Happy Labor Day – I think.
Does Labor Day really mean that much anymore? I can remember when most everything shut down on that day and people actually didn’t work. They relaxed, vegged out and left the office or workplace behind.
Welcome to the 21st Century. Thanks to home computers, smartphones, and the Internet, you can work 24/7 from most any place on the globe.
Employers are expecting more from fewer employees. Americans work an average of 122 hours per year more than people in Britain and almost 400 hours a year more than Germans.
In 2004 there were about 139 million people working in the US. In 2010 the number was (wait for it)... about 139 million.
That’s according to an article by John Nichols in The Nation. American productivity in 2009 was twice that of 2008, and 2010 saw American productivity rise to twice that of 2009. Corporate profits rose 22 percent in the same time frame.
While that rosy picture developed, unemployment hovered around 10 percent. Add in the number who dropped off the unemployment rolls and those who are underemployed and the number rises to 16.2 percent.
While corporate cash on hand is at an all time high and productivity increases, more than 2 million Americans have been out of work for more than 99 weeks.
And for 90 percent of American workers, income has remained stagnant or declined in the last 30 years.
Productivity is up. Profits are up. Corporate cash on hand is up.
Unemployment is up.
And while the U.S. economic picture continues to decline, Congress took a vacation for the past month, ignoring the jobs problem. The President clumsily tried to schedule a jobs speech to Congress on the night of the Republican presidential debates.
No matter that Congress was in session that day. House Speaker Boehner and the “just say no gang” of Republicans said no thanks to the president. Boehner said they were busy with other stuff. One Senator said the president had nothing important to say. I guess no one wants to bother with a speech about the most important problem in the country.
I made a point in one of my first blogs that one of government’s responsibilities is to “promote the general welfare.”
Our current government is doing a poor job of working hard to get the country out of its economic mess. Our elected officials would rather fundraise and pontificate than try to solve the massive problem of unemployment and our declining economy. At least they have a good paying job and got paid vacations this year. We won’t even get into their retirement and health care plans…. and their raises.
But today — Labor Day — isn’t about about them.
It’s about Joe and Jane Sixpack – the average American worker. What our politicians and corporate bigwigs forget so often is that without the American worker, everything that is the United States would be gone. If they don't spend money, businesses and the economy tank. It's that simple. American businesses and the government have been taking the workforce for granted for far too long.
The American worker has been putting money into the pockets of corporations and business owners... lots of money. They've been putting lots of cash into political campaigns too.
This is a good day to start repaying the favor.
Stephen Rhymer, a 59-year-old former public relations official from Edmond, Okla., has been unemployed for two and a half years. Read more about him here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.
Read more updates from Stephen Rhymer here.