Thursday, July 28, 2011

U.S. Jobs Agenda on C-SPAN

Senator Tom Harkin, Representative John Garamendi, and members of the Task Force on Job Creation talked about the reasons behind U.S. unemployment. Topics included U.S. manufacturing, the impact of spending cuts on jobs, and the role of China.

A copy of the Task Force's report is available from the New America Foundation and a video of the entire event can be viewed here.  See also article by Leo Hindery on Huffington Post.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Right wing jobs plans push public workers out, unpaid prisoners in

Right wing jobs plans push public workers out, unpaid prisoners in | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

by Jim Hightower
July 23, 2011

"...[I]f you’re among the millions of long-term unemployed Americans who’ve been searching in vain for work, I have a hot tip for you: They’re hiring in Wisconsin!"

"There is one little catch, though. You have to be a Wisconsin jailbird to get one of these dandy jobs."

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"When You Hear Deficit, Think of Infrastructure"

Americans are known for such cheerful aphorisms as "whistle while you work" and "keep your eyes on the prize, hold on."  So, I've got one for you:

"When you hear deficit, think of infrastructure."

That's right, think of all the things the deficit hawks tell you we can't afford.

For example, earlier this year the 21st Century School Fund issued a fact sheet on the dismal state of our public school buildings.  The fact sheet reports:

What condition are our public school facilities in?

  • School districts have an estimated $271 billion of deferred building and grounds maintenance in their schools, excluding administrative facilities, which averages $4,883 per student.
  • In a 2010 state survey, 10 states (CO,DE,GA,HI,IL,KY,LA,ME,MT,NJ) reported needing an average of $4,400 per student for deferred maintenance.
  • Public school facility investment aligns with the wealth of the community the school is located in. Between 1995-2004 schools in low wealth zip codes had one third the funding for capital projects as schools in high wealth zip codes. 
What difference does facility condition make to children and adults?
  • Teachers in Chicago and Washington, DC reported missing 4 days annually because of health problems caused by adverse building conditions (with poor indoor air quality being the biggest problem).
  • A national survey of school nurses found over 40% of the nurses knew children and staff adversely impacted by avoidable indoor pollutants.
  • Students from 95 New York City Public Schools attended fewer days on average in schools with poor facilities and had lower grades in English Language Arts and Math which could be correlated to lower attendance.
  • Schools that implement energy-saving strategies–from following green building design to using energy-efficient building components to behavioral change – can reduce energy use by as much as one-third, resulting in major environmental and cost-savings benefits.
Q.  So, will our nation's crumbling schools be promptly fixed if the deficit hawks prevail?  "Not bloody likely...!!"   

So, you say, where's the "whistle while you work" in any of that?  "When you hear deficit, think of infrastructure."   The trick is to realize that infrastructure underspending is a deficit too.   

The costs that we have deferred by refusing to pay for needed infrastructure pile up on top of our students and communities in one massive unpaid bill.  It's a bill that Congress and the President -- and for that matter, the Bowles Deficit Commission -- have somehow decided not to think about.   

So, when someone says they want to whack $3 trillion out of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and other federal spending -- in the worst, most wrenching recession since the Great Depression -- what we should say is the following:

Honestly, I think you should consider going to a therapist.  A person who ignores the fundamental needs of his and her neighbors, when bridges and dams and schools are collapsing all around us, is not psychologically well.

The truth is, all these histrionics about the debt ceiling in Washington are a massive distraction from attending to the physical and human needs of the United States.   Of course we should rein in wasteful spending and fraud and programs that don't work.  But don't talk to me about that when you've just blown trillions on the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the extension of tax cuts for the country's wealthiest citizens.  You want to raise the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 when 55-year olds are being fired and downsized by the truckload?   I advise you to seek professional help.*

So, when you shift your attention to infrastructure and unmet human needs, you are thinking about the things that truly matter -- such as the health, well-being and productivity of students in public schools.   

Forget about the deficit.  "Cheer yourself up" by thinking about the decaying and broken infrastructure that can provide the opportunity and strategic focus to get Americans back to work.  Visualize the little kids in urban schools who are wheezing from asthma because our political leaders fail to act.   (Leave no child behind, eh?  But it's OK to warehouse them in a sick building?)

Then, visualize the many positive impacts that would flow from a national investment program to upgrade and replace crumbling, sick school buildings.  Visualize construction workers going home from work with freshly cashed paychecks, and stopping off at the supermarket to pick up some groceries.  Visualize cash registers ringing up higher totals, in turn creating jobs for other unemployed and worthy Americans.  Visualize workers with full-time jobs, paying taxes again, and bringing down the deficit the right way -- by working our way out of it.

It looks like the world is collapsing around us, because politicians are implementing the equivalent of "a public capital strike," where they refuse to invest in the future of our country.  

In that bleak landscape, the Drive for Decent Work urges you to protect your own mental health by engaging in wild, crazy, upside-down thinking.  Forget about the deficit.  When you hear deficit, think of infrastructure. Whistle while you work.

* In an article in the Nation, Kurt Vonnegut once pointed out that military spending is the worst addiction of them all, and that a 12-step program may be needed to wean addicts off their destructive habit.  We may need a similar recovery program for deficit hawks, who are prone to destructive binges, and rob innocent bystanders more aggressively then any heroin or cocaine addict.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Former Gov. Ted Strickland Speaks Out on Deficit Hysteria

Great piece in Huffington Post

Ted Strickland: Dems' Concessions On Debt Debate Are 'Very Troubling':
Sam Stein, Huffington Post

"...A resolution to raise the nation's debt ceiling may remain far off. But the long-term framing of the debate over spending and debt is becoming slightly clearer, and it's causing philosophical fissures among Democrats.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland (D) aired his concern that the fiscal 'belt-tightening' President Obama and many Democrats have pursued has effectively diminished the party's brand. Democrats, he argued, have 'allowed the center of the political debate to be shifted so far to the right that we find ourselves debating on their territory and using Republican language.'

'It's very troubling,' he said."

"...You've got to create conflict, but it's got to be the right kind of conflict," he said. "The thing that bothers me is we allow ourselves to debate issues using their frame and we're doing it with this deficit issue. Everyone now, with the exception of maybe [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi, begins their first statement with, 'Oh, we've got to deal with the deficit.' Yes! But not in 2011. We've got to deal with job losses in 2011."

"You don't take a problem that has developed over decades, that may be structural in nature, and decide, 'Aha! Eureka! We've reached a conclusion -- we've got to solve this problem in the midst of the greatest recession,'" he said. "Of all the times to solve it."

Read rest of article

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Green Jobs Can Put America Back to Work!

The Brookings Institution has just put together a report analyzing the impact of green jobs and the emerging "clean economy," looking in particular on the impact on metro areas. The report offers a detailed look how expanded investment in this sector could benefit urban areas and regional economies.

Among the the report's findings:

Sizing the Clean Economy: A Green Jobs Assessment - Brookings Institution:

"...The clean economy, which employs some 2.7 million workers, encompasses a significant number of jobs in establishments spread across a diverse group of industries. Though modest in size, the clean economy employs more workers than the fossil fuel industry and bulks larger than bioscience but remains smaller than the IT-producing sectors. Most clean economy jobs reside in mature segments that cover a wide swath of activities including manufacturing and the provision of public services such as wastewater and mass transit. A smaller portion of the clean economy encompasses newer segments that respond to energy-related challenges. These include the solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, fuel cell, smart grid, biofuel, and battery industries."

The clean economy grew more slowly in aggregate than the national economy between 2003 and 2010, but newer “cleantech” segments produced explosive job gains and the clean economy outperformed the nation during the recession. Overall, today’s clean economy establishments added half a million jobs between 2003 and 2010, expanding at an annual rate of 3.4 percent. This performance lagged the growth in the national economy, which grew by 4.2 percent annually over the period (if job losses from establishment closings are omitted to make the data comparable). However, this measured growth heavily reflected the fact that many longer-standing companies in the clean economy—especially those involved in housing- and building-related segments—laid off large numbers of workers during the real estate crash of 2007 and 2008, while sectors unrelated to the clean economy (mainly health care) created many more new jobs nationally. At the same time, newer clean economy establishments— especially those in young energy-related segments such as wind energy, solar PV, and smart grid—added jobs at a torrid pace, albeit from small bases.

The clean economy is manufacturing and export intensive. Roughly 26 percent of all clean economy jobs lie in manufacturing establishments, compared to just 9 percent in the broader economy. On a per job basis, establishments in the clean economy export roughly twice the value of a typical U.S. job ($20,000 versus $10,000). The electric vehicles (EV), green chemical products, and lighting segments are all especially manufacturing intensive while the biofuels, green chemicals, and EV industries are highly export intensive.

The clean economy offers more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle-skilled workers than the national economy as a whole. Median wages in the clean economy—meaning those in the middle of the distribution—are 13 percent higher than median U.S. wages. Yet a disproportionate percentage of jobs in the clean economy are staffed by workers with relatively little formal education in moderately well-paying “green collar” occupations.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"The Age of Greed" interview with author Jeff Madrick (The Real News)

The Age of Greed, by Jeff Madrick

“Who’s responsible for the laying waste of our economy—making the rich far richer and everyone else economically insecure? Madrick does more than name names. He tells us who did what and how they did it—the ideologues, demagogues, corporate titans, and crooks.” —Robert B. Reich

Buy the Hardcover: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Borders |IndieBound | Powell’s | Random House

Buy the eBook:

Kindle | Nook | iBookstore | Sony | Google | Kobo | Other eRetailers

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What About the Long-Term Unemployed?

