State and local governments are still bleeding jobs and cutting a range of vital services that will lead to more layoffs and impose additional burdens on families -- dragging down local economies even further. Long term unemployment, unemployment among youth and communities of color are all unacceptably high, and at the rate we are adding jobs, we won’t see a return to pre-recession unemployment levels until 2019.
So, sure, we’re seeing a positive trend in private sector hiring, but while things could be worse, the labor market today is still in terrible shape…no way around it.
Who’s to blame for the anemic economy?
There’s been criticism of the Administration for not being more aggressive about what needs to be done to create jobs, particularly before its introduction of the American Jobs Act last fall, and of prematurely shifting its primary attention to deficit reduction, criticisms that have merit. But the lack of better progress in recovering from the Great Recession is the product of the conservative agenda that has dominated economic policy for the past 3 decades and been especially obstructive in the last 3 years.
Deregulation, attacks on safety net and social insurance programs, and successful efforts to limit tax revenue, particularly from those who can afford to pay the most, have created the conditions of high unemployment, stagnant incomes for most of us, and skyrocketing inequality.
Constant attacks from the right have corroded many Americans’ confidence in the idea that effective public action, programs, and investments can strengthen our economy and help ensure that all of us have enough to lead decent lives and provide a promising future for our children.
There are glimmers of optimism, though.
One of the many exciting aspects of the Occupy movement has been its success revealing that the gulf between the 1% and the 99% stems from the reality that a small sliver of the extremely wealthy are the outsized beneficiaries of the current dominant economic thinking, while the vast majority of Americans would benefit from an alternative, progressive vision and set of policies for our economy.
More effective leadership from officials in Washington and in state capitols around the country is needed, but that won’t happen without stronger voices and leadership from communities throughout the country demanding change that promotes our broadly shared interests.