Almost a year ago, I wrote that African Americans and Latinos are the “canaries in our economic coal mine.” In early mines, ventilation was poor at best, non-existent at worst. So, miners would take a caged canary into the mine with them. Canaries, being sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide gases, were the miners’ early warning system. Toxic gases would kill the birds before killing the miners. If the canary stopped singing and keeled over, it was time to get out of the mine.
A year ago, the black and brown “canaries in our too-long-deregulated economic mineshaft” were gasping for air. A year later, the canaries are still gasping for air, and too few seem to notice, or ask why.
Certainly lawmakers like Oklahoma Republican state representative Sally Kern don’t ask why, because the real answers are a far cry from Kern’s simple and self-serving answer.
Republicans need to listen to the people who elected them and understand the election was not about denying working people the things they need to get by. The NC Issues Poll, conducted by the NC Justice Center, shows that people in the state overwhelmingly blame the Republican majority, not the governor, for the cutoff of unemployment benefits. The poll showed that 65 percent of North Carolinians support the governor, and they want the Legislature to vote on a 20-week extension by itself.
As of yesterday, 39,000 North Carolinians were cut off from unemployment benefits because the GOP-led legislature here tied extension of benefits to their disastrous budget.
The Republican majority agreed to extend jobless benefits ONLY if Gov. Bev Perdue would agree to their budget proposal, which isn’t even finished yet.
The president’s new emphasis on the importance of investing in education, infrastructure and basic research in order to build the nation’s long-term competitive capacities is appropriate. For the last three decades the federal government’s spending on these three essentials has declined as a percentage of its total spending, arguably threatening America’s technological and economic leadership.
But the president’s failure to address the decoupling of American corporate profits from American jobs, and explain specifically what he’ll do to get jobs back, not only risks making his grand plans for reviving the nation’s “competitiveness” seem somewhat beside the point but also cedes to Republicans the dominant narrative.
The new monthly job numbers came out last week. They are a little bit better than they have been, but they are not very good. We added very few jobs but the unemployment rate went down. This is a function of a really bad economy in which people are so discouraged they aren’t even bothering to look. So many people have given up that the labor force is actually smaller now than before the recession. We must make sure that these people are not just discarded, abandoned and marked up as a loss. They are people.
Any increase in jobs is good news. In December the economy created a net of 103,000 new jobs. Also the prior two months’ numbers were revised up by 70,000. But there are real problems behind these numbers. We are more than two years into this recession, and we still are not seeing job growth that will bring the unemployment levels down anywhere near where they need to be. The stimulus worked but was not enough, and it is winding down. The new Congress has no intention whatsoever of new job-creation or infrastructure programs. And it is ending help for state and local governments that are increasingly shedding jobs.