Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Jobless Masses: They Don’t Want to Talk About You in This Campaign

Cross Posted in orange

That’s right; the tired huddled masses yearning for a living wage need not apply for real representation in 2012. Many do not want to talk about it during campaign season. However, it’s not going away, and there’s a reason; unlike what neoclassical/neoliberal economic garbage stipulates, high unemployment can continue on indefinitely.

There will be no general equilibrium. There will be no confidence fairy. It’s very scary unless something serious is done about this problem. Basic problem solving logistics dictate that you have to at least talk about the right solutions(stimulus/deficit spending/prosecuting financial crimes for LYING-MORE/debt forgiveness) before having any hope of implementation in the future, election or no.

That reality is neither seen nor heard in Washington DC. It is all talk of tax cuts (Middle class/for the wealthy) and deficits as far as the eye can see. You see, income/payroll taxes are for people that actually have income. That’s why focusing purely on tax cuts in this economic climate is not a big enough sum.

It’s the same in this Presidential campaign. We can literally see the pain from month to month with every lackluster jobs report failing or barely holding even with population growth. We’re not even making any inroads from the initial downturn all jobs reports should be benchmarked to, and Yves Smith lays out clearly why this is true.

America’s Broken Jobs Engine

There was rending of garments and wearing of sackcloth last week when the jobs report came in at only 80,000 new jobs created in June, the third disappointing report in a row. Pundits looked to find cheer despite the disappointing outcome. For instance, the number of hours worked rose, and 25,000 temps were added, which the optimists used to contend that employers saw more demand, but weren’t quite confident enough to make permanent hires. Citigroup’s Tobias Levkovich argued that more firms are planning to add jobs. The gloomsters pointed out that global manufacturing output is weakening, and new orders in particular are signaling contraction. And John Hussman noted (hat tip Scott):

As for the June employment figures, the internals provided by the household survey were more dismal than the headline number. The net source of job growth was the 16-19 year-old cohort (even after seasonal adjustment that corrects for normal summer hiring). Employment among workers over 20 years of age actually fell, with a 136,000 plunge in the 25-54 year-old cohort offset by gains in the number of workers over the age of 55. Among those counted as employed, 277,000 workers shifted to the classification “Part-time for economic reasons: slack work or business conditions.”


And increasingly, when I see the Wall Street Journal interview the owner/operators of small or medium-sized businesses, a surprising number display contempt towards workers (you’ll see it particularly when they complain that they can’t find enough good workers, which in the overwhelming majority of cases means they aren’t willing to pay up for the sort of people they’d like to hire). There is similarly more than a bit of inside the Beltway detachment from what is happening in the heartlands, in part due to the fact that the DC area is holding up well thanks to the rising tide of lobbyist dollars. For instance, I recall Gene Sperling making the case that the Administration had created a lot of good middle class jobs, and I realized there was something discordant about his remarks. I realized later that Sperling’s “middle class” was an abstraction, people like construction workers, not the sort he really knew personally. And the Administration’s has not only failed to offset the shrinkage of state and local positions, it’s managed to destroy jobs all on its own. This chart is from Warren Mosler (hat tip Cullen Roche):


A second cause is the strong shift to an anti-inflationary policy bias. Paul Volcker allegedly monitored construction wages to see if he had succeeded in beating inflation. Having labor slack was one way to reduce labor bargaining power and keep price pressures at bay. So high and moderately high levels of unemployment don’t raise the same degree of alarm that they once did. Reagan was freaked out when unemployment rose over 8% and took much more aggressive measures to combat it than Obama has.

That’s quite an illuminating and disturbing chart from the Great MMT economist Warren Mosler; someone who ran for President and the Senate but lost which is a shame. It would be nice to have at least one politician who understood our fiscal and monetary system in tact but as of now we have none. That fact, like this administration letting go of public workers at this rate and bragging about it, is harmful to society and the economy. U6 Unemployment would be under 8%, officially, if the public work force wasn’t cut in this fashion across the board.

I guess trying to defy electoral history seems like the preferred route for some reason unlike Reagan who was surprisingly more worried about over 8% unemployment than this president. The lack of enthusiasm, sometimes disdain, for the public work force, particularly public sector unions, has reverberated throughout the nation. The Democratic Party welcomes losses such as the recent painful one in WI by not standing loud and proud for public unions and the public workforce.

Because they don’t, public and private unions are pitted against each other as they were in WI which partly explains why 23% of union households supported Walker and were susceptible to the propaganda funded by the Koch brothers. Despite what Debbie Wausserman Schultz says, that loss mattered a lot and will continue to matter in the future for what’s left of organized labor in this country. And although important, when the president over emphasizes private sector jobs as if they are the only ones that matter, that takes a toll.

