Building the Movement for Economic Equality: Update on Coronavirus Recovery and Reform (September 2020)

View HTML Version of Full Newsletter

National Jobs for All Network
_______________________________________________________________________
P.O. Box 96, Lynbrook, NY 11563 · [email protected] · www.njfac.org 
Issue #4, September 2020

The Jobs for All Newsletter:
Building a Social Movement for the Job Guarantee

In this issue:

NJFAN Rallies Supporters to Press Federal Government for New Legislation to Address Coronavirus Crisis

By TRUDY GOLDBERG and GREGORY N. HEIRES

Millions of Americans are struggling harder to survive the economic wreckage caused by the pandemic-induced economic crisis as Washington politicians skipped town after failing to act on a new relief package in August.

The CARES benefits—desperately needed by millions of Americans–were about to expire at the end of July when the National Jobs for All Network issued an emergency message urging its supporters to press legislators to continue funding unemployment compensation for jobless Americans, provide assistance to cash-strapped state and local governments facing huge budget shortfalls, and provide assistance to tenants and homeowners.

Loss of these benefits, the message said, would not only be devastating to millions of Americans but, in reducing consumer spending, also disastrous for the economy.

Recognizing the special importance of this political moment, we urged our readers to do all they could to rally support for legislative action that preserves the COVID-19 income and housing benefits; mandates federal leadership over the nation’s response to the coronavirus epidemic; and provides vital aid to state and local governments.

In our emergency message, we emphasized that this is a pandemic-induced recession and that, in addition to the relief and recovery measures that are necessary responses in any severe downturn, Washington must adopt a coordinated national plan to control the spread of COVID-19—to put an end to unnecessary illness and death.

That, instead of premature opening of the economy, is the road to recovery.

Read More

Debate and Discussion

A Missing Pledge in the 2020 Democratic Party Platform

By TRUDY GOLDBERG and PHIL HARVEY

For 52 years—from 1936 to 1988—the Democratic Party pledged support for the achievement of full or maximum employment.

These pledges began before economist John Maynard Keynes even coined the term, “full employment.” They were initially inspired by the 1935 report of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cabinet-level Committee on Economic Security (CES). The CES report is best known for proposing the establishment of the nation’s Social Security system.

Less well known is the report’s proposal for achieving what it described as “maximum” employment. Indeed, the report described the achievement of maximum employment as the “first objective in a program of economic security” (emphasis added), and its proposal for achieving that goal was the report’s first recommendation.

To achieve maximum employment, the CES proposed that the federal government provide the nation’s workforce with “employment assurance” by stimulating private employment and providing public employment for those able-bodied workers whom industry cannot employ at a given time. In other words, the CES proposed a combination of what later came to be known as the Keynesian full employment strategy (the use of stimulus spending to promote private sector economic growth) and the New Deal’s own strategy of providing work for the unemployed in direct job creation programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administrations (WPA).

Read More

Public Policy and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Europe Protects Jobs While the United States Accepts Mass Layoffs

By GREGORY N. HEIRES

The United States faces its greatest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression in the wake of the economic wreckage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Not so in Europe.

The Euro area has only experienced a blip in joblessness since the outbreak of the coronavirus as the unemployment rate increased from 7.2 percent in February to 7.4 percent in May. In contrast, the official unemployment rate in the United States more than tripled from 3.5 percent in February to 11.1 percent in June.

The differences in unemployment levels reflect dramatically contrasting philosophies about the role of government and public policy—dare we say even opposing moral perspectives.

European countries generally responded to the pandemic by taking steps to help companies keep workers on their payroll.

On the other hand, in the United States, the federal government allowed mass layoffs to occur while providing temporary unemployment insurance benefits to the affected workers–and largely doing nothing to guarantee that they will be able to return to their jobs once the pandemic is over.

Read More

Life at the Edge: Living Paycheck to Paycheck during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By CHUCK BELL

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States in early 2020, it landed in a nation that was already experiencing the intense economic polarity of the Second Gilded Age. Decades of accelerating income and wealth inequality had already concentrated financial gains at the very top of the income distribution, and tens of millions of households were paycheck to paycheck, with little or no savings or financial assets.

“Although everyone is vulnerable to contracting the virus, the risk of developing severe or lethal illness is not equally distributed across the population,” according to Prosperity Now, a group that tracks income and wealth disparities. Their April report, “The Unequal Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Households’ Financial Stability,” highlights the risks of the pandemic for the country’s most vulnerable residents.

According to Prosperity Now:

  • 45 million households don’t have enough cash on hand to weather an emergency;
  • 39 percent of U.S. households can’t afford an emergency expense of $400, without selling assets or borrowing from relatives;
  • 27.6 million people–17 percent of the labor force–are employed in low-wage occupations, which are much less likely to provide health insurance, retirement savings plans or paid sick leave;
  • People of color, immigrants and women are much more likely to work at low wage jobs, and live paycheck to paycheck. There is a stark racial wealth and savings gap: Over 58 percent of Black and Latinx households are “liquid asset poor” compared to 28 percent of White households.
  • Undocumented immigrants are largely excluded from social supports. Yet undocumented workers constitute 4.6 percent of the U.S. labor force, including a quarter of all farming jobs, 15 percent of construction jobs, and 9 percent of service jobs.

A follow-up survey in August found that nearly 40 percent of lower-income households feel worse off financially because of the pandemic. Almost half of households surveyed were unable to fully cover at least one basic expense, such as housing, food or health care. With little financial cushion to fall back on, Black, Latinx and low-income households are highly likely to turn to credit products, such as credit cards and payday loans, that could sharply increase their financial vulnerability.

Read More

Reading Nook

Book Review: The Case for Reparations

William A.  Darity, Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black American in the Twenty-First Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020.

By TRUDY GOLDBERG

Published earlier this year, “From Here to Equality” makes a persuasive case for reparations for Black Americans.  As such it qualifies as a manifesto for the popular movement that began as a protest against racist police violence and has become an outcry against centuries of oppression and destruction of black lives.

Darity, professor of public policy, economics, and African and African American studies at Duke University, and Mullen, writer, curator, and folklorist, have exhaustively researched the white atrocities against African Americans that began five centuries ago with chattel slavery and that persist, crying out for recompense today.

In making the case for reparations—“a program of acknowledgement, redress, and closure for grievous injustices”—Darity and Mullen examine in depth “three tiers or phases of injustice: slavery, American apartheid (Jim Crow), and the combined effects of present-day discrimination and the ongoing depreciation of Black Lives.”

Read More

Movement News

A National Bank to Repair Our Crumbling Infrastructure and Create Millions of New Jobs

By ALPHECCA MUTTARDY

Elected officials have not yet focused on a concrete plan for how to pay for our pressing infrastructure needs, nor to create millions of jobs to replace those lost on account of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Congress to create a National Infrastructure Bank—HR 6422—does both.

Infrastructure Funding at a 70 Year Low

Our nation’s spending on public infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level in 70 years, or 2.5 percent of the GDP. That’s half the comparable level in Europe, and one-third the level in China. As a result, productivity, investment, and manufacturing have collapsed, and we are losing our world-wide competitive edge.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that $4.6 trillion is needed just to repair our infrastructure. Of that, $2.1 trillion is currently needed for unmet funding of roads, bridges, mass transit, electricity grids, schools, dams, ports, airports, rail, water, and more. In addition, we need high speed rail, complete broadband, and affordable housing, as well as major water projects to combat flooding and produce more electricity.

All of these projects require a steady source of long-term funding and the latest technologies for optimal efficiency and minimum environmental impact. Along with these pressing infrastructure needs, our country confronts an employment crisis. The new bank would allow the country to address both these challenges.

As of June 2020, 44 million workers had filed first-time unemployment claims since mid-March, and 18 million were counted as officially unemployed. What’s worse, these numbers may be underestimates, as layoffs continue on account of COVID-19 re-closings, and more businesses falter due to financial stress.

A significant number of the lost jobs will not return, even after the economy fully opens up. Latest forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office, International Monetary Fund, and top economists suggest that the ultimate impact of the economic crash will be like nothing we have seen in our nation’s history.

We must prepare now to address these challenges by enacting a new National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) that invests at least $4 trillion in infrastructure, not merely to revive the old economy but to create a new, sustainable one.

The proposed NIB would:

  • create an independent government-owned, depository/lending bank with full disclosure of its expenditures.
  • provide capitalization through existing, privately-owned Treasuries (the same method as four NIBs in our nation’s past).
  • lend up to $4 trillion with well-targeted project selection.
  • charge participants an affordable 2 percent annual interest rate for loans. Earnings would provide the government with $80 billion a year in dividends and coverage for overhead costs.
  • Provide flexible loan repayment for states, counties, cities, utilities, authorities, and cooperatives. Repayments could be drawn from general revenues, special revenues, or user fees.

Significantly, the infrastructure bank is a politically attractive proposal: The new institution would be self-funded. The federal government would not have to assume any new debt or adopt new taxes to fund infrastructure projects.

Benefits of Infrastructure Funding

The expected benefits of the bank would include:

  • re-vitalizing our crumbling infrastructure: This would lead to less traffic congestion and CO2 pollution; lead-free water; state-of-the-art schools, affordable housing, and adequate funding for infrastructure projects in every single state.
  • helping workers: The bank would create millions of jobs paying Davis-Bacon wages. It would allow for the re-hiring of millions of Americans now unemployed and provide them with training for permanent construction occupations with benefits.
  • supporting businesses: The bank would pour billions of dollars into spending on construction and manufacturing, boosting business productivity and consumer demand.
  • stimulating the economy: The infrastructure investment would help ensure that the coronavirus recession is V-shaped with a quick recovery, it would help push up long-term growth from an estimated 1.8 percent to 5 percent a year, and it would help end the strain on federal and state budgets by quickly re-employing workers without jobs.

Investments by the NIB would build up a new workforce by re-training workers for permanent occupations, creating an opportunity for the NIB to coordinate with job creation programs like H.R. 1000 in the areas of configuring job training courses and matching workers with construction needs.

Please support the NIB by doing whatever you can to support HR 6422 and create a $4 trillion National Infrastructure Bank right away.

Alphecca Muttardy is a macro-economist with the Coalition for a National Infrastructure Bank and 25-year veteran of the International Monetary Fund. For background on the coalition, go to https://www.nibcoalition.com/


Poor People’s Campaign Digital Rally Exposes the Country’s Political and Economic Injustices

By LOGAN MARTINEZThe Poor People’s Campaign held a digital justice gathering in June that focused on the injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, and the morally bankrupt narrative of religious nationalism that plague the country’s politics and economy.

Over 50,000 people watched the live broadcast of the Digital Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington on the group’s website on June 20. Tens of thousands more viewed the weekend event on Facebook and up to one million, including other media platforms.

The Poor People’s Campaign and its mobilizing partners of more than 200 organizations worked with the campaign to support the event.

The digital assembly shared powerful presentations of poor people telling their stories and inspirational speeches by the Rev. William Barber, the campaign’s co-chair, and other leaders.

The three-hour broadcast was filled by poor and working people telling the extraordinary stories of their lives. A theme song and poem running through the program carried a poignant message: “Someone is hurting my brother and it’s gone on for too long and we won’t be silent anymore.”

The assembly highlighted stories about the struggle for political and economic justice. These included:

  • A car caravan demanding unemployment benefits in Florida where a large number of people had yet to receive their checks.
  • A Kentucky coal miner with black lung disease who started work in 1968 describing how he has not seen a doctor in 18 years.
  • Flight attendants refusing to work because the federal government won’t set safety standards for flying.
  • Bartenders in Washington, D.C. living “tip to mouth” on a sub-minimum wage of $4.75 an hour.

The Poor People’s Campaign has produced a must-see video of the rally for political and economic justice. View it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hOLO1kEBzA For more info, visit the campaigns web site at www.PoorPeoplesCampaign.org 

Logan Martinez is the outreach coordinator of the National Jobs for All Network (NJFAN). The Jobs for All Outreach Committee is planning to document and record stories of the unemployed in the current crisis. We are asking unemployed workers to record their stories and for people to record stories of the unemployed in their community. If you would like to help, contact: Logan Martinez at [email protected]com 

Connecticut State University Faculty Backs the Job Guarantee

The union representing faculty at four Connecticut State University campuses has backed the Jobs for All Pledge that calls for the federal government to enact a Job Guarantee.

At its final regular meeting of the academic year in May, the state council of the Connecticut State University-American Association of University Professors (CSU-AAUP) unanimously voted to pass a resolution in support of the pledge.

In backing the resolution, CSU-AAUP joins many other labor and social justice organizations across the country in advocating for full employment and a real right to work, a goal of the labor movement for many years.

The Job Guarantee was first endorsed by a local chapter at Southern Connecticut State University at its Feb. 7 executive committee meeting. The local then sought the endorsement of the statewide council.

“It is hoped that these endorsements will aid in the struggle to attain a basic human right to employment in the United States and raise the profile of this movement for a job guarantee among political leaders in the State of Connecticut,” said Stephen Monroe Tomczak, who is the chapter president of the Southern Connecticut State University-American Association of University Professors local that supported the original resolution.

Tomczak, who is a member of the union’s state council and also a member of the National Jobs for All Network, had requested the resolution be introduced earlier in the year, but council action was delayed because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The faculty represented by CSU-AAUP work at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.

The Full Count: August 2020
Unemployment Data

Officially unemployed: 13.6 million (8.4%)

Hidden unemployment: 14.6 million
(Includes 7.6 million people working part-time
because they can’t find a full-time job;
and 7 million people who want jobs,
but are not actively looking)

Total: 28.2 million (16.8% of the labor force)

There are 4.8 job-wanters for each available job!

For more information and analysis, visit: www.njfac.org

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Who Botched the Unemployment Count in April and May?

By FRANK STRICKER

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report for June was relatively upbeat. The official unemployment rate fell to 11.1 percent, job totals were up, and the undercount of people laid off by the virus had been reduced to about 1 percent of the labor force. In April and May, the miscount had been much higher.

Reasons for the Undercount

What was the miscount about? The category of unemployed workers on temporary layoff–people not working but expecting to return to their former employers–had zoomed up in April to 18.1 million workers. That was ten times the March total.

But the real situation was worse. The BLS admitted that the number was a substantial undercount. Every month people are on temporary layoff or leave for reasons that have nothing to do with losing their jobs or business closures due to economic reasons.  They may not be included in the count because they suffer from an illness.  Or, they may be on vacation, or away from work because severe weather that shuts things down. They are not normally considered unemployed.  However, the BLS told interviewers that employees who were temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus were to be listed as unemployed.

But not all interviewers followed instructions: Millions of people out of work due to pandemic shutdowns were listed as employed. Had they been sorted properly, unemployment rates would have been 5 points higher in April—not 14.7 percent but 19.5 percent—and 3 points higher in May—not 13.3 percent but 16 percent.

We don’t know why the miscount happened.

Were interviewees confused about the questions? And, despite instructions, did some interviewers decide that business and government shutdowns due to the coronavirus were like shutdowns caused by other acts of nature, such as severe weather? In the latter case, employees are not considered unemployed. Finally, did some interviewers have a problem with the fact that people in the category of “unemployed on temporary layoff ” don’t have to search for jobs to be considered unemployed, while other kinds of workers do?

I don’t know the answers.

Read More

Get Involved!!

Join/Donate!  Subscribe!

The National Jobs for All Network is dedicated to the propositions that meaningful employment is a precondition for a fulfilling life, and that every person capable of working should have the right to a job.

NJFAN relies on your support. If you find our material useful, please make a tax-deductible donation. We are all volunteers, except for a part-time coordinator.

You can also help by sharing announcements and information about any upcoming actions, events or campaigns for jobs for all and economic justice; and sending names and emails of people you think might be interested in receiving this newsletter.   Please your updates and contact suggestions to:  [email protected]    Thanks so much in advance for your help in building this important social movement.

National Jobs for All Network
P.O. Box 96
Lynbrook, NY 11563
203-856-3877
Web: www.njfac.org
Email: [email protected]

Twitter
Facebook
Website