Sunday, December 22, 2013
Advocate for Full Employment with a Livable Wage!
"Growing economic divide threatens California dream"
2013-12-20 by Chris Hoene and Luke Reidenbach for "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Growing-economic-divide-threatens-California-dream-5082586.php]:
In a major economic speech earlier this month, President Obama said that growing inequality and a lack of upward mobility have threatened the fundamental bargain of our nation: "that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead."
This idea is at risk here, too, in California.
Our state has seen a growing economic divide over the past generation, with an outsize share of gains accruing to those on the highest rung of the economic ladder. Between 1987 and 2010, more than three-quarters of the total income gains in California went to just the top 10 percent of taxpayers.
Reversing this trend will take both long-term economic growth and a sustained policy response that put real opportunity within reach of all Californians. Yet while the state's economy has improved over the past 3 1/2 years - with unemployment falling and more than 800,000 jobs added - California's recovery since the Great Recession has yet to reach large segments of workers and their families. More than 1 in 4 unemployed Californians have been seeking work for at least a year. And the current job market poses challenges even for Californians who have found work. Nearly 1 out of 12 employed Californians - or more than 1.3 million individuals statewide - are working part time but actually desire full-time employment.
This economy isn't just missing full-time jobs for those who want them; it's lacking pathways to economic advancement. A healthy economy creates opportunity across a variety of job types and wage levels, allowing workers and their families to move up the ladder. However, there is a "missing middle" in California's current recovery. The state's job market is improving at both ends of the wage spectrum - with growth in low-wage and high-wage jobs - but continues to worsen in the middle.
Also key to economic opportunity are real wage gains over time. But for low- and mid-wage workers, typical hourly wages are still stuck well below where they were before the recession. Only among high-wage workers have the gains made during the recovery been large enough to bring the typical hourly wage close to where it was prior to the downturn, after adjusting for inflation.
The job growth of the past few years is significant and suggests that California is on the mend from the deepest economic downturn in the post-World War II era. But if we place this recovery in a broader context, one thing is clear: Serious economic issues that California faced prior to the Great Recession - most notably widening income inequality - are continuing during the recovery.
Meanwhile, a new study by our organization of what it takes to "make ends meet" shows that amid high costs for housing, child care and health care, many Californians are struggling to afford even basic living expenses. California's ongoing challenges underscore the need for a multifaceted policy response. The state's recently approved minimum-wage increase, which will boost earnings for many low-wage workers, is a good first step. But more needs to be done.
Policymakers in California should bolster support for child care, food assistance and other key services that help families afford day-to-day necessities - and also put dollars directly into communities, thus boosting local economies.
State policymakers also should reinvest in education at all levels, from preschool to higher education. This would create jobs in local communities while also laying the groundwork for expanded economic opportunity in the future. As President Obama noted in his speech, high-quality preschool in particular can be critical in helping ensure that all children enter school ready to succeed in the classroom and prepare for rewarding careers.
Further, state and local leaders could promote economic growth by working together on a number of fronts, such as ensuring that workforce development and job training programs are well aligned with the needs of workers and employers, and investing available infrastructure dollars in projects that link regional employment and housing centers.
We hardly need to underscore that the strength of California's recovery will depend in large part on actions taken in Washington. The economy in California and nationally is on the road to recovery, but our elected officials can't afford to sit back and wait for growth to pick up. Policy action will determine whether our state is positioned for a rebound that creates widely shared economic gains, rather than leaving many workers and families behind.
"Rethinking unemployment: 1.3 million workers lose unemployment benefits so Congress can leave for vacation"
2013-12-28 by Brian Becker from "Liberation News" [http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/13-million-workers-lose.html]:
Unemployed men in line for free food, Chicago, 1931. Before unemployment insurance became law, workers who lost their jobs were left to fend for themselves.
Capitalism requires at all times – during the period of economic expansion or during the bad times of economic recession – that a certain part of the working population be unemployed or maintained in what Marx called the “reserve army of the unemployed.”
If everyone in a capitalist economy had a job then the competition between workers would essentially end. The working class would be fully empowered to demand from each employer that their wages be increased which would mean that the profits for the employers would be reduced. That’s good for workers but very bad for the capitalists.
The phenomenon of unemployment is a profound crisis for each jobless individual and a source of fear for almost all employed workers but it is an opportunity for the capitalists to have unemployed workers compete with each other for jobs.
Under this system capitalists can hire some part of the unemployed when it’s best for their profit margins and fire large numbers of them when it’s best for their profit margins. The only basis for the decision is what is best for the accumulation of profits. The worker is like the machine, useful at times but also expendable and replaceable.
WalMart just opened new stores in Washington D.C. for the first time. They advertised that they would hire 800 people. Nearly 24,000 showed up to apply for these jobs that guarantee a wage that will leave the new worker in poverty. The Walton family that owns WalMart has the equivalent wealth of 41 percent of the population of the United States.
Until 1935, when workers lost their jobs because they were fired or laid off by capitalist employers or because they were told old to keep working, they would be forced to completely fend for themselves. During the 1930s during the economic Depression caused by capitalism millions of people were plunged into widespread hunger and homeless and tens of thousands died from hunger and cold.
In 1935, in the face of growing working class resistance and the rapid growth of communist and socialist influence among the oppressed class the Roosevelt Administration pushed through the Social Security Act that provided the basis for unemployment insurance benefits for the laid off workers and retirement benefits for older workers.
Even with these important reforms most of the unemployed do not receive unemployment insurance and the number that do is going down.
Today, December 28, 2013, 1.3 million workers who have been unemployed for more than six months will lose all their unemployment benefits as a result of the compromise budget agreement worked out between the Democrats and Republicans who wanted to leave Washington D.C. to begin their next vacation. President Obama left with his family for Hawaii after the deal was reached.
By the end of 2013 the percentage of unemployed workers who receive benefits will drop to 26 percent, a record low, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Capitalist political parties want people to think that unemployment is unavoidable – It’s not!
Some members of the capitalist class are politically liberal and others are conservative. Some are Democrats and some are Republicans. The corporations and banks they own give huge amounts of money to both of the ruling class parties. They donate to each as an investment so the outcome won’t matter much.
The ruling class has inculcated the idea that the working class should identify with the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. The last thing they want is for workers to become class conscious enough that they would create their own party which would insist on the creation of a full employment economy where every individual would be guaranteed a job or an income in the case of disability or illness.
The scourge of unemployment is not naturally caused. It is a byproduct of a social and economic order that legalizes the “right” of one very small class in society to become enriched by their employment of working people. The rights of capitalist private property are paramount. The government and courts defend those rights and provide guarantees that particular form of property as sacrosanct.
The working class has no such guarantee. Even their job, the very thing necessary to generate income and sustain the life of the individual workers and their children does not belong to them. Even their job is considered a property right of the capitalist owners.
The first step of a socialist economy is turning this formula upside down. The rights of working people are re-defined. A socialist economy guarantees the right to a job and the right to an income for those who cannot work because of health, disability or age.