A Pledge To 1% of America
For eight years, the Republican answer to every problem was "tax cut," to the point that it was almost comical. Then, at least. It's a lot less funny now, given the seriousness of the challenges facing America, and the GOP's "pledge" doesn't begin to offer real solutions to the problems fueling the joblessness crisis. In fact, those issues barely get a mention.
The word "trade" appears in the "pledge" just twice, and then only preceded by the words "cap and." Yet, America has long been saddled with a huge and growing trade deficit, that saps economic growth here at home by sending consumer dollars over seas, and leads to the outsourcing of American jobs. In fact, the trade deficit costs jobs in every congressional district.
Americans, by and large, "get it. Not only do a majority of Americans say that the trade deficit has hurt the U.S. economy and cost American jobs, but 65% of union members and 61% of Tea Party sympathizers agree. Research and statistics back up what a majority of Americans know in their guts. A study published on the Alliance for American Manufacturing site earlier this year showed that the trade deficit with China cost 2.4 million American jobs between 2001 and 2008.
Yet the "pledge" doesn't mention trade or the trade deficit. At all. ("Trade" appears twice, and "deficit" four times, but "trade deficit" not at all.) The GOP didn't do anything about the trade deficit when the last time they held power in both Congress and the White House, and they don't "pledge" to do anything about it if they take over Congress next year.
However flawed the Democrats anti-outsourcing bill might have been, even the attempt at legislation indicates the party is at least listening to the concerns of a majority of Americans — a majority of tea baggers, even — on this issue. Republican, on the other hand, filibustered and blocked the bill, which attempted to address an issue of major concern to Americans and major importance to the U.S. economy — an issue the GOP's "Pledge to America" doesn't even deign to mention.
Tied to the trade deficit and outsourcing of U.S. jobs, is the decline of manufacturing. After a decade of the GOP's virtual lock on government, not only did the jobless rate reach a 26-year high, but manufacturing reached a 26-year low.
It's no surprise, considering that the 2.4 million jobs lost between 2001 and 2008 are just part of the six million U.S. factory jobs lost in the past dozen years, due to the fact that 40,000 U.S. manufacturing plants closed their doors between 2001 and 2008.
The loss of those jobs effectively removed what was for many American the first rung on the economic ladder to middle-class stability — good jobs, as Mary Kay Henry wrote, the "jobs you can raise a family on," jobs that let you afford to educate your kids, and give them a chance to clime those next few rungs with the boost you've given them.
In the past 30 year, those jobs have become harder to find.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research defines a "good job" as one with health insurance, a pension plan and earnings of at least $17 per hour. That works out to about $34,000 a year, the inflation-adjusted median income for men in 1979, when U.S. manufacturing jobs numbered 19.6 million, an all-time high.
Since then, however, the economy has lost nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs — 52,000 in February alone. Among them were many of the 3.5 million "good jobs" lost from 2000 to 2006, according to John Schmitt, a senior economist at CEPR.