The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Fantasy vs. Reality

May 13, 2013

Media pundits and the business world crowed about the unemployment figures that came out last week, saying the figures showed a steady movement toward a healthy economy.

What fantasy world are they living in?

Officially, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 per cent from 7.6 per cent last month. That, and the report that more jobs had been created over the last couple of months, led the news media to declare that the job market was strengthening.

But behind the headline numbers, the latest government report shows something very, very different.

First of all, the government admits there are still 12 million workers unemployed, despite the fact that the economic recovery officially started five years ago.

And when the government tallies up those who are UNDERemployed–that is, workers who are part-time but want to work full time, along with workers who want to work but gave up looking–it brings the total up to 22 million, or more than 14 per cent of the workforce, almost doubling the official unemployment figures.

Not only that, but a high proportion of the unemployed have been without a job for more than six months–the long-term unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed is at an all-time high.

The joblessness rates for young people are horrific: only 45 percent of young workers aged 16 to 24 have a job. For young people between 25 and 34, over a quarter are not employed–the worst rate among the wealthy industrialized countries, including European countries mired in depression.

More and more, young people are shut out of this economy. How is this good news? How is this an economy getting better?

Or consider that the part of the workforce with a job remains at its lowest in three decades. When the “Great Recession” hit in 2008, more than 10 million jobs were lost, and they are still gone. The slight downturn in unemployment figures doesn’t change that: only 58 percent of American adults have jobs.

The situation for those WITH jobs is also getting worse: employers have drastically cut work hours; they push their workforce to do more in less time. April saw a decline in hours worked that is the equivalent of firing more than 500,000 workers if work hours were steady!

Increasingly, jobs are part-time–and they pay so little, ever more workers have no choice but to seek more work. Over the last month, those working two or three jobs leaped to 7.26 million. In other words, almost all “new” positions are going to people who already are working, mostly part-time.

As higher-paid jobs have been eliminated, nearly two thirds of the jobs created since 2010 pay less than $13.83 an hour. This is what is offered to people as a path to their future!

This is the new, rising economy? We’re supposed to be happy and content with that?!

It’s no wonder that a series of demonstrations has taken place in St. Louis, New York, Chicago and, most recently, Detroit, demanding a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It is not enough, but it’s a start.

For those with full-time jobs, wages have also been forced down. And on top of that, the shift hours and conditions of work are getting worse and worse. Workers at Ford and Chrysler have inhumane shift schemes, bouncing between day and afternoon hours.

On May 3, when the government employment report was released, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed over the 15,000 mark for the first time ever. This was BECAUSE the job situation is so bad, the capitalist class hopes to be in a better position to squeeze even more profits out of the workforce.

Bad news for us is good news for them. They seriously ARE happy with this rotten economic news!

But workers aren’t happy, and we shouldn’t be, no matter what the news media tries to tell us.

We don’t have to settle for what’s being offered us. We all know that the wealthy have the money. Corporations have been making profits hand over fist. We have a right to demand good-paying jobs for everyone who wants one.

It’s time to tune out their fantasy and insist on a better reality: a decent life for all of us.