Whenever communities, lawmakers or activists question or criticize Walmart for the way it treats workers—the low-pay, the stores’ impact on the communities—the retail giant pulls out a well-worn script with a simple message, “Walmart creates jobs and if there’s one thing this economy needs, it’s more jobs.”
Setting aside the quality of the jobs for another day, is Walmart telling the truth? Sure doesn’t look like it, according to Salon’s Kathleen Geier, who matches Walmart’s claims against in-depth research from universities, economists, government studies and other sources. Here’s what she finds:
Contrary to Walmart’s self-glorifying mythology, the retailer is anything but a job creator—in fact, it is a huge job killer. Not only that, destroying jobs is an essential component of Walmart’s anti-worker business model.
Using data from more than 3,000 counties, [the] results show that when a Walmart store opens, it kills an average 150 retail jobs at the county level, with each Walmart worker replacing about 1.4 retail workers. These results are robust under a variety of models and tests.
A 2009 study by Loyola University found that the opening of a Chicago Walmart store was “a wash,” destroying as many jobs as it created. According to the report, “There is no evidence that Wal-Mart sparked any significant net growth in economic activity or employment in the area.” Says Geier:
In short, when Walmart comes to town, it doesn’t “create” anything. All it does is put mom-and-pop stores out of business.
Walmart’s job-killing spree doesn’t stop at the city limits. The remains of once good jobs are scattered throughout Walmart’s entire supply chain. Its cut-throat drive for lower prices, writes Geier, squeezes suppliers to deliver goods at the lowest possible prices and that means cutting labor costs—aka jobs.
Walmart’s using that specious jobs argument in its fight to block a living wage law in Washington,D.C. Find out more here.
Article originally appeared on AFL-CIO NOW on August 6, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety
The DREAM Act was first introduced as a bipartisan measure in 2001, but has languished in Congress ever since. Republicans have blocked the bill, which would help young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children gain citizenship. President Obama says he supports the policy and issued a directive in June to help protect DREAMers from deportation by giving those who qualify temporary legal status.
But if Congress passed the DREAM Act and granted legal status to eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, it would add an additional $329 billion to the U.S. economy and 1.4 million more jobs by 2030, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress and the Partnership for a New American Economy. Enacting the DREAM Act would boost the economy first by improving the education and job opportunities for young undocumented immigrants in the U.S. A legal status and education contribute to higher earnings:
“This report proves a fundamental truth about the contributions of immigrants to the American economy: we absolutely need them to continue our economic growth,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Partnership co-chairman. Critics argue that legalizing undocumented immigrants only would create new workers who would take American jobs, but the new report shows that the economic benefits of the DREAM Act would ripple throughout the economy and create new employment.
While the research about the economic benefits of the DREAM Act does not take into account any costs of implementing the law, the report’s authors say the future costs would be minimal. Previously, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the DREAM Act would increase federal revenues by $1.7 billion over the next 10 years and reduce federal deficits by $2.2 billion over that time. And the DREAM Act could also help fill the 16 million shortfall of college-educated workers that is expected to hit the U.S. by 2025, especially in science and engineering.
This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on October 1, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Amanda Peterson Beadle is an editorial assistant at ThinkProgress.org. She received her B.A. in journalism and Spanish from the University of Alabama, where she was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper The Crimson White and graduated with honors. Before joining ThinkProgress, she worked as a legislative aide in the Maryland House of Delegates. In college, she interned at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire, the Press-Register (Mobile, Alabama), and the Ludington Daily News. She is from Birmingham, Alabama.
The role of training and experience was glaringly obvious in the National Football League’s lockout of its longtime officials. Glaringly obvious as in, the scabs the NFL brought in to replace the experienced referees were first a national laughingstock and then even more widely reviled for their errors on the field. It turns out not just anyone can officiate a professional football game. But what about other kinds of workers?
