Click here to go to the Home Page If We Can Create Jobs Now, Why Haven’T We Done It? - Solidarity America By John Funiciello, Columnist

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If the U.S. wants to create jobs, why not send the work to the place that apparently has created the most jobs in the past two decades…China?

Notwithstanding that China has been shedding jobs at a dizzying rate ever since the American and European economies began to tank, they still have a lot more jobs than North America and Europe.  They have done this with the help of American corporations, but, clearly, China has not been able to create the jobs that are needed in the U.S., so we can’t outsource job-creation.

The paradox is that China has been creating jobs in the U.S. for many years.  They are jobs in the service industries and in retail.  It got to be a bad joke as long ago as the 1980s that people with master’s degrees and Ph.D.s were asking the obligatory question, “Do you want fries with that?”

And it was the same with people in the “information technology” (IT) line of work and those involved in so many ways with work on computers and computer systems.  A whole new category of work sprung up around those “industries.”  The people in them, although they apparently are paid well (for people as young as they often are), were just so much surplus machinery.  They got no benefits, they got no pensions, they could not complain about long hours (with no overtime) or lack of paid sick time or vacations, and there was no way to redress grievances.

There were no grievances, because there were no grievance procedures.  One can make use of a grievance procedure only if there is one written somewhere.  Usually, it is only the employer who has a copy, if there is such a procedure, unless there is a union contract.  For the most part, the jobs are precariously held and those who do that kind of work live with the knowledge that they can be fired at any time.  That’s the way it is in America:  Every worker, no matter what kind of work that’s done, is an “at will” employee.  That is, in the absence of a contract, anyone can be fired for any reason, or for no reason at all.  That’s the law.

President Obama has announced a job-creation effort by his administration and he believes that taxing the rich for their fair share of the tax burden will produce $1.5 trillion that will go a long way toward creating new jobs.  The rich this week complained bitterly that Obama’s tax revenue plan is tantamount to “class warfare.”  That’s what Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, cried loudly.  So did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).   If what they and their kind in Congress have done for the past many years to the working class and, now, the middle class, had not been so destructive, it would be laughable.

What they and their like have done, in service to their masters in Corporate America, to divide the country into (very few) haves and (the vast majority) have-nots, is nothing less than class war.  Then, when the tables seem as if they might begin turning, they cry like little children whose trip to buy a new computer game has been canceled.  Ryan and McConnell do not want to see their rich benefactors pay another nickel in taxes.

Fortunately for Obama, he has a billionaire on his side.  Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, has said in many places that people like him should be paying more in taxes.  He pays less (as a percentage) in taxes than his secretary and he thinks that is unfair.  However, the right wing politicians, economists, and broadcast brayers have called him out on his remark.  They even have called him anti-capitalist.  Imagine the mental dysfunction of all of them to call someone who has become so rich in a capitalist economy an anti-capitalist.  Now, that’s dysfunction and that’s craziness.

Not being grounded in the reality-based world, the nation’s right wing will continue to say things that are obviously not true and know that a sizable minority of Americans will sit back and say, “Yeah, that’s right.”  And, they will vote these minions of Corporate America another term of office.  Unfortunately, those who represent the American people seem to be without power and that’s why the prospect of new jobs by the millions seems to be a pipe dream.

Corporate America has spent the last half-century designing and building a U.S. economy that will enrich them as much as possible, without causing the collapse of the entire structure.  Until recent years, they seem to have done just that.  It took a while, but they managed to get rid of most of our heavy industry and they have sent much of our manufacturing base to other countries.  They have parked their money in little countries and principalities that take not a nickel of their money for taxes and they have showered us with service and retail jobs and told us that this is an economy.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of our young people come out of college with a burden of $40,000 or $50,000 of debt and are thrown on the job market.  It is the hope of Corporate America that they will find a job in a Starbucks coffee house or a luxury hotel and that they will not show up on the unemployment rolls.  We have come to the end of that corporate fantasy.  Even those jobs are not easy to come by, since there are five applicants for every job opening.  Besides, one cannot pay for food, clothing, and shelter, and pay back college loans on what are essentially low-wage jobs like that. 

