You’ll hear it all over the place today: The national unemployment rate rose to 9.8%, and the U.S. economy added only 39,000 jobs in the month of November. Worse, private-sector hiring increased by only 50,000 jobs. That’s the headline. That’s the lead. That’s an abysmal report.
According to Bloomberg News, “The report also showed an increase in the number of long- term unemployed Americans. The number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more increased as a percentage of all jobless, to 41.9 percent, the highest since August.”
The average unemployed American has now been out of work for 33.8 weeks. More than 6 million people have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. The “real” unemployment rate — that’s the unemployed plus all who are only marginally attached to the labor force, plus those employed part time for economic reasons — stayed steady at 17 percent. Yes, 17 percent. Nearly one in five Americans are either out of work or working as little as one hour per week.
It’s bad out there. But it’s nice to know that Republican leaders refuse to deal with extending jobless benefits until Democrats cave on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.
The Republicans have now, in a sternly worded letter, overtly expressed their willingness to hold hostage every piece of legislative business before the lame-duck session of Congress until the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are extended. That means no to the extension of jobless benefits (the deadline for which passed Tuesday night, dropping 2 million people just in time for Christmas), no to the nuclear arms treaty with Russia, no to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no to the DREAM Act that sends kids to college, no to funding U.S. Troops, and no to bills dealing with clean energy and new food safety measures, among other initiatives. NO. These important issues facing the middle and working classes will not be voted on until it gets the Democrats extend tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
And aren’t the Democrats and President Obama super-psyched that they didn’t push harder for a massive 21st Century public works project as part of the $787 billion stimulus program that could have put people back to work on infrastructure projects that could’ve also served to advance the country? Instead of claiming a mandate after the 2008 election like the Republicans did after this one, they had the numbers and the power to say, “You know what, the government’s putting people back to work — cries of Socialism, be damned, at least you’ll have money in your pocket, food on your table and chicken in your pot.” Nah, too would have been entirely too easy.
Right now there are still nearly five unemployed workers for every one job opening. And at the same time there’s a Congress more focused on tax cuts for the wealthy than getting these people back to work or providing for them while they’re looking for it. Ladies and gentlemen, your Congress at work.