Monday, January 19, 2004

The No-Jobs President

James K. Galbraith has a devastating piece in on Bush’s record on jobs, the economy, and the looming cultural and financial disaster if his recently proposed immigration reform becomes law. Some key points:

There are no new jobs. Total job growth in the Clinton years: 23 million. Total job losses so far in the Bush years: over 2 million. Total gains in the last six months, since the so-called recovery supposedly accelerated in the third quarter? Just 221,000. That’s less than a single month’s average under Clinton. And last month? One thousand new jobs.

How many jobs should there have been? Crudely, the Clinton pace over three years would have yielded about 8.5 million. Allowing Bush a pass for 2001, matching Clinton in just two years would have meant 5.6 million new jobs, not the loss of another half a million.


Bush’s minions whitewash these figures by pointing to the household employment survey, which shows more (though not great) job growth. Here’s the main difference: The household survey covers 60,000 households. The payroll survey covers 400,000 businesses (and millions of workers). The payroll survey measures real jobs. Most agree that the payroll survey, while not perfect (it misses some new jobs in the upswing), is the better of the two reports.

The household survey does pick up many people who call themselves self-employed, independent contractors and the like. (When academics do this, we call it “consulting.”) Some would have you believe that this is the future of the economy, but let’s hope not. Most such work is stopgap, a way to scrape by when regular work is hard to find. Most people doing it would abandon it for a real job, if they could, in a minute. Real jobs — with benefits and a semblance of security — are better.


What does Bush want? He wants a growth rate high enough to get him through the election. That’s obvious. After that, he doesn’t care. His clientele — the military contractors, oil companies, pharmaceutical firms and big media that control this government — make their money on patents, contracts and the exercise of monopoly power. (Case in point: Bush is pressuring impoverished Central Americans, in trade negotiations, to add 10 years to the length of drug patents.) These people have no interest in full employment. They like unemployment, weak labor, low wages and a government that bullies on their behalf. And after the election, if Bush wins, that is what they will get for four more years.

And what about the “bold” new initiative on bringing in “guest workers” and granting amnesty (although he is loath to call it that) to illegals already here?

Bush made clear that this program is not just for workers presently in the country, as the press has mostly been reporting. It is not just for those who may soon arrive. No, it is far broader than that. Here’s the president’s speech: “If an American employer is offering a job that American citizens are not willing to take, we ought to welcome into our country a person who will fill that job.”

This program will permit any employer to admit any worker. From any country. At any time. The only requirement is that it be for a job Americans are not willing to take. But it is easy to create such jobs: Cut wages. Terminate the unions. Lengthen the hours. Speed up the lines. Chicken farmers have known this for years. Bush’s plan is a blank check for every bad boss this country has.


For millions of citizen workers, what would happen? The answer is clear: Bad bosses drive out the good. Good bosses will turn bad under pressure. The terms of our jobs would get worse and worse. Who would want a citizen worker? A bracero will be so much cheaper, more loyal, and under control. And who among us, in our right mind, would want to look for work? Unless, of course, we needed to eat. Or pay the mortgage. I am not exaggerating: This is a threat to us all.

In other words, pure old-style Republican politics. Keep the workers under control, keep the profit margins high, keep the checks from the corporations coming in to the RNC to keep the status quo. Those are the only jobs George W. Bush cares about.