What About the Long-Term Unemployed? - The Takeaway:
July 11, 2011

"....Friday produced another round of ugly job numbers as the country's unemployment rate inched up to 9.2 percent. Yet in Washington, the conversation remains fixed squarely on a compromise to raise the country's debt ceiling. Have lawmakers forgotten about the country's unemployed? And what about the '99'ers,' the individuals who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and are left with no government assistance? Where do they fit into the picture?

One of those people who have been unemployed for a long period is Alexandra Jarrin. A veteran of corporate America, she has been unemployed since March 2008 and is currently living in a motel in Vermont. Dan Gross, economics editor and columnist for Yahoo! Finance, talks about how the government has responded."

"...I will be in the streets on Wednesday morning without anywhere to go. I have looked for jobs all over this country along with many, many other people." -- Alexandra Jarrin 

Listen to the interview

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No, We Can’t? Or Won’t?

Where's that can-do spirit, people? Put your remote down. Out of the cafes and into the streets!!

By Paul Krugman
July 10, 2011

"...Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity — a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses..."

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mother Jones > The Spam Factory's Dirty Secret

The great investigative journalist, Upton Sinclair, author of "The Jungle," who exposed the appalling crimes of the meat-packing industry over 100 years ago, must be spinning in his grave. (Indeed, if we could install a turbine there, we could probably phase out nuclear power....)

So, will our federal agencies and the Congress be prodded to investigate the appalling line speed and working conditions in US meat and chicken factories? What will it take to overthrow the oppressive conditions in such plants? If such labor violations are mostly confined to immigrant workers, do "we" even care? Oh, so many questions.

Mother Jones, July/August 2011 Issue
First, Hormel gutted the union. Then it sped up the line. And when the pig-brain machine made workers sick, they got canned.

— By Ted Genoways

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ohio Democrats propose public spending to boost jobs

Ohio Democrats propose public spending to boost jobs | Business First:

Columbus Morning Call
Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"...Two Democratic legislators from the Cleveland area want to revive the Depression-era federal Works Progress Administration on a state scale to create public works jobs around Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
Reps. Nickie Antonio and Mike Foley on Monday unveiled details of the Ohio Works Progress Administration, which would cost about $400 million over two years and create an average of 50 jobs in each of the state's 88 counties. The public service jobs would pay about $27,500 annually, the paper reported."

"The lawmakers conceded the plan isn't likely to get much traction in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the paper reported."

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Older interns signal gloomy U.S. labor market

Older interns signal gloomy U.S. labor market | Reuters

By Alexandra Alper, New York, 6/3/11

"...Elizabeth Romanaux puts a brave face on working as an intern at the age of 55.

A media relations manager until she joined the millions of unemployed Americans two years ago, Romanaux spent the spring building contact lists and fetching lunches as she tried to keep alive her chances of resuming full employment.

'You have to suck it up sometimes and do what a 17-year-old would happily do and be happy about it,' she said of her recent stint with a public relations firm in New Jersey.

Once the domain of high school and college students, internships are more common among older Americans who are struggling to find jobs and keep their skills up to date in the worst U.S. labor market in decades.

'A lot of adults who are either returning to the workforce or have been laid off in the recession are looking for places and ways to build a resume and fill a gap between jobs,' said Margo Rose, founder of HireFriday, an online job search advice website..."

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bill Clinton in Newsweek >> 14 Ways to Put America Back to Work

Nice that someone is talking about jobs, but Clinton's list seems anemic and inadequate. It's heavily skewed toward green jobs, but even at that, he seems to be just nibbling around the edges. Needed public services like education, child care, afterschool programs and home care aren't even mentioned.

Also, if you calculate the true rate of unemployment, as NJFAC does -- 28.6 million Americans are out of work, too discouraged to look or want full-time work when they only have part-time. So these small-bore ideas are pretty weak tea for a massive, long-term unemployment crisis that may persist over many years.

It's Still the Economy, Stupid - Newsweek:
June 19, 2001

"It’s Still the Economy, Stupid: Fourteen million Americans remain out of work, a waste of our greatest resource. The 42nd president has more than a dozen ideas on how to attack the jobs crisis.

Next week in Chicago, the Clinton Global Initiative will focus on America for the first time, inviting business and political leaders to make specific commitments in support of the former president’s jobs blueprint, which he details below."

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