Jobs or Income Now for Working Families In The Current Economic Crisis

July 11, 2009

Eric Brooks

Ok, here are the facts as reported on July 9 in the New York Times and elsewhere:

The official national unemployment rate is 9.5%. That is huge. Unofficial figures run closer to 15% unemployment.

The count for continuing unemployment claims is 6.88 million people today, many of those people part of a struggling family and community. This is the most people officially unemployed since records started to be kept in 1967. And this doesn’t include the many millions of people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

GM has emerged from bankruptcy. After receiving over $30 billion tax dollars to help it deal with the economic crisis, the “new” GM plans to layoff between 30,000 and 40,000 people in the USA.

The New York Times in a different article on July 1 reported “In the first report, construction spending fell more than expected in May, a sign the problems facing the nation’s builders are far from over.”

In a report entitled Joblessness Hits 9.5%, Deflating Recovery Hopes, on July 2 the New York Times reported

“The numbers are indicative of a continued, very severe recession,” said Stuart G. Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh. “There’s nothing in here to show that the economy and the market are pulling out of the grip of recession.”

What is the point of all this doom and gloom? Something is wrong with the way we are responding to the current economic situation.

People need to be working. We have a social responsibility to ensure that the basic needs of working families are met by providing work at living wages or equivalent funds to keep us going while unemployed.

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote on July 2 that,

[s]ince the recession began, the U.S. economy has lost 6 ½ million jobs — and as that grim employment report confirmed, it’s continuing to lose jobs at a rapid pace. Once you take into account the 100,000-plus new jobs that we need each month just to keep up with a growing population, we’re about 8 ½ million jobs in the hole.

And the deeper the hole gets, the harder it will be to dig ourselves out. The job figures weren’t the only bad news in Thursday’s report, which also showed wages stalling and possibly on the verge of outright decline. That’s a recipe for a descent into Japanese-style deflation, which is very difficult to reverse. Lost decade, anyone?

Wait — there’s more bad news: the fiscal crisis of the states. Unlike the federal government, states are required to run balanced budgets. And faced with a sharp drop in revenue, most states are preparing savage budget cuts, many of them at the expense of the most vulnerable. Aside from directly creating a great deal of misery, these cuts will depress the economy even further.

As a society we have to take care of our working families. We have, in my opinion, a social responsibility to provide work or wages to all our unemployed regardless of legal status or country of origin, bar none. Families should not be homeless. People should not be forced to beg for food money on the medians between traffic lanes. Our youth should graduate high school and college with work available to them.

The brutality of the current situation is not a result of the policies or practices of working people in the United States. The current crisis is a crisis of overproduction. It is not a result of the lack of foresight or lack of savings by working families. It is a result of the internal systemic problems endemic to capitalism.

The situation has to be addressed with urgency. Families are suffering. People are going hungry. Foreclosures and evictions continue to run rampant.

A program for Jobs or Income Now is needed today.

Eric Brooks can be followed on Twitter at


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