Recently released national unemployment figures for July indicate that about 14.6 million people are jobless in the U.S. Add approximately 8.5 million part-time workers who want full-time employment. An estimated 181,100 workers gave up looking for work in July, even though they want employment. This last group, no longer counted as unemployed, is thought to total 5.9 million since our Great Recession began. Combined, 29 million people who want full-time employment can’t find it. As it stands, they won’t.
The global, private financial industry and a federal government that adopted policies enabling corporate casino-ism brought us this Great Recession. To prevent economic collapse, our government pumped scads of money into the private financial system. Big Finance now guards this cash to ensure its growth and consolidate power. While much of America suffers joblessness, home foreclosures, business failures and other stress, the financial industry rewards its elite with bonuses. This is insane.
There is no free market. If there was, the financial industry that gambled us into this Great Recession would have collapsed and we would be living the horror of another global Great Depression. Likely, a world war for resources and power would ensue. We need a complete economic refocus, with humanity at center.
Since the progressive programs of the New Deal were enacted by the Franklin Roosevelt administration, private enterprise has fought to deny responsibility for the common good. Businesses are responsible to their investors. They are not responsible for a public education system that can foster intelligent and adaptable people, or the infrastructure that allows them to have physical offices and manufacturing facilities, or the health and well-being of their workers and the larger community. They are not responsible to us.
We need a national plan that does away with corporations seducing our communities, cities, counties and states into believing that some corporate bottom line is our primary interest. Life is what matters. This includes getting people back to work in good jobs that pay living wages – jobs in green technology, jobs that create beneficial products, and services that can be sold locally and abroad. These jobs can focus on alternative sources of energy and on industries that help break dependence on fossil fuel, like clean public transit systems.
Only the national government can make this happen. Like the Pentagon, it can partner with existing or start-up industries. It can provide much of the research and development needed to save us and our planet. Private industry and individual states will not and cannot do this.
On Oct. 2, there will be a national “Jobs March and Rally” in Washington, D.C. (onenationworkingtogether.org). Recalling the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights, sponsors include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, La Raza and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. In 1963, I was 11, and marched carrying a sign that read “UAW SAYS: We Are MARCHING FOR FREEDOM – Ours and Yours.” I plan to travel to D.C. for this march and rally. It will be a day of honor for workers.
Oak Parker Tom Broderick is co-chairman of the Greater Oak Park Democratic Socialists of America, and was a sponsor of the proposed living wage ordinance in the village, which was voted down by the village board earlier this year.