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June 2012, Week 2

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Thu, 14 Jun 2012 21:47:19 -0400
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Obama's Response to the Jobs Crisis is Still Too Lame

Left Margin

Obama's Response to the Jobs Crisis is Still Too Lame

By Carl Bloice - BC Editorial Board

Black Commentator
June 14, 2012

http://www.blackcommentator.com/476/476_lm_job_crisis_share.html

Quite often, media reports and commentaries about the rising
tide of unemployment - especially amongst young people - in
other parts of the world are accompanied by warning of dire
consequences if the trend continues. Images of major social
protests and even acts of violence are evoked. Take, for
instance, Europe. The highest youth jobless rates on the
continent are reported to be 50.5 percent in Spain, 51
percent in Greece and over 30 percent in Ireland, Italy,
Bulgaria, Slovakia and Portugal.

Sometimes this situation is described as a ticking time
bomb, sometimes not. In Greece where "young bear the
harshest burden of the economic crisis," wrote Randall
Fuller in the New York Times last week, "they do so with a
mix of denial, frantic exuberance and a debilitating sense
of the absurd."

We repeat figures as if this were the natural order of
things

As I read those words, I sat back and wondered what could be
said of the response in the African American communities
where jobless rates for young people have been just as high
for decades.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate for African Americans
between 16 and 19 years old now stands at 35.5 percent, up
from about 27 percent when the crisis began five years ago.
What's more, the youth jobless rate in some inner city
communities is about 50 percent and has been for some time.

Economist Dean Baker points out that "By demographic group,
the worst story is among black men and black teens. The
former has an EPOP [employment-to-population ratio] that is
6.5 percentage points below its pre- recession level. Black
teens have an EPOP of 15.5 percent, down 9.0 percentage
points from the 2006 level. The EPOP for black women is down
3.7 percentage points from its pre-recession level, but has
risen 3.2 percentage points from lows hit last summer."

We repeat figures such as these regularly, and often
perfunctorily, as if this were the natural order of things.
The alarm bells being set off over the number of young
people out of work in Europe should remind us it is not.

Living at home with one's parents because they cannot afford
live elsewhere - or living in the streets - is nothing new
for millions of African American and Latino youth.

Lay off austerity, which is only exacerbating the problem,
and act now to stimulate their economies

"The recent developments are indeed a disaster and you might
also call the situation a political scandal," writes Henning
Meyer in Social Europe Journal May 22. "How is it possible
that more than one in five young people in Europe have no
job and so many more are working in precarious
circumstances?" How often is such a question raised around
here?

"We cannot afford a lost generation in Europe," concluded
Meyer. "We must tackle and solve the problem now!"

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the richest and most powerful
nation on the planet, the prospects for a solution remain
remote.

"Everyone is talking jobs but saying nothing," wrote Robert
Borosage, president of the Institute for America's Future,
recently. "The inadequate recovery is sputtering and no one
is doing anything." "In the phony war on unemployment, no
one has picked up a gun. We're going through the motions,
waiting for the misery to ratchet up, the cities to blow and
corporate profits to tank before getting serious."

"But if Republicans have nothing to say about jobs, neither
do Democrats," continued Borosage. "They are terrified by
polls that say voters are concerned about deficits. So every
jobs program has to be `paid for' - and, almost by
definition, small. Obama issues a `to do list' for Congress
that even his aides have a hard time pretending to be
excited about."

However, the President does have a job plan. It's hardly up
to the challenge facing us but it's a start. The problem is,
after presenting it a few months ago, it dropped pretty much
out of sight. Last week he brought it up again at a press
briefing and in the process, created a muddle. It's one
thing to blame the Republicans for refusing to act on the
jobs crisis (what else is new?) and another to inform the
nation of the seriousness of the situation and rally the
people for action, something he and the Administration
appear loathe to do.

The question is not simply whether or not new jobs are being
produced. In a capitalist economy jobs are constantly being
created, sometimes in large numbers. The question is whether
enough are coming on line to meet the population increase
and make up for the positions lost due to things like
technological innovation or the effects of globalization. If
not, there will be more people without jobs. When the
President says that the policies being pursued by his
Republican opponents would only increase the discrepancy, he
has a point. And yes, the situation in Europe exerts a
somewhat negative effect on the economic prospects here. But
to say, as he did last week, that "the private sector is
doing fine" at creating jobs is just plain wrong.

The President later appeared to backtrack somewhat, saying,
"I think if you look at what I said this morning, what I've
been saying consistently over the last year, we've actually
seen some good momentum in the private sector." "There's
been 4.3 million jobs created, 800,000 this year alone,
record corporate profits." He added: "And so that has not
been the biggest drag on the economy." It causes one to
wonder just who is advising the President these days and why
he continues to avoid the advice of the "Keynesians" who
have left the White House inner circle or those who were
never invited in.

There will never be a better time for the `internal
improvements' that we need to make

But it's going to take more than the President's current
plan to really meet the jobs crisis. Proposals for
meaningful action do exist. For one thing, as Borosage
notes, current low interest rates "offer the U.S. a
remarkable opportunity to rebuild the country. There will
never be a better time for the `internal improvements' that
we need to make - rebuilding roads, bridges, mass transit,
sewers, fast trains, airports, retrofitting public
buildings, building up renewable energy and more."

Liberal economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman
have been calling for such a step for years now, but to no
avail.

The International Labor Organization says almost 75 million,
or 12.6% of the young people across the globe were jobless
lasts year, an increase of over than 4 million since the
current economic crisis began. Dr. Ekkehard Ernst, head of
the ILO's Employment Trends Unit, has called upon
governments to lay off austerity, which is only exacerbating
the problem, and act now to stimulate their economies. "What
is quite obvious with youth unemployment rates of over 50
per cent in these countries is the first thing that needs to
be done is get jobs back . and that can only be done if you
stimulate the economy, for instance through infrastructure
programs, which are very job rich," he said.

The group Our Time - Standing Up for Young Americans is
circulating an online petition addressed to President Obama
and Governor Romney that reads:

"Our country needs nurses, teachers, disaster relief, park
restoration, infrastructure repair, and more. Yet 1 in 2
young Americans are currently jobless or underemployed.

"A generation is a terrible thing to waste. Pledge to create
one million new public service positions by expanding
programs such as AmeriCorps, CitiYear, Habitat for Humanity,
Teach for America, and others so we can rebuild our country
now."

"The only question is how deep the crisis must go and how
crippling the pain must be before action is taken," says
Borosage.

[BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is
a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence
for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a
healthcare union. Carl is one of the moderators of
Portside.]

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