Worse than nothing, the republican party has actively sought to undermine American jobs, American wages, American workers and the American economy. Here's how:
1. Undermining American Jobs
The Republicans talk about the importance of American jobs. They argue that the government can't create jobs and so they applaud the massive loss of government employees like teachers, police, firefighters and federal, state and local government employees. A conversation could be had about the size of government. A conversation could be had about how many employees are employed by all levels of government. However, this conversation is not one to be had in the middle of a recession that borders on a depression. This conversation is not one to be had as a struggling economy slowly grows it's way out of the hole. When asked whether republican policy might ultimately cost government workers their jobs, John Boehner displayed his contempt and disconcert for the economy by responding “so be it” .
2. Undermining American Wages
Immediately after taking office, republicans across the country in states like Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, and Michigan to name a few, immediately sought to attack and weaken public unions. They argue that the fair wages, fair benefits and fair working conditions ensured by our public unions is weakening our nation. They used our public workers as the place to pin the blame for the excessive spending of the Bush administration and the egregious lack of ethics by our financial sector which ultimately led to the Great Recession. The Republicans would have us believe that the only solution to the gaping financial hole left by the Bush Tax Cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic downturn is to lower the wages and benefits of our public employees. The question remains, how does lowering wages strengthen our economy?
3. Undermining American Workers
Attacking public unions is just the latest in a decades long, focused attack on unions and organized labor nationwide. In recent decades union membership has been steadily declining. Likewise, in recent decades American wages have essentially remained flat. But the Republicans do more to undermine American workers than attack unions, they attack the workers themselves. You hear Republican after Republican argue that the unemployed are to blame for our slow recovery. If only the unemployed would try to find a job the economy would recover. Based on this logic, the Republican party argues against unemployment benefits and programs that benefit struggling families. Republican logic states that If we continue to help lazy unemployed Americans, they'll never go out and get jobs.
This chart demonstrates the absurdity and false Republican by showing the severity of the jobs lost in this recession. Taking from the poor and middle class and then blaming them for the recession is not a sound jobs policy.
4. Undermining America's Economy
The newly elected Republican house has done much to undermine our economy. First, they have done nothing of benefit. Second, they have argued that we stop doing the few beneficial things their Republican predecessors did not filibuster, like the stimulus, tax cuts for the poor and middle class, unemployment benefits and fundamental investment in American infrastructure and America's future. Not content to do nothing while also undermining what we know works, the Republicans have actively sought to pursue policies of austerity which history tells us will not work. Republicans argue that the deficit is our biggest problem, not unemployment. As a result they have fought to repeat the same austerity mistakes that FDR made during the Great Depression. They have compounded this false premise with historically unprecedented brinkmanship over the debt ceiling in an effort to force spending cuts. Having no sense of irony, the Republican approach of cutting spending will indeed lose more jobs. Had they worked on meaningful job creation legislation, the increased jobs would have helped to stimulate the economy and in turn the deficit would have been reduced. Adding insult to injury, the combination of brinkmanship and failure to improve the economy has recently led to worldwide stock market losses and the added bonus of S&P downgrading our nation's credit rating for the first time in history. That's what I call a Republican jobs program!
Republican Talking Points And Jobs: By The Numbers
Like most issues, the Republican party at all levels beats the drum of factless talking points. Here are some points to consider as you hear them try to pin the blame anywhere but where it belongs, on themselves.
Let's spend a little bit more time looking at the Republicans' obsession with austerity. The recent debt ceiling resolution forces austerity on our nation at precisely the wrong moment. Some economists have calculated that the agreement reached could eliminate up to 1.8 million additional jobs. In addition to affecting so many jobs, the austerity measures imposed by our Tea Party friends has the added bonus of reducing GDP growth by 0.3% in 2012 alone. Once these new austerity measures are in place, our domestic discretionary spending will be at it's lowest point since 1950, yet they argue that the government is the largest it has been in our history. Again, the facts simply don't support their case. The damage that results from this kind of foolish history ignoring austerity is one thing, but what of the opportunity cost of not investing in our nation's future?