We’re told that part of the American character is to work hard and take pride in it, and that’s reflected in what we see around us. It’s not just people whose work results in big paychecks or offers the chance to climb the career ladder quickly or get public recognition, it’s a value as alive among low-wage workers as among the highest-paid. But something you hear a lot less about than the value of hard work is the value of skill. This is weird, because presumably if you’re working hard, one of the things you’re working at is getting good at what you do. If you’re taking pride in your hard work, it’s not just pride in how tired you are at the end of the day but at how well you did things, how accurate or efficient you were, how you got something right that not everyone would have gotten right.
But when there’s a labor dispute, or when Republicans are trying to undermine how voters think about other workers to set the stage for taking away pensions or collective bargaining rights, suddenly, to hear them talk, you’d never know that this was a nation that values hard work, because in those moments we’re told it’s not that hard, any idiot could do this job. It’s not that hard to referee a professional football game, so call up the guys who washed out of the Lingerie Football League. Experience is overrated for teachers, so throw people into the classroom after a few weeks’ training, they’ll do fine. More than fine! The youth and energy of the barely trained new teacher will be better than the experience of that useless old teacher. Suddenly, the drive to denigrate the workers becomes so strong that the CEO or the governor asks us, expects us, to forget the years of work that these workers have put into learning their jobs, learning how to teach or to run a snowplow or a cash register.
As the AP’s Paul J. Weber writes, “Professing expertise can also bring on suspicions of elitism and scratch an itch to knock someone down a peg”—an itch that the Roger Goodells and Scott Walkers and Mitt Romneys of the world and the generations of union-busters and racers-to-the-bottom who laid the groundwork for them will hasten to throw poison ivy onto. Hell, if you’re not itching, they’ll sneak up behind you with the poison ivy. But as Weber details, it’s not just on the football field that experience and the commitment that comes from doing a job for years matter.
— In Houston, Adrianna Vasquez makes $8.60 an hour doing what she knows people think is the world’s most replaceable job: She’s a janitor. When the 37-year-old returned in August to resume cleaning the 100 toilets on 10 floors in a downtown Chase Bank tower after a citywide janitor strike that won a 12 percent raise, Vasquez said the bathrooms cleaned by replacement crews looked like stalls in a seedy bar. “I just wanted to cry when I saw it,” she said.
— In New York, Consolidated Edison locked out 8,000 workers in July and brought in replacements from other states to work power lines and operate the grid. It ended just as severe storms hit and threatened power outages. “Not enough people that knew what they were doing,” said John Melia, a spokesman for the Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America.
Most people are willing to concede that it’s better if you have some training and experience before working with power lines, but cleaning toilets? There’s a job that gets basically no respect. But even aside from the toilet-related unpleasantness, it takes physical stamina and attention to detail. Yet among Republican politicians and at Republican think tanks, to say nothing of at big corporations trying to squeeze every last dollar of profit out of their workers to maximize that CEO bonus, the fact that janitors working for the government make a living wage and get benefits is an outrage.
Another piece of the 1 percent’s disrespect for the work of the 99 percent is disrespect for the very real training it involves. At the same time Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was trying to impose harsh new evaluation systems on his city’s teachers, for instance, the teachers had to fight for training so that they would be able to get better at what they do. But training is something workers often fight for, and it’s something that in many industries sets union workers apart—not their work ethic or their drive, but the fact that their unions have been able to bargain for training in the workplace or have put money into union-run training programs. The AFL-CIO’s Alison Omens details just a few of the union training and safety programs you might find:
Remember Captain Sully and “Miracle on the Hudson?” He was a huge safety advocate through his union, serving as the Air Line Pilots (ALPA) representative during a National Transportation Safety Board investigation and as a local air safety chairman.
How about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center? The people who are thousands of feet in the air are union members, as well as veterans. The AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department’s (BCTD‘s) training program Helmets to Hardhats works across the country to train veterans for high-skill construction projects, including at the World Trade Center. […]
The president of a Chicago-based construction company who works with union workers says this about his experience: “Here’s what [the union’s] training center means to me: We’re getting the highest caliber craftsmen in the business. It’s going toward productivity and attitude.”
