The president’s campaign for a second term faces a bit of a “soft patch” around national job creation. A job loss economy with growth equals a potentially big presidential campaign issue.
Karl Rove, Bush’s main political adviser, knows it. Millions of U.S. workers are living it.
Employers are not much expanding their payrolls. For U.S. workers, economic recovery remains elusive.
Just 1,000 new non-farm jobs were created in December nationwide, according to Labor Dept. data. A total of 8.4 million people were officially unemployed.
On Jan. 22, a day after Bush’s job-training talks, Eastman Kodak Co. announced plans to cut some 15,000 jobs from its global work force. Some 30 percent of the pink slips are to be given at the company’s base in Rochester, NY.
The day before, Bush said he was willing, with the approval of Congress, to spend just over $500 million on job training, or $1.3 million a day, in the next federal fiscal year that begins in October. In contrast, the president is planning to request total defense spending for the next fiscal year of $420 billion, or about $1.2 billion a day.
In addition, the Bush White House has (except former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill) talked much about its three tax cuts creating new jobs. However, such talk inaccurately describes the reality of the job market on Bush’s watch.
"Since President Bush's first tax cut in March of 2001, the economy has shed more than 2 million jobs,” according to the Economic Policy Institute. “He will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to end his term with a net job loss record.”
Job losses during the Bush administration have mainly come in manufacturing. “Manufacturing lost 516,000 jobs in 2003 and has shed 2.8 million jobs since July 2000, the last month it recorded a gain,” the Labor Dept. reported in December.
Crucially, U.S. manufacturing has been in a descent since Richard Nixon was in the White House. Since then, presidents from both parties have presided over this ending of a post-World War II boom in manufacturing.
This trend has restructured the American job market. As high-paying factory jobs have departed for poor nations such as Mexico, service jobs have arrived in the U.S.
The majority of these service jobs are low paid, as economist Michael D. Yates details in Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy (Monthly Review Press, 2003). U.S. civilian jobs in the service sector rose from 58.1 percent in 1960 to 75.3 percent in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On that note, confusing workers in America whose living standards are slipping has become a grand game of political spin for both parties. The current Bush election campaign is no exception.
The president’s job-training proposal suggests that by attending community colleges, workers can hold the key to their career mobility. Presumably, with the improved training, workers will be better able to find well-paying jobs they may have lost.
Here, Bush follows mainstream, or neoclassical, economic theory. It holds that viewing the individual is the proper focus for understanding society.
Out of work? It is a personal problem.
A solution is to improve one’s job prospects with more training. This is simple, and simply deceptive.
In contrast, radical economic theory holds that groups of people, or classes, better explain the function of the economy and society generally. For example, employers expand payrolls based not on employees’ training but on the expectation of a return from business investment.
Employers’ self-interest rules. The boss, not the worker, is the king.
Unemployment is one outcome that flows from this social relationship of inequality. It governs how a majority of the U.S. population lives and works.
Workers’ organized responses can improve this situation.
Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with
Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at: