1. The Long-Term Unemployed Are in Dire Financial Shape.
Eliminating unemployment insurance will make matters much worse for those who are already experiencing a financial disaster. In 2009, the Heldrich Center conducted a national survey of workers who lost a job during the recession. When we re-contacted them in August 2011, we found that 4 in 10 were still unemployed or working part time and looking for full-time jobs. Among that group, three quarters had been out of work for more than six months. Fully half had been jobless for more than two years. Their financial condition is dire. They have not only reduced spending on things they would like to have, like vacations and clothing, but also on things they need, such as food, transportation, and healthcare. Sixty percent have sold possessions and borrowed money from family or friends.
2. UI Benefit Support Makes Re-employment More Likely, Not Less.
Eliminating UI will lead to less job seeking, not more. Our surveys found that–compared to people without UI support–those receiving UI spent more time each week going to job interviews and job fairs, networking with friends and colleagues, and scouring the Internet and newspapers for job openings. Enrollment in UI programs keeps workers in the labor market. They get more advice, encouragement, and training. And, job seekers on UI are required to regularly report to state employment agencies about their job search activities.
3. Cutting UI Benefits will drive up the cost of other government programs.
Without UI payments, more unemployed workers will drop out of the labor market and fall into other government safety-net programs. Seven in 10 of the long-term unemployed workers in our study described their financial condition as flat-out “poor.” Yet, the average UI benefit of $1,200 per month–less than the $1,400 average monthly cost of housing in America–is often the vital source of income that enables them to pay their mortgage and feed their family. Withdrawing UI will not solve the job crisis in America, but it will drive up spending in other federal programs, such as food stamps, disability insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Unemployed workers–who would much rather get a job than get a check from the government–will be driven to these programs as a last resort.
By: Carl E. Van Horn, U. S. News and World Report, December 9, 2011
As our economy struggles to regain its footing after the worst recession in the lifetime of most Americans, some Republicans in Congress seem determined to erect barriers to economic recovery. They threatened the full faith and credit of the United States. They brought our government to the brink of a shutdown. They have consistently failed to offer meaningful legislation to encourage job creation. And most recently, they refused to ask our nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay their fair share toward our national security and other vital public services.
Now, in the midst of the holiday season, many unemployed Americans and their families are left wondering if Republicans will once again undercut consumer demand and business confidence. At the end of December, the federal unemployment insurance programs will begin to shut down, despite the fact that there are still roughly 6.5 million fewer jobs in the economy today than when the Great Recession started in December of 2007. As a result, over 6 million will have their benefits terminated by the end of 2012.
My legislation, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, would ensure that this does not happen.
Termination of extended federal unemployment coverage would deal a devastating blow to Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and who depend on this lifeline until they can again make ends meet. And make no mistake—allowing these families to fall through the safety net would also hurt our economy. Depriving jobless Americans of the money they need to put food on the table, shoes on their children, and keep a roof over their head will cut consumer demand for thousands of local businesses and increase the number of home foreclosures. According to the Economic Policy Institute, cutting off unemployment benefits would cost over 500,000 jobs.
Nonetheless, some Republicans suggest we cannot afford to maintain assistance for the unemployed. That’s right, the same crowd that continues to promote big tax breaks for the wealthiest few, while preserving multinational corporate tax loopholes, argues that helping the unemployed is just too high a mountain for our country to climb.
These are the same Republicans who blame unemployment on the unemployed. Never mind that unemployment insurance replaces less than half of a worker’s former wages and the average unemployment check fails to get a family of four above 70 percent of the poverty level. There are over four unemployed workers for every job opening, meaning that even if every single available job was taken by an unemployed worker there would still be over 10 million of our fellow citizens without work.
As Congress debates my bill, I hope representatives don’t recall just the numbers, but the real people behind them, people like Lynnette, an unemployed worker: “I’m fifty now. It’s the first time I’ve drawn unemployment in my life. I’m tired, I’m demoralized. It was extremely hard for me to get where I was. I strived and fought and suffered. I paid more than my share of dues. I did everything I was supposed to do…Please extend the benefits. Please be aware that this country didn’t suddenly become filled with lazy folks who don’t want to work.”