But when those same workers who are, through their unions, bargaining for and investing in the best available training are in the way of corporate profit or a Republican governor looking to make his mark, they’re portrayed as greedy, lazy, corrupt, doing a job that anyone could do with a day’s notice and expecting to be able to feed their families and even go on vacation every couple years.
Forty years of the war on workers has led us to this deeply dysfunctional, contradictory place where workers and their labor are concerned. Hard work is great. If you’re not rich and you don’t work hard, brutally hard if your boss requires it, you’re a bad person who deserves poverty. If you’re not rich and you expect your hard work to be valued with pay or benefits those at the top don’t want to give, expect to see your work and experience and skill mocked as nothing. And if you’re at the top? Your wealth is justified by your hard work, supposed or real. About other people’s hard work, the only question is how cheap you can get it.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on September 30, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
The title of this post sounds great, doesn’t it? “JOBS!”
That is what I thought when I saw the headline on a Tea Partier’s facebook status; however, my initial excitement faded when I read the attached story (which appears to be a press release from Kohl’s that has not been modified by the AP):
MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. (AP) — Kohl’s Department Stores says it plans to hire more than 52,000 holiday employees nationwide this season, up more than 10 percent from last year.
Kohl’s expects hiring an average of 41 employees per store. The Menomonee Falls department store chain has 1,146 stores in 49 states. Kohl’s will also hire about 5,700 seasonal employees for its distribution centers and credit operations unit.
The company says the 52,700 seasonal employees will work anywhere from a few hours to more than 20 hours per week. It plans to fill the jobs by mid-November. Typical jobs include cash register sales, stocking, freight processing and unloading trucks.
Seasonal temp jobs—that most likely do not pay anywhere close to a living wage. If you are hired as a cashier you would likely earn a little over $16k a year working at Kohl’s. As a seasonal temp employee you would not even earn that. You would earn around $8.00 an hour and maybe some commissions. Hardly what one would consider a “good job.”
The bottom line, not all jobs are created equal. We cannot get excited about seasonal temp jobs with low pay. We need good jobs that pay a living wage to get out of the economic morass brought on by trickle-down economics.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on September 20, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mark Anderson, a Daily Kos Labor contributor, describes himself as a 44 year-old veteran, lifelong Progressive Democrat, Rabid Packer fan, Single Dad, Part-time Grad Student, and Full-time IS worker. You can learn more about him on his Facebook, “Kodiak54 (Mark Andersen)”
A study out of Australia found that people in poor quality jobs (those with high demands, low control over decision making, high job insecurity and an effort-reward imbalance) had more adverse effects on mental health than being unemployed.
Yep, a crappy job can be harder than no job at all. Holy Fosters.
“The researchers analyzed seven years of data from more than 7,000 respondents of an Australian labor survey for their Occupational and Environmental Medicine study in which they wrote: As hypothesized, we found that those respondents who were unemployed had significantly poorer mental health than those who were employed. However, the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or more often superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality. The current results therefore suggest that employment strategies seeking to promote positive outcomes for unemployed individuals need to also take account of job design and workplace policy.”
Okay, some of you will take the gratuitous Fosters reference and the Australian sample for the study and blow this off. But you’ll do this to your own detriment.
I believe that this part of “down under” applies perfectly to “up and over” (or whatever words you choose to describe the opposite of “down under”).
Leaving out one important fact, a crummy job allows you to pay your bills in a way that no job usually doesn’t, I’m still reticent to toss this finding into the round file.
I’m not tossing it for one main reason, there is a major belief out there that it is always better to look for a job when you have a job. Because you’ve got both the economic and emotional security to come across better in an interview.
But this finding does cast a shadow on that concept. Because a crummy job can actually deplete your energy to the point that you can’t get hired.
I’m not sure that I’d ever suggest to someone to leave their job to increase the chances they’ll get a new one. But it does suggest that everyone who is unemployed should realize that there are certain advantages that go with the turf. And lord knows, it’s important for anyone who doesn’t have a job to grab every advantage that they can.
