Julianne MalveauxOp-EdOpinion

MALVEAUX: Where Have the Jobs Gone?

Have you ever seen a pig dance a jig? I don’t mean to be rude, but the one-minute press conference that the current president called to celebrate the stock market clearing the 30,000 mark was the equivalent of a pig dancing a gig. He had been under seclusion for the three weeks since he lost the election to President-elect Joe Biden, playing more golf than President Obama ever did. If he works his frustrations out on the golf course, pity the caddy.

In any case, when the Dow Jones Industrial average cleared the 30,000 mark, the “economic recovery” president could not resist a camera turn. He also refused to reply to any questions. But what could we expect from a president who had sequestered himself for three weeks, bunkering down inside his tax-supported home, venturing to play golf with tax-supported security?

While 45 was celebrating and golfing, too many other Americans got upsetting news. Weekly, at least 700,000 are filing unemployment claims. Fewer than March, but too many to claim “economic recovery.” The first Friday employment situation report was disappointing. The report said the rate “edged down” to 6.7%. That means it moved only slightly and that the 245,000 jobs created fell far short of the 450,000 that economists had expected. It’ means that the so-called recovery is not recovering right now and that the news of pandemic flare-ups will make it worse.

As soon as the market cleared 30,000, though, folks were selling grotesque celebratory T-shirts on Amazon. They are owning the victory that gave them a 30,000 stock market and food lines snaking around city blocks. They are celebrating their jig-dancing president while ignoring the folks who are crying out for relief. Why are so many so indifferent to the human suffering resulting from job loss and the pandemic?

The 6.7% unemployment rate is bad enough. More than 100,000 government employees lost their jobs last month. Some of these are census workers, but some have lost jobs when their cities and states have cut back. Teachers, nurses, police officers, and firefighters have jobs on the line. And the Senate is fiddling while America starves. Congress has offered legislation since May, compromising along the way, but the Senate has held the line in punishing hungry and unemployed people to fulfill their political gains.

Beyond the overall unemployment rate, there are ugly realities. Nearly 3.9 million people have been unemployed for at least half a year. Many of them have lost their unemployment benefits. Fourteen million people say they are either not working or working less because of the coronavirus. Nearly half a million have left the labor force just last month. People are suffering, and it seems as if our legislators don’t care. So there are those who are celebrating stock gains and others who have seen absolutely no gain. Some are celebrating economic success, while too many others are scrambling for their next meal.

Those who are working are facing more challenging conditions than before the pandemic. Because of a lack of funds, many cities are cutting public transportation, increasing waiting times, and crowding. The cut in transportation services is understandable, as is the reduction in other services. Where does that leave us, though, when there are fewer buses, less garbage collection, and fewer other public services?

The House of Representatives and Senate are squabbling about how much relief is needed but seem close to an agreement that will provide much-needed — and insufficient — aid. President Obama told Rev. Al Sharpton, “any recovery is going to require government to spend even more than it already has.” As it now stands, the government is more interested in making political points than in helping citizens. For some, it boils down to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. For others, it is a matter of the unemployment rate and its reverberations.

This is what we know for sure — the coronavirus is taking a tremendous toll on our society and economy every single day. Christmas is coming, and too many folks will find empty stockings. On both sides of the aisle, our legislators deserve nothing more than a lump of coal. Bah, humbug!

Malveaux is an economist and author.

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