Posts Tagged ‘economy’
Thursday, October 9th, 2014
The deficit scolds are getting what they wanted: Today the Congressional Budget Office announced that the federal deficit for this fiscal year is the lowest it has been for any year in the Obama presidency – $486 billion, or 2.8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
The rest of us, though, aren’t getting what we were promised. Conservatives have repeatedly told us that cutting federal spending, and reducing deficits, would unleash economic growth and create jobs. Instead, what we have to show for it is a languid economy at best, with only enough jobs for half the people who are unemployed and looking for work.
Economic growth is weak enough that the Federal Reserve, at its September meeting, agreed that it was not ready to signal that an interest rate increase would come soon, for fear of further hindering economic growth. “[I]t would be prudent to err on the side of patience while awaiting further evidence of sustained progress toward the Committee’s goals,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in its September meeting minutes. It added that “the costs of downside shocks to the economy would be larger than those of upside shocks” because it would be easier for the Fed to withdraw future stimulative efforts than to add them.
The evidence keeps piling up that the bipartisan consensus that we needed to focus on deficit reduction instead of full employment was disastrously wrong. Following that consensus has worked for Wall Street and the 1 percent – with the only stimulus to the economy being the Fed’s asset-buying program – “quantitative easing” – and near-zero interest rates, equity prices have risen to record levels. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which before the 2008 crash peaked at 14,164, today closed at 16,994, an almost 20 percent increase. That’s good if you own stocks, but if you’re a working-class American, what really counts is that your wages have been flat. In fact, when you account for the disappearance of high-wage jobs and the proliferation of low-wage ones, workers have seen an average decline in wages of 23 percent. Plus, with corporations focusing on boosting their stock price instead of rewarding their workers for their productivity with improved wages and benefits, there has not been the level of consumer spending that encourages a virtuous cycle of more hiring to keep up with consumer demand.
The shame is that we could have gotten the same news of a lower deficit from the CBO through a much better route. Nick Bunker at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth cites economists Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong, and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, as three of the powerful voices saying that the United States should have taken advantage of low interest rates and low inflation to spend heavily on infrastructure – and create jobs.
Summers and DeLong, Bunker writes, argue that “all expansionary fiscal policy can be self-financing—not only infrastructure spending but also other forms of government spending and transfers. … [C]urrent fiscal policy that quickly puts the economy back toward its long-run potential will be paid for by the future output it created.”
In other words, spending to put people to work on projects that support the future growth of the economy more than pay for themselves in the long run – including by tangibly lowering the federal deficit through growth. On the other hand, high unemployment is an economic cost, and slashing the budget in a mindless pursuit of low deficits does not erase those costs.
The news of a low deficit may have quieted the deficit scolds, but their flawed ideology has not gone away. Far from it. That’s why it’s important that we get the story straight, and tell it straight to people who will be voting in November.
This blog originally appeared in OurFuture.org on October 8, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141008/the-deficit-is-falling-but-where-are-the-jobs
About the Author: Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of OurFuture.org since 2007. Previously he worked for 25 years in mainstream media, most recently at Congressional Quarterly, where he covered congressional leadership and tracked major bills through Congress. Most of his journalism experience has been in Washington as both a reporter and an editor on topics ranging from presidential politics to pop culture. His work has put him at the front lines of ideological battles between progressives and conservatives. He also served as a founding member of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
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.
She cites a study led by Economist David Neumark—who, by the way, has written against raising the minimum wage in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
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.
Read the full article.
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
Friday, May 10th, 2013
A stunning 73.4 million young workers are estimated to be jobless in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013, according to an International Labor Organization (ILO) report released Wednesday. Even worse, the number of unemployed young workers is likely to increase through 2018, with the long-term impact felt for decades, the report forecasts.
According to “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A Generation at Risk.”
The youth employment crisis will not be overcome without stronger employment growth. But job growth will not happen on its own. The report urges nations to adopt aggressive policies for improving job growth, including strategies targeting employment of disadvantaged youth. Further, nations must invest in education and training and ensure labor rights are based on international labor standards “to ensure that young people receive equal treatment and are afforded rights at work.
The report also finds:
Increasing the participation of young people in employers’ and workers’ organizations and in social dialogue and improving their awareness about young workers’ rights—including through modules in school curricula—are key instruments for enabling young people to voice their concerns and for improving the quality of jobs available to them.
Among the report’s findings:
- Young workers are increasingly employed in non-standard jobs, including temporary employment and part-time work. Informal employment accounts for half of young workers in the Russian Federation.