If Obama’s jobs are going to be good ones (that is, jobs that will allow a worker to live decently and provide for health care, other benefits, and a pension), we’ll have to see the return of manufacturing and industry.  It took us 40-50 years to get to this point, so this return is not going to be an easy one for workers or for the nation.  We’ll have to give the president a point or two for trying. 

The alarming thing (for those who are alarmed at such things) is that corporations are getting rid of jobs at a great rate.  General Electric has rid itself of tens of thousands of workers in the past few years, the U.S. Postal Service has sent scores of thousands into retirement or the unemployment lines and recently, Bank of America announced that it would get rid of some 30,000 workers and close hundreds of branches.  With all of the announced lay-offs and planned future lay-offs by hundreds of companies, it’s a wonder that the official unemployment rate remains at 9.1 percent.  The business press also is reporting that small businesses, which are held hostage by the banks, also are laying off workers or hesitating to hire new workers.

The military and defense contractors are weighing in on the debate, by warning that, if defense budgets are cut, there will be an increase in unemployment.  The U.S. military, already taking more of the national budget than the militaries and defense budgets of all other countries combined, is threatening to add to America’s economic woes if we rein in the spending on wars and planning for wars.

Corporations fear that the unlimited profits that come from war will be curbed.  They love war.  In what other business is stuff manufactured by the hundreds of billions of dollars worth, just so it can be destroyed and replaced?  It’s a perfect pipeline from the pockets of the working and middle classes into the vaults of the corporations and the rich.  It’s why wars are so pleasurable and convenient for them.  Best of all?  It’s not their sons and daughters who die in those wars.

The outrageous costs of America’s defense and military establishments don’t seem to have any limits, and our society and nation show it.  Even a portion of that total cost would improve and fund excellent schools, provide health care for all, boost the quality of housing stock and, therefore, our communities, and would provide food enough that Americans do not go hungry, as they do now.  Rail service, light and heavy, could be restored, as could roads and bridges.  At this time, things seem to be falling apart and the rich, having been given much in welfare benefits, are reluctant to share with the rest.

Consumerism is what is generally described as the engine of the U.S. economy.  To make that kind of economy vibrant, one needs the masses out in the malls, buying whatever they can find, whatever advertising has made appealing to them.  The masses are running out of easy-spending money and that does not bode well for the economy.  If things were made in America, if manufacturing were to come back, the economy might not be in such a precarious position.

Republicans across the country are demonizing workers, especially if they are in unions.  They have done everything they can to destroy what’s left of the union movement, having set their sights on public workers (teachers first, then highway workers, postal workers, firefighters, engineers) and, after that, they will go after the other workers.  So, no worker can look to the GOP for any help…for anything.  They can look to the Democrats for a sympathetic word.

The hope of many Americans is that the jobs that are created by Obama’s program will be of a new kind and that they will acknowledge the condition that the environment is in and will be along the lines of a burgeoning “green economy,” something like China’s.  The Chinese, despite their own economic and environmental problems, are far ahead of the U.S. in its solar and wind power-generating industries.  It is possible that we can follow their lead and create millions of new jobs and tens of thousands of new companies that will acknowledge the end of cheap oil that will forever change the American economy and society.

Or, considering that the Republicans have the monumental power of their negativity, the GOP may block anything that will change the status quo, where the money simply flows to the top one or two percent of the population and job creation stagnates to the point that the Great Depression will begin to look pretty good.

It is up to the people.  The broken system is not going to produce the jobs and the living standard that we have had since the end of World War II.  Elected officials of either party are not especially trustworthy in their ability to envision and carry out a jobs program that will transform the economy in which everyone will have opportunity for a decent life.

That will take some reshuffling of the structure of the economy and a reconsideration of what Americans have come to view as “the good life.”  If the people can come together, they will accomplish this and, perhaps, find that opulence and ostentation are not things toward which we should strive.  Our survival as a nation will depend on our ability to see this and use common sense to achieve the change we need. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union organizer. His union work started when he became a local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.

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Sept 22, 2011 - Issue 442
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