You know the saying, "I've got some good news and I've got some bad news - which do you want first?" Well, since we're talking U.S. jobs, I will have to revise that somewhat: "I've got some bad news and Ive got some REALLY BAD news - which do you want to hear last?" Because really bad knews is a tough act to follow (sort of like Act III of Hamlet after everyone has been killed), let's start with the bad and progress to the worst.
THE BAD NEWS
On Friday, Sept. 5, the latest unemployment figures were released. And they are bad. Very bad. Made not the least bit less bad by Bush assurances of "encouraging economic indicators.". As the unemployed well know, at the end of the day, yoiu can't eat encouraging economic indicators.
As of August 31, if the unemployment figures were adjusted to reflect how many people REALLY ARE out of work, the national unemployment rate would now be pushing 7% and rising fast. Rising at the rate of about 93,000 disappearing jobs per month, in fact. There are now 8.9 million Americans out of work. About 1.8 million of these people have been without a job for at least 6 months. Yet when the unemployment statistics were released on Friday, the figures showed a slight dip in the unemployment rate, down to 6.1%.
Is this an "encouraging economic indicator?" Hardly. It is simply a bogus figure, one intended to mislead. To protect its sorry butt from public outrage, the U.S. government systematically manipulates its labor statistics. In fact, they have a built-in "statistical failsafe" that kicks in whenever the economy really starts to take a dive. This scheme operates by counting only people who were actively looking for work through an employment agency or the local government unemployment office It does not count anyone who is seeking work on their own the old-fashioned way (as in going door to door begging for chances to mow lawns and scrub toilets), those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and been forced onto welfare, or those who have become so discouraged they have either moved home with mom or, like Stuart Smalley, become so depressed they've taken to their beds and not left the house since 2002. How big a group does this represent? A very, very big group,. As of August, the "drop outs" from the labor market numbered close to 250,000. Their ranks are are growing daily..
But because these drop outs are not counted by the government figure masseuses (euphemistically known as economists), as soon as the shit really starts to hit the fan in a recession, suddenly and miraculously, the administration can report "a slight dip in the unemployment rate" and project an upturn just round the bend. This is a complete lie, of course, unless by ""upturn" they mean the place where the road gets so steep and rocky you just sit down beside it and cry.
Compounding the deception is the fact that there are tens of thousands of Reservist jobs on hold that are being temporarily filled by other people, while the Reservists serve their time in the Bush war machine. This represents yet another artificial prop holding up the sagging roof.. If these guys were sent home now, there would be an instant surge in the unemployment rates. (Hey - maybe that's why Bush wants to increase the number of Reservists called into active duty, rather than bringing home the troops).
So, now I'll give it to ya' straight: : The official number of jobs lost since Jan. 1 is 595,000. If you take the official 8.9 million total number of unemployed workers and add the 250,000 drop outs, you have over 9.1 million unemployed. 9.1 million people facing what is predicted to be a cold, hard winter, with gas and heating oil prices at all-time highs. By spring, we will have several million people who are not only unemployed, but hanging on by their last vestiges of fingernails.
The REALLY BAD News
Good God! you are probably groaning - so what is the REALLY BAD news?!
Simply this: With Bush and the Corporate Cartel at the helm, there is very little hope that things wiill get better. Why? Because jobs are being sucked off overseas at a dizzying rate as corporations play musical third world countries in search of the cheapest labor. Some companies leap-frog around the globe in this quest, moving their operation from, say Des Moines to Turkey, to Mexico to Vietnam, pulling up stakes and moving on whenever fair wages and adherence to reasonable environmental and/or workplace regulations start to encroach on their operation. China and India have become the greedy corporate baron's Meccas - billions of often desperately poor but reasonably well educated people willing to work longer hours for less than any other workforces on Earth! As a result, the stream of jobs leaving the U.S. for points Far East is quickly becoming a torrent.
Rob Black, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters observed in an article in New World Communications:: "Essentially what you've got, is a race to the bottom for the cheapest wages. First we saw corporations in the Northeast move to the Southern states where there were no strong unions. Then, in the 1990s with the unfair trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA], we saw corporations move to Mexico. Now these companies have been in Mexico awhile and the workers' standards are rising a little so, sure enough, the jobs are being moved to Guatemala, China and India."
Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo, said this trend is causing serious, long-term "structural problems" (as in a cracked foundation, perhaps?) for the American economy . "We have simply seen the tip of the iceberg," Sohn said. "I think it will get worse, not better." Sohn's comment is an understatement - unless of course, he means we are seeing the tip of the iceberg from the deck of the Titantic. According to Forrester Research, "by 2015, some 3.3 million U.S. jobs and $136 billion in wages will transfer offshore to countries such as India, Russia, China and the Philippines." And this figure refers only to to information-technology services such as credit-card and bank financial transactions. When you are talking $136 billion in wages, you are also talking about tens of billions in lost tax revenues, so the blow to the economy, is in fact, a double whammy.
Could it get any worse? Hell, yes! That is, if Bush's push to privatize hundreds of thousands of government jobs succeeds. Once privatized, these jobs will no longer be required to be filled by Americans. Already, some government services have been shipped overseas (or as the economists say, "transferred offshore."). One unemployed man I know in Baltimore was stunned when he called to ask about foodstamp benefits and had his call handled by someone in India! The poor guy had the double indignity of not only having to call to ask about foodstamps, but to have his benefits described to him by someone in Bombay or Calcutta who, thanks to G. W. Bush, is having no employment problems.
But, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, since 1996, farming out services formerly handled by the government has become a $30 billion per year business. However, only a few American corporate executives are scooping up on this largesse - not the American workers their operations have made extinct.
There's no question -the US worker may become an endangered species under four more years of Bush. But whaddya wanna bet that G. W's team comes up with a new statistical fix for this before next year? Like only counting as unemployed those people who quit or were fired for misconduct, while those laid off will be counted as "vacationing workers!" He could knock the official unemployment rate down to about 3% that way - and just in time for the real figures to break the double-digit barrier.
In the meantime, don't quit your day job! Jjust ask for a transfer to India.
For a complete rundown of the latest unemployment statistics, see http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/05/national/main571748.shtml
"Power Tools for Fighting Privatization"
data complied by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) http://www.afscme.org/private/tools04.htm
"Cheap Labor at America's Expense" by Kelly Patricia O'Meara, New World Communications, Inc._ http://meadev.nic.in/ind-ter/for-med/cheap-lab-amr.htm
TWISTED PHOTO SECTION: "POST-LABOR DAY" SPECIAL!
Bush labor secretary Elaine Chao announced an innovative new youth program which seeks to replace "old-fashioned" labor heroes like Norma Ray and Joe Hill with new, "more appropriate" role models http://www.flash.net/~helenket/images/shoeshine.jpg
In NYC this week, Bush unveiled what he described as his "sweeping new initiative" for helping the unemployed http://www.ssa.gov/history/pics/acoffee.jpg
"We here at Archer Daniels Midland offer exciting overseas employment opportunities for American workers downsized from our U.S. plants..." http://www.coc.org/focus/food/pics/rice_paddy.jpg
We asked 4 currently unemployed citizens how they planned to spend their tax credit
Madge T., Florida: "I plan to spend it all in one place!!" http://www.seminoletax.org/again.jpg
Bill G., Oklahoma: "There are actually quite a few things this will help me take care of." http://www.idnmusic.com/catalog/covers/pawnshop.jpg
Janice C. Pennsylvania: "I'm going to see a man about a car." http://www.ppa-auctions.com/images/PPA-Impound-Lot1-Sign-P1020106.jpg
Jack S. California "It will give me a chance to relax at home I didn't think I'd get." http://www.lojjic.net/media/eviction.jpg
PRESS RELEASE FROM WHITE HOUSE
"The Bush privatization plan for the National Institutes of Health and EPA will insure that former federal medical researchers will not lose their jobs but be reassigned to satisfying new positions.
Here are just a few reassigned workers at their new posts!
Joe Smith, EPA atmospheric science - Joe kept telling us how important it was to clean up the environment! http://www.spcservices.com/janitor.gif
The team at Women's Health and Reproductive Studies division: They always said women should help each other! http://jpg1.lapl.org/pics03/00001345.jpg
Harry Jeeter, marine biologist - Harry always said he wanted to work outside more! http://www.mikal.org/photo_journal/las_vegas_8_99/window_washer_luxor2.jpg
Judy Johnson, Pediatric medicine - Judy always said her dream was "to serve others." http://www.northwestern.edu/episcopal/pics/cep-cook-2000.jpg
Dan Thompson and Sam Greene - environmental engineers - we made sure they were still engineers! http://www.danwashburn.com/trash3.jpg