2. Government Doesn't Create Jobs:
While it's true that the government can't be the only job creator in our economy, the notion that the government doesn't create jobs or provide value to our economy is so obviously false it seems ludicrous to mention it. Evidence that the government does indeed create jobs is the fact that the government, as a result of the economic downturn and recent austerity measures has lost almost 500,000 jobs since 2008. We have lost nearly 100,000 of those government jobs this year alone. Whether you love or hate the government, it can not be denied that our economy could use another 500,000 wage earners spending money as our economy struggles to improve.
Just last week we saw another example of Republican contempt for government and their general disconcern for American workers. In an effort to make yet another political point, Republicans in the Senate blocked reauthorization of funds for the FAA. In these difficult economic times, yet another cheap political point affected 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 private construction employees. In Brooklyn, at least 70 such workers were affected by this partisan bickering.
3. The Failed Obama Stimulus Myth:
Republicans argue that the stimulus was a failed program. They conveniently ignore that they fought to make the stimulus smaller than it should have been. They also conveniently ignore that a disproportionately large share of the stimulus was wasted on their favorite failed policy, tax cuts. Setting these limitations aside, the failure they point to in the Obama Stimulus plan is credited with creating or saving 1.1 million jobs with some estimates crediting it with saving up to 3 million jobs. This is the kind of epic failure we could use a bit more of. (red bars are Bush, blue bars are Obama)
4. Job Creators
All of the Republican economic policy is focused on benefitting "job creators," their latest euphemism for the rich. We have seen report after report on the record amounts of cash in the hands of wealthy individuals and large corporations alike. Recently, it was reported that corporations are on track to post the largest profits in history for 2012. With so much money in their hands and so much profit one has to ask why aren't the "job creators" creating jobs? More importantly, why aren't the Republicans working with the "job creators" to create jobs? Finally, if our "job creators" aren't creating jobs, why do Republicans insist on using this term?
Say What You Will About Jobs, But What About Wages?
What is sometimes lost in the conversation of our current economic situation is the issue of American wages. Not only have we lost millions of jobs in the last decade, but more importantly, we have been steadily losing our share of America's growth and prosperity in the form of decades of flat wages. Middle class wages have remained flat for decades while the real wages and real wealth of the wealthiest Americans has reached historically high levels. Let's set aside the ethical questions of what is right and wrong, what our nation should be and should not be and simply ask the question, how can our nation and our economy survive if the wages and income of the majority of Americans is stagnant? If the majority of Americans have not had real wage increases in decades, isn't that a significant contributor to our current economic crisis? Finally, if the majority of Americans do not experience real wage growth moving forward, what hope do we have for a meaningful recovery of our economy?
Nowhere is this disparity more striking than in New York City, we are the most economically polarized city in the United States. According to the Gotham Gazette, the top 1% of New Yorkers control 44% of income which is a four fold increase in income disparity from 30 years ago. Recently the New York Times reported on the excess and spending habits of the wealthiest New Yorkers citing examples of outrageously priced items flying off the shelves. One of the examples cited wealthy New Yorkers spending more on a pair of shoes than many of their fellow citizens make in a week or month. How can the wealthiest nation in the world claim to be the greatest nation in the world when we display not only such disparity, but actively seek to support policies that make this disparity even greater? How can we claim to be the greatest city in the world when we allow this kind of disparity and 90% of us are not meaningful participants in our economy?
A truly great nation fights for the weakest among us. A truly great nations seeks justice and equal access to opportunity. A truly great nation doesn't take from the poor and give to the rich. Likewise, a truly great city fights to change such injustice, and that's just what we've been doing in Bay Ridge and Staten Island and in communities across the city. On Wednesday 8/10, we'll be joining with other New Yorkers to ask Congressman Grimm to focus on creating jobs, not cutting benefits and programs that so many people rely upon. We'll be working hard in front of Grimm's Dyker Heights office to make our borough, our city and yes, our nation a better example of the great nation we strive to be.