The hardest work in the world is being out of work.
- Whitney Young Jr.
The news to begin the week could not have been any more jarring.
Due to a stark downturn in demand for glass used in flat-screen televisions and computers, Corning Inc. announced it would be cutting 3,500 jobs, or 13 percent of its payroll. Sprint Nextel Corp. announced it would be cutting 8,000 jobs. General Motors announced it would be cutting 2,000 workers, with the announcement coming on the heels of prior GM announcements that they had slashed output across the board by 20 percent, and that they will idle 14 of their 24 North American assembly plants for undetermined periods in the upcoming third and fourth quarters.
Pfizer Inc. announced it will be cutting 8,000 jobs, or about 10 percent of its workforce; upon the completion of Pfizer's purchase of ailing Wyeth, Pfizer is expected to have cut 20,000 jobs in total. Home Depot announced it was cutting 7,000 jobs and abandoning its Expo business. Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company, announced it would cut 20,000 jobs from its payroll.
The Dallas Morning News reported on Monday that, "The US economy has dropped 2.59 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, and unemployment rose to 7.2 percent last month. Some analysts worry that the economy could now be losing as many as 600,000 jobs a month, and they said Monday's layoff announcements served to underline the stricken state of the labor market."
"The latest job cuts - and the additional announcements likely to come in a cascading pattern as job losses through the economy cause demand to shrink further and thus lead to more layoffs -mean more pain for states, as unemployment insurance claims rise and deplete state coffers," continued the report.
The current political fight over President Obama's proposed economic stimulus plan, if conducted by responsible officials whose concerns lie only with the plight of the American worker, would be focused almost exclusively on the incredible national peril represented by these newest unemployment reports.
That is not the case.
Instead, congressional Republicans have decided to obstruct every aspect of the proposed stimulus plan, simply to prove to Obama and the nation they still exist. They want more tax cuts, and further want no part in the wide variety of jobs programs the president wants funded and activated immediately.
Columnist Bob Herbert, writing for The New York Times, explained, "The G.O.P.'s latest campaign is aimed at undermining President Obama's effort to cope with the national economic emergency by attacking the spending in his stimulus package and repeating ad nauseam the Republican mantra for ever more tax cuts. When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen. Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles."
A little slice of fiscal history: President Franklin Roosevelt, after inheriting the economic rubble left behind by eerily similar Republican economic policies, put the country to work. Millions of unemployed Americans were hired, and paid, by the federal government to build and rebuild America's national infrastructure. The money those workers earned was invested back into the economy by purchasing groceries, clothes and other necessities. Those purchases increased revenues for grocers, farmers, textile plants and clothing stores, which meant more employees had to be hired, and paid, and around it went.
Along the way, two things happened. The country became a better place by way of FDR's National Industrial Recovery Act and the creation of the Works Progress Administration. More importantly, especially regarding our current situation, the Democratic Party was given broad credit and support for the results of these programs. This would have been the result even if World War Two had not interrupted the process.
The Republican Party is always going to talk about the need for tax cuts. If the Treasury Department burned to the ground and every American dollar in the budget was blown out to sea, the GOP would claim we need tax cuts to put out the fire and give incentives for fishermen to go cast their nets into the sea. It doesn't work like that, but the GOP would say it anyway.
But the GOP's adamant opposition to the jobs programs within President Obama's stimulus proposal has nothing to do with the ideological cant of the party. The Republicans want the Obama administration to fail, so they can begin to recoup the losses they absorbed in the last two elections. More than that, they don't want another historic slate of federal programs to be enacted, because those programs might actually work, and a whole new generation of voters would give credit for a revived economy to the Democrats, just as they did after Roosevelt was finished.
The GOP's argument here is a callous, crass and heartless attempt to avoid becoming further marginalized by the effects of their own deplorable stewardship. They are putting the national security of the United States at risk. We cannot defend and improve our country if we are standing in endless unemployment lines.
A friend of mine, a restaurant manager, just got laid off. So did another friend who was a recruiter for a large financial institution. Another friend, a paralegal, was laid off and has not been able to find work for months. A friend's girlfriend was in marketing and got laid off. Another friend's wife was also in marketing and also got laid off. Three other friends of mine besides these have likewise lost their jobs in recent weeks, and none have been able to find anything since.
Those are just some of the people I know. There are millions more like them. The Republican Party will be more than satisfied to see them idle for as long as it takes to make sure the Democrats can't help us out of this mess. It is a disgusting, despicable display.
America needs a job. The Republicans who have jobs and are thwarting this stimulus package should be ashamed. More to the point, they should be dismissed with cause. They do not deserve to be laid off, but should be fired outright.