Why is there such disconnect about American jobs?
In February, a Rutgers’ Heldrich Center study found that 73 percent of Americans either lost a job themselves, or had a member of their household, a close relative, or a friend lose a job at some point in the past four years.
We lost nearly 9 million jobs when the Great Recession began in December 2007 and took a particularly sharp dive in September 2008 after several large American banks required bailouts from U.S. taxpayers to pay off bad loans.
It was the worst economic crisis in most of our lifetimes.
Today, 56 percent of Americans responding to the Rutgers study also said they have less money saved than they did before the economic decline.
Yet any mention of job-building plans from the Obama administration is met with scoffs from most conservatives.
“No deal,” they said this week when the president offered a corporate tax cut to kick off a grand bargain to end sequestration and get the economy moving again. As part of the deal, Obama wanted the savings from ending tax loopholes to fund jobs initiatives.
Perhaps it is less a matter of conservatives listening to their constituents — that 73 percent of Americans with close and personal understanding of lost jobs — and more a matter of them listening to partisan noise and conservative media hype.
Partisan noise would obscure the fact that the 7.4 percent unemployment rate is lower than it has been in more than four years, and in the past 41 months the U.S. has added 7.3 million jobs. Media hype would have you thinking that jobs aren’t still important.
We still have about 2 million jobs still to regain to get back the 9 million lost when the housing bubble burst. We can get them back and then some if some of us would stop being stubbornly delusional and admit that we need a grand bargain in Congress and not a government shutdown.
“We’re seeing the economy slowly recover from the worst crisis of our lifetimes, and it’s important that we do what we can to speed the recovery,” said Alan Krueger on Friday, his last day as chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.
“Most importantly Congress should avoid getting in the way and causing a manufactured crisis,” Krueger said.
Krueger counters a claim by some conservatives that job growth is slowing because corporations have found they can do as much or more with fewer workers. Krueger, speaking on MSNBC, said 2.3 million of the new jobs in the recovery have been added in the past 12 months.
And, no, most job growth has not been in part-time positions, and no, Obamacare is not driving even a small increase in part-time work, Krueger said.
“That [conservative criticism] is highly misleading,” Krueger said. “If you look over this entire recovery, over 80 percent [of new jobs] has been full-time jobs. And since the [Affordable Care Act — Obamacare] passed, more than 90 percent of job growth has been in full-time jobs.”
He said the Labor Department did see some increase last month in part-time jobs “driven in most part by federal workers on furloughs.”
“This recovery has faced a lot more headwinds than other recoveries, and now policies like the sequester are slowing down the economy and slowing job growth,” Krueger said.
At midnight Saturday, Krueger returns to the private sector, in part to maintain his tenure at Princeton University.
He also served in 1994-95 as chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor.
He is optimistic about the country’s economic future — with one caveat:
“If Congress avoids the unthinkable, if they avoid the unnecessary government shutdown, or worse yet a fight over the debt limit, which jeopardizes our credit rating, which puts the faith and credit of the U.S. dollar at risk, … I look for continued and speedier recovery.”
Meanwhile Friday, the recess-bound House voted to gut Obamacare for the 40th time.
There is one bright spot.
On Tuesday, even as Republican leadership scoffed “no deal” to Obama’s Chattanooga offer of corporate tax reform for a grand bargain, at least one Republican still had his thinking cap on.
Sen. Bob Corker earlier this week called out the conservatives who want to link the defunding of Obamacare to a spending bill — thus creating a government shutdown threat. He called their plan “a silly effort.”
“It’s a silly effort, and what people are really saying who are behind it, is that we don’t have the courage to roll up our sleeves and deal with real deficit reductions and spending decisions. … I don’t call that very courageous.”
Nor do we, Corker.
Compromising and understanding that there is room for everyone’s success is what this great country is about.
It’s also what leaders do to govern and help that ideal become a reality.
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