Jobs Must Be Our Goal Now, Not Deficit Reduction

The news today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that the U.S. job market is treading water.

The number of new jobs created in December (155,000), and percent unemployment (7.8), were the same as the revised numbers for November.

Also, about the same number of people are looking for work (12.2 million), with additional millions too discouraged even to look.

Put simply, we’re a very long way from the job growth we need to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. That would be at least 300,000 new jobs per month.

All of which means job growth and wage growth should be the central focus of economic policy, not deficit reduction.

Yet all we’re hearing from Washington — and all we’re likely to hear as Republicans and Democrats negotiate over raising the debt ceiling — is how to cut the deficit.

The typical American worker’s paycheck will drop this week because his or her Social Security tax will rise, from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. That’s nonsensical.

We need to put more money into the pockets of average workers, not less. The first $25,000 of income should be exempt from Social Security taxes altogether, and we should make up the difference by eliminating the ceiling on income subject to Social Security taxes.

About Robert Reich 545 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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