Mar 17, 2003
Job losses in the U.S. are accelerating. According to the U.S. Labor Department, 308,000 jobs were lost in just one month, February.
Things were even worse in the private sector. Officially, 321,000 were lost, as businesses cut jobs at a near record pace. Except for the period just after September 11th, this was the worst loss in private sector jobs in more than two decades, that is, since the depths of 1982, the biggest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The current huge job losses may signal a turning point in the U.S. economy. Over the last three years, the economy had already gone through one recession, as the speculative bubble in the stock market burst, business investment in production collapsed and businesses slashed over two million jobs.
But what kept the U.S. economy from sinking further was the flood of plentiful credit and growing debt. It fueled consumer spending – at least among those who still had some income and had not already maxed out on their credit. In the housing sector, there were all those new first, second and third mortgages, home equity loans, etc. There was also all that zero% financing for the purchase of big ticket items, from cars to home appliances. At the same time, state and local governments cushioned the drop in the economy by burning through whatever surpluses they had built up in the preceding years.
While big business raked in the profits from both the new purchases and the increased finance charges on the growing debt, it did not use those profits to reinvest in production or to increase hiring. On the contrary, business continued to slash investment and jobs. As a result, unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, continued to grow.
Everyone knew that without increased business investment and jobs, the debt-fueled consumer spending would soon run out of steam. And now, apparently, it has.
Business is beginning a new round of cuts in jobs and hours of work. In the large auto sector, Ford announced that it would cut production by 17% in the second quarter of the year, and General Motors and Chrysler are embarking on new "restructuring" schemes, which in plain language spells new job cuts. The state and local governments have also begun severe cuts, which spells not only job losses, but enormous cuts in education and social services, which will hurt the working class and poor the hardest.
This will only be the beginning. The bosses use job cuts and increased unemployment to pressure those left working to give up everything else – wages, health benefits, pensions, working conditions, safety, productivity.
To justify attacks against our right to survive, make a living and support a family, the bosses may say it is an emergency, the economy is in a mess, businesses or the government are in trouble. Maybe so, but it is their emergency, their mess. They are the ones who used their positions to ensure that their profits, their wealth and fortunes come first, no matter what. Let them be the ones who pay for the mess they made.
Workers have no reason to sacrifice – yet again – just so the bosses, the wealthy, the elite can continue to profit and grow richer.
To the bosses' call for new sacrifices, the workers can have only one answer: no more. That means no more job cuts, no more speed-up, no more wage and benefit cuts! We have to draw the line. And we have to back this up with actions.