One of the benefits of 21st century technological advances is the quick availability of government reports that relay information to the population without commentary or criticism from a biased source such as a news organization or media pundit. Over the past four years, Republicans have not rejoiced much at reports the President’s economic policies have helped create millions of jobs in spite of their attempts to cripple the tepid recovery, and in spite of their news outlets and conservative belief tanks persistent rants that this President was toxic to the economy; government jobs reports have shown consistent growth. Yesterday there was another report that the economy added jobs, but it is likely that instead of despair, Republicans celebrated wildly that their austerity cuts have begun paying dividends and slowed job growth.
The good news is that the economy added 88,000 jobs in March and the jobless rate fell to 7.6%, but there are conditions that make the report less than encouraging. First, the new job numbers was the lowest increase in nine months signaling the job market recovery is slowing, and although the jobless rate did fall, it is likely because more Americans have given up hope and stopped even looking for work. The labor force contracted by about a half million people because if a person is not looking for a job, they are not counted as unemployed. The percentage of working-age Americans either with a job or looking for one dropped to 63.3 percent that is at its lowest level since 1979 and it means the pace of job growth in 2013 is slower than it was last year.
One can hardly blame some Americans for dropping out of the labor market because if there are jobs available, they are increasingly part-time minimum wage jobs that do not afford adequate food and shelter compared with unemployment benefits for those who qualify. In every state in the Union, a full-time job at minimum wage will not pay rent for the most austere apartment, and even if both parents are fortunate enough to hold down two part-time jobs, they still earn well below the federal poverty limit and struggle to feed their families.
Republicans can take all the credit for the slowdown in jobs that are a direct result of their austerity frenzy that slowed GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2012, and that was well before the Republican sequester took effect on March first. Part of the slowdown in hiring is that companies are not hiring because Americans are tightening their belts and not buying, and as sales drop, companies stop hiring or worse, start laying off workers. The sad news is, it is going get much worse and the GOP must be wetting themselves at the prospects of rising unemployment and hungry and homeless Americans as they resist any of the President’s attempts to create jobs and grow the economy.
Economic experts warned consistently that austerity during a recovery retard growth and kill jobs, and after Republicans imposed Draconian spending cuts and Republican-controlled states shuttered schools, fired teachers by the hundreds of thousands, and eviscerated the public workforce, the downstream jobs are drying up rapidly. The sequester alone was promised to kill between 700,000 and a million jobs in its first of a ten year run, and doubtless March’s employment figures reflected the start of those job losses. Alan B. Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said “While the recovery was gaining traction before sequestration took effect, these arbitrary and unnecessary cuts to government services will be a headwind in the months to come, and will cut key investments in the nation’s future competitiveness.”
Federal Reserve officials warned that it is not just the slower pace of job growth that is disconcerting, but the quality of hiring is troubling according to Sarah Bloom Raskin. She said, “It’s important to look at the types of jobs that are being created because those jobs will directly affect the fortunes and challenges of households and neighborhoods as well as the course of the recovery,” and noted lower-wage jobs accounted for a large share of job growth that in turn slow consumer spending drastically. The largest share of jobs added in March were low-wage temporary and part-time work that might be good for large employers, but it means less job security and income for workers. In fact, 7.6 million Americans who want full-time jobs are only finding part-time jobs that, for many Americans, are not worth taking and not because job seekers are lazy. For example, a single mother who lost her full-time paralegal jobs after five years said, “When I’ve had offers for positions they’re part time or temporary, but the child care I’d need to pay to take the jobs is more costly than what I’d be getting paid for the job itself,” and it is a narrative heard more often than not.
The executive director of the National Employment Law Project said that midlife and older workers who lost their jobs to cutbacks are having to “dip into retirement savings in order to stay afloat, and that 10 years down the road, a lot of retirees who didn’t expect to live in poverty are going to be in poverty” and it does not appear there is any stopping the elderly’s march into poverty. Through it all, Republicans in states and Congress are actively cutting retirement and pension benefits on top of killing public sector jobs that drives the slowdown in hiring as more and more Americans are forced to cut spending in order to survive. Businesses large and small have cited lack of consumer spending as the prime reason for hiring slowdowns, and yet debt and deficit reduction and the resulting austerity are still foremost on the Republican agenda with no end in sight.
The Republicans’ spending cut frenzy gave Americans a firsthand look at the deleterious effects of austerity at the end of the fourth quarter of 2012, and the sequester’s one month anniversary promptly revealed a slowdown in hiring that is only going to get worse. President Obama’s budget attempts to create jobs through infrastructure spending as well as replacing the arbitrary government cuts in the sequester, but John Boehner dismissed it immediately for not cutting Social Security enough and because it includes revenue to put Americans to work repairing a broken infrastructure. It is important for all Americans to remember that Republicans know, and were warned, their austerity and sequester would kill jobs and slow growth, and yet they proceeded anyway and celebrated accomplishing another job-killing policy.
Americans had just started feeling the economy was on a path of recovery and growth, but their good outlook failed to take into account the true leaders of this nation were hell-bent on staunching recovery and killing jobs. The slowdown in growth during the fourth quarter of 2012 should have been a warning sign to Republicans that their slash and burn austerity was dangerous to economic growth, but instead, they celebrated their sequester victory and promptly rejected the President’s budget because it replaces the sequester and creates jobs. They most likely celebrated again at the news hiring is slowing and more Americans are headed for poverty, and although they were discouraged there were any jobs created in March, they can rest assured that as the sequester enters its second month of a ten year run, they will have plenty to celebrate as more Americans lose their jobs, people drop out of the workforce, and the economy contracts; their goal for the past four years.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.