Now perhaps there are a number of people out there in the blogosphere that want me to shut up right now and to stop holding the President’s feet to the fire during an election. My response to that is that during an election is the only time there is any leverage if any exists at all; it’s very doubtful the president cares what’s said about him on a blog anyway.

He’ll definitely care less about anyone's opinion after he is reelected though, which I predict he will be by a hair. And to be fair it’s a given that Romney is slightly more of a joke. I look at him like this.

But this statement also applies to the entire political system and debate or lack thereof. It applies to this entire presidential campaign. You might ask why I can't look at this president the same since 2008? Well it’s too late. Promises were broken and the lack of effort to live up to them has many people I know personally in dire straits right now. How?

No one is talking about raising the minimum wage including the president. It is obvious Romney doesn’t give a shit about workers, but the President made a pledge to raise the minimum wage in his 2008 campaign and again in 2009. And yet, he’s never even tried to make a serious effort to move Congress on this issue.

I’ve only seen Senator Tom Harkin even talking about it, and by at least talking about it one shows they care about the lack of purchasing power working people in this country have. By not talking about it, it’s an unspoken message speaking to a lack of compassion on that front for working people in this country.

Here are a few painful facts that speak to that lack of compassion.

  • Minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation at all. $10.55
    is how much the federal minimum wage would be if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years. Instead, it’s $7.25.
  • $15,080 is the annual income for a full-time employee working the entire year at the federal minimum wage.
  • The number of states where a minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment working a 40-hour week is 0.
  • If you really care about fair pay for women the issue of raising the minimum wage can't be ignored or excused for the falsely perceived electoral good.
  • It's pretty well established that raising the minimum wage would be stimulative and would help spur demand which means jobs, and without politically threatening social security like the payroll tax cut.

So those are pretty good reasons why I don't just shut up about it even during a campaign or what is called a campaign. After all, the brilliant James K. Galbraith speaks well to how important this issue is.

How to Save the Global Economy: Raise the Minimum Wage. A Lot.

Americans can't spend, their government won't spend, and the tax cuts of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama are set to expire soon. The U.S. Congress can't pass an infrastructure bank, and the country can't fix the banking system or the foreclosure mess. Everything is blocked up. Is there anything we can do that would make a difference?

Yes. Raise the U.S. minimum wage. By a lot -- let's say, to $12 an hour, from the current rate of $7.25.


What would workers do with the raise? They'd spend it, creating jobs for other workers. They'd pay down their mortgages and car loans, getting themselves out of debt. They'd pay more taxes -- on sales and property, mostly -- thereby relieving the fiscal crises of states and localities. More teachers, police, and firefighters would keep their jobs.

And so from now onto after the election, we can gauge this as a metric to see whether this 2012 campaign is one that fully speaks to the issues of working people or not. Right now, it fails to measure up. With so much corporate owned media over-saturation on the political horse race now infecting what we call the progressive blog-o-sphere, it would help if someone spoke to these issues that affect all working people once in awhile.

So therefore I implore all of you to demand better standards all around in this campaign so it can have some use unlike the millions of dollars being raised and spent on attack ads instead of adding anything useful to society. We have to be able to talk about real standards and solutions; real knowledge of national accounting, putting and end to deficit lies, deficit terror, and all the inter-generational accounting errors used to push for austerity and bipartisan grand bargains. We all need a real living wage for the working and non working poor, but without the political power to buy access to and for anyone to represent them in Washington D.C.

Oh well, maybe you don't want to talk about it, but it's vastly important that we do.




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This surely doesn't help much.

Glinda's picture

Obama Jobs Council Packed With Outsourcing Companies

Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, 26 business leaders assembled by the president for job-spurring ideas, includes representatives of several companies that have used outsourcing, fueling job creation abroad and job losses in the U.S. Shipping work to low-cost overseas labor markets has been a trend in American manufacturing for decades. The White House has a plan to curb outsourcing, but companies represented on the jobs council reveal just how pervasive the practice is.

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an excellent post priceman! we so so desperately need...

poligirl's picture

a hike in the minimum wage, preferably to a living wage... i'm not gonna hold my breath though... the payola the PTB get from corporations, etc, is too much for them to give up. they don't give a rat's ass about us little folk... all they wanna do for us is cut programs.... sigh...

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Thanks, poligirl

priceman's picture

I thought of you in this post having to work this blog and make close to minimum wage. It's not right.

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Thanks for this piece.

aigeanta's picture

It's actually a pretty simple solution to the problem. It can be done with one piece of legislation, we would have to lobby the same set of principle legislators, and it's an easy slogan to stick on a sticker.

