Positive is always better than negative. After all, the average for 2008-2009 was a monthly job loss of 360,000. But at the current rate of job growth and young people joining the working-age population, it would take until mid-2024 to restore the unemployment rate to where it was in December 2007. History indicates that by then we would have long since fallen into another recession.
Nearly everyone, including the president, agrees that job growth has been far too slow and that we have a long way to go to repair the devastation the lords of finance have visited upon us.
While the national economy as a whole is better off than it was four years ago, millions of Americans are suffering the ill effects of the Great Recession and the policies and lack of policies that produced it. They have spent their savings, exhausted their unemployment benefits, lost their homes and, if they have managed to get a replacement job, in all too many cases they have taken a pay cut even if they are now doing pretty much the same work as they were before the downturn. Many are doing jobs that don't take advantage of their skills.
The distribution of the benefits of the "recovery" from the Great Recession has been, shall we say, skewed in the direction of those self-same lords who have paid no penalty for their predatory arrogance. And five years on, it is obvious they are never going to.
Meanwhile, large numbers of workers over 50 who were laid off have been unable to find new jobs right when many of them are caught in the three-way economic vice of sending their kids to college, taking care of aging parents and trying to boost their retirement savings. The only thing standing in the way of utter poverty for them is Social Security, Medicaid and food stamps, all of which the plutocrats and those whose strings they pull are eager to eviscerate.
Especially hurt have been public-sector workers. Heidi Shierholz at the Economy Policy Institute writes:
While overall the labor market has added jobs for the last two-and-a-half years, it’s actually just the private sector that’s adding jobs; the public sector is losing them. In August, the public sector lost 7,000 jobs. Since the peak of public-sector employment four years ago in August 2008, the public sector has shed 680,000 jobs. Through ripple effects, the loss of public-sector jobs also causes job loss in the private sector, amplifying the drain on the recovery.Teachers and their aides, fire fighters, cops and other first responders, departments of motor vehicle clerks, librarians, safety inspectors, probation officers, janitors and maintenance crews have all felt the impact of this job slaughter. Many who have managed to keep their jobs have seen their benefits plunge and their health premiums rise. They've been coerced into taking so many furlough days that they have effectively been made part-time workers. Those unions which have stuck up for their members the way unions are supposed to have been forced to choose among contractual givebacks, layoffs or strikes. The last presents a big risk in economic down times. The former weakens collective bargaining clout.
Because public-sector employment is more highly unionized, more woman-heavy, more populated by minorities, attacking it as tax revenues plummeted was, of course, a no-brainer for you-know-who.
The plutocrats were able to gut programs and fire employees with the excuse that not enough revenue was available to cover the costs. That was only true in many cases because the bosses-of-us-all have done such a fantastic job of skewing the tax system to reflect their desires. It's Grover Norquist's bathtub-drowning dictum played out at the local level.
For the lords, the one-percenters, the plutocrats, the financial aristocracy, the ruling class, the assholes-in-charge—whatever you want to call them—the recession opened an opportunity to slam public employees and they went at with gusto.
Sadly, they had many willing accomplices.
There are the fellow-travelers, of course, mayors and governors and state legislators who enable these guys. But there are also working-class people who take an ax to their own long-term self-interests by agreeing that "something must be done" about a public-sector work force that is "too big" and has "too many" benefits. Stuff like decent health coverage, sick days, holidays, and vacation time that expands with longevity on the job, as well as protection from the whims of supervisors. You know, the kind of benefits every worker should have in every work place. Propaganda has persuaded a big slice of the population to buy the argument that public-sector pensions are too generous, public-sector pay is too high, public-sector jobs too easy and public-sector workers too unproductive.
It's ever more unlikely the Bain buccaneer and his Wisconsin sidekick will occupy the White House come January. Nor will Republicans control the Senate and maybe not even the House. But that won't stop the plutocrats from continuing to leverage the effects of recession into additional attacks on public-sector workers. Their successes at the state and local level will spur them to additional attacks, first by lowering the tax base again, thereby allowing them to claim programs and employees are unaffordable. Because they made them so.
Defeating this battle in the class war is no short-term matter. Our foes are relentless and with money, machination and manipulation eternally in search of ways to bring us to our knees. Street protests and asymmetrical direct actions are must-have elements of any effective counter-force against their attacks.
But replacing local politicians is equally important. Social media and other technological tools have yet to get a full work-out in this realm, the place where we create the deep bench of tomorrow's progressive leaders, the folks we can count on to keep public programs and public workers from getting trashed every time an economic crisis makes it easy. We need to be as attuned to these local and state contests as we are to those that decide who sits in the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.