Under Bush, U.S. Economy Recovers, Unlike Workers
by Seth Sandronsky
September 22, 2003
The U.S. economy is now growing at a faster rate in 2003 than it was the previous year. Over half of the April-June growth was due to war spending, made possible by foreign lenders.
But the nation’s job market is not improving, with nearly 600,000 jobs lost this year. Some economists call this a “jobless recovery,” economic growth after a recession without new job creation.
On Sept. 16, the Federal Reserve Bank kept the short-term interest rate the same to try and stimulate the economy, while noting the weak job market.
The Fed’s slashing of interest rates to lows not seen in a generation has not spurred firms to hire new workers.
What of Bush’s three tax cuts and the jobless trap? “The Bush administration has pushed forward tax cuts that lead to deficits while providing only a modest amount of stimulus,” wrote Joseph Stiglitz, former World Bank senior vice president and chief economist, in the Sept. 17 edition of The Guardian of London.
The U.S. jobless rate was predicted to remain at six percent through the end of the year, said unnamed private forecasters cited in the Sept. 16 edition of the Financial Times. Persistent unemployment is a potential weak spot for the president.
Case in point is Bush’s recent remarks on the 2.7 million manufacturing jobs that the economy has shed on his watch. He, his administration and some members of Congress are busy trying to shift Americans’ eyes to the east.
For example, the value of China’s currency is being blamed as the cause of factory firms cutting jobs in the U.S. It is worth noting that manufacturing as a part of the American economy has been in a slow, steady decline since the war in Vietnam.
China-bashing today misses this structural change by a mile. Welcome to the politics of U.S. economics.
Bush recently characterized the lack of job creation as a “short-term problem.” If he is wrong, then his popularity could decline.
Retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO commander in Europe and the most recent entrant of the Democratic Party seeking the presidential nomination, knows that. He has promised “to restore the millions of jobs that have been lost.”
Some three million jobs have disappeared since Bush became president. “From 1996 to 2000, the economy created more than 3 million jobs a year,” wrote Dean Baker, an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Consider this proposal for job creation. Now is the time for a government-financed jobs program that pays a living wage with full health care benefits to workers and their families.
There are plenty of unmet and partially met human needs nationwide, plus a crumbling infrastructure, to keep these new, decently-paid workers busy for a long time. Moreover, this jobs program would address the link between unemployment and imprisonment, with all the racial disparities involved in America, incarceration nation.
I think that many of the nine million people officially out of work, plus the 30 million workers whose hourly wages are $8.70 or lower, would back such a government jobs program. With the U.S. war budget for the next fiscal year almost $500 billion (nearly equal to the federal deficit), now is the time to air such a proposal for popular feedback.
This jobs program could be a part of the peace movement’s platform, with anti-war activists lending their impressive organizational expertise.
Organizers with United for Peace and Justice and Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER), please take note, and proceed accordingly as you work to build opposition to the Iraq invasion and occupation with a big march in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 25.
Churches, community organizers and unions also have a vital role to play addressing the national jobs crisis. Together with the anti-war movement, they can be a force for organizing to create more social justice.