Americans don’t turn their backs on Americans in need. The time to extend this critical program that serves as a lifeline for so many families is now.
By: U. S. Rep Lloyd Doggett, 25th District of Texas, U. S. News and World Report, December 9, 2011
I challenge you to find a stump speech by a politician running for any office from dog catcher to president that doesn’t invoke the importance of small businesses.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a hat tip to American entrepreneurialism, evoking images like that of Steve Jobs planting a seed in his garage that grew into an amazing Apple orchard. Besides, don’t most people work for small businesses, and aren’t such businesses the engine of job growth?
Actually, no. In what may be the most misunderstood fact about the job market, although most companies are small — according to 2008 census data, 61 percent are small businesses with fewer than four workers — more than two-thirds of the American work force is employed by companies with more than 100 workers. You can tweak the definitions, but even if you define “small” as fewer than 500 people (as the federal government does, basically), you still find that half the work force is employed by large businesses.
It’s even more stunning when it comes to payrolls: 57 percent of total compensation is paid out by companies of 500 or more employees, with most of that coming from the largest, those with at least 10,000 employees. And new research by the Treasury Department finds that small businesses — defined as those with income between $10,000 and $10 million, or about 99 percent of all businesses — account for just 17 percent of business income, and only 23 percent of them pay any wages at all.
But don’t small businesses at least fuel job growth? Sort of. It’s not small businesses that matter, but new businesses, which by definition create new jobs. Real job creation, though, doesn’t kick in until those small businesses survive and grow into larger operations. In fact, according to path-breaking work by the economist John C. Haltiwanger and his colleagues, once they accounted for the outsize contributions by new and young companies, they found “no systematic relationship” between net job growth and company size.
It’s unlikely such findings will change politicians’ speeches trumpeting small businesses. But if we want to get our job market back on track, they should inform our policy thinking. For example, it’s not only the case that start-ups are of particular importance to robust job growth. They’ve been creating fewer jobs over the last decade. Employment at start-ups fell by almost half, and those losses predated the “Great Recession” — probably one reason job growth was so lackluster over the last decade’s expansion.
Economists do not yet have a good answer as to why start-ups and surviving young companies are creating fewer jobs, but it may have something to do with “allocative inefficiency.” Too many resources flowed to financial engineering in the last decade, and too few went to R & D and innovation outside of the financial sector. The decline of American manufacturing plays a role here as well, as the sector has historically accounted for 70 percent of job-creating private-sector R & D, often in partnership with start-ups and small suppliers.
This isn’t to say that public policy should abandon small businesses. Many face distinctive hurdles compared with large businesses: they have tighter profit margins and thus less room for mistakes, they have diminished access to credit markets and, even with creditworthy borrowing records, many say they’re not getting the loans they need. Small manufacturers often have less access to export markets, and, with emerging economies growing a lot faster than advanced economies, that’s a big disadvantage.
Yet the sector’s primary lobbying group — the National Federation of Independent Business — tends to fight less for these pragmatic policies and more for the standard conservative agenda of lower taxes and deregulation. Indeed, the group has become a purely partisan operation, fighting more for Republican electoral victory than small-business growth. For example, it opposed the president’s jobs bill, even though independent analysts estimated it would significantly increase economic demand, and the federation’s own survey shows that “poor sales” — a k a weak demand — is a much bigger problem for its members than taxes or regulations.
The next time a politician tells you how he or she is for small business (which will likely be the next time you hear a politician say anything), be mindful that to the extent that size matters at all for job growth, it’s really about new companies that will start small and, if they survive, perhaps grow large. Everything else is largely noise — and too often, noise that has little to do with what this economy really needs.
