Yesterday’s Lousy Jobs Report and the Scourge of Inequality

The U.S. economy created a measly 74,000 new jobs in December, and a smaller percentage of working-age Americans is now employed than at any time in the last three decades (before women surged into the workforce).

What does this have to do with the fact that median household incomes continue to drop (adjusted for inflation) and that 95 percent of all the economic gains since the recovery started have gone to the top 1 percent?

Plenty. Businesses won’t create new jobs without enough customers. But most Americans no longer have enough purchasing power to fuel that job growth.

That’s why it’s so important to (1) raise the minimum wage at least to its inflation-adjusted value 40 years ago — which would be well over $10 an hour, (2) extend unemployment benefits to the jobless, (3) launch a major jobs program to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, (4) expand Medicaid to the near-poor, (5) enable low-wage workers to unionize, (6) rehire all the teachers, social workers, police, and other public service employees who were laid off in the recession, (7) exempt the first $20,000 of income from Social Security payroll taxes and make up the difference by removing the cap on income subject to the tax.

And because the rich spend a far smaller proportion of their earnings than the middle class and poor, pay for much of this by (8) closing tax loopholes that benefit the rich such as the “carried interest” tax benefit for hedge-fund and private-equity managers, (9) raise the highest marginal tax rate, and (10) impose a small tax on all financial transactions.

One of the major political parties adamantly refuses to do any of this, and the other doesn’t have the strength or backbone to make them.

Make a ruckus.

About Robert Reich 547 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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