Thankfully the researchers didn’t limit their findings to just out of work people. They added a comment directed at employers too. Perhaps employers could be persuaded to be more mindful of the mental health of their workers — happier employees are a benefit to their employers. “The erosion of work conditions,” the researchers noted, “may incur a health cost, which over the longer term will be both economically and socially counterproductive.”
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winningworkplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected].
I’ve had countless people write to me, as a workplace columnist, to describe the security guard standing next to them as they packed up their soon-to-be-former desk and painfully did a final perp walk out of the building.
Mine was not nearly that cinematic. Just me, a bunch of boxes and a coworker with whom I shared the office looking ashen. That might not mean much to you, but considering that she is African American, it was a weird way to see her.
Lucky for me, the company I worked for is not exactly a burn-the-candle-at-both-ends-kind-of-operation. Except for the days when there is an afternoon staff meeting, mostly the building starts to clear out about 3 pm. That’s when people choose to show up for work at all.
So as I scrambled to pack up my stuff, luckily I saw precious few people.
As I walked down the hallway, one guy grabbed me by the shirt and said, “You’re the lucky one here, you get to escape this zoo.”
Another woman didn’t say a word. She just hugged me with a tear in her eye. She started to say something and then just grabbed me again. Then she scurried down the hall.
One image kept coming to mind as I try to sum up the feelings that were circulating around my psyche like really powerful Jacuzzi jets in the hour after being fired. It was an old family picture, let me explain.
My sister lived with her husband for ten years. Then one day we got a call that she was moving out, into her own apartment. Within hours of that call, my mother had strategically removed any photos that contained my sister’s ex from the house.
But there was one photo that my old man really liked, so my mom couldn’t just toss it. The photo was of our extended family that was decoupaged onto a piece of wood. My mother was more than up to the challenge. She scratched out my sisters husband’s face and body, leaving a gaping hole in the photograph. She then glued a tree over where he’d been.
It might have worked, if my ex brother in law had been standing on the end of the assembled group of family members. But seeing my family gathered around that clumsily glued tree makes me laugh to this day.
That’s exactly how I felt. Like I was crudely scratched out of my own picture. In the coming days I probably will find the words to discuss the emotional devastation in greater detail. But suffice it to say that it is a searing pain that someone who is fired won’t soon forget.
My a-ha: If people in Seattle have a million ways to describe rain, people who are fired have as many to describe the numb feeling that comes over your body and soul. Try as you may to orient yourself, it only comes to you with the passage of time. At least I hope so.
Next installment: No soup for you.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected].
My boss, and his henchman, arrived promptly for the meeting to discuss my sales update. It was 4 pm on Friday afternoon, approximately 48 hours ago.
I knew something was up because my boss started speaking totally in sentence fragments. “I’ve made up my mind, things aren’t working out, I need people to get along, it’s time for a new direction, you can’t be having fun.”
Later I remembered that many termination specialists, like George Clooney in the movie “Up in the Air,” advise bosses when they fire someone to never pull a Donald Trump and say the “F” word. So it becomes a very weird game of firing euphemisms that fall on you drop-by-drop, like a painful kind of water torture.
I said something, I honestly can’t remember what it was. This triggered my boss’s loop to start all over again, albeit in a slightly different order. “Things aren’t working out, I need people to get along, you can’t be having fun, it’s time for a new direction, I’ve made up my mind.”
I don’t know if he just screwed up the speech the second time, or if the termination gurus suggest that the firing sentence nuggets be shuffled like a deck of cards before being delivered each time.
Either way it was totally disorienting. Because he didn’t tell me directly that I was being fired, I had to say the word inside my own head. So what happened is that I ended up firing myself. How sadistic is that?
I do remember my next question, I asked why I was never given a chance to change my behavior before I was fired. The reply was quick, and clearly rehearsed, “Come on Bob, we’ve got lots of documentation.”
Documentation? Did anyone think to share it with me before I was fired? After? It would be nice to be consoled that there is a filing cabinet somewhere that answers the riddle of my firing, but clearly being fired by my company is a process that makes the selection of the Pope appear totally transparent.
