I was struck by an article in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, describing the imminent closure of a campground for people displaced by the Joplin tornadoes earlier this year. Among the few remaining inhabitants of the camp are some who claim to have come to Joplin in hopes of finding work when the rebuilding starts. That’s what 9%+ national unemployment numbers get you – people so desperate they hope to turn disaster into a job.
Economist Jared Bernstein helps put our current situation into perspective with this chart from the Bureau of Labor Standards, which shows the components that make up the unemployment picture during the period from 2007-2011:
We’re not losing jobs, but we are failing to create new jobs, condemning millions to literally years of unemployment The truly pathetic aspect of this situation, however, is the performance of the politicians we send to Jefferson City and Washington to watch out for our interests. There are some brave Democrats in Jefferson City, but too many of our state and federal legislators are refusing to deal with our urgent jobs crisis, preferring instead to quibble about spending cuts and to fight over which parts of an already decimated budget carcass they get to pick over.
The GOP response is worse than useless. On one end of the spectrum we have Roy Blunt’s obsequious concern for his corporate benefactors, or “job creators,” to use the GOP designation for the very wealthy, in spite of the absolute failure of these putative job machines to produce more than a minimal up-tick in employment when, as during the Bush years, their needs were tended so assiduously. On the other hand, we have the outright contempt for the unemployed evinced by GOP State Senator Jim Lembke who filibustered to prevent the use of federal funds to extend unemployment benefits, asserting that beneficiaries of the benefits were “stealing from their neighbors.”
But the totally unsurprising GOP fecklessness doesn’t mean that our Missouri Democrats are doing much better. Whether it’s Senator McCaskill dithering about what she really meant when she was talking about not extending unemployment benefits, or Governor Nixon, who, in the words of a Post-Dispatch editorial last May, was “too worried about making a campaign misstep or flying around the state announcing government handouts with dubious job-creation ability to provide the leadership that was needed,” the impression they create is one of timidity and weakness.
It isn’t as if there aren’t Democrats who know just what to do. Take, for instance, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, whose “Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act,” would put more than 2 million people to work, with particular emphasis on the long-term unemployed, the 99ers, whose joblessness has exceeded the 99 weeks of unemployment insurance our mostly millionaire congress-people are willing to grant them. But that’s not all – remember we also need to address revenue and debt issues – the act would be:
… financed by separate legislation introduced by Schakowsky called the “Fairness in Taxation Act,” which would raise taxes for Americans who earn more than $1 million and $1 billion. It would also eliminate subsidies for big oil companies while closing loopholes for corporations that send American jobs overseas.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we’ve got Roy Blunt responding to a negative jobs report that reflected mostly federal jobs lost due to GOP inflicted spending cuts with the following bit of predigested GOP pablum:
Missourians are looking for jobs, but today’s latest unemployment report indicates yet again that there just aren’t enough jobs out there for people who are looking to get back to work. Washington Democrats are ignoring their pleas to cut taxes, quit spending so much, and help the private sector create real, permanent jobs.
Or there’s McCaskill, claiming that we can’t do much to create jobs, but maybe, just maybe we can fiddle around a little and:
… look at patent reform, we can look at trade agreements as long as they’re fair and don’t hurt American middle-class workers even more than they’ve already been hurt. We can look at regulations — what regulations are absolutely necessary and what regulations are getting in the way of businesses.
And while our Missourians are busy percolating this type of hot air, everybody agrees that the excellent, commonsense proposals put forward by Representative Schakowsky, proposals that would actually address our endemic joblessness, are DOA, victim to ideological warfare, greed, and cowardice.