Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jobs vs. Punishment

During the New Deal the nation focused on providing jobs and training to those Americans who the private sector did not want, by directly employing them in programs like the WPA & CCC, and by offering them a variety of free courses.

Today, the situation is quite different. During one of the worst economic periods in American history, and during a time when many Republicans claim that Obama is ruining the economy and not producing enough jobs, many Republican legislators are pushing to reduce the amount of help available to the unemployed. Federal aid for job training is under threat (see, e.g., here). Federally-funded extensions of unemployment benefits are a constant battle (see, e.g., here). A bill for a new WPA collects dust in committee, garners few co-sponsors, and eventually dies (where were the Democrats on this?) (see here). Legislation for a new CCC-type program for unemployed vets is blocked by Senate Republicans (see here). And the list of punishments goes on and on.

Even states are getting in on the punishment game by reducing benefits, as well as drug testing people who are laid off from their jobs. For example, the North Carolina General Assembly is on the verge of reducing its unemployment benefits from 26 to "as few as 12," and reducing its "maximum weekly benefit from $530 to $350 per person" (see here).

As if all this were not bad enough, multi-national corporations continue to send good-paying American jobs to cheap foreign labor markets. This is done to increase executive compensation packages, and to increase investor returns. But, in doing so, middle-class people and families are destroyed.

Question: If unemployment is still high, and federal funding for job training is being reduced, and unemployment benefits are being scaled back, and American jobs continue to be exported, and there is not going to be a new WPA or CCC, what is left for unemployed Americans besides occasionally landing a service sector job with low-pay, stingy benefits, little security, and no future?

This is the American Dream? To get laid-off, drug tested, cut off from assistance, and pray you get a minimum wage job? Wow. Sounds more like a nightmare than a dream.

(Image above is a WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

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