- In 2012, youth unemployment was highest in the Middle East (28.3%) and North Africa (23.7%) and lowest in East Asia (9.5%) and South Asia (9.3%).
- Gender gaps in youth unemployment rates are exceptionally large in the Middle East and North Africa.
- In all developing countries surveyed, more young people receive below-average wages than average or above-average wages. This trend is strongest in Cambodia, Liberia, Malawi and Peru, where two-thirds of working young are classified as poorly paid.
- Young people continue to suffer disproportionately from decent work deficits and low-quality jobs, measured in terms of working poverty, low pay and/or employment status and exposure to occupational hazards and injury.
Underlying the inability of young workers to find jobs, the report finds, is the persistent unavailability of quality, full-time jobs; the proliferation of temporary jobs; a skills mismatch; and the growth of informal, subsistence jobs in developing countries.
Packed with charts and graphs, the 150-page report also includes case studies highlighting best practices for addressing youth unemployment, including Peru’s job action plan and the dual apprenticeship program offered in some European countries.
Report: 73.4 Million Young Workers Jobless in 2013 originally appeared on the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center’s website.
This article was posted on the AFL-CIO on May 9, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Tula Connell has a background in journalism—covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia—She started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), She now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows the country needs to increase union membership significantly, create universal health care, a universal retirement system (beyond Social Security), expand college attainment and achieve gender pay equity to create more “good” jobs in the United States.
CEPR defines a good job as one that pays at least $19 per hour, has employer-provided health insurance and has some kind of retirement plan. In previous reports, they showed there has been a significant decline in the past 30 years in the share of good jobs in the United States. The decline comes despite increases in productivity and educational attainment of the workforce.
The report notes that one of the key reasons for the decline in good jobs in recent decades is the decline in union participation. Increasing the percentage of the workforce that belongs to unions translates to an increase of good jobs of just less than 7%.
In the report, CEPR has five primary conclusions:
- It will take big steps to increase the number of good jobs in the economy, and none of the policies they propose would be sufficient alone.
- Eliminating bad jobs is easier than creating good jobs.
- Pursuing more than one of these policies would raise the number of good jobs more than the sum of the two policies individually.
- Increasing the membership of unions creates more good jobs than a comparable expansion of college attainment would, and it would do it more quickly than expanding college attainment.
- Gender pay equity would erase most of the good jobs gap between men and women.
Read the full report.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on April 29, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.
Monday, April 8th, 2013
Republicans are suffering grievously from the syndrome that singer Joni Mitchell memorialized in the hit “Big Yellow Taxi” in 1970. The chorus says it all:
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Republicans bellyached for years that government must shrink. It had to be smaller. Cut the budget come hell or high water, they yammered. Well, darn if the sequester hasn’t brought hell and high water to Republican districts across America. Now Republican lawmakers can’t stop carping about how small government shouldn’t occur in their districts. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till you vote to kill it?
Paradise was among the first to go. Specifically, the paradise of American parks. The National Park Service, complying with the mandate that it slash about 9 percent of its budget through September, reduced hours, cut staff and stopped providing some services such as campgrounds,based on recommendations from each park superintendent.
Among the campgrounds shut down are those at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The state’s Republican Senator John Thune is feeling particularly grumpy about that. He accused the Park Service of closing his campgrounds instead of cutting wasteful and duplicative spending, examples of which he neglected to offer.
He’s singing the whiny sequester tune popularized by Republicans who refused to raise taxes on the rich to reduce the impact of $1 trillion in indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts they demanded. They all said they wanted smaller government. They huffed and they puffed and they threatened to take down the nation’s economy until they got it.
Now that it’s here, now that it’s affecting their constituents, Republicans contend the $1 trillion in indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts they demanded should have been specifically targeted to eliminate only “waste, fraud and abuse.”
That’s a confusing assertion, though, from the party insisting on smaller government, the party whose members swore loyalty oaths to Grover Norquist, the anti-government lobbyist who infamously said government must be shrunk small enough to drown in a bathtub. Even if every speck of waste, fraud and abuse that anyone could ever uncover were eliminated, it wouldn’t add up to $1 trillion. And it wouldn’t shrink government.
Government might be more efficient, but it wouldn’t be smaller. Smaller government requires cutting actual services and programs—like Thune’s campground.
So far, Republicans haven’t wailed about cuts to programs for struggling families such as unemployment benefits, public housing, daycare aid for poor working women, the home heating help called LIHEAP, or the food assistance called WIC that impoverished mothers use to feed their babies.