Was the relationship between me and my boss flawed? You betcha. But it could have been humane to at least have one counseling session before the execution. Heck, even a kangaroo court would at least provide the illusion of concern and participation.
But alas it was not in the stars for me. My trial, sentencing and execution were neatly wrapped in one ten minute meeting.
Believe it or not, I’m a best-selling business author. And yes, this greatly increases my embarrassment of being fired, but it also puts me in an interesting place to observe the process. I’m going to try to deal with the salt-in-the-wounds quality of writing about my own firing, partially as personal therapy, but mostly to increase the rate of healing for everyone else who’ll follow in my footsteps. And more of us, than we’d all like to admit, will undoubtedly go this route at some point.
Finally, I’m not going to mention the name of my former company anywhere in this blog. Because ultimately it’s not about them. It’s about my journey to regain my sanity and gainful employment.
My a-ha: In the absence of embezzlement or a dead body, people should always get a chance to change their behavior before being fired.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected].
This diary is the contents of an email widely distributed by Cynthia Koebert. It was written by her mother Jo Koebert to her brother. Permission of both Koeberts to distribute has been granted.
Here are the words of Jo Koebert:
I am a Wisconsin resident who was born and raised in Milwaukee. I come from a working class family, and although I am lucky enough to spend some of the winter in Arizona, I am deeply connected to my Wisconsin roots. As I watch what is going on in Madison right now, I think about what unions have meant to our family.
My father had no skills other than the willingness to work hard, but he made a living wage because of the automobile union. He didn’t get rich, but he was able to provide for us, buy a simple house and own a car. My uncle worked in a unionized factory, again with no specific skills, yet he had a steady paycheck and enough sense to invest and leave his wife a comfortable inheritance. Another uncle also worked in a factory under safe conditions thanks to the union. We became middle class because of unions and, of course, our willingness to get up in the morning and go to work. Several in our family worked for a time in a Milwaukee forge plant, where men worked hard, got filthy cleaning furnaces, but took home a living wage thanks to the unions.
When I was at the central office of Milwaukee Public Schools as an administrator and the teachers were on strike, I remember complaining about the power of the union because it was making our jobs harder. I also remember one of the decision makers candidly saying, “Jo, if they didn’t have a union do you know how we would screw them over?” The unions have been responsible for forming the middle class in this country, and our family has been the recipient of the fruits of their labor in negotiating contracts. Yes, there were times when they became too strong and the workers were as much at their mercy as they would have been from the company itself. Today, they no longer have that kind of power, but they do still give the little guy a voice. They are, in fact, the single most active political voice actually working on behalf of working and middle class Americans.
I realize that much of this has been forgotten by many people who are clamoring for the destruction of the unions. Maybe, as educators and as parents, we didn’t do our job well in helping our kids to understand the history of labor in this country. Maybe I needed to tell the stories my dad used to tell about what it was like during the fight to unionize when the National Guard was made to fire upon common men who were demanding to organize.
In Madison, the excuse for these proposed policy measures is about saving money, but it seems obvious to me that this is not true. When the unions made clear that they were willing to concede the salary and benefit reductions the governor is proposing, so long as they get to keep their collective bargaining rights—the lifeblood of union power—Governor Walker refused to negotiate. The true agenda is to get rid of the unions, which will eventually get rid of the middle class and the little power that those who are not in the corporate elite have at this time. I won’t be around to see it, but our young people have got to open their eyes to what is going on in this war against the have-nots, both in Wisconsin and on the national level.
We should not have to fight for PBS and NPR to be saved. We should not have to hear that a proposal to cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood programs has been introduced. This is serious and the agenda is much more than budget balancing. To my own family and all the others in America who share a similar history: may you never forget your roots. I come from the working class and I am proud of the people I see in Wisconsin fighting for their rights.
I am the Jo Koebert who wrote the letter mostly for family about the WI situation. You may distribute it if you wish, although I don’t know that it will change anyone’s mind.
