In President George W. Bush's America, you may be one of the 122,000 people who became a temporary worker during the past seven months. If so, you may well lack (but want) the stability of permanent work.
Permanent workers usually have a steady paycheck and are more apt to have health care benefits. Temporary workers are less likely to have both.
Plus the boss probably buys the labor-power of temporary workers more cheaply than their permanent counterparts. Call it the tyranny of the bottom line, the heart and soul of capitalism.
Nine million Americans officially out of a job make it a buyer's market for most workers' labor-power. Economic growth in the U.S. in 2003 has yet to change this equation.
On Oct. 31, the NY Times reported "The news that the economy had expanded in the third quarter at a 7.2 percent annual rate - the best performance since 1984 - gave Mr. Bush and his party a compelling piece of evidence to back their assertions that they have put the nation back on the road to prosperity a year before Election Day." Prosperity for whom is the $64,000 question.
The day before in Columbus, Ohio, the president had promoted his policy of tax cuts as the path to eventually creating "jobs aplenty for those looking for work.'' No mention of the growth in temporary jobs that some see as a positive trend.
"Global Insight expects the recent buildup in temporary help payrolls will soon translate into some slow but steady employment gains, with the more significant job creation delayed until the spring of 2004,"" wrote Mark Ulmer, with the firm. It "provides the most comprehensive economic and financial coverage of countries, regions and industries available from any source."
Yet recent data does not back Mr. Ulmer's view on temporary employment. Consider this.
A total of 75,000 temporary jobs were added between last February and June, according to Labor Dept. figures. Yet no jump in overall hiring followed, noted Dean Baker, an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
When will a U.S. hiring boom arrive? Surely, many temporary workers are waiting and wondering.
Speaking of growth, what are the connections between the three federal tax cuts under Bush and the nation's job market? An Oct. 3 report by the Economic Policy Institute titled "Bush administration's tax cuts falling short in job creation" tells quite a different tale.
"The Bush administration called the tax cut package, which took effect in July 2003, its "Jobs and Growth Plan." The president's economics staff, the Council of Economic Advisers (see background documents), projected that the plan would raise the level of growth enough to create 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004-344,000 new jobs each month, starting in July 2003. Last month, September 2003, the jobs and growth plan fell 287,000 jobs short of the administration's projection. The cumulative shortfall since July 2003-the amount by which the projected jobs exceeded actual job growth in August and September-is now 672,000" http://jobwatch.org/.
In America, it is clear that the working majority needs more permanent jobs.
But U.S. policy makers appear unable to meet their needs.
Meanwhile, Bush's strategists know that steady unemployment with or without economic growth makes him vulnerable in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election. Case in point is the 2.7 million manufacturing jobs that have disappeared since his 2000 (s)election.
So what is the spin around this vulnerability? Administration officials are partly trying to convince some of the electorate that China is to blame.
Publicly, Bush and Treasury Chief John Snow back American manufacturers. Yet both Republicans are mum on U.S. multinationals that do business in China.
Take General Motors China. The corporation employs Chinese workers at low wages to make auto parts for export to the U.S.
Meanwhile, the struggle to find a permanent job continues in Bush's America.
Who will hire the un- and under-employed, the government or private sector, is not the crucial thing to focus on at this point in political time.
Input from union and nonunion workers, active and retired, in anti-war coalitions, churches, mosques and synagogues can help to find the focus. For starters, how many of these folks want to shift their taxes from occupying Iraq to meeting domestic needs?
What is my policy suggestion? Re-create a federal Works Progress Administration-type jobs program for the American people, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt did in 1935.
I know. 2003 is not 1935, the depths of the Great Depression.
Still, the time is ripe to pressure politicians for a radical response to the current political situation. Under Bush, for example, a silent depression is spreading across the nation, one symptom of the jobs crisis.
"Some 34.6 million Americans were living in poverty last year, 1.7 million more than in 2001, according to the Census Bureau," the Nov. 2 NY Times reported. Working people need relief well beyond temporary employment.
Seth Sandronsky, a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive paper can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.