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Hullabaloo


Thursday, December 12, 2013

 
Democrats shouldn't be crowing about the unemployment rate

by David Atkins

There's a growing political phenomenon out there of Democrats saying nice things about the economy because unemployment seems to be going down somewhat. That's a big mistake.

Americans who aren't part of the economic elite and the asset class can see and feel that the economy is still terrible. The official unemployment rate may be decreasing, but it doesn't feel that way to most--either because the unemployment rate isn't being measured like it used to, or simply because underemployment is so prevalent that it barely matters if you're making $30,000 a year at a service job if you used to make $70,000 a year at a skilled one that no longer exists. You may be "employed" per the official records, but the economy isn't going to feel any better to you.

The country still hasn't recovered from the worst economy since the Great Depression caused by Wall Street's reckless greed and overleverage. The economy would be worse today under McCain/Romney, but both parties have been far too obsequious to the wealthy elites in general.

The entire economy is run on behalf of the asset class. Wage earners have been getting dumped on for the last 40 years, at least since Ronald Reagan if not before. Democrats have better than Republicans, certainly, but not even Democrats have done a great job of addressing these issues over the last 40 years or so.

That's it's important that the Democratic Party rally behind the banner of Elizabeth Warren and others like her. We need to acknowledge the reality that the system is still broken, and that while six years of a Democratic President have saved us from the depredations of the Tea Party, they still haven't begun the right the ship of state. We need to acknowledge that both parties have frankly been far too cozy with the economic elite, and haven't done the work to put the needs of Main Street ahead of the needs of Wall Street.

We need to boost wages in this country, and stop the runaway flood of money away from the middle class and into the coffers of the 1%. We need to either stop corporations with record stock prices making record profits from abusing and slashing their workforce, or we need to figure out a way to reorient the economy so that it works for regular people in spite of the challenges in the labor market.

It may well be that globalization, mechanization and deskilling of the labor market means that the new "natural" employment rate is only 90%. It may well be that companies simply don't need to hire workers at decent wages anymore to make profit.

That doesn't mean we have to put up with it, or shrug our shoulders as all the money pools at the very top where only skilled workers with advanced degrees can live decent lives.

Just as we changed the rules to prevent child labor, prostitution and the heroin trade, we can prevent the abuse of the American worker by the financial sector, too. Our economic rules were artificially constructed for the industrial economy of the 20th century. We can--and *should*--change them for the information economy of the 21st.

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