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Real Reform Could Spur Job Growth

Superficial reforms are failing, I reckon.

U.S. employers in March hired at the slowest rate since last June, adding just 88,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls, with steep job cuts in retail and government sectors, including 12,000 at the U.S. Postal Service, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s monthly report released April 5.

Economists had forecast the month’s gain to be about 190,000.

Blame can reasonably be attributed to Congress, which resists genuine measures to help a recovery; Wall Street, which continues to benefit enormously off the backs of regular people; and the lingering – senseless – devotion to the discredited trickle-down economic theory embraced by most Republicans and too many “moderate” Democrats, a concept that enriches the wealthy, who supposedly will create jobs if they just had a little MORE money.

Meanwhile, 496,000 workers in March left the workforce altogether, leaving the labor market participation rate the lowest since 1979. One consequence of that misery is the “good news” that the jobless rate fell from 7.7 percent in February to 7.6 percent in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

That’s all in spite of about 3.6 million jobs that are open but go unfilled, partly because employers supposedly can’t find workers with the skills companies seek, and logically because corporations save money by stepping back from their traditional training of new hires.

Rachel Unruh, associate director for National Skills Coalition, said the “job report is discouraging. Many men and women looking for work have given up hope in finding a job. However, we could get many more people back into the workforce if we invested in the skills of our workers. Unfortunately, Congress has not made workers a priority and instead has disinvested in programs that help get people back to work.

She continued, “Over the past three years, Congress has cut funding for employment and training programs by more than $1 billion, forcing programs to scale back … services. To make matters worse, the sequester that went into effect last month will further cut workforce programs and services by over $450 million this year, resulting in nearly two million fewer workers getting the training and support they need.

Days earlier, David Stockman, budget director for Ronald Reagan, in the New York Times summarized the creeping assault on everyday U.S. workers over the last 23 years.

“The real net worth of the ‘bottom’ 90 percent has dropped by one-fourth [and] the number of food-stamp and disability-aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million – about one in five Americans,” he wrote. “Since … March 2000 … [the] payroll job count has crept up at a negligible 0.1% [rate]. Real median family income growth has dropped 8%.”

However, Wall Street, reflected in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, remains robust, closing at 14,565.25 on that same day, April 5.

That’s an enormous 41.3% improvement from April 2000, when it closed at 10,307.32 – the time period Stockman analyzes, which includes the Great Recession that started at the end of the Bush administration in 2008.

Politicians of both major parties are more beholden to Wall Street and the financial interests from which their campaign contributions come.

There’s a reckoning that’s overdue.

The 99% must reawaken, confront the bankers and their Capitol Hill mouthpieces, and demand change beyond cosmetic adjustments.  

Bill Knight’s newspaper columns are archived at

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.