Our nation today remains mired in one of the worst labor markets since the Great Depression. There are currently nearly 14.6 million Americans unemployed, with the unemployment rate hovering at or just under 10 percent for nearly a year. At the end of June, nearly half of those unemployed (45.5 percent) — 6.8 million workers — have been out of work and actively seeking a job for at least six months. Currently, there are nearly five workers actively searching for work for every job available, compared to just one and a half job searchers per job opening before the Great Recession began.
Economy & Budget
United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard talked with labor organizer Stewart J. Acuff about "Getting America Back to Work," a recently released book Acuff co-authored with economist Richard Levins. The following is the question-and-answer transcript of the interview:
Leo W. Gerard: Stewart, you talk about power in a book you’ve written with economist Dr. Richard A. Levins. You called the manual, “Getting America Back to Work.” What’s the relationship between power and getting people back to work?
Stewart J. Acuff: A big part of the problem we have with this economy or the biggest problem is that most of the money has gone to the Financial Elite — and the power as well. To get America back to work we have to reinvest in our country and our workers. That necessarily means that the Financial Elite get less of the wealth generated by the economy and workers will get more. If you intend to take wealth from the richest people in the history of the world, you have to have enough power to do so.
As members of opposing political parties, we disagree on a number of important issues. But we must not allow honest disagreement over some issues interfere with our ability to work together when we do agree.
By far the single most important of these is our current initiative to include substantial reductions in the projected level of American military spending as part of future deficit reduction efforts. For decades, the subject of military expenditures has been glaringly absent from public debate. Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion — more than all other discretionary spending programs combined. Even subtracting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending still amounts to over 42% of total spending.
Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.
Is the economy headed for a double-dip recession?
For the last few weeks a House-Senate conference committee has been at work trying to craft a final version of a financial regulation package. One amendment offered within that committee encapsulated the entire debate on regulatory reform, pitting institutionalized bailouts against depoliticized taxpayer protections.
Democrats explicitly wrote in a carve-out for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from the main feature of the underlying bill, a regulator-directed authority to wind down failed firms. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) offered an amendment to repeal that carve-out. This showed the Democrat bill for what it is: a bailout package. And the debate surrounding the amendment proved that Democrats will make political favors a centerpiece of their “reform.”
While the Obama administration launched its “Recovery Summer” propaganda campaign (paid for at taxpayer expense) this month, private-sector job growth remained stagnant and the U.S. economy shed 125,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced today. That’s why I’ve called on the administration and Congress to stop using taxpayer dollars to tout the failed “stimulus” program and start working across the aisle to promote real job growth.
Getting America’s economy back on track is Washington’s top priority. Democrats and Republicans are looking to keep companies in America, create jobs and stabilize local economies — particularly in economically fragile places. The U.S. Virgin Islands is one of those fragile locations, fighting through the recession with long-term agreements that prevent outsourcing to foreign countries and strengthen our economy.
Right now, a manipulative Puerto Rican attack campaign is working to discredit these agreements, our government and the companies that agreed to partner with the Virgin Islands. If Puerto Rican leaders and their hired guns can overturn our public-private partnerships and destroy our rum industry, Puerto Rico will steal hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the Virgin Islands.
It is disingenuous to say this is an “emergency” supplemental. The only “emergency” is this: In funding the longest war in history, we are putting America further into debt with China, expanding the deficit, increasing wasteful government spending, undermining our budgetary process, risking Social Security and solidifying debt that military leaders call our number one national security threat.
Today the House Ag Committee meets to mark up a critical piece of legislation that will help set the stage for democratic and economic openings in Cuba. The “Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act,” (H.R. 4645) expands the scope of U.S. economic engagement with Cuba with the expectation that expanded commercial and people-to-people contacts will help advance democracy, the rule of law, and a brighter future for the people of Cuba.
The highest rates of childhood poverty in the United States are in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where half of all children under age 5 live below the poverty line. The Territories also share America’s highest unemployment rates, facing deficits so large that Puerto Rico alone has laid off at least 17,000 public employees. Considering the island’s population of 4 million, that’s the equivalent of giving a pink slip to everybody in Dallas.