Anyone wishing to contact MS Koebert may email me at kber at earthlink dot net
Posted by Kenneth Bernstein: Kenneth Bernstein is a National Board certified social studies teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he serves as the lead union representative for the teachers. He blogs as “teacherken” at Daily Kos and has written for The New York Times, Teacher, CNN.Com, and Huffington Post. He is a 2010 Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher.
Not the wars. Not greenhouse gasses. Not even the deficit. The issue most important to Americans is jobs.
Despite that, jobs failed to make an appearance in the State of the Union address.
The talk was all about business. Business was doing better. Business needed taxpayers to help pay for research and innovation. Business will get government help to eliminate pesky regulations. Business must have lower taxes.
The most telling statement was this:
“We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business.”
Especially because it wasn’t matched by a companion:
“We have to make America the best place on Earth to work.”
The speech expressed a policy in which business is the focus of government, taking precedence over workers. The American colonists created a government for their own benefit; they did not constitute an agent to serve business. A policy giving corporations primacy is risky for American workers.
The state of the union noted that happy days are here again for corporations and banks:
“Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.”
The state of the union outlined a plan under which the government will coddle corporations, essentially proving companies government welfare using American workers’ tax dollars. If businesses create jobs for workers as a result, fine. If they don’t, there’s no plan to exact a penalty.
For example, under the policy described in the speech, American workers will fork over tax dollars to pay for research and development for businesses that are sitting on a record $1.8 trillion in cash reserves — hoarding it rather than creating jobs.
The president said:
“Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”
Maybe it will create new jobs. Hopefully. But no guarantees were offered. Mentioned as a business success story in the speech was a Michigan company, Luma Resources, which began manufacturing solar shingles with the help of a $500,000 government grant. It created 20 jobs, $25,000 a job. American taxpayers might think that’s a little pricey, but what’s worse is the potential for Luma Resources to go the way of Evergreen Solar, squandering the corporate welfare.
Evergreen, the third largest maker of solar panels in the U.S. and recipient of at least $43 million in corporate welfare, announced earlier this month it would close its main American factory in Massachusetts and move manufacturing to China. Eight hundred Americans will lose their Evergreen jobs by April.
Evergreen officials said China will give the company even higher amounts of corporate welfare, which, of course, makes sense since China is not a capitalist country. Its economy is government controlled. And that government routinely violates international trade regulations – by providing banned subsidies to industries and by deliberately devaluing its currency.
No matter how better educated American workers get. No matter how much more innovative. No matter how much more productive. No matter how many tax dollars the government spends on research and development, if the corporations that benefit move manufacturing overseas, the American workers who paid for it will suffer.
In fact, it’s more than suffering; it’s betrayal by their government that provided tax benefits to companies for off-shoring jobs. It is betrayal by their government that fails to stop violations of trade laws by countries like China that lure away firms like Evergreen.
At the end of the State of the Union speech, the president said:
“From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream.”
An ordinary American dreams of a family-supporting job, owning a home, saving enough to pay for a child’s college education, helping to build a safe community. Corporations aren’t Americans, no matter how often the U.S. Supreme Court grants them rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to human beings. Businesses aren’t citizens. Their allegiance isn’t to America. It’s to profits. They dream only of dollars. They concede no responsibility to family, community or country.
They were not included when the president said:
“Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater — something more consequential than party or political preference. We are part of the American family.”
The top priority of the American government must be making America the best place on Earth for Americans. If that’s good for corporations, great. The government must never place American citizens second.
About the Author: Leo W. Gerard is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama recently appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of the Apollo Alliance, Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute. He is a member of the IMF and ICEM global labor federations and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union.
To break the inside-the-Beltway consensus that a robust, government-led effort to lower the unemployment rate this year should not be on the table for legislative debate, the Campaign for America’s Future this week announced that it is convening a “Summit on Jobs and America’s Future” on March 10 in Washington.
This summit is based on the proposition that it is both economically and politically insane for there not be an alternative to the conservative agenda, misnamed “cut and grow,” which would have the federal government fold its arms and back away as the job market continues to stagnate. Absent a bold, galvanizing jobs plan from either the White House or the Democratic leaders in Congress, it is up to the progressive movement itself to raise up such a plan and use it to change the limits of the unemployment debate.
