A False U.S. Recovery
by Seth Sandronsky

January 17, 2004

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One thousand. That is the total number of new jobs the U.S. economy created in December, the Labor Department reported.

On average, 65,000 new jobs were created each of the three previous months.

Then in December there was a sharp stop in U.S. job creation.

Officially, the American economy is in a recovery mode. It is growing since the recession that began in March 2001 ended eight months later.

But recovering is not what the 309,000 people who left the U.S. work force in December are doing. These hapless and nameless souls are surely struggling to survive as best they can.

Recall that one assumption of the Bush administration (minus Paul O’Neill, former treasury secretary) has been that tax cuts would create jobs and growth. There have been three such cuts that favor the affluent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The American economy grew during the second half of 2003. Such growth in part has come from the blood, sweat and tears of U.S. workers.

They have been increasing their productivity, or output of goods and services per hour of work, without a corresponding rise in hiring. Call it increased intensification of work.

So it goes for wage workers in the U.S. Not all who labor productively, however, are on the radar screen of the nation’s economy.

What some have called “women’s work” is not counted in the official measure of a nation’s output, or gross domestic product. Therefore, the essential work that millions of women do, from the rearing of kids to the caring for elders, is not part of the government’s statistics.

Last December, last year and years before then, there has been joblessness in the U.S. Unemployment is a key part of a capitalist economy, writes Michael D. Yates in Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy (Monthly Review Press, 2003). [See a review of this book]

In 2004, people seeking paid work will feel the pain from budget cuts by state and local governments as joblessness increases. This trend further depresses the wages of the employed by weakening their buying power.

Working people in the U.S. are already awash in debt. “American households’ debt service ratio ­ the share of required debt payments to after-tax household income ­ has remained at or near historically high levels since the fourth quarter of 2001,” according to the Financial Markets Center.

In short, working folks in the U.S. are being battered by growth with few new jobs under the Bush White House. Curiously, its increased military spending to occupy Iraq and wage a world war against terrorism is not much stimulating business to expand payrolls.

When weapons contractors cheer new government contracts, new jobs do not appear on Main Street. It is facing a mean jobs crisis as the political system appears unable to respond in a way that improves the lives of working people.

Presumably, such folks must be patient for a recovery with new jobs. Yet the hiring boom that is just around the corner appears more distant as 2004 begins.

In the meantime, the season of a presidential election is gathering steam.

What President Bush does and does not say about the jobless recovery during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, January 20 may prove instructive.

As will be the responses of those with an alternative vision of society.

From my armchair, the U.S. anti-war movement is organizationally positioned to articulate the views of a true recovery, one that puts people first.

Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at: ssandron@hotmail.com

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