The amnesiacs in the Party of No just love to blame Barack Obama and the Democrats for the crisis in the U.S. economy that they and their string-pullers spent so many years wrecking. And they're having a field day with the White House Jobs Summit, whose discussions you can view here. Newt Gingrich, one of the most forgetful Republicans on the planet, held an alternative jobs summit yesterday and came up with some more of that innovative thinking the Party of No is rightly famed for. How can we put people back to work? Tax cuts for the rich, natch!
One arena should get top priority and right away: The White House could generate both practical results and confidence building by moving quickly to ameliorate the festering wound of state budget shortfalls. Predictions are that, even after the relief to states already granted, they will, in aggregate, see $369 billion in revenue shortfalls this fiscal year and the next two years. Consequences: massive layoffs, cuts in services, higher taxes, and lots of deferred maintenance that will inevitably lead to higher repair and restoration costs in the future.
While the need for immediate action on jobs is obvious, the administration should not ignore the long term. Otherwise, the current crisis, which is the culmination of 40 years of structural economic change driven by terrible class-war policies, will be reincarnated as an even worse crisis a few years down the road.
Dave Johnson at the Campaign for America's Future has the right take on it:
"Normal" isn’t an option anymore, because it is what led to where we are.
The financial sector bailout is based on the idea that things will get back to "normal" if the credit machine is restarted and consumers and businesses are able to borrow more. The stimulus is based on the idea that the economy is an engine that runs smoothly and just needs to be restarted and things will get back to "normal." While we wait for "normal" to return the government is stepping in to make up the slack in demand, and to help those hit hardest by the downturn. (Never mind that COBRA subsidies start expiring as you read this and unemployment has been extended and extended.)
The idea that you can get the financial sector and the economy back to "normal" desperately assumes that a sustainable "normal" existed in the structure of the 20th-century western economy. It assumes that there really is an "invisible hand" that takes care of things without human intervention. It assumes that perpetual growth of consumers and their incomes and of consumables could just go on and on.
This all assumes that "normal" was OK. This is such a nice, comforting idea. It is wrong.
You might be lucky enough to still have a job today but you probably haven’t had a raise for a long time. And if you did rising costs of health care, etc. took it back. But even if you are ahead, what about tomorrow? Do you have a job that absolutely can't be outsourced or replaced by technology? If you think so I have news for you, millions of newly-unemployed can see that you have a rare necessary job, and they're all going to try to get it from you.
So good luck with the Jobs Summit. But if we don't hear about a fundamental restructuring that involves changing basic ideas of what work means and who "owns" the companies and shares the wealth in a technologically advanced, overpopulated and overproducing world, well, I won't think we're hearing the answers we need to hear.
A jobs policy without an industrial policy, without a revamped trade policy, without a policy directed at reducing inequality will be nothing more than a Band-Aid. It might hold us together for a little while. But what we desperately need is surgery.