By: Jared Bernstein, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, October 23, 2011
About all those new jobs created under Gov. Rick Perry…
The Center for Immigration Studies reports some facts that should sprinkle a little cold water on over-heated claims for the low-wage/high-immigration Texas economic model.
Of jobs created in Texas since 2007, 81 percent were taken by newly arrived immigrant workers (legal and illegal).
Absorb that for a minute.
Native-born Texans have experienced a jobs catastrophe very similar to that of Americans everywhere else in the United States, reports CIS:
The share of working-age natives holding a job in Texas declined significantly, from 71 percent in 2007 to 67 percent in 2011. This decline is very similar to the decline for natives in the United States as a whole and is an indication that the situation for native-born workers in Texas is very similar to the overall situation in the country despite the state’s job growth.
What we are seeing here is not a pattern of job creation. It is a pattern of job displacement.
The large share of job growth that went to immigrants is surprising because the native-born accounted for 69 percent of the growth in Texas’ working-age population (16 to 65). Thus, even though natives made up most of the growth in potential workers, most of the job growth went to immigrants.
And by the way – it’s not just a matter of jobs “Americans won’t do.” As the decline in native-born employment shows, these are jobs natives used to do as recently as 2007. And the displacement is occurring higher and higher up the pay scale.
Immigrants took jobs across the educational distribution. More than one out three (97,000) of newly arrived immigrants who took a job had at least some college.
In all this, illegal immigration remains a huge factor, despite the often-heard claim that illegal immigration has slowed since the end of the housing bubble.
Of newly arrived immigrants who took jobs in Texas since 2007, we estimate that 50 percent (113,000) were illegal immigrants. Thus, about 40 percent of all the job growth in Texas since 2007 went to newly arrived illegal immigrants and 40 percent went to newly arrived legal immigrants.
A couple of conclusions follow:
1) There was no Texas miracle, from the point of view of the people who constituted the population of Texas back in 2007.
2) Rick Perry’s permissive view of immigration is not (as I’ve pointed out before) some compassionate-conservative exception to his no-soup-for-you economic policy. A permissive immigration is the indispensable prerequisite to the no-soup-for-you economy over which Perry presided.
3) Immigration is not an issue separate from the debate over employment and growth. It’s integral. You could plausibly argue in the 2000s that immigration was ancillary to job growth for Americans – or even that it somehow spurred job growth for Americans. In today’s context however, immigration is increasingly a substitute for job growth for Americans.
4) Mitt Romney finally has his answer the next time Rick Perry attacks him for Massachusetts poor jobs ranking in the early part of the 2000s.
“The numbers show, Governor, that your economic policy was great at creating jobs – for Mexico.”
By: David Frum, The Frum Forum, September 22, 2011
Marjorie Cohn, immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild, has a post up at Op-Ed News, “Lost in the Debt Ceiling Debate: The Legal Duty to Create Jobs” addressing the federal government’s failure to comply with existing job-creation legislation.
Cohn focuses primarily on The Employment Act of 1946 and the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978, noting also mandates for job-creation in 1977 reforms requiring the Federal Reserve to leverage monetary policy to promote maximum employment. She ads that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets a global standard of employment as an important right, which, not incidentally, some major industrialized nations have actually tried to honor.
Cohn’s review of the two jobs acts provides a timely reminder of the moral imperative that faces every great democracy, the responsibility to take action to help insure that every family has at least one breadwinner who earns a living wage:
The first full employment law in the United States was passed in 1946. It required the country to make its goal one of full employment…With the Keynesian consensus that government spending was necessary to stimulate the economy and the depression still fresh in the nation’s mind, this legislation contained a firm statement that full employment was the policy of the country.As originally written, the bill required the federal government do everything in its authority to achieve full employment, which was established as a right guaranteed to the American people. Pushback by conservative business interests, however, watered down the bill. While it created the Council of Economic Advisers to the President and the Joint Economic Committee as a Congressional standing committee to advise the government on economic policy, the guarantee of full employment was removed from the bill.
