Mar 9, 2009
February, 651,000 people lost their jobs. In the last 12 months, over five million people were cut off the job rolls. The February rate of unemployment, 8.1%, was the highest since 1983. That’s what the official statistics say.
But official statistics paint a very inaccurate picture of the real world in which we work. To put it bluntly, officialdom lies.
During Bill Clinton’s administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics “revised” the way it counted the unemployed – and with the flick of some bureaucrat’s pen, a large chunk of the unemployed “disappeared” off the face of the earth, or at least out of government reports!
Today, the government’s job report hides more than half of all those who are unemployed – especially most of those hardest hit by the shrinking job market, the long-term unemployed. And this “official” figure of 8.1% ignores all those workers who once were working full time, want to work full time, but had their hours cut back – to as little as two a week, for example.
For officials, ensconced in some plushy government office, what does it matter if you lost 38 hours of work – what does it matter if you can’t pay your mortgage and feed your family with a two-hour paycheck? In their statistics, you are still “employed.”
A few economists have tried to undo all the doctoring done to “official” statistics. They show that unemployment and underemployment actually stands, not at 8.1% of the work force today, but at 19.1%.
That feels like the world we inhabit: almost one out of every five people cannot find enough work. This is worse than it’s been going back to long before 1983 – going all the way back to 1941, the tail end of the last Great Depression.
The capitalists, in their drive for greater profit, have been on a productivity binge, wringing every last bit of value out of our labor, year after year, by hook or by crook, getting more work out of fewer people.
Productivity shot up, the number of workers employed went down.
The simple fact is that we have been working ourselves out of a job, and we have been doing it even as the recession develops. The Wall Street Journal, the bosses’ mouthpiece, calls the large increase in productivity over the last eight years “stunning.”
“Stunning” it may be – but when productivity’s benefits are not shared out to the workers whose labor produced it, the consequence can only be ... catastrophic.
Jobs are cut. The consequence of job cuts is ... more job cuts.
With fewer people working, fewer buy; fewer goods and services are needed, fewer produced, more people thrown out of work, reducing still further the need for goods and services, throwing more people out of work...
The vicious circle is turning. Where does it stop?
The capitalists themselves won’t stop it. They will scrape for the very last little bit of profit out of the very last factory, the very last office – even if that means they lock down their whole economy. Not only does their greed make them incapable of answering society’s needs; in their chase for profit, they become capable of destroying their own system.
We have to impose our priorities on the capitalists.
The first priority is a job for everyone, a decent paying job. If we produce more, then cut our hours. There’s no reason, with this big increase in productivity, that every last one of us couldn’t be working – working many fewer hours, for much more pay. And that would put more people back to work.
Why not? That’s what productivity can do, when workers insist on taking its benefits for their account.
But we have to set the priorities. We produce all those goods and services. It’s only right their benefits be used for our account, and for the account of society as a whole.