Get Out of the Cage - Help Turn the Page - Raise the Minimum Wage

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Great post (article, essay, what do we call it here?)

type1error's picture

I don't necessarily blame Democrats for the bad rap that unions have gotten. The labor movement has a PR problem that won't be solved by pretty speeches by politicians. We need to find a way to revive a broader labor movement. I'm not sure how to do that.

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Thanks, type1error

priceman's picture

I disagree with you, though. Public unions have taken a massive PR hit precisely because Democrats won't stick up for them, for government work, and don't defend them from the massive lies about their pensions being greater than private pensions. Like it or not all this takes a toll as ti did in WI putting public and private unions against each other explaining why 23% of union households voted for Walker.

Democrats are not unabashedly pro labor as they were when Truman was in office and that takes a toll ever since Carter's strained relationship with them. They can't battle the Center for Union Facts which is a massive propaganda outlet alone or sellout Democrats who gave them nothing, only an auto rescue where some union contracts took a hit. besides that they all ran away from the EFCA including the president after sponsoring it.

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They most assuredly aren't pro-labor like they used to be.

type1error's picture

That aggravates me.

But I don't think that the labor movement should rely on Democrats to make the case for our existence. We need to the case to the people for why we should exist and what we can do to make that happen.

I had a meeting with state-level union official last night. We were talking about the very tough legislative agenda we will have next year. We also talked about ways to talk to people about organized labor and why it is so important. That communication needs to come from us, the members, the organizers, the rabble-rousers.

I grew up in a union home and I strongly believe in organized labor. We can do this. We need to do this. Fuck the Democrats.

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Labor definitely needs its independence from any political party

priceman's picture

I agree. The problem is you have Richard Trumka hitching his wagon to the Democratic party(as the teamsters did with the Republican party in the 80s) and the AFL CIO controls a major chunk of all labor so therefore it's within that frame that I have to come down hard on the betrayal of labor by Democrats. Labor has to sit out some elections to punish Democrats and regain their Independence so hey are not taken for granted. I at least read that they won't be donating like they did.

Organized labor needs it's independence and relevance, otherwise they are controlled and called f-ing retarded as they were by Rahm Emanuel after all the work they did getting the president elected. The leaders sell out the rank and file for perceived self preservation when it's really the death knell of the union movement, what's left of it anyway.

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I don't think the labor movement has a PR problem

sartoris's picture

I don't agree with your comment. Labor has struggled for over a century against the voices that control the media. The Chicago Tribune was a virulently anti labor newspaper as far back as the Haymarket Affair. Labor has no distinct means of communication, i.e. their own cable channels, their own radio stations, their own newspapers. Labor does not have a PR problem. They are just fighting out of their weight class. It's like a bantam weight fighting in the heavyweight division. No matter how hard he trys odds are just not in his favor of victory.
Let me put it this way, have you ever met anyone who complained about unions AND complained about the 40 hour work week? Not likely. The Democratic party needs to honor their own platform and ally themselves with labor. Give us a reason to turn out for you and we will. We're not stupid. We know who supports us and who does not. Just honor the platform that is endorsed by the party and that will go a long way in undoing the damage of the last 30 years. Sorry for the long post.

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If people don't understand

type1error's picture

all that the labor movement has done to build the middle class, then yes, the labor movement absolutely has a giant PR problem. That doesn't mean that the unions, per se, are to blame for it. But I can't deny that the problem exists. To illustrate, I would say that Planned Parenthood has a PR problem to the extent that people believe--falsely--that it is an abortion factory that does nothing for women's health.

The Democratic Party should honor its platform and do more for all workers. However, I do believe that the labor movement needs to build and flourish on its own. We should not depend on politicians to fight all of our battles. The labor movement needs to make the case for empowering workers. Only workers can do that.

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sorry if I wasn't clear

sartoris's picture

Oh, I was not nor do I advocate that the labor movement rely on politicians to fight ALL of our battles. I'm not sure how that was read into my comment but I can only blame my poor writing for your conclusion that I want ALL our battles to be fought by politicians. I was simply trying to state that since the inception of the labor movement it has been fighting against the monied interests who do in fact control the media. Therefore, it seems to me that rather than a PR problem what labor has is more like an unfair playing field problem. It is difficult for a union with 500, 5000 or even 50000 members to take on the concerted efforts of the media empires of billionaires. I wasn't trying to be argumentative and my apologies if it came across that way. I do wish you success with your upcoming legislative agenda. I have long dreamed of a true labor party to provide an alternative to the current two party system. I'm probably wrong but I really believe that people would vote for a labor party candidate who advocated for true worker rights.

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