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Vol. 78/No. 18      May 12, 2014

‘Acceleration’ of US economy
zooms past the working class
“With payrolls and workweek both rising, a measure of total work effort jumped by the most in more than seven years … suggesting the economy was beginning to accelerate.” That’s a big-business perspective from Newsweek’s April 14 issue.

Apparently this “acceleration” has zoomed past the working class, whose wages, working conditions and employment haven’t left the starting block, and in many cases continue to move backward.

It’s been nearly five years since economists said the 2007-2009 recession was over. But, despite the official unemployment decline from 10 percent to under 7 percent, there’s been no recovery in jobs. In January 2007 the percentage of the population with a job stood at 63.3 percent. By September 2009 it had dropped below 59 percent where it remains to this day (58.9 percent in March 2014).

The “structural” long-term character of joblessness has been handled by the statisticians by continually shrinking the pool of people considered “part of the workforce.” As a result 92 million adults today are not counted when calculating the unemployment rate — 11 million more than five years ago.

In response to the slowdown in world capitalist production and trade, bosses are pressing against wages, unions, benefits and working conditions. This assault, many economists argue, is the road to “competitiveness” and “recovery.” The “experts” are proposing to drive workers off food stamps, and reduce payments for unemployment and disability. In February $8.7 billion was cut from the food stamps program under the new farm bill, and three months earlier $5 billion was eliminated.

Extending unemployment benefits “lengthens spells of unemployment,” argues Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School, in an April 5 Wall Street Journal article. Instead, he calls for a broad “structural reform” of the entire program, meaning steeper cuts in payments and for fewer weeks.

The premise is workers don’t want to work anymore because life is so easy on government assistance! Forget that the bosses aren’t hiring now.

The one measure that could alleviate the persistently high joblessness, however, is never mentioned in public: a massive government-funded jobs program to put millions to work building and repairing hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.  
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