The jobs summit is intended to be a place where progressive members of Congress, together with activists and the movement’s best thinkers, can forge the elements of political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy. (To register for the day-long conference, which is free, click here.)
President Obama actually helped set the framework for this in his State of the Union address. His call for a “winning the future” agenda that would include bolstering education, repairing and expanding our transportation networks, supporting universal availability of high-speed broadband and boosting research and development efforts can, done correctly, move us toward a new, greener and more sustainable economy of broadly shared prosperity.
In contrast, conservatives are doubling down on their blind faith, discredited by the slow decline of the middle class during the past decade and the climactic crash of the economy in 2007 and 2008, that cutting taxes and regulations alone will create an overflowing fountain of jobs from the private sector. Add to this the deficit mania that is fueling Republican plans to go beyond President Obama’s unprecedented pledge of a five-year freeze on federal spending to call for cuts of as much as $100 billion in domestic discretionary spending.
Of course, the conservative agenda is couched as being faithful to the message voters sent in the 2010 elections: focus on jobs and take actions that will reduce the federal deficit. But these cuts would truly be job-killing, not job-creating. On the chopping block would be a variety of aid programs that help fund state and local governments, which would force the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of public workers. More layoffs in private and nonprofit agencies would result from cuts in a broad swath of other services. Right-wing rejection of plans to build high-speed rail and bolster the rest of our transportation network has already killed thousands of jobs in the New York City area, and hundreds of thousands more jobs will be stillborn if the rejection is allowed to prevail.
The budget plans currently being embraced by congressional Republicans will deprive the nation of the basic building blocks the private sector needs to fuel long-term job growth: an educated workforce, a transportation network that moves people and goods effectively, a universally accessible Internet that is a platform for innovation and efficiency, research that can lead to the creation of the industries of tomorrow.
These policies are guaranteed to prevail, with disastrous consequences to our short-term and long-term economic future, if the only choices on the table are conservative and a “conservative lite” that accepts the basic premise that working-class Americans have to accept an era of austerity that includes unemployment above 8 percent for years into the future (while increasing shares of wealth continue to flow to the top) but is willing to offer an aspirin to dull the pain.
One way progressives must counter this is with an economic program that spends federal dollars today to put people to work today on the jobs that must be done today. That is a program that we should rally behind regardless of whether the political establishment deems it practical. The truth is, it is the right thing to do. It makes no sense that while we have close to 15 million people unemployed—6.4 million out of work for more than six months—we’re not funding jobs that would support the needs of thousands of communities. That would be especially true in the eight states—California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina—where unemployment last month exceeded 10 percent.
Progressives must also frame a long-term jobs agenda that adds meaningful substance to President Obama’s vision of “winning the future” through investment in education, research and infrastructure. The president’s past speeches have made the case that we cannot afford to drift into a re-creation of the old economy, with its cycles of bubbles and bursts, its stagnant middle-class income growth and its decaying public assets. And yet, yielding to the austerity crowd threatens to lead us down that very road. The result will be a nonexistent recovery for a broad swath of American workers and no progress on addressing the federal deficit. We can, and must, make the case that public investment in the essentials of economic growth now is the only way we can make progress toward bringing our budget deficit down to a sustainable level.
Getting this message into the center of the political discussion will require taking a page from the Tea Party playbook. On the right, a group of renegades embraced a platform based on a narrative that blamed the nation’s economic woes on the size of government—and mobilized voters in ways that shook the Republican political apparatus. If the Tea Party can do that with a fundamentally flawed analysis of our economic ills and the role of government, imagine what progressives can do with a sound analysis of where America is, where America must be and policies that can get us there that will revive hope and confidence in the future.
About The Author: Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of OurFuture.org since 2007 and also directs the Campaign for America’s Future’s online communications. Previously he had worked for 25 years in mainstream media, most recently at Congressional Quarterly, where he covered congressional leadership and tracked major bills through Congress. He also served as a founding member of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.