A Piece of Work

The media giants, as well as the Obama administration, keep telling us that the “recovery” is “sustainable”. That “growth” is “sustainable”. The headlines in dozens of studies, reports and journals say otherwise, however. Here’s a sampling:

“Business Inventories Up, But Sales Fell in May” (The Journal of Commerce)
“Rail Group Sees US Recovery Stalling” (The Journal of Commerce)
“US Retail Sales Dropped in June” (The Journal of Commerce)
“Trucking Activity Index Drops 1.9 Percent” (The Journal of Commerce)
“DOT Reports Downturn in Freight Index” (The Journal of Commerce)
“Truckload Freight Index Drops 8.3 Percent” (The Journal of Commerce)
“US Manufacturing Growth Slows” (The Journal of Commerce)
“June unemployment figures show US ‘recovery’ is jobless” (Barry Grey)
“US stocks plunge on signs of renewed slump” (Barry Grey)
“Gulf economy in ruins” (Tom Eley)
“Researchers predict oil spill could reach Atlantic Ocean” (Hiram Lee)
“Obama postures on unemployment benefits while defending Wall Street” (wsws.org)
“US jobless benefit cutoff to hit three million” (Patrick Martin)

This last one, by Patrick Martin, is the report that requires further attention.

“More than three million unemployed workers will have lost jobless benefits by the end of this month,” the report begins. “Some 2.5 million have already been cut off since the federal program for extending unemployment compensation beyond 26 weeks expired June 1.

“An analysis published Thursday in USA TODAY estimated the number of those to be cut off by the end of the July at 3 million. A separate study by the National Employment Law Project put the figure at 3.2 million.

“Even if the long-delayed legislation is finally taken up July 20, the new date announced Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, it would only authorize an extension of jobless benefits through the month of November. Once the congressional election is safely past, there is little doubt that both Democrats and Republicans will agree to terminate the extended benefits program altogether.

“The Obama administration is responding to this monumental social catastrophe with complete indifference … White House lobbying efforts for the past month have been focused on Senate passage of the financial reform bill, which does nothing to punish those responsible for the economic crisis or prevent another disaster in the future.

“The sums involved in the banking bill dwarf the $ 34 billion cost of restoring extended jobless benefits …

“The failure to extend jobless benefits in the midst of a deep recession is unprecedented since the program first assumed its modern form after World War II. In every recession since then, an extension of unemployment benefits has received bipartisan congressional approval as an emergency measure – i.e., without any offsetting budget cuts or tax increases to pay for it …

“Neither Reid nor Obama put any special pressure on those senators, Republican and Democrat, whose opposition was responsible for cutting off millions of the most vulnerable in American society – long-term jobless workers …

“According to the USA TODAY report, ‘Unemployment insurance has played a bigger role in this recession – the longest since the Great Depression – than in previous downturns’ …

“The total annual cost of unemployment compensation is thus less than the amount squandered on the war in Afghanistan alone. It is one-quarter the size of the Pentagon budget, and less than 20 percent of the funds allocated by Congress for the bailout of Wall Street …

“According to a study by Harvard University economist Raj Chetty, the median net savings of a newly unemployed American worker is only $ 250. In other words, for the typical worker, loss of his or her job means instant and crushing economic want, if not an immediate plunge into poverty.

“A report issued Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute points out that jobless benefits, both basic and extended, have been one of the principal supports for the US economy in the current slump … The EPI study found that during 2008, the last year for which such figures are complete, 21.2 million American workers experienced unemployment at some point … If the same proportion holds in 2010, (it) will mean at least 35 million people out of work at some point during the year …

“Other economic figures dispel the claims of recovery: manufacturing was reported down in June in two key regions, New York and Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the number of foreclosures in the United States topped 520,000 in the first six months of 2010 and is projected to exceed one million for the year, for the first time in American history.

“The ‘recovery’ is only for Wall Street and corporate profits, which have risen steadily for the past year and now stand at 5.7 percent above the level of late 2007, the start of the slump. Total profits of all US corporations were $ 1.59 trillion in the first quarter of 2010, according to the Commerce Department. The $ 34 billion cost of extended unemployment benefits works out to two days’ profits for corporate America … If corporations are sitting on so much money, why aren’t they hiring more workers? …

“The solution to the crisis of ever-growing joblessness and exploitation is clear: the resources of society, themselves the products of human labor, must be taken out of the hands of the capitalists and used for the benefit of the working people, beginning with an emergency program to provide every unemployed worker with a good-paying job.” –

[Well, isn’t that what our “emergency” shipbuilding program is all about? Since government and industry big-wigs don’t know how to create jobs, why don’t they just let us solve the problem?]