Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor, Dazed, In America

McClatchy's Tony Pugh points out this Labor Day that the millions of long-term unemployed in America are the new untouchable class, and Republicans are wasting no time in demonizing them as the country's 21st century "welfare queens".

Many companies now shun the long-term unemployed when filling positions, fearing their skills have eroded or their talents don't measure up.

America's jobless also face increased hostility from conservative lawmakers, as more states cut the amount and duration of unemployment benefits, while making them harder to get and easier to lose.

In South Carolina, where state-funded jobless benefits were cut from 26 to 20 weeks, Republican state senator Kevin Bryant blogged in April that "Part of the unemployment problem is that our human nature is to take advantage of the ability to get paid to not work. ... I'm very sympathetic to those out of work desperately seeking it, but I'm disappointed that we have a significant segment of our society leeching (off) the system."

Similar comments from a variety of conservatives reflect a sneaking suspicion that 99 weeks of extended benefits have taken the urgency out of job searches.

"Two years is a long time. At some point you've got to provide more incentives to get people to do things," said Frederick Tannery, an associate economics professor at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.

Leeches.  Welfare queens.  Lazy.  Immoral.  Evil.  Republicans are putting forth the illusion that there is no job creation crisis, that tens of millions of "good, high-paying jobs" are out there going unfilled because people are simply too shiftless to work.  Everything's a zero-sum game for them.

But it's head scratching.  Real corporate taxes are low.  Major corporations are making record profits.  It's absolutely an employer's market out there for labor as companies can hire people with four-year degrees for entry level positions.  It should be a boom time for hiring.

But it's not, because the problem is demand.  Even the Moonie Times admits the problem in the US is demand:  the middle-class consumer in the US has been so utterly crushed by the New Gilded Age that they're not buying anything because they can't afford to.  And if they can't afford to buy more, why hire more?

“There are no quick fixes on the horizon for the millions who are still unemployed,” said Richard Wahlquist, president of the American Staffing Association. “Until businesses see a significant and sustainable uptick in demand for their products and services, we will not see a meaningful increase in the number of new permanent jobs.”

According to surveys conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business, small businesses, which employ the most Americans, have complained for months that “poor sales” are their biggest problem and the reason they aren’t hiring.

Large businesses also have seen little reason to add to staff in a stagnant U.S. market and collectively are sitting on more than $1 trillion in profits that they otherwise could deploy to beef up employment and expand if new sales opportunities arose.

Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said Friday’s jobs report showed that businesses have no reason to hire. In fact, they even cut back the hours of their existing workforces last month.

“The main issue is lack of demand,” she said. Employers have “substantial room to meet unmet demand by increasing hours of existing workers; if private-sector employers were to simply restore the hours of their workers back to pre-recession levels, that would be equivalent to adding over 1.2 million jobs.”

This is the real issue in our economy:  lack of demand.  And Republicans see the government as having to tighten its belt too as millions of local, state, and federal government employees get furloughed and laid off completely, instead of the government being the demand generator of last resort.  Republicans have tied our hands on this, and more than a few Democrats have gone along.

You'd think pro-corporate Republicans would want to boost businesses in order to get more money into the economy, but they could care less.  All they see is the opportunity to yell and scream that "America can't afford to help the poor" anymore and to throw them down the nearest open manhole.  Not only are jobs being cut, but hours, overtime, benefits and wages as well for those of us that do have jobs.

No wonder corporate profits are sky-high...and yet we're told businesses are being crushed under taxes and regulations that are driving jobs offshore and putting companies out of business.  The truth is these companies are going where the demand is, and they are taking their jobs with them, while this Labor Day the American worker is being put out to pasture...and then the glue factory.

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