The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Editorial:
If things are so good, where are all the jobs?

Feb 2, 2004

Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, which handles the nation's money, recently declared to an economics conference in London: "We can be confident that new jobs will displace old jobs as they always have, but not without a high degree of pain for those caught in the job-losing segment of America's massive job-turnover process."

Yes, there's a "high degree of pain." In that, Greenspan is right. If you lose your job and find a new one, the odds are you will earn about 20% less than you did, have fewer benefits and probably end up with no pension. That's if you can get a full-time job. Almost five million workers are today working part-time for lack of finding a full-time job. Their pay and benefits are worse still.

And that's only the half of it. In reality this "massive job-turnover process" that banker Greenspan speaks about has been destroying more jobs than it's been creating – two and a half million more jobs destroyed than created since the "economic recovery" began two years ago. And that doesn't tell the whole story either. Just to keep up with the growth in the population, a million and a half to two million new jobs would have to be created every year.

What does this banker who is called the architect of America's prosperous economy propose to do about it? Nothing.

And yet, there's a great deal that could be done. There are schools that need to be built; there are roads that are crumbling, sewer systems that pollute our rivers and lakes, bridges that collapse. There are older people who need someone to give them a hand every day. There are young people who need extra attention with their school work.

Any one of us could make up a list two miles long of this country's unmet needs – needs that could begin to be met if all the people who wanted a job were put to work.

What is the point of an economy anyway, if not to provide jobs for everyone who wants to work? What is its purpose, if not to respond to society's problems calling for an answer?

This economy has sizzled along, it's true – but only because speculation has started up again on Wall Street, only because financial interests are speculating in real estate. But speculation isn't real – our unmet needs are.

Dripping in wealth as this economy is, it cannot answer the needs of this country's population.

It's not jobs that need to be "turned over" – it's the whole economy.