Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We Want Jobs! (Regardless of Pay and Safety)

As Obama gets ready to give his jobs speech, unemployment remains stagnant at 9.1% officially, according to Democracy Now, with unemployment for African Americans having jumped 1% over the last year to 18%. The rate for African American teens, however, leaped a staggering 7.3% to 46.5%. Meanwhile, the White House budget office is saying that unemployment will not drop below 6% until 2017 (if even then), which should be no surprise at all when it is cutting spending and investing almost nowhere except in warfare.

Obama has been channeling FDR in a desperate attempt to save his presidency: "We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding.” In other words, there is plenty to invest in the petroleum-automotive industrial complex, perpetuation of oil dependency and the generation of more greenhouse gasses, but little or nothing toward green energy.

He also pandered to the dying labor movement (and the flourishing business community), saying “We’ve got more than one million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now. There is work to be done, and there are workers ready to do it. Labor is on board. Business is on board. We just need Congress to get on board. Let’s put America back to work."

Teamsters President James Hoffa told Obama that his people were Obama’s “army” and that they were “ready to march.”

Ready to march for what, and why?

“We want one thing,” Hoffa continued: “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what we’re going to tell him."

Apparently, jobs are all Hoffa cares about, more than anything else. Jobs at all costs! Any sort of work is good, regardless of pay, working conditions, workplace safety, or benefits. With Obama threatening to “streamline” government regulation and remove “dumb” regulations, many of the new jobs will no doubt be unsafe for workers and the communities where they work.

So, as long as we’re only interested in putting people to work, why not also invade a few more countries and institute a draft? That would put a lot of young people to work. While we’re at it, we could invest in mercenary armies and employ more Americans to help insurgents throughout the Middle East and Africa. We could also put them to work running CIA black sites and secret prisons or helping city police to quash protests or riots by those who have not found work.

We could create a lot of jobs by building more radioactive waste storage facilities and increasing the number of reactors, especially along the Eastern Seaboard and South, where they would be prone to hurricane damage, and along the West Coast, where they would be at risk of earthquake damage, or in river floodplains. It would be a growth industry: each time a disaster hit, we could put more people to work cleaning up the mess.

How about more mountaintop removal and strip mines? More explosions, mine collapses, black lung, and watershed contamination? More coal ash floods? More deep water oil spills? We can put America back to work digging deeper into the ground for more climate-destroying carbon to fuel our insatiable lust for energy.

In all seriousness, though, people who have been unemployed for any length of time are certainly desperate for a steady income and many no doubt are feeling unproductive and desirous of meaningful occupation. However, with unions under attack and wages steadily declining over the past 40 years, simply demanding jobs is not enough. Low wage, dead end jobs merely perpetuate poverty and privation, while jobs that destroy the environment jeopardize our long-term material and physical security and need to be replaced with greener alternatives.

It’s time to consider not only which jobs are worth doing at all, but also whether we are willing to compensate people sufficiently to live decent lives. Work for the sake of work is not worth the trouble. Likewise, it is not worth fighting for jobs that makes people sick or shorten their lives and do not even provide enough for healthcare, vacations, decent food and housing.

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