On September 13, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report showing the situation of American workers. Unemployment is at a record high. In the midst of this crisis, what do we see from the Obama administration? More of the same policies as before, repackaged as a so-called American Jobs Act. And behind the scenes, while American workers are being laid off or having their conditions and wages stripped away, the same banks and corporations that are carrying out these attacks stand to benefit from this Jobs Act.
As of September, 15 million Americans are out of work. This is the highest unemployment has been in 30 years. And those are just the officially counted number of people filing unemployment. It doesn’t count people who live on part-time work, or people who have given up looking. Unemployment and layoffs have pushed 46.2 million people and their families below the official poverty line. This includes 16.4 million children. In addition, 20 million people receive less than enough food, clothing, and basic necessities to live. Nearly one third of Americans live below the poverty line, less than $11,000 per year for an individual, or $22,000 per year for a family of four.
Meanwhile U.S. corporations have seen a 54 percent increase in profits over the last two and a half years. This is the biggest rise in profits in the last 60 years. While we are under attack, the banks and corporations are making out like bandits. U.S. corporations report having two trillion dollars in cash that they are just sitting on because they don’t see a place to invest it. Bank of America received $20 billion in bailout money in 2009. In addition, the government provided them with loan guarantees for $118 billion to cover bad investments the bank had made. Now they are laying off 40,000 workers or ten percent of their work force. Clearly the handouts to Bank of America and the other wealthy corporations aren’t making them create jobs.
What is Obama proposing with this Jobs Act? More of the same. The proposal is a $447 billion package of spending. There is a $67 billion tax cut for corporations and some tax cuts for individuals who are working. But those cuts will come from reductions in payroll taxes that go to Medicare and Social Security. Less payment to these programs means less funding, and further cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Finally there is $140 billion for infrastructure and development. No doubt this will be spent on handouts to construction, transportation, and energy companies, though there will be some money to hire workers for these projects. The bill also includes $35 billion so that some teachers will be re-hired in school districts facing huge cuts. This is nowhere near enough. Obama also proposes a small tax on the super-rich. We’ll see. The Republicans and some Democrats have already said Obama’s proposal is too much for them.
We do need a real jobs program. But we can’t rely on Washington to defend us. That is not our only option. We can do something about this. On September 2, Nurses from the National Nurses United union held a rally at the Federal Building in downtown San Francisco. They put their finger on the real problem. The policy of the government that supports the wealthy and the corporations.
Across the country we have seen people attempt to resist the attacks on a local level. We’ve seen teachers organize to defend their jobs, public workers refusing to go along with concessions on their contracts. Here in California on September 22, nurses and health care workers will hold a one-day strike at Kaiser and Summit hospitals across California as well as Children’s Hospital in Oakland. The health care workers are right to speak out, and they deserve our support. But we need to do more. American workers are the majority. We make this society run, from health care, to transit, and everything else. The real solution to the attacks of the government and the corporations is for us to join together and make a real fight for our future.