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Vol. 73/No. 49      December 21, 2009

Obama at ‘job summit’: gov’t
can’t do anything about jobs
(front page)
According to the government unemployment figures for November nearly 18 million people are out of work.

While the jobless rate dropped from 10.2 percent in October to 10 percent in November, the number of those on the unemployment rolls without work for more than six months rose by nearly 300,000 to 5.9 million. That’s the highest for that category since records began being kept in 1948. Thirty-eight percent of those receiving unemployment benefits have been out of work for at least 28 weeks.

At a one-day “jobs summit” December 3, initiated by the White House, President Barack Obama said there’s little the government can do to resolve the mounting unemployment crisis.

Attending the summit were some 130 corporate executives—including from American Airlines, Nucor Corp., Google Inc., Walt Disney Co., and Fed-Ex—as well as small business owners and some union officials.

Obama said he had called business executives together to hear some “good ideas on how to create jobs.” He said that many businesses remain skittish about hiring and that many “have figured out how to squeeze more productivity out of fewer workers.” This is “not translating into hiring,” he said.

The president insisted that there’s not very much that the government is going to do. “Our resources are limited,” he stated. “So we can’t make any ill-considered decisions right now.” He added, “We don’t have enough public dollars to fill the hole of private dollars that was created as a consequence of the crisis.”

Obama said he would announce some of his own “new ideas” shortly. Among them is a “cash for caulkers” program to weatherize houses and businesses, according to the New York Times. It would be modeled after the July-August “cash for clunkers” initiative that was supposed to boost automobile sales and production, but had very little impact on putting back to work the tens of thousands of laid-off auto workers.

Long-term unemployed
The total number of those without work in November was 15.4 million, according to the Labor Department. Another 2.3 million unemployed workers “marginally attached to the workforce” are not counted, as the government claims they are “discouraged” or haven’t looked for work in the past four weeks. With 9.2 million others having to accept only part-time work, the combined unemployed and underemployed rate is actually 17.2 percent, or nearly 27 million workers.

The Labor Department numbers continue to show a disproportionate impact on Blacks, other oppressed nationalities, and youth. The unemployment rate for African Americans in November was 15.6 percent; for Latinos, 12.7 percent; and for teenagers, 26.7 percent. One-third of 16-24-year-old Black men are out of work.

Attacks on workers continue both through layoffs and through “productivity” speedup by the bosses. Labor “productivity” in manufacturing rose by 13.4 percent in the third quarter of 2009, with fewer workers producing more. On December 3 Harley-Davidson announced the layoff of 950 union workers at its largest plant in York, Pennsylvania.

Unless Congress renews federal jobless benefits, more than 1 million workers will lose benefits in January. Even though Congress recently approved a 14-week federal extension, it’s based on previous extensions that are slated to end December 31, reported the New York Times. Without an extension of the entire federal benefits program, those who started getting state benefits after July 1, 2009, won’t be able to get any federal benefits after state payments end in six months.

The day after the “jobs summit,” Obama took this discussion on the road, visiting Allentown, Pennsylvania. At a town hall meeting at Lehigh Carbon Community College, he said he planned to summon top bankers to the White House later this month to urge them to make more credit available and tell them “the taxpayers were there for you to clean up your mistakes. You now have a responsibility to be there for the community now that we’re bearing the brunt of a lot of these problems that you caused,” reported the Washington Post.

The crisis, however, is rooted in the contraction of capitalist production worldwide. In the United States, employers over the past 23 months have slashed 7.2 million jobs.  
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