of Democracy for America,
said, Obama’s move is a “profoundly disturbing shot
across the bow for the progressives who called their
neighbors, spent weekends knocking doors and
donated millions to reelect [President Obama].”

“With this move, Obama gives progressives one less
reason to work for Democrats – and every American
citizen one less reason to vote for them,” Progressive
magazine editor, Matthew Rothschild, wrote last
week.

According to the AARP, its polling says 70 percent of
voters age 50-plus are opposed to the chained CPI
gambit and two-thirds of them – including 60
percent of Republicans – say they would be
“considerably less likely” to support a congressional
candidate if he or she supported it. As Solon’s Joan
Walsh reported, “On every single question,

Republicans lag only a point or two behind
Democrats in their opposition to Social Security
cuts.”

And, just in case, the Washington plotters are
banking on the “grand bargain” being upsetting only
to the elderly and people with disabilities, Derek
Pugh of Campaign for America’s Future, has an
important observation and reminder.

“Remember the catastrophe of 2010, when
millennials stayed home in large numbers,” Pugh
writes. “Polling data shows that a solid majority of
young adults (53 percent) wanted a Democrat-
controlled Congress. However, only 20.9 percent of
all eligible young people voted in the 2010
midterms. More than half of the people who voted in
2008 (51 percent) shied away from the polls. In the
months leading up to November 2014, Democrats
will have to try even harder to win the millennial
vote. Republicans are already poised to make some
headway: note the thousands of young people at the
Conservative Political Action Conference a few
weeks ago.”

“As the most diverse generation (39 percent are
people of color), millennials are more civically
engaged, progressive, open to change and tolerant
non-meddlers on social issues. Overwhelming, they
support same-sex marriage (78 percent), abortion
rights (68 percent), and immigration reform (78
percent). Democrats’ stance on social issues are the
main draw for young voters.”

“But demography isn’t destiny. It would be suicidal
for Democrats to take for granted a group that will
comprise almost a quarter of the electorate in 2014.
Progressive views on social issues are appreciated,
but are not sufficient. The number one priority of
millennials and the rising American electorate is
still economic recovery – and millennials need to see
Democrats being the champions of a recovery that
will allow them to rise.”

Last week, the very perceptive Grio managing editor
and MSBC commentator Joy-Ann Reid said the
President is probably confident that if he cuts the
proposed deal “Nancy Pelosi can deliver the votes in
the House and Harry Reid can do so in the Senate.”
Precious few of the people the two of them are
supposed to represent favor the Social Security
Medicare concessions, and they and their colleagues
ought to be reminded of that fact.

____________________

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member
and Columnist 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. Other Carl Bloice writing can be
found at leftmargin.wordpress.com

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