There has been no Republican backlash about the Energy Department laying off 250 workers and furloughing another 2,600 at the nation’s largest Superfund cleanup site, Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, where radioactive contamination began with the Manhattan Project and continued for 40 years.
Instead, Republicans protested cuts to programs more likely to affect wealthier constituents. That is, constituents more likely to make campaign donations.
They’ve griped like crazy about the decision to stop White House tours, about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closing 149 control towers at small airports and about the reduction in service at National Parks.
The FAA announcement that it would be forced to close the towers in order to slash $637 million from its budget as sequestration requires sent Republicans from rural areas into a tizzy.
One after another stepped up to say stuff should be cut, somewhere, you know, but not their control tower. Several suddenly experienced the realization—something Democrats have been saying for years—that slashing federal spending harms the economy.
Here, for example, is Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas contending the FAA should preserve a tower in his district to prevent damage to business:
A closure of the air traffic control tower at Victoria Regional Airport will have a negative economic impact on the city of Victoria, Texas and the surrounding region.
Similarly, here’s Republican Congressman Dennis A. Ross railing against closure of the tower in his Florida district because it’s needed for the annual SUN ’n FUN Fly-In convention:
SUN ’n FUN not only provides incredible economic value to Lakeland, but it serves our children by investing $1.4 million dollars annually in education. It is unacceptable to cut this important funding.”
Rep. Ross suggested, instead, eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse to make our government more responsible, effective and efficient.”
Like every other Republican who opted for abolishing “waste, fraud and abuse” instead of cutting services to his own district, Ross failed to specify any examples.
Republicans may have some difficulty spotting waste, fraud and abuse because they’re a little too close to it. Incensed that visiting constituents will be denied visits to the White House, the GOP-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform devoted its “government oversight and reform” efforts to producing a video criticizing the sequester-caused White House tour cancellations.
That video definitely qualifies as waste.
Republicans never knew what their districts had gotten from the federal government. Until it was gone. Until after they’d paved it over with the sequester. Now they’re stalled in an economically barren parking lot of their own creation.
This article was originally posted on the Working In These Times on April 2, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Leo Gerard is the president of the United Steelworkers International union, part of the AFL-CIO. Gerard, the second Canadian to lead the union, started working at Inco’s nickel smelter in Sudbury, Ontario at age 18.
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
We already covered how sequestration cuts will affect your state, but here’s an update on the pain these cuts are causing in communities across the country since they went into effect March 1.
Think these cuts aren’t painful? Think again. Here are some highlights on the sequester’s reign of terror from newspapers and media outlets across the country:
FAA To Close 149 Airport Control Towers Due to Sequestration
Head Start Programs Gutted by Sequestration Cuts
Sequestration Will Take Big Bite from Medical Research Funding
Military Tuition Assistance Taken Away After Sequester
Sequestration to Force Weeklong Closure of Government Agency
Meals on Wheels Suffers Amid Sequestration
23 Tooele County Employees Laid Off Due to Sequestration
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel break down local stories even further. See a longer list of the devastating cuts here.
Remember, the sequester is a completely made up, dumb idea and can be easily repealed by Congress. This year alone, 750,000 will lose their jobs because of the sequester.
Working families are calling on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts (i.e., raising the retirement age and the “chained” CPI), repeal the sequester and close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2%.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 22, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Jackie Tortora is an blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.
Monday, March 18th, 2013
Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board ridiculed the absurd notion from the Missouri state Senate that somehow union members (teachers, nurses, secretaries, pothole fixers and home health care workers) are to blame for the state’s economic woes. “Oh, please,” the board responds.
In its editorial, the board points out Missouri state workers are the lowest paid in the country.
Early Tuesday morning, while some of those workers were helping roll over your grandma or grandpa at the nursing home so they didn’t get bed sores, the Republicans who lead the state Senate set things right. They gave initial approval to a bill that will make it a little harder for the unions that represent those public employees to collect fees that might be used to elect thoughtful people to elected office.
The board says that the Republicans in Missouri didn’t want to feel left out of the union-bashing that occurred in Wisconsin and Michigan, so they followed suit pushing through legislation crafted by “their corporate overlords in the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes cookie-cutter legislation written by corporate lawyers to enhance their bottom lines.”
In one of the last key legislative weeks before the spring break, the Senate:
- Raised taxes on poor people.
- Cut taxes for rich people.
- Hurt teachers, nurses and other public employees.