In the aftermath of the rise in unemployment which followed the “oil crisis” of 1975, Congress addressed the weaknesses of the 1946 act through the passage of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978. The purpose of this bill as described in its title is:
“An Act to translate into practical reality the right of all Americans who are able, willing, and seeking to work to full opportunity for useful paid employment at fair rates of compensation; to assert the responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable programs and policies to promote full employment, production, and real income, balanced growth, adequate productivity growth, proper attention to national priorities.”
The Act sets goals for the President. By 1983, unemployment rates should be not more than 3% for persons age 20 or over and not more than 4% for persons age 16 or over, and inflation rates should not be over 4%. By 1988, inflation rates should be 0%. The Act allows Congress to revise these goals over time.
If private enterprise appears not to be meeting these goals, the Act expressly calls for the government to create a “reservoir of public employment.” These jobs are required to be in the lower ranges of skill and pay to minimize competition with the private sector.
The Act directly prohibits discrimination on account of gender, religion, race, age or national origin in any program created under the Act. Humphey-Hawkins has not been repealed. Both the language and the spirit of this law require the government to bring unemployment down to 3% from over 9%…
This legislation only requires the federal government to take action. The private sector, which employs 85+ percent of the labor force, would be indirectly influenced by monetary policy, but would not be required to do any hiring. Still, full enforcement of existing legislation could substantially reduce unemployment by putting millions of jobless Americans to work in public service projects rebuilding our tattered infrastructure.
The ’46 and ’78 full employment laws have been winked at and shrugged off by elected officials for decades as merely symbolic statutes, despite the fact that they actually do require the President, Congress and the Fed to do specific things to create jobs.
Cohn points out that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced “The Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act” (HR 870), to fund job-training and job-creation programs, funded by taxes on financial transactions. But the bill has no chance as long as Republicans control the House.
Cohn urges President Obama to demand that the Fed “…use all the tools relating to controlling the money supply…to create the funds called for by HR 870, and to start putting people back to work through direct funding of a reservoir of public jobs as Humphrey-Hawkins mandates.” Imagine the political donnybrook that would ensue following such action, legal though it apparently would be. It’s an interesting scenario that needs some fleshing out.
The best hope for full employment remains electing strong Democratic majorities to both houses of congress, while retaining the presidency. Under this scenario, full enforcement of the ’46 and ’78 employment acts is certainly doable. But it’s a very tough challenge, given the Republican edge in Senate races next year.
There are signs that the public is tiring of the tea party obstruction of government, and therefore hope that at least some Republicans may have to move toward the center to survive. It’s possible they could be influenced by energetic protest and lobbying campaigns by their constituents.
Like other groups across the political spectrum, we progressives are very good at blaming elected officials when they don’t follow through on their reform promises. But too many progressive Dems fail to realize that finger-pointing, while necessary, is only part of our responsibility. If we really want to see significant progressive change, especially full employment, we simply must escalate our protest activities to compel our elected and government officials to act.
At a white house meeting, FDR reportedly told the great African American labor leader A. Philip Randolph “Make me do it” in response to Randolph’s appeal for racial justice and economic reform. Roosevelt was not being a smart ass; He was underscoring an important law of politics, that elected officials need protest to galvanize them to act, and progressive politicians welcome it because it provides cover, as well as encouragement.
Regarding protest leadership, we have a great role model, whose 30+ foot stone image will be unveiled not far from the Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR Memorials on the National Mall in the capitol August 28th. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial will not only honor the historic contributions of a great African American leader; It will also inspire — and challenge — coming generations of all races to emulate his strategy of militant but dignified nonviolent protest to achieve social and economic justice.
Let’s not forget that the Great March on Washington MLK and Randolph lead in 1963 was not only about racial justice. The twin goals were “Jobs and Freedom,” a challenge that echoes with prophetic relevance for our times. It was FDR who said “make me do it,” and MLK showed us the way, not only with one demonstration, but with a sustained commitment to mass protest. Now let’s make them do it.
By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, August 13, 2011