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The Misery of Mass Unemployment

The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats deservedly receive criticism for failing to take decisive action on the nation’s deepening crisis of prolonged joblessness – inaction constituting gross negligence.

The defiant intransigent of congressional Republicans painfully aggravates this unemployment crisis.

But give credit where credit is due: Obama and his Capitol Hill critics have been doing a great job in boosting newly created jobs in at least a few areas like sales of anti-Obama paraphernalia plus sales of weapons and ammunition.

An added benefit of these jobs erupting from the GOP’s incessant criticism of Obama is most are in small business, the sector of the economy that politicians love to laud-&-applaud as best situated for creating new employment slots.

Please excuse Obama and his GOP detractors for the fact that these newly spawned jobs fall far short of the huge numbers required for job growth sufficient to bring America’s economy back from the depths of the Great Recession.

Now these new jobs are separate from jobs created through Obama’s stimulus program that is increasing construction industry positions mainly for public works projects like rebuilding bridges, roads and other deteriorating infrastructure.

Additionally, Obama’s stimulus – trashed by the GOP – has pumped money into state governments that has preserved public sector jobs for police, teachers and others while also softening the pain among some unemployed through providing funding for unemployment benefits.

Obama’s inauguration ignited a bustling cottage industry churning out anti-Obama paraphernalia inclusive of tee shirts, bumper stickers, books, mugs, movies and other items…much of which come bearing hate tinged messages.

Consider that tee shirt emblazed with “Pray for Obama Psalm 109:8” — citing a biblical verse widely considered “A Cry for Vengeance” that contains passages declaring “Let his days be few” and “Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”

Making this anti-Obama tee shirt available in conservative circles creates and sustains jobs…employment for the people selling tee shirts to the anti-Obama entrepreneurs (hopefully shirts made in America), employment for the people employed printing that perverse ‘prayer’ onto those tee shirts, employment from the marketing of those shirts and employment for the distributing of those tees to eager buyers.

Anti-Obama-ism also fuels expanding employment in the manufacture and sale of guns.

Last year Americans purchased 14-million guns according to gun industry figures. These purchases – stabilizing employment in gun related endeavors – continues the steady rise in gun sale rates triggered by Obama’s November 2008 election that the NRA opposed with shrill warnings about Obama supposedly planning to enact stiff gun control measures.

Those 14-million guns sold last year in America represent more guns than the total combined number of soldiers in the world’s three largest armies (China, the US and India) that have five-million-plus soldiers… less than half the number of guns purchased in America last year.

There’s at least one positive blooming from the macabre benchmark of gun purchases: more federal tax revenue. A report from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco released this summer stated tax receipts from the sale of firearms and ammunition increased 45 percent during the last fiscal year.

Since the sale of guns and/or manufacturing anti-Obama memorabilia will not put enough people back to work federal officials (elected-&-appointed) must do what will drive most conservatives and many centrists off the deep end: institute a massive public service jobs program similar to paycheck providing programs enacted during both the Great Depression of the 1930s and anti-poverty initiatives of the late 1960s.

Public service jobs are the quickest way to put paychecks into the empty pockets of the unemployed.

So, how does a revenue-starved/deficit-drained government pay for a massive public service jobs program while expanding an unnecessary war in Afghanistan, continuing an occupation of Iraq, coddling corporations with revenue draining regulatory breaks and bankrolling big banks whose collusion with Wall Street rip-off shysters sparked the economic meltdown?

Taking steps that are sure to inflame the super-rich and tea-baggers duped by the wealthy into thinking they share mutual interests with the economic elite who view them with disdain.

A good first-step toward funding public service jobs would be removing the “Off Limits” sign from military spending, now a trillion dollar chunk of the federal budget…a chunk long documented as a money-pit of wasteful practices. See Dave Lindorff’s analysis of military spending as a share of the US budge in Counterpunch magazine.

One cost in the Afghan war is the $2-billion-dollar-plus expenditure paid to private contractors for them to truck war supplies for US fighting forces (ammo, food, fuel, medicine, etc.) from a port in Pakistan to US military bases in remote areas of desolate Afghanistan.

This private contractor supply scheme now servicing 70 percent of US military forces inside Afghanistan, coupled with the Afghan war misadventure itself, produces mind-boggling wasteful costs like spending $400 to get a single gallon of gasoline into one Marine battle tank.

Further, this outsourcing of life sustaining supplies for American soldiers in

Afghanistan creates serious problems for the war effort (directly and indirectly) according to a June 2010 report from the congressional Subcommittee on National Security. This supply scheme, “fuels warlordism, extortion, and corruption and it may be a significant source of funding for the insurgents,” that report stated.

Slashing waste embedded in this supply scheme formally known as the Host Nation Trucking (HNT) contract could provide tens of millions to fund public service jobs for Americans in America plus it would ‘Support Our Troops’ by stopping cash and materials flowing straight into the hands of the Taliban – the enemy targeted by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Another source of funding for public service jobs is plugging corporate tax breaks and revising American jobs crushing Free Trade arrangements hailing from the Clinton presidency. Conservatives bashing Obama on America’s record unemployment rate conveniently ignore the reality that policies initiated under President Reagan crippled US jobs by facilitating ‘outsourcing’ to foreign countries.

Before befuddled tea-baggers and their wealthy corporate and FOX-News puppeteers raise the bogyman of bad interference by Big Government consider the following: the unemployment rate in communist China and in capitalist Germany is lower than in the US due to respective policies/procedures those two governments devised specifically to sustain employment for workers in those countries.

President Obama, in his weekly address delivered right before Labor Day promised to fight to pass a law “that will provide tax breaks for folks who create jobs in America.” This proposal sounds good but represents a small stride where giant steps are needed.

Americans need paychecks not phony platitudes from well-heeled politicians and wealthy corporate leaders lecturing the unemployed about virtues of stoically accepting their descent into poverty.

More articles by:

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.

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