The S.B. 29 paycheck deception bill, which makes it harder for unions to collect fees from its members (which are voluntary), is such a “farce,” the board adds, that its sponsor, state Sen. Dan Brown (R), was unable to explain its purpose.
First responders, police and firefighters are exempt from the bill.
Call your representative now at 888-907-9711 and urge him or her to oppose paycheck deception, “right to work” for less and anti-prevailing wage bills.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 12, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Jackie Tortora is an blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
An interesting look at the unemployment rate. “What is currently a temporary long-term unemployment problem runs the risk of morphing into a permanent and costly increase in the unemployment rate” unless Congress takes action to create jobs.
Why the Unemployment Rate Is So High – New York Times
Unemployment claims have increased slightly. “The Labor Department says applications rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000, the most in five weeks.”
Unemployment claims rise slightly in latest week – USA Today
“We need to avoid a lost generation of young people who will be playing economic catch-up their whole lives. We cannot stop pressing our leaders to help struggling poor and middle-class Americans.”
Crowdsourcing our economic recovery – CNN
Even though the economy is improving, we need to do more to ensure the long term unemployed get back on their feet. Long term unemployment makes it harder and harder to provide for one’s family, and causes dramatic increases in mental illness. It’s time Washington gets busy putting people back to work.
Long-Term Unemployed Winning Jobs Or Giving Up? – Huffington Post
This article was originally posted by ChangeToWin on January 11, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Change to Win is an organization created by over 5.5 million workers – if corporations can join together to hire an army of lobbyists, working and middle class Americans must also band together and restore balance by making sure we have a strong voice and a seat at the table again.
(Colleen Gartner is an intern at Workplace Fairness.)
Wednesday, December 26th, 2012
New data has shown that while a majority of jobs eliminated during the downturn were in what we describe as the middle range of wages, the great majority of jobs added as the economy improves were low paying jobs, reported Katherine Rampell in the business section of the New York Times on Friday, August 31, 2012. This was documented in a study done by the National Employment Law Project.
The study by Annette Bernhardt examined 366 occupations followed by the Labor Department. Bernhardt separated them into three equal groups by wages, with each representing a third of American employment in 2008.
The middle third consisted of jobs like construction, manufacturing, and information. These jobs paid median hourly wages of $13.84 to $21.13. Over 60% of these jobs were lost during the recession. When the middle third jobs returned, they represented only 22% of total employment growth.
In the category of higher wage occupations, those that had a median wage of $21.14 to $54.55 reflected only 19% of job losses. However, when growth in the economy began, only 20% of new jobs were the result of the upturn. This was only a 1% increase which doesn’t even cover new entrants into the labor force.
Low wage jobs with median hourly wages of $7.69 to $13.83 accounted for 21% of job losses during the downturn. The startling fact is that low wage jobs now constitute 58% of all job growth. The jobs with the fastest growth were retail sales at a median wage of $10.97 per hour. At this salary, workers would be eligible for food stamps.
Each category has grown by more than 300,000 workers since June 2009. Many of these new paying jobs were taken by recent high school and college graduates who were previously unemployed. Others were taken by older workers who formerly had jobs that paid much more, who were desperate.
Mid-wage and middle class jobs have been disappearing at a rapid rate. Some of this is due to automation, but the bulk of the job loss is the result of employers taking millions of jobs overseas to low wage paying countries.
At the same time, corporations and their Republican robots are passing so called “Right to Work” legislation which further erodes the wage structure. The labor movement, the trade unions, and their progressive allies are the only institutions that can bring back middle class livable wages.
This post was originally posted on Union Review on December 19, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Seymour Slavin is an Independent Nonprofit Organization Management Professional at Union Review.
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
A constant conservative charge against President Obama is that he is inherently anti-business. However, businesses keep defying the storyline by making larger and larger profits, rebounding nicely out of the Great Recession.
In the third quarter of this year, “corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% from a year ago.” Corporations are currently making more as a percentage of the economy than they ever have since such records were kept. But at the same time, wages as a percentage of the economy are at an all-time low, as this chart shows. (The red line is corporate profits; the blue line is private sector wages.):
Corporations made a record $824 billion in profits last year as well, while the stock market has had one of its best performances since 1900 while Obama has been in office.
Meanwhile, workers are getting the short end of the stick. As CNN Money explained, “a separate government reading shows that total wages have now fallen to a record low of 43.5% of GDP. Until 1975, wages almost always accounted for at least half of GDP, and had been as high as 49% as recently as early 2001.”
This post was originally posted on Think Progress on December 3, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Pat Garofalo is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.