Friday, May 13, 2011

WW Editorial: Does Unemployment Matter?

Published May 12, 2011 10:05 PM

The official jobless rate is in for the month of April. Unemployment went up — to 9 percent.

What? You didn’t know that? Then you’re like most people, who try to find out what’s happening by watching television or reading commercial newspapers.

Here’s how MSNBC played the Labor Department’s monthly report on employment: “Solid April jobs report shows economy gaining momentum.”

CBS: “Businesses now hiring at fastest pace since 2006.”

CNN: “Analysis: Jobs matter, unemployment rate doesn’t.” This “analysis” went on to tell us exactly how to react to the jobs report: “Ignore the unemployment rate, and ignore anything you read that highlights the fact that it increased from 8.8 percent in March to 9 percent in April. It doesn’t matter. It’s an irrelevant number.” Yes, CNN actually said that.

According to the way all the capitalist print and electronic media spun this report, which came out on May 6, the rise in the unemployment rate means nothing. Some 244,000 new jobs were created in April, so we can all feel better.

So how can unemployment be going up if the number of new jobs is increasing? The capitalist media came up with various explanations. The New York Times said it was because the number of new jobs came from payroll data while the unemployment figure came from household interviews. Others said it was just a fluke.

Tell that to the 205,000 additional people out of work in April. Losing your job, especially in tough times like these for the working class, is like a dagger to the heart.

And what about young people trying to get their first jobs? Whatever jobs were created last month, they didn’t affect unemployment in the 16 to 19 age group. It is still at the highest ever since the government started keeping these records — a whopping 25 percent.

And in Black communities, the jobless rate for all ages is twice that for whites — proof that institutional racism is entrenched in the United States, no matter who is president, and “equal opportunity” is just a mirage.

Of course, these are not tough times for the banks, brokerage firms and corporations that got bailed out after going bust in 2008-2009. Trillions of government dollars went to put them back on their feet, making big profits. Why do the Republican and Democratic politicians conveniently get amnesia about that when they moan that they have no choice but to cut all social programs because “there’s just no money”?

The fact is that this crisis goes much deeper than the capitalist political parties will ever admit. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Look at it this way: Permanent, full-time jobs for most of the 30 million people in the U.S. who are either unemployed or underemployed are not coming back. Even big business media like the Wall Street Journal are talking about that.

Companies that are now making big profits again, and actually increasing production, are not hiring back most of the workers they laid off. They’ve raised productivity through employing new technology and by intensifying the labor of those on the job — what we know as speed-up, which today can come in many different forms as workers are tracked by cameras and GPS devices throughout the day.

Massive unemployment, leading to homelessness, hunger and emotional pain, alongside a glut of products piling up faster than ever — this is the kind of wacky contradiction that can exist only under capitalism. It arises directly from the profit system, and it is wrecking life on this planet.

What do all workers want? A chance to be productive, learn skills and use them in a way that benefits their communities and their families. That kind of life is more than possible — it’s absolutely necessary for human society to move forward. What we need to get there is social ownership of all the means of production. The people who do the work must collectively own and control the factories, the mines, the hospitals, the offices, the railroads and so on.

This struggle by the working class to throw the capitalists off their backs and establish socialism has been going on all over the world for many generations. What has held it back has been the strength of capitalism in the U.S. and Europe, most of all. Through colonialism and then imperialism, the capitalists in these countries grew immensely rich and grudgingly allowed some of that wealth to “trickle down” to the workers. That saved the system and prevented revolutions.

But those days are over. The bosses are forcing class war on the workers — from Wisconsin to Arizona to New York. The question is being posed sharply inside the bastion of imperialism itself: Which side are you on? That of the bosses or the workers? Capitalism or socialism?

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