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by Charing Ball

My uncle Keith, who has been unemployed since last November, has only one plan for this Labor Day weekend; scouring the help wanted ads and sending out resumes.

Uncle Keith, who has dedicated most of his adult life to the military and had worked for over 20 years at the same software company, discovered last year that his position was no longer relevant to the company’s bottom line.

When most folks my uncle’s age are fine-tuning their retirement options, Uncle Keith, who only has an associate degree, is in the uncomfortable position of doing what folks half his age have to do – figuring out where he belongs in this current job market.

Currently the unemployment rate is at 9.6 percent and the hardest hit group of workers are African-American men, who suffer with an unemployment rate of 17.3 percent – nearly double the 8.9 percent unemployment rate for white men.

And despite the hopeful news that the business sector has added 67,000 more jobs in August, which would appear to continue the eight consecutive months of job creation, the U.S. has bled another 54,00 jobs for the month, adding to the more than 7 million jobs lost since the “recession” began.

Even some economists are now ready to admit that the U.S. unemployment rate could remain elevated for years to come. For the U.S. labor market to regain all the jobs it had when the recession started in December 2007, employers would need to create 125,000 jobs a month just to meet the demand. And as productivity has increased with a smaller workforce, the reality is that certain jobs are not coming back.

I don’t doubt President Obama’s claims that there is no quick fix for the economy, as both politicians and economists alike have yet to agree on the best case scenario to fuel job creation . However, as President Obama readies himself to announce a new policy of tax cuts, which he hopes will boost job creation on the long term, let us hope that the President has the wisdom to set policy for stimulus funds, which would help the American worker for the short-term.

Call it a new deal, a fair deal or just an investment in people over stocks, the American worker is in need of a government-led program with the sole goal of putting people to work NOW.

Robert Shiller, professor of economics and finance at Yale University, wrote in the New York Times, that government policy, which would directly create jobs for a million people could be done at a mere $30 billion a year  – a number that accounts for only 4 percent of the federal stimulus program  and 0.2 percent of the national debt.

Besides the dismal job market, much of our infrastructure remains in bad shape.  Our schools need extra support, our highways and bridges need fixing and of course, the impending energy crisis means that that system needs a complete overhaul. And as unemployment benefits are expected to lapse for another 4.3 million Americans by the end of the year, it makes more sense for our government to create jobs for the unemployed instead of giving out checks for people, who would rather feel useful.

On this Labor Day, our political leaders should be mindful that the American worker deserves better policies, which put human capital first – not the GDP.  If not, than it must be the sole job of people like my Uncle Keith to show these haphazard politicians in November what it feels like to be on the unemployment lines.

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