Few commentators even mention that most of the 195,000 jobs added last month, as well as the ones added in the last few years, are low-paying, temporary, part time and usually without benefits. Much of the job growth we have seen is in restaurant, retail and temporary work — the sort of jobs that rarely offer basic security, let alone a foothold for people to climb into the middle class.
For working families, the struggle is painful, persistent and real: Hourly wages have plummeted to record lows, while executive pay has soared to record highs. There is no longer an income gap; there is now an income gulf. In 1978, the average American chief executive earned 26.5 times more than the average worker. Today, that gap is four times larger, with chief executives taking home 206 times more than average workers.
The crisis is disproportionately affecting minorities and younger Americans. Youth unemployment is at a staggering 16.1 percent, while African Americans are at 13.7 percent and Latinos are at 9.1 percent. The picture we are left with is of a severe shortage of jobs, in which millions of Americans drop out of the labor force in frustration and despair.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party, not least its “intellectuals,” such as Paul Ryan, has come to fetishize the values of Ayn Rand — radical individualism, a hatred of government intervention and spending — and the sort of austerity policies that have proved to be a disaster all over the world. They display adoration for the wealthy and apathy toward the working, and non-working, families that they claim to represent.
Recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows that after four years of recovery, we’re only one-fifth of the way out of the hole left by the recession. At this rate, we won’t close the jobs gap until 2020. That’s too long for out-of-work Americans who continue to suffer.
Fortunately, some in the media are speaking out. And dedicated lawmakers, including members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and other thoughtful Democrats in both the House and the Senate, continue to introduce strong, smart bills to put people back to work. They are stymied only by the wrongheaded belief that debt, not joblessness, is our central challenge — and by GOP obstructionism that has paralyzed the capital.