The issue is not just jobs, but good jobs. American families need jobs with a living wage and a realistic, sustainable minimum wage (with a target of up to $15 per hour).
There is no doubt that the job outlook has improved considerably from its recession low point in February 2010. Some 14.1 million jobs have been added since then, with a net gain of about 9.3 million from the time President Barack Obama took office. Also, the unemployment rate was 7.3 percent at the outset of the Obama administration, rose to a high of 10% and then declined to a steady rate of around 5%. A major problem is, however, that most of the new jobs have been in the three lowest-paying sectors of the economy (retail trade, administrative and waste services, and leisure and hospitality).
In consequence of this and other developments, there is no doubt that the middle class is vanishing and the inequality gap is widening. Those in the top 0.1 percent in this country own about as much wealth as the bottom 90%, according to creditable calculations. The top 1% receives about 20% of all income and holds more than one-third and perhaps closer to one-half of total wealth. While there are variations in calculations of both income and wealth shares, the bottom line is abundantly clear. The super-rich are getting richer — and the rest of us sinking by comparison.
In addition to the immediate need for jobs, we must plan better for the future. In the longer term, Congress and federal agencies need to simplify regulations that tend to stifle small businesses and close loopholes that effectively work only to the benefit of large corporations. Small businesses have driven the recent economic recovery, accounting for nearly two-thirds of job creation.
Broader measures are also necessary to keep the economy robust and ensure sufficient jobs for a growing population. We need to invest in our workforce, with good public schools, universities and technical training. Investing in replacement of aging infrastructure – bridges, roads, mass transit, ports and even internet technology — is not only essential in its own right, but will also facilitate getting manufactured goods to markets and bolster American competitiveness. The same can be said of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and increasing reliance on renewable energy sources.
Then too, there is the issue of worker rights. Right-wing politicians and their corporate backers continue to push measures to thwart unionization. Although smaller in membership as a result of right-to- work laws and other factors, unions remain a vital force in securing living wages, health care, pension rights and other benefits for their workers and all American workers. Meanwhile, conservative foundations bent on crippling the power of public employee unions recently lost an important challenge in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Ass’n, a 4-to- 4 per curiam opinion by the United States Supreme Court on March 29, 2016.
Another vital issue is promotion of fair trade, rather than just free trade. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed by the United States and eleven other Pacific Rim countries on February 4, 2016, would hamper creation of American jobs as well as undermine environmental protections. Its entry into force would benefit multinational corporations, foreign investors, pharmaceutical monopolies and other elites — at the expense of working families.