Jim Hightower: Real Recovery Is Easy to Spell: J-O-B-S

By Jim Hightower

The recession is over! The economy is growing! The Dow Jones is above 10,000! Bankers are pocketing profits and fat bonuses! Happy days are here again!

Unless, of course, you’re just a regular working stiff struggling with falling income and rising unemployment — and sensing that your family’s grip on middle-class life is steadily slipping away. Welcome to America’s tinkle-down economy.

The latest job numbers mock the smiley-faced claims of economists and polticos that the Great Recession is over:

  • 10.2 percent of America’s workforce is officially unemployed — nearly 16 million people.
  • Another 15 million people are either so discouraged by their fruitless job search that they’ve quit looking, or they’ve had to settle for part-time jobs when they want and need full-time employment. Add the discouraged and underemployed to the number of the officially unemployed, and the percentage of our people who can’t find the work they need rises to 17.5 percent — one out of every six workers.
  • More than a third of the officially unemployed have been jobless for more than half a year — a new record for long-term joblessness.
  • Nearly 15 percent of the unemployed have college degrees, and many more of the college-educated are underemployed.
  • October was the 22nd straight month that the U.S. economy lost jobs — the longest streak since 1939. About 7.3 million jobs have been eliminated since December 2007, when the recession began. In this same time span, 2.8 million new workers have come into the job market, meaning our economy is now 10.1 million jobs short of the number needed just to get back to even.
  • While average wages have risen slightly in the past year, average weekly pay has stagnated because workers have had their hours cut.

So please excuse our country’s workaday majority for not cheering the news that prosperity has returned to those at the tippy top of America’s economic pyramid. And—please—do not continue to insult workers with the dismissive declaration that the economy is experiencing a “jobless recovery.” Not only is that an oxymoron, it is moronic.

If most American’s have not recovered, then neither has our economy. (Imagine a situation in which working families were prospering, but corporate profits were down for 22 straight months—do you think economists and politicos could get away with labeling it a “profitless recovery”?)

Especially galling is the fact that the talk of recovery is mostly based on the resurrection of Wall Street profits. Conveniently ignored by exultant bankers is the reality that they would have no profits (and no banks) except that Washington has propped them up with some $13 trillion in public bailout money.

The rationale for this unprecedented rescue of failed bankers was that they would reciprocate with a vigorous lending effort to businesses, which then could start hiring and rebuilding the grassroots economy that Wall Street greed crushed. But astonishingly, the giveaway to bankers came with no strings attached! So, instead of pouring capital into the American countryside, they’ve gone right back to casino-style speculation—while pocketing more than $100 billion in bonuses for themselves.

These people are thieves. They’ve stolen our public funds, our jobs and our middle-class aspirations. It’s time to grab them by the short hairs, forcing them to make the loans that our real economy needs —or have their banks shut down and their capital turned over to community banks, credit unions and others who will invest in America’s productive businesses and workers.

After the latest jobless numbers came out, President Obama said, “I will not rest until all Americans who want work can find work.” Excuse me, but that’s like a lawyer saying to his client, “I’ll get you out of jail if it takes me the rest of your life.”

America’s workers and communities don’t need presidential assurances, they need action, bold and immediate. As Obama said in last year’s campaign, “We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle class, and we need to do it not five years from now, not next year, we need to do it right now.”

Where did that guy go?

This article was originally published on November 15, 2009.