Brace for a "Jobless Decade"

By any measure, the last decade was a rotten one. It started with a stolen election and the worst terrorist attack in American history. It is ending this week with the United States mired in two wars and deep into a catastrophic recession.

It’s hard to imagine that the next decade could be worse, but could it?

There are worrisome signs. An increasing number of economists are saying that without major government intervention, the next ten years could be a “jobless decade.” “It will be the mother of all jobless recoveries,” predicts economic historian John Steel Gordon.

The recession threw 8 million out of work and the losses are slowing, but still piling up. A large percentage of those jobs have simply disappeared, businesses have closed, work has been offshored.

While the stimulus package passed by Congress was big and slowed the pace of job loss, the problem was even bigger. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the Obama stimulus bill has created or saved between 170,000 and 235,000 jobs per month starting in the second quarter of 2009. Yet, Princeton economist Paul Krugman says that the country would have to produce an additional 300,000 jobs per month for five years to achieve full employment.

Unfortunately, the economy is weak and far from producing such spectacular numbers. Economist David Levy says the country faces a new era of chronically high unemployment, averaging 8 percent or more over the next decade. He calls it the “New Abnormal.”

The situation threatens both Democrats and Republicans. Republicans are all too aware that the economy collapsed on their watch. Years of deregulation and “hands off” enforcement of financial rules created a climate of lawlessness on Wall Street. The Democrats, of course, are now the party in charge. Polls show that Americans are running out of patience with the lack of meaningful relief out of Washington, D.C., and they are starting to blame Obama, not Bush for the state of the economy. The most recent Rasmussen poll taken after the holidays shows that 56 percent of Americans now disapprove of Obama’s performance, reportedly the steepest first year decline in modern history.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who took office three years into the Great Depression, understood that there was no “recovery” without jobs and that Democrats couldn’t keep power unless they returned people to work. He quickly started experimenting with new economic policies and programs to address the crisis. While there were better known programs in Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” historian Jason Scott Smith recently documented that two-thirds of emergency spending between 1933 and 1939 actually went to fuel job-creating public works programs.

Many Americans have not forgotten the lessons of this era and are demanding that the administration focus like a laser on job creation, since it will be many years before effects are felt. The newly formed Jobs for America Now coalition is pushing Congress to adopt a five-point plan that goes beyond tax incentives to private industry and calls for direct job creation to help communities meet pressing needs, especially in areas of severe unemployment.

Without a deepening, serious and sustained effort to put people back to work, the coming decade could be even worse than the last, a legacy no Democrat or Republican can afford.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


When are you and other economist finally accepting that this is the only future awaiting us: ===> a stand-stll economy =====> tax-free work ========> basic income for everyone (BIG) and ONE new law for the wole world ::: ONE child LAW !!!! When will this vision be spread and published: a future with a non-growing but durable econmy!!!! see BIG or BIEN / on the net. REGARDS,

This economic crash should have been expected. It mirrors 1929 except for one thing; they had jobs to recover to and today we don’t. It started years ago, when business leaders saw that Americans were being paid ten times what foreign workers earned. So after paying the one-tenth in wages, shipping costs, and paying off the politicians for making it all happen, the CEOs could quadruple their personal income. The rest is history. They chose and you lost. See the rest of the article here:

Agree with the general thrust of your post. But one question: why pick Rasmussen as your polling source? Gallup's daily tracker has Obama at 52-41 favorable. Even that represents a pretty steep decline, but I'm guessing that given the circumstances, no human